Here is our weekly look at the five things we will be watching during the Eagles game:
1. Communicating In the Dome. The center (Jason Kelce) is a rookie. The right guard (Kyle DeVan) has been with the team for less than a week. The right tackle (Todd Herremans) was the left guard until two weeks ago. Now, a unit that still is getting used to each other will try to keep Michael Vick safe and secure in the noisy Edward Jones Dome. Mission Impossible?
2. Men In the Middle. The Eagles beefed up their pass rush and their secondary, but questions remain about their linebacking corps. They will start a fourth-round rookie (Clay Matthews) at middle linebacker Sunday, and their two outside ‘backers – Jamar Chaney and Moise Fokous – are playing positions they’ve never played before. They also will play another rookie LB – sixth-rounder Brian Rolle – in their nickel package.
3. The Kid Kickers. Gone are five-time Pro Bowl PK David Akers. Gone too is reliable punter Sav Rocca. The Eagles let both of them walk and replaced them with a pair of strong-legged but untested rookies – fourth-round pick Alex Henery and undrafted free agent Chas Henry. They were the best college kicker and punter in the nation last year. But who knows how they will handle NFL pressure.
4. Looking for Mr. Jackson. DeSean Jackson led the NFL in yards per catch last season, but had just one receiving TD in the Eagles’ last seven games. He had just 2 catches for 8 yards in the preseason and still doesn’t have the mega-contract he wants. Can he put aside his quest for big money and be a week-in-and-week-out pass-catching producer? We’ll see.
5. Open Wide For the Wide Nine. The Eagles upgraded their pass-rushing talent, signing Pro Bowl DE Jason Babin and DT Cullen Jenkins and brought in Jim Washburn, one of the league’s best defensive line coaches to improve a pass-rush that had just 15 sacks in the least 8 games. Washburn likes to spread his defensive ends out wide, put them in a sprinter’s start and have them sic the quarterback.