By Chet Cashley of Flippin' the Birds
What will the Philadelphia sports world be talking about tomorrow after what is sure to be anything but the typical first Preseason game?
For starters, starters will likely be an afterthought after we see how deep this year’s Eagles team really is. We’ll be missing DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin tonight, and Mike Patterson will obviously be sitting this one out along with his fellow DT Trevor Laws, and the rest of the Eagles’ starters will get one quarter to show their stuff, but don’t expect them to set the world on fire. The new guys have had two weeks, or less if you’re Steve Smith, to memorize their plays and understand their schemes, so don’t be disappointed if a few minor mistakes are made. On the other hand, there’s so much talent on both sides of the ball that the Eagles naturally will make some big plays.
So, with the freak off-season, and freak free-agent period the Eagles experienced in 2011, what exactly can we expect from tonight’s first Preseason game? And more importantly, who’s Youtube highlights will we be watching in the office tomorrow while we’re staring at the clock, waiting for the weekend to start?
Expect LeSean McCoy to have one big run. Andy’s not going to risk his young star RB’s health by overloading him with the ball in the first quarter. LeSean might get five carries and a couple of dump passes, but don’t expect much more than that. Even with the few touches he’ll get tonight, expect him to be hungry to play and break one run that you’ll be watching on ESPN’s Sports Center while you eat your breakfast tomorrow. McCoy: 4 carries for 60 yards
Andy Reid will test Ronnie Brown. Brown will get a solid number of touches, and expect him to perform. Brown, like many of the other Eagles’ 2011 acquisitions, left more money than the average American makes over several years to play here because he wants to win. Expect him to come out of the gates running hard and busting out some 8 and 10 yard runs. Brown is not the home-run hitter that McCoy is, but he’s a solid, between the tackles power-runner who will move the chains. Brown: 6 carries for 40 yards
Tonight’s Special: Owen Schmitt, starting fullback. West Virginia’s "Runaway Beer Truck" will split the carries and short receptions with the rest of the backfield tonight, and you can expect that he’ll see some time in the second quarter in addition to the first. Do not be surprised if he takes a handoff from inside the red zone for a touchdown.Owen’s got Kevin Turner potential, and you can expect to see Andy use him more in 2011 than he did in 2010, and expect to see two or three touchdown runs from inside or around the 10 yard line this season. Schmitt: 3 carries for 25 yards and 1 touchdown
Expect Vick to play like it’s the postseason. As an Eagles fan, thank your lucky stars that Andy signed this guy. Not only is he the most dynamic and dangerous player in the NFL, but he’s here to work hard and win games. He’s taken his completion percentage from 53% with the Falcons to 62% with the Eagles, and the average number of passing attempts per interception from 33.6 with the Falcons to 64.2 with the Eagles. You will not see any mistakes from Vick tonight, and you’ll see very few throughout the season. Expect on-target passes to Jason Avant and Riley Cooper, tonight’s starters. Expect him to lead two touchdown drives in the first quarter. Don’t expect any three-and-outs. Vick’s here to win, period. Vick: 15 passes for 9 completions, 95 yards, and 2 touchdowns, 1 carry for 6 yards
Expect Avant to play well, and catch more passes than Cooper. Avant will see the ball come his way several times in the first quarter. Expect him to have around three receptions for about 40 yards and a TD. Cooper might get a deep ball or two lobbed his way. Expect him to be more aggressive when it comes to catching the football this season. Brent Celek should get more attention from Vick this season, and you can expect him to have a couple of catches, but nothing big. You can also expect a highlight from new addition Steve Smith, another playmaker on this loaded offense. Avant:3 catches for 40 yards and 1 touchdown; Cooper: 2 catches for 40 yards; McCoy: 1 catch for 8 yards; Celek: 1 catch for 7 yards; Smith: 3 catches for 45 yards and 1 touchdown; Brown: 3 catches for 35 yards and 1 touchdown
Tonight’s Special: Vince Young, backup quarterback. Despite the criticism of his career with Tennessee, I believe Young can play ball. While he’s not playing for a starting spot, he’s playing for his reputation. He’s also learning from Michael Vick, whose passing stats were where Vince Young’s are. Young will still make a mistake here and there and will probably throw one or two bad balls, but expect to be surprised by generally good passing from him tonight. Young: 10 passes for 6 completions, 60 yards and 1 touchdown
Summary of Tonight’s Offense
Expect the starters to play with few mistakes. Don’t be surprised if there aren’t any penalties in the first quarter. The offensive line will give Vick enough protection to get the ball off and enough push to give McCoy holes to run through. Expect the second quarter to have some big plays also, and keep your eyes on Ronnie Brown catching some passes out of the backfield and breaking some strong runs. The Ravens have an all-around solid defense, but given the fact that this is preseason, there shouldn’t be any highlight reel hits and Eagles should score often, especially in the first and second quarters.
Ray Rice will get several carries tonight, and expect him to play well. The Eagles are missing key players on the Defensive line, and they’ll feel it tonight as they try to stop Rice’s between the tackles running. The Ravens’ RB’s will be breaking through the Eagles’ D-Line more than usual, so Casey Matthews and the Eagles’ LB’s should have a disproportionate number of tackles tonight. Rice should average 5.0+ yards per carry. Ricky Williams should break the 4.0 mark. Don’t expect any Ravens running backs to get past the Eagles’ starting secondary.
Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel will be tested tonight and they’ll be up for the challenge. The big question is whether Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen can handle the Ravens’ passing game. Expect Joe Flacco to throw a lot of balls over the middle to his solid corps of receivers. The pass rush will be weaker tonight, giving Flacco more time to get the ball off. Expect the Ravens’ RB’s to take advantage of an overstretched Eagles’ short-pass defense. Ravens’ WR Anquan Boldin posted 800+ yards last season, and expect Flacco to look his way when he makes it over the middle in zone coverage. Expect Nnamdi to jam WR’s and buy time for the hurting Eagles’ D-line and expect Asante to take away options in man-coverage. Samuel: plays well, B-; Asomugha; lives up to hype, B+; Rodgers-Cromartie: 1 interception for a touchdown; Allen and Coleman: generally good play, blown coverage gives up 1 touchdown