Friday, January 30, 2015

What We're Watching in Season Opener

Each week, Daily News football writer Paul Domowitch will tell you the things he will be keeping his eyes on during that week’s game:

What We're Watching in Season Opener

Each week, Daily News football writer Paul Domowitch will tell you the things he will be keeping his eyes on during that week’s game:

1. Slowing down the Panthers’ ground game: The Panthers generally go as far as their power running game takes them, and it took them pretty far last season as RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for more than 2,300 rushing yards. The Eagles finished fourth in the league against the run last season, but are missing two fairly significant components from that unit — middle linebacker Stewart Bradley and free safety Brian Dawkins.

2. Making Jake Delhomme throw: Delhomme isn’t a carry-the-load quarterback, as he proved in last year’s playoffs when he threw five interceptions against Arizona. He is at his best when he can rely on his run game to set up his play-action and doesn’t have to throw the ball a lot. In his last 32 starts, he’s thrown 30 or more passes just 13 times. The Panthers have won just four of those games.

3. Getting to know you: The Eagles’ starting five offensive linemen didn’t take a single preseason snap together. If this unit had played together before, that might not mean much. But both the LT (Jason Peters) and RG (Stacy Andrews) are new and the RT (Shawn Andrews) is playing a new position. To make matters worse, Shawn missed all of training camp and the preseason with a cranky back.

4. The 30-year-old running back: Brian Westbrook turned 30 on Sept. 2. He had knee surgery shortly after last season and ankle surgery in June and didn’t play a down in the preseason. How much does he have left? Who knows? Are his days as a 25-touch-a-game back over now that the Eagles have rookie LeSean McCoy around to lighten his load? Stay tuned.

5. The rookie free safety: The Eagles had what they thought were a couple of good alternatives for replacing Brian Dawkins. One was 2008 fourth-rounder Quintin Demps. Another was Sean Jones, a free agent they signed away from Cleveland. But after inconsistent preseasons, both will be on the bench Sunday. They will be watching rookie fifth-round pick Macho Harris, a cornerback when training camp opened, try to fill Dawkins’ shoes.

Read more analysis in Friday's Eagles Playbook.

To read our earlier post about Jon Runyan, Shawn Andrews and more, click here.

Paul Domowitch Daily News NFL Columnist
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