5 things to keep your eyes on during Sunday's Eagles-Jacksonville game:
1. The pass protection. The Eagles have given up 11 sacks in the first 2 games (a sack was changed by the NFL today after reviewing the tape). Mike Vick’s elusiveness may be able to negate some of the protection issues, but they’ve got to do a better job up front, particularly against the blitz, if they expect to win Sunday.
2. Putting Mercedes in park. The Eagles struggled against Lions tight end Brandon Pettitgrew last week. He torched them for 7 catches and 108 yards. Now, they take on yet another very good TE in the Jags’ Mercedes Lewis, a big (6-6, 275), fast and athletic pass-catcher who was targeted 9 times in last week’s loss to the Chargers, catching 5 passes for 70 yards.
3. The run defense. Everything the Jaguars do offensively starts with running back Maurice Jones-Drew. If you want to beat them, you’ve got to neutralize Jones-Drew, as the Chargers did last week, holding him to 31 yards on 12 carries. Last week, with middle linebacker Stewart Bradley on the shelf with a concussion, the Eagles gave up 109 rushing yards to the Lions in the first half. Bradley will be back this week, which should help immensely. But they’ve got to do a better job of swarming to the ball.
4. Third down and red zone. For various reasons, the Eagles’ offense wasn’t very good in either of these departments last year, but have been much improved in the first 2 games. They’ve converted 5 of 6 red-zone opportunities into touchdowns, including 3 rushing TDs by LeSean McCoy. They’ve converted a respectable 40.7 percent of their third-down opportunities, including 4 of 5 from three yards or less. In their last 9 regular-season games last year, the Eagles converted just 17 of 32 third downs of 3 yards or less.
5. Vick’s turnovers. Mike Vick often was a turnover waiting to happen in Atlanta. During his final 3 years with the Falcons, he averaged an interception every 28.8 attempts and had 36 fumbles (15 lost) in 46 games. He hasn’t thrown a pick in 58 attempts this season, but had a couple last week that almost were intercepted. He’s also fumbled twice, but the Eagles recovered both of them.
To read our earlier entry from today, click here.