This is the next part in our series of previews of the Eagles 2009 opponents. Joining us for this feature is Dave Schwab, who writes about the Eagles at his site Eagles Lincs.
Previously Dave has looked at games later this season, but now it starts for real. Well, not for real... Preseason.
The long wait is finally over as the Eagles’ 2009 pre- season gets underway this Thursday, August 13th when the New England Patriots come to town for a 7:30 P.M. start at Lincoln Financial Stadium. This is the first of four pre-season contests before it all starts for real on Sunday, September 13th against the Carolina Panthers in the regular season opener.
The biggest story for New England is the return of quarterback Tom Brady. Brady went down in the first game of last season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Back to almost 100%, Brady expects to see action in this game. If so I would think he may run one or two series with the first team and then call it a night. While he is still wearing a protective brace as a precaution, it will be interesting to see what kind of mobility he currently has. The Patriots do not want to take any chances with Brady against and unpredictable Eagles’ defense, so I expect them to keep things very plain and simple in his limited time in this game.
If you are going to have to play the Patriot’s this season, this is probably the best game to do it, unless you plan on meeting again in the Super Bowl. Without Brady last season, a relatively unknown QB Matt Cassell stepped in and led this team to an 11-5 record just barely missing the playoffs. They still have a tremendous amount of talent on offense. Along with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, they added veteran WR’s Joey Galloway and former Eagles, Greg Lewis to the receiving corps. To shore up their running game the added veteran RB Fred Taylor. In case Brady’s knee isn’t quite ready, they recently added back up QB Andrew Walter who was previously with the Raiders to battle it out with Kevin O’Connell for the #2 spot. All in all this adds up to a very powerful offensive unit that will be that much better with Brady back at the helm.
The only potential weak spots for the Patriots are on the defensive side of the ball. They gave up veteran linebacker, Mike Vrabel as part of the Matt Cassell trade to Kansas City but are counting on either Pierre Woods or Shawn Crable to step up and fill the void. The Patriots brought in two veteran CB‘s Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden to help in the backfield and just traded with Oakland for former Eagle DE Derrick Burgess to help their pass rush. New England will be looking for Burgess to return to his All Pro form, as the defensive line struggled last season to consistently put pressure on the quarterback.
While there is always a lot of excitement for the 1st pre-season game, you can’t expect to take too much away from this game other than keying on some of the new faces for both teams. If either side’s first team offense looks somewhat sharp in their first one or two series, it will be an early night for most of the starters. My only hope is for someone in green to get to Brady and hit him hard, just to see how quickly he jumps back up. Only then will we all know how well his left knee has healed.