Sunday, February 14, 2016

What We'll Be Watching In Eagles-Cardinals Game

Vick’s Protection: The season-ending injury to center Jason Kelce was a big blow to the Eagles’ offensive line. Kelce’s replacement, former practice-squad player Dallas Reynolds, will have his work cut out for him against an athletic Arizona pass rush that sacked Tom Brady four times last week and likes to come with pressure up the middle. The Cardinals only blitzed Brady nine times. That number almost certainly will be higher this week.

What We'll Be Watching In Eagles-Cardinals Game

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"I just force too many balls sometimes," Michael Vick said after Sunday´s win. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
"I just force too many balls sometimes," Michael Vick said after Sunday's win. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Vick’s Protection: The season-ending injury to center Jason Kelce was a big blow to the Eagles’ offensive line. Kelce’s replacement, former practice-squad player Dallas Reynolds, will have his work cut out for him against an athletic Arizona pass rush that sacked Tom Brady four times last week and likes to come with pressure up the middle. The Cardinals only blitzed Brady nine times. That number almost certainly will be higher this week.

Special Teams Battle: The Cardinals have two dangerous return men in PR Patrick Peterson and KR LaRod Stephens-Howling. With Patrick Peterson coming off the edge and 6-8 Calais Campbell rushing up the middle, they also are very adept at blocking kicks. They blocked five punts and field goal attempts last season and already have snuffed two in the first two games.

Enough With the Turnovers: The Eagles, who turned the ball over a disturbing 38 times last season, already have given it away nine times in the first two games. The two main culprits: Vick, who has a league-high six interceptions, and running back LeSean McCoy, who already has lost two fumbles. The Eagles have managed to overcome the rash of turnovers and win their first two games. But on the road against a defense as good as Arizona’s, they need to keep mistakes to a minimum.

Third Down: The Eagles offense has been very efficient on third down so far. They’ve converted 44.1 percent of their third down opportunities, which is the eighth best mark in the league. Vick, who finished 26th in third-down passing last season, is eighth after two games and as completed an impressive 68 percent of his third-down pass attempts. The Cardinals, however, are ranked 10th in third-down defense (31.2 percent). The Patriots were just 5-for-15 on third down against Arizona last week.

More coverage
Video: Eagles ready to face Kolb, limit TOs
Birds' Eye View: Dunlap out, Maclin at practice
Eagles' DRC ready to head back to Arizona

Pressuring Kolb: The Cardinals have done a pretty good job of protecting Kevin Kolb so far. He’s been sacked just once in 35 attempts. He’s done a good job of getting the ball out quickly. The Eagles have just four sacks, but got consistent pressure on both the Browns’ Brandon Weeden and the Ravens’ Joe Flacco. Ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole have combined for 21 hurries.

Daily News Columnist
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