Klausner & Kaye would like to cordially welcome you to the regular season, finally! I write this as I watch the end of the Seahawks-Packers game and I'm thinking a few things: Seattle is head and shoulders the best team in the NFC, and I'd take them pretty easily over anyone in the AFC too. The defense is the fastest thing I've ever seen. The entire unit plays at a different speed, one step ahead of the offense.
A lot of people on Twitter want to say Green Bay is overrated or not that good. I'm not going to react extremely to one game, especially in Seattle against the defending champs on a field where no team wins and no team except the 49ers really even gets close. The thing about the Packers recently is that the team has pretty much been all Aaron Rodgers, and this season is no exception. Jordy Nelson is a legit #1 and Randall Cobb a versatile, dynamic playmaker, while Eddie Lacy is a dependable feature back but purely a complementary player instead of a feature piece of the offense on a consistent basis. It's all Rodgers, for better or worse, behind an offensive line that's been a depth-depraved disaster for some time. Green Bay has now lost its last six games against Seattle and San Francisco dating back to 2012. Feels like they're firmly on that second tier in the conference, which means they'll go 11-5 instead of 13-3 or better.
Oh right, the questions!
1) Season openers are always at least a little weird to peg. How do you feel about this game?
Dan Klausner: The Eagles open the season at home as big favorites against the Jacksonville Jaguars, as they should. Still, there's always something a little unsettling about the first game of the season. Excitement is mixed with anxiousness and uncertainty. You think you know what your team should/will look like, but you have no idea, this is the story of the regular season (sorry). Will the Eagles come out like gangbusters, the team we saw those final two preseason games, and just steamroll the Jaguars from the start? Chad Henne isn't a good quarterback, but he terrifies me because his type always seems to have an embarrassingly devastating performance against the Eagles. The Jaguars are young and unproven at most positions, with a sprinkling of solid to above-average veterans. This is a team without a true star player and a bunch of spare parts starting. That's a team with a lot to prove and, at the same time, should give no fucks -- which can be scary. However, if the Eagles really have taken that next step in Year Two under Chip Kelly, this should be a statement game that they aren't messing around. I think this will be a close-but-not-really kind of contest that has a fluke play or two and stays within 10 points into the second half. That's when I expect the Eagles to start pulling away. I'll go with a 31-17 Eagles victory, the final Jaguars touchdown coming in garbage time.
Mike Kaye: Frankly, I am not too confident about this match-up. Yes, the Eagles should theoretically maim (it's not a trademark yet Bryan Braman!) the Jaguars. That said though, I am always afraid of games that seem like a sure thing. I remember heading into the Chargers game in Week 2 last season and literally everyone thought it would be a breeze and then WHAM! No, George Michael didn't show up in sequins (yes, I had to look up how to spell that), but instead the Chargers knocked the Eagles off in Philadelphia.
I do think the Eagles are vastly improved as far as depth, and are significantly better than the Jaguars. Still, I feel uneasy. That said, I am neurotic. I would really like to think that Nick Foles can put up great numbers in this one and kind of ease the folks back that question him just a bit.
2) Which Eagles player are you most excited to see, and which makes you most uneasy?
DK: I'm most excited to see Nick Foles because he needs to step up and assert himself early. I want Foles to begin erasing any doubt that I or any others might have about him with a 300-yard, three-touchdown performance and zero turnovers. Slice and dice the Jaguars. If the Eagles execute like they have they're capable, they should be able to impose their will on both sides of the ball. Zach Ertz (obviously) and Darren Sproles (I'm excited to see him "unwrapped" by Chip) are my other two answers. (Note: Want to see how Chris Polk looks, too, and how many snaps he gets. #TeamPolk)
As for the player who makes me most uneasy, I'll say Jeremy Maclin, but only because I'm holding my breath and nearly passing out expecting his knee to explode on every snap. As far as performance goes, I'll be keeping an eye on Fletcher Cox -- who disappointed me in the preseason -- up front. The Jaguars offensive line is vulnerable on the edges at tackle with Luke Joeckel and Cameron Bradfield (???). I'm feeling a big game for Brandon Graham, who will finally record double-digit sacks this season. At this point I just make that prediction out of stubbornness. This is the year, BG!
MK: I think Foles is a good pick, but I am going to go with LeSean McCoy. I loved the ridiculous narrative about DeSean Jackson making defensive schemes change for McCoy to take advantage. That is absolutely ludicrous and Shady will show you why this season. He hears the 2k and MVP talks, he knows he's probably the best back in Eagles post-merger history and he has taken it all in stride by losing weight and embracing Darren Sproles in the offense. McCoy is so good and really still has room to improve. A 180-yard rushing game with a touchdown or two and 40 receiving yards would be a statement to the league.
I also have a lot of anxiety about kicker still. Cody Parkey is from a town about 40 minutes north of where I went to high school, which was also in my viewing area when I worked in local news coming out of college, so I am rooting for him quite a bit. I hope he just does his job and makes field goals when called upon.
As far as uneasy, I think the wide receivers getting open against the underrated Jaguars cornerbacks could be an issue. To me, Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper are a pretty mediocre starting group and they need to be able to be counted on. I could see them losing a ton of looks to Sproles, McCoy, Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz if they don't establish themselves.
