Daily News football writer Paul Domowitch tells you the things he will keep his eyes on during the Eagles-Packers game Sunday:
1. Covering the tight end. To say the Eagles were atrocious in covering the tight end last season would be an understatement. They gave up 102 catches for 1,079 yards and 10 TDs to TEs in 17 games. They’re hoping the addition of Ernie Sims, who will play in nickel as well as the WILL spot, and switching Akeem Jordan over to SAM will improve their ability to defend the tight end. They’ll get an early test Sunday from the Packers’ Jermichael Finley, who caught 44 passes in the last 8 games in ’09 and has become Aaron Rodgers’ go-to guy.
2. Eagles’ ground game. Blink and you might miss it. In their 4 losses to 3-4 defenses last season, the Eagles averaged just 15 rushing attempts. Considering that the Packers finished first in the league against the run last season, and considering that Andy Reid has no idea what to expect from center Jamaal Jackson, who is just 8 months removed from ACL surgery,Reid probably isn’t going to need much coaxing to have Kevin Kolb heave the ball 50-plus times.
3. Pressure on Rodgers. One of the most amazing things about Aaron Rodgers’ phenomenal ’09 season – a second straight 4,000-yard season, 30 touchdown passes, just 7 interceptions and league-best third-down passer rating – is that he did it despite getting some of the worst protection in the league. He was sacked a league-high 50 times. The Eagles need to be able to get consistent pressure on Rodgers with their front four so that they can keep 7 defenders in coverage most of the time.
4. Kolb and ball security. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ MO is to stop the run, force you to be one-dimensional, then create turnovers. The Packers had a league-high 40 takeaways and 30 interceptions last year. Donovan McNabb may have had his shortcomings, but throwing interceptions wasn’t one of them. He was good at living to fight another day. Kevin Kolb is more of a Brett Favre-like gunslinger, even though he doesn’t have a Favre-likes arm. But he needs to be smart against an opportunistic defense like Green Bay’s.
5. April showers. There is every reason to believe the Eagles’ special teams will be very good this season. They hired Bobby April, who is regarded as one of the best special teams bosses in the league. They drafted a bunch of fast guys who should be good special teams players. In PR DeSean Jackson and KR Ellis Hobbs, they’ve got probably the best return tandem in the league. In a game like this, a couple of big plays by your special teams can make all the difference.
For a complete preview of Sunday's season opener, pick up a 16-page Eagles Playbook in Friday's Daily News.
To read our earlier reports from today, click here.