EVERYTHING matters. That’s the theme of this season according to Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson. Last year we had a number of injuries that held us back. There can be no disputing that. However, Doug also said, that at this time last year, the team (him included), let some of the little things slide. The result of letting things slide, was a 9-7 finish, and playoff games on the road. So the emphasis this year, is on the details.
This game here will allow us a chance to see what happens to player discipline and attention to detail, when the pressure gets turned on. Given that half the roster is about to watch their dreams of being an NFL player die in about a month, you had better believe that everyone is…
The Titans finished last year at 9-7 for the third straight year in a row. Offensively they suck ass, but they have a top 10 defense, which they used to beat us (23 – 26 OT) last year. Time to get revenge right? RIGHT?!
This game isn’t about winning it. The object here isn’t to win the game. The object is to use the game as a test of who has bought into what we’re doing. The object is to see who gives that all out effort, that ball out effort. To see who’s been studying their playbook. To see who is playing assignment sound football, and trusting his teammate to do the same.
If we win, great. It would mean as much as a loss right now, but hey, we’ll take it. A win this week however, needs to be a mere byproduct of building this team.
So let’s talk about the Four Things we need to focus on this week versus the Titans:
1) Starters need to play a quarter: One quarter, that’s it. We need a few looks at how some of the new guys (DT Malik Jackson, WR DeSean Jackson, MLB Zach Brown) are meshing. While we don’t want to overwork those guys, we need a large enough sample size to be able to say “Okay, X has got this” or “X needs to work on such and such”.
2) Go deep to Djax: Not too much this week. One shot over 30 yards should be good. The idea is to test the chemistry between Djax and QB Carson Wentz. If there are any bugs in their timing, now is the best time to throw interceptions. Also, the longer we wait to “unveil the weapon”, the more pressure there will be for it to work, when people first see it. Get the ‘Oooh Ahhh Ohhh’s’ out of the way early.
3) Look good running the ball: Despite all the buzz about rookie RB Miles Sanders, the guy we need to have a big year is RB Jordan Howard. Finishing with a stat-line of (5 – 20 – 4.0 – 0 – 0) with a 10 yard run somewhere in there, would be a solid indicator that we’re better off now, than we were during the playoffs.
4) Testing LB depth: The Eagles will likely keep six LB’s, and this game may tell you who they’ll be. OLB Nigel Bradham is still nursing a foot injury and OLB Kamu Grugier-Hill will miss months with a knee injury. So we should get a good look at Zach Brown. Brown can play the run in his sleep, but how well he executes our coverage concepts, could affect the number of Slant, TE Curl, and Crossing routes that teams try to run against us. LB’s Nate Gerry and L.J. Fort likely stick as Special Teams players, but KGH’s injury opens the door for rookie T.J. Edwards to close out Paul Worrilow’s career. Recent signee Johnathan Cyprien is an in the box S, who may be used in the Nickle LB role and used to also push Gerry.
If we do all these things, we’re just about guaranteed to win. Scratch that for now. If we do all these things, it will help us win a lot of games LATER. When they actually count.
Now that we’ve covered what should happen, let’s get into what likely will happen:
Both teams will run pretty vanilla packages because that’s what happens in the preseason. Especially early in the preseason, which actually favors Tennessee. They’re a defensive team, with a pedestrian QB (Marcus Mariota), and a 247 pound RB (Derrick Henry), coached by a former LB (Mike Vrabel). The Titans would like to make every game, a fist-fight in a phone booth. Preseason suits that style.
While the Eagles are experts of 11-personnel (3WR, 1RB, 1TE), Doug has said he wants to use more 12-personnel (2WR, 1RB, 2TE). This game would be a great lab in which to conduct that experiment. So expect to see less “Air Coryell”, and more “modified Erhardt-Perkins”, from us. Expect to see us do less head-hunting, and more working the body.
Final score be damned, I want to see a lead after the first quarter. Something like10 – 6 would be fine. After that we can be outscored 3 – 21 for all I care. (QB Ryan Tannehill is their back-up, after all.) The Eagles will take some shots, but ultimately this game isn’t a contest, it’s a classroom.
PREDICTION: EAGLES 17 – Titans 24