Monday, July 6, 2015

An Eagles slant on Packers-Saints

Football returned Thursday night as the Packers held on for a 42-34 win over the Saints in a highly-entertaining opener.

An Eagles slant on Packers-Saints

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Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees put on a show in the NFL opener Thursday night. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees put on a show in the NFL opener Thursday night. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
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Football returned Thursday night as the Packers held on for a 42-34 win over the Saints in a highly-entertaining opener.

Green Bay, of course, is the team that ended the Eagles' season in 2010. And the Saints figure to be in the mix this year when all is said and done.

Keeping that in mind, here are five thoughts from last night's game.

1. Rust? What rust? Despite the lockout-shortened offseason, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees put on a clinic. Rodgers was 27-for-35 for 312 yards and three touchdowns. That translated to a QB rating of 132.1. Brees was 32-for-49 for 419 yards and three touchdowns with a QB rating of 112.5. Neither QB threw an interception. New Orleans had six different players catch at least four balls. Green Bay had nine different players with at least one catch. Why were the Eagles smart to hold on to Asante Samuel even after acquiring Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie? Look no further than Thursday night's performance.

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2. Rodgers looked unstoppable, especially early. A few things stand out when watching him closely. Number one, he throws to receivers who are covered. We saw that with his 7-yard touchdown in the first quarter to Greg Jennings and later on a pass to Jermichael Finley. It's a skill and confidence few quarterbacks have, and it involves a special chemistry that has to be built with receivers. There were plays where the Saints had outstanding coverage, but Rodgers just threw to the receivers' back shoulder with perfect timing and accuracy. You've got to think plays like that just kill the morale of a defense.

3. Prior to the Eagles-Packers playoff game, running back James Starks had 29 carries for 101 yards as a rookie, averaging 3.48 yards per touch. But, as I'm sure most of you remember, Starks ran all over the Birds, finishing with 123 yards and averaging 5.35 yards per carry. Last night, he was the Packers' leading rusher, carrying 12 times for 57 yards. It wouldn't surprise me if Starks carries more of the load than Ryan Grant this year. And remember, he was only a sixth-round pick out of Buffalo in 2010.

4. Back in July, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that free agent Darren Sproles was deciding between the Titans, Saints and Eagles. Ultimately, he got a four-year, $14M deal from the Saints, and the Birds added Ronnie Brown to complement LeSean McCoy. Watching last night, I couldn't help but think what a good fit Sproles would have been here. He returned two kickoffs for 76  yards and two punts for 92 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown. He also had seven catches for 75 yards, including a 36-yard pickup that set up the Saints' first score. Looking ahead, I wonder if the Eagles are hoping rookie Dion Lewis can eventually model his game after Sproles.

5. It was only one game, but the Packers look like they got themselves a player with second-round pick Randall Cobb. Cobb had an electrifying 108-yard touchdown return and a 32-yard touchdown catch that included about 25 yards after the catch. He adds to the Packers' receiving corps, which also includes Jennings, Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson. Re-signing Joselio Hanson looks pretty smart right about now. The Packers lined up in 4-WR sets on 19 percent of their plays last year, third-most in the league. They also have Finley, who's another matchup nightmare. Good thing the Birds have been practicing that dime package this preseason. They'll need it if they play Green Bay down the road.

Extra point: By my count, seven of the 11 kickoffs yesterday went for touchbacks, and there was an onside kick thrown in there. Meanwhile each team had a return for a touchdown. I'm guessing the Eagles feel pretty good about keeping special-teams ace Colt Anderson on their roster after watching that.


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Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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