Thursday, July 30, 2015

Eagles-Bears: What We're Watching

What to keep an eye on in tonight's Bears at Eagles game:

Eagles-Bears: What We're Watching

Bears punt returner Devin Hester is more than capable of breaking open a game with a big return.  (AP Photo)
Bears punt returner Devin Hester is more than capable of breaking open a game with a big return. (AP Photo)

What to keep an eye on in tonight's Bears at Eagles game:

NO HAPPY RETURNS: Devin Hester is the league's most dangerous return man. He's a home-run threat every time he touches the ball. He's third in the NFL in punt returns and seventh in kickoff returns and has taken both a punt and a kickoff to the house this season. It's incumbent upon Eagles' rookie kickers - Chas Henry and Alex Henery - to limit Hester's return chances. Easier said than done. Henry's directional punting skills aren't as good as Sav Rocca's, and Henery only has 15 touchbacks in 39 kickoffs.

NOT THEIR FORTE: Jury remains out on Eagles' run defense. Redskins ran just 14 times against them, and Dallas ran it just 10 last week (still averaged 8.5 yards a carry). Tonight, against red-hot running back Matt Forte, will be a better indicator of where they are. Forte has rushed for 138.2 yards a game - 6.2 yards a carry in last four games. He's also a dangerous receiver, averaging 11 yards a catch.

ATTACK OF THE WIDE-NINE: Bears QB Jay Cutler is capable of doing some incredibly stupid things when he's pressured. He's also capable of carpet-bombing the best of defenses when he's not. Bears' o-line has protected him well since giving up 11 sacks to Saints and Falcons in Weeks 1 and 2. But the Eagles' front four is fourth in the league in sacks per pass play.

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COVER-2 REDUX: Bears play a Cover-2, which is what Dallas did in an attempt to take the deep ball away from scary-fast Eagles. Patient Eagles took what Dallas gave them, which was the middle of the field. Tight end Brent Celek and slot receiver Jason Avant were targeted 14 times and caught 12 passes for 168 yards and a TD.

SERVE AND PROTECT: There were a lot of reasons why the Eagles got off to a 1-4 start, but none were more significant than turnovers. The Eagles had a league-worst 15 giveaways in their first five games and a league-worst minus-10 turnover differential. But they had their first turnover-less game of the season last week and won the turnover battle against both the Redskins and Cowboys. The Eagles are 72-17 under Andy Reid when they win the turnover battle.


For a complete preview, check out today's Daily News Eagles Playbook by clicking here.

Daily News NFL Columnist
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