The 2016 season Kickoffs for our beloved Eagles this coming Sunday. The Browns roll into town now 3.5 point underdogs. A drastic change from the 6.5 underdogs they were before the Bradford trade. Here are some points of interest we will have our eye on:
How will Carson Wentz play in his NFL Debut?
This time last week we were discussing how well Sam Bradford would do against a Browns defense that lets be honest, is gettable. Times have certainly changed and now we get a look at the future for all 16 games. Reports surfaced earlier that Wentz was already in the practice facility watching film sans Doug Pederson arrival around 5 Am. That’s a good sign for Eagles fans. I expect the playbook to be condensed a little. Don’t be surprised to see Pederson put Wentz on the move for his first couple throws. Pederson says the playbook won’t be compressed but after only 39 preseason snaps I don’t know how he could have it all down. Bottom line he needs to protect himself. The Bucs game should be a nice reminder.
What can we expect from Lane Johnson?
In a weird unexpected turn of events Lane Johnson will start at RT for the Eagles week 1. This saga has certainly been an odd one as no one knows where this B sample is. Has it been tested? When will the league come down? Know one has any idea what is going on. Usually this news always cripples the Eagles and it might in a few weeks. This time the Eagles get break and get their star RT for week 1. During the preseason Johnson didn’t get many 1st team snaps. He will have to get back into rhythm and used to playing along side new RG Brandon Brooks. I don’t know how long Johsnon will be available after this game but he’s playing week 1 and that’s a huge deal for our Eagles.
Will Eagles take the wrapping be taken DGB?
DGB said earlier this week he expects a big role vs the Browns. The Eagles have desperately needed an outside playmaker for a few years. The Eagles will need to take advantage of his size and strength in the redzone. Frank Reich met the media earlier in the week and said Wentz throws a “great fade.” Any time the Eagles are in ear shot of end zone I expect the ball to be lobbed toward the corner. If DGB can become a solid down the field weapon it will really open it up underneath for volume catchers Ertz and Matthews. I wouldn’t be surprised if DGB ends up with his first TD as an Eagle Sunday.
Can Trey Burton be an X-Factor?
I’m beyond excited about the prospects of Trey Burton. Depending where the Eagles are on the field I could see him lined up outside, inside, in-line and in the backfield. The Browns will have to have an eye on him as he can hurt them from multiple roles. If you watched the Broncos Panthers game last night you saw how the Broncos used their new FB. A lot of motion to and from the backfield. I expect the same from the Eagles this Sunday. I would like to see Burton involved in the screen game.
Which RG3 will the Eagles see?
The Browns decided to pass on both Jared Goff and Carson Wentz as they held the number two overall pick in the draft. New head coach, Hue Jackson, has the challenging task of rebuilding new starting quarterback Robert Griffin III. Griffin was signed by the Browns in the offseason to a two year contract after being cast off by the Redskins. He’s been plagued by injuries since his rookie season all but sapping his effectiveness as a quarterback. However, Hue Jackson has a history of quarterback development recently with the Bengals Andy Dalton and AJ McCarron. Dalton had his best season as a pro in 2015 with 25 touchdowns to 7 interceptions before being sidelined for the season with a thumb injury. Jackson used the mobility of Dalton to his advantage often times getting him on the move rather than simply sitting in the pocket. I expect a similar style playbook with Griffin operating under center. In a way, Griffin is now an unknown at quarterback since his change of city and coaching staff. He still possesses the arm strength which made him a rookie phenom as demonstrated during the preseason. My next question will go a long way in determining how well Griffin plays.
Will the Eagles be able to generate pressure with the front 4?
The Eagles defense under Jim Schwartz has been projected as a potential top 10 ranked unit in the league this upcoming season. Any chance of that prediction coming to fruition depends on the play of the defensive line. Jim Schwartz prefers not to blitz and wants to rely on his front four to get after the quarterback. The Eagles cornerback situation is questionable at best so this strategy will need to flourish. Cleveland is stable at the left tackle spot with future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas protecting the blindside. The remainder of the Browns starting offensive line has question marks especially in the interior portion. Cameron Erving will be replacing All-Pro center, Alex Mack, who departed during free agency to the Falcons. Erving played guard during his rookie season in 2015 after being drafted in the first round by Cleveland from Florida State. Bennie Logan and Fletcher Cox should give Erving fits in his transition to center. Joel Bitonio and John Greco play the other guard spots for Cleveland who allowed the second most sacks in the league last season with 53.
How will the Eagles handle Duke Johnson?
Eagles linebackers struggled mightily last season attempting to cover opposing running backs out of the backfield. The Tampa Bay and Detroit games come to mind as nightmares from 2015. Duke Johnson is a weapon to keep an eye on for the Browns in the Hue Jackson offense. In his rookie season Johnson caught 61 balls for over 500 yards including two touchdowns. Johnson ranked fourth among all running backs in total receptions. He has a similar skillset to Bengals running back, Gio Bernard, whom Hue Jackson coached in Cincinnati. I expect to see a good bit of Duke Johnson to get Robert Griffin some easy completions especially with Josh Gordon suspended. The addition of Nigel Bradham and hopefully a healthy Jordan Hicks should hopefully cure some of the defensive woes. Mychal Kendricks was targeted by offenses countless times last season, but he has been absent from the nickel defense thus far.
Can the Eagles win the turnover battle?
The winning team in the NFL often times also wins the turnover battle. The Eagles defense did a great job during the preseason of forcing turnovers, and will be relied upon all regular season to do the same. Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense would do well to work with short field as opposed to having to drive 80 yards. Robert Griffin III is prone to turning the ball over, and the Eagles defensive line should be able to create pressure on the signal caller. The absence of wide receiver Josh Gordon is key as it’s one less weapon the secondary has to worry about making big plays. A close eye must be kept on rookie Corey Coleman who is still raw in his route running, but possesses game-breaking speed. We both predicted this would be a relatively low scoring game meaning turnovers will likely have a factor in the outcome. I expect Wentz to turn the ball over at least once, but it’s up to the Eagles defense to do their job forcing the Browns offense into costly mistakes. Just a hunch I think Rodney McLeod creates a big turnover in this game as he debuts for the Eagles.
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