SO much is new coming into this game. In all honesty, some of it probably shouldn’t be new, but that’s spilled milk at this point. Generally in preseason game 2, you want to build on your strong points from preseason game 1. That however is hard to do when new starters get added suddenly, or others got the first week off.
Barring a surprise, new Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery and CB Ronald Darby will make their Philly debuts in this game. We’ll also get to see how WR Nelson Agholor looks as a regular in the slot. So it’ll be almost like we’re playing in our first preseason game.
So let’s talk about the Four Things we need to focus on for this week versus the Bills:
1) Being in sync: QB Carson Wentz has to demonstrate solid chemistry with WR Alshon Jeffery. The window for getting them on the same page is rapidly shrinking, and the trading of WR Jordan Matthews removes a security blanket for Wentz, that would have allowed for a certain margin of error. Nothing less than precision is acceptable here.
2) Push must come to shove: Last week, it looked as if the interior Offensive Line was incapable of generating a new line of scrimmage in the run game. That has to get fixed this week or a hard look has to be taken at whether starting LG Isaac Seumalo is really the right move.
3) Slow the inside release: It’ll be interesting to see how much success CB Ronald Darby has when he allows an unsupported inside release, vs when he plays an outside technique. Even if the receiver’s route is an inside route, Darby needs to at least make him fight to get inside. Five yard cushions and quick inside releases will make Darby the equivalent of every CB we already had on the roster before he got here. Keep your eyes peeled. Tape don’t lie.
4) Control the middle: Last week the Defensive Line did a great job of stymieing the Packers ground game, but the Bills are far better at running the rock than they are. This week if we see our line give RB LeSean McCoy a hard time between the Tackles, we’ll know our front is legit, and didn’t just beat up on a mediocre running team.
If we do all these things, we’re just about guaranteed to win. Now that we’ve covered what should happen, let’s get into what likely will happen:
Jeffery is no rookie. He knows his craft. He can read a defense, get open and make grabs. The issue here is timing. Practice speed and game speed are very different things. So hooking up with Wentz may not look as smooth as some people are expecting. Unlike last week, you can look for shots to be taken down the field. If the Eagles are going to open up the run game and work the bugs out of the passing game, they’re going to have to air the ball out on Thursday.
For years, I’ve called C Jason Kelce a soft player who benefited from the play of savvy, scrappy LG’s (Evan Mathis, Allen Barbre, Stefen Wisniewski) beside him. (This is why Kelce’s play can seem solid one week and soft the next.) Suemalo isn’t scrappy and he isn’t very experienced. The result is that now Kelce has to carry a guy, instead of being carried. In any case I wouldn’t expect a big night on runs inside vs the Bills interior of (DT’s) Marcell Darius, Kyle Williams and (MLB) Preston Brown.
The D-Line will get pressure but will get sold-out by spotty coverage. People will want to blame the athletes, but the real problem is the technique we play. But be patient. It’ll get addressed soon enough. Just not this week.
PREDICTION: EAGLES 17 – Bills 10