The long offseason is finally over. Finally. Gameday is here and it's gorgeous. Concerns about the field seem to have been overblown. All systems are go.
There's been a great deal of confidence building about this year's incarnation of the Philadelphia Eagles and I for one feel it's justified. The Rams didn't accomplish much last year, however their season was derailed early and often by injuries. No grouping of offensive linemen started more than 3 games together and the Rams used thirteen different guys up front over the course of the season. Marc Bulger went down mid season and Leonard Little missed the final 9 games of the season after undergoing surgery on his big toe. The healthy Rams team the Eagles are favored to beat are not the same team that finished the season last year 3-13. So, what am I watching today? Answers after the break.
The play of the Eagles front seven
While the Rams are healthier to start the season than they were at the finish last year, they did lose Isaac Bruce to the 49ers and rookie Donnie Avery is out for the game. The Rams receiving corps consists of Tory Holt and Drew Bennett with Dante Hall and Marques Hagans backing them up. Randy McMichael is a serviceable Tight end, but the real threat of the Rams offense is Steven Jackson.
We all remember the Eagles tremendous inability to stop the run 2 seasons ago. This year, we are starting a new linebacking corps once again. These guys will see a heavy dose of Steven Jackson and that healthy offensive line. If we can stop the running game early, perhaps force a fumble or two, I will feel much more comfortable about the Eagles chances later in the season.
Getting into the Endzone early
I don't care how it happens, a short score from the 5 yard line or a 75 yard catch and scamper by Desean Jackson, getting on the board quickly will help the players relax and settle into the business of football. If we can build a lead by halftime, the Rams will have to rely on their QB and play into the teeth of the Eagles secondary - the best in the NFL.
What the Eagles do offensively without their starting wide recievers
I have written in the past that the Eagles offense does not rely so much on a number one wideout nor do I feel that it needs one, however I do feel that it's important to have three number 2's. The injuries to Reggie and Curtis are significant and are cause for concern. Our third number two is starting on one side and a committee of wide receivers is starting opposite him. How does Andy make up for the missing pieces? L.J. Smith should see a lot of balls thrown his way as should Lorenzo Booker. Perhaps there'll be a few more rushing attempts?
Whatever the case, I expect Andy Reid's opening day record after the game will be 4-6. I don't like the point spread, I think it'll be closer than 8 points but I want it to be much more. As for a bonus thing I'm watching today: Football!