3) The Chip Kelly vs. Gus Bradley what-might-have-been meme is alive and well, and lots of Eagles fans on Twitter are happy to remind you we had all pretty much talked ourselves into Bradley before Kelly made his decision. Looking back on things 20 months later, what are your thoughts?
DK: OH THANK GOD. I'm one of those people who had talked myself into Gus Bradley. I was very much on the #GusBus, I was chugging the Kool-Aid and justifying to myself that it was OK if the Eagles didn't get the coaching apple of our eye in Kelly because Bradley would be just fine. Listen, I respect what Bradley is doing in Jacksonville and I think that's going to be a competitive, respectable team that eventually makes itself into contender as Blake Bortles, who looked like the real deal in preseason, starts games and grows into his role as the franchise quarterback. But the Eagles needed a fascinating, electric and innovative program builder, someone to completely transform a stale, toxic organization and fast-track it as a cutting edge trendsetter in the NFL. Bradley never provided that sort of incredible magnetism, Kelly did and still does. Plus as we saw last season, the Eagles had the roster to compete and the coaching of Kelly and his staff made it come to fruition. Forgive me if I don't think we see last year's team make such a leap with Bradley as coach. Remember, before the season, everyone was going to be "okay" with a 6-10 or 7-9 record as long as progress was shown. Now we're all spoiled, greedy schmucks with expectations to be fulfilled, damnit!
MK: I, for the record, loved Gus and still do. Having said that, it is clear that Chip Kelly was the right move. He has changed the culture of this team and made the Eagles fun to watch again. I am not a complete Kelly worshiper like some (I'll give you a guess) but I think Kelly is a brilliant man. He's not a wizard or a rocket surgeon (whatever that means, Bradley Cooper) or even a guy that can master the high score on Mortal Kombat II at your local arcade that apparently still has games from the early 90's, but he does push most of the right buttons. I'm happy with the way things turned out.
4) Even though the Eagles are overwhelming favorites, which player or unit on the Jaguars do you see giving them fits?
DK: Well, seeing as how I literally haven't even heard of the Jaguars' center (Luke Bowanko), right guard (Jacques McClendon) and right tackle (Bradfield), I won't be going with the offensive line here. If the Eagles can't get pressure on Henne with these guys blocking for him, I give up. I can't get on board with Toby Gerhart and think there's no way he'll be a good starting running back, but I salute him in his pursuit of giving hope to white guys at the position. On offense, it's the collection of wide receivers that concerns me. Cecil Shorts is a legit starting receiver on any team, and I really liked Marqise Lee predraft, especially for the Eagles offense; it was his selection by the Jaguars at 39th overall that spurred the Eagles to trade up to 42 and snag Jordan Matthews. Naturally, it would be so Philadelphia if Lee abused Cary Williams or Bradley Fletcher to the tune of 100-plus yards and score. I wonder if we'll see any Allen Robinson or Allen Hurns, an undrafted wide receiver out of Miami who I think will be a good player in the NFL. The only time I'm really concerned about tight end Marcedes Lewis is inside the 10-yard line.
On defense, as Kelly mentioned, the Jaguars front seven -- and especially the front four -- has some talent. That group should be allotted a certain amount of respect, but by no means should the players comprising it be feared. Coming over from the Seahawks in the offseason were defensive ends Red Bryant and former Eagle Chris Clemons, who will probably have at least one sack because, again, Philadelphia. Now, the Jaguars were tied for last in sacks last season (31), and I'm not sure how adding the aging duo of Bryant (1.5 sacks last season and 3.5 for his career) and Clemons (4.5 sacks last season after three straight double-digit sack seasons) helps that, but alrighty. Tyson Alualu, still one of the most perplexing first-round picks ever, remains a disruptive rotational lineman, while fellow backup defensive end Andre Branch returns as the resident sack-leader (had 6.0 in 2013) following the release of noted human shitstain Jason Babin. Defensive tackles Roy Miller and Sen'Derrick Marks were viewed as solid free-agent signings prior to the 2013 season and helped the Jaguars rushing defense finish 19th overall in yards per rush attempt allowed (4.2). Paul Posluszny is the grizzled veteran who leads the linebacker corps, but LaRoy Reynolds is the player who intrigues me most. At one point early during last year's training camp, the undrafted rookie out of Virginia appeared on track to be the starter, but he lost out and ended up playing special teams and limited snaps on defense. Free-agent signing and current starter Dekoda Watson is out injured, and Reynolds has a chance to make his bid to be the permanent starter at the OTTO position (whatever). If anything, I think the Jaguars defense has some success stuffing LeSean McCoy and the run to keep the game close early. Kelly will eventually say screw it and then Foles will go to the air and carve them up. Nothing against Dwayne Gratz, Alan Ball, Jonathan Cyprien and Winston Guy, but I like that match up for the Eagles receivers.
MK: I really like the Jaguars front seven. Roy Miller and Sen'Derrick Marks are a talented duo that could slow McCoy down. Chris Clemons and Tyson Alualu both could get some pressure on Foles. I think Paul Posluzny is another guy that seems like he could play the run well. Also, unlike Dan, I see Dwayne Gratz and Alan Ball giving Maclin and Cooper trouble, as they will be able to stay with them in coverage.
On offense, Cecil Shorts against Bradley Fletcher is one to watch. Yikes! Fletcher will not be able to get away with a lot of his tricks from last season and Shorts may run by him. I am somewhat indifferent to everyone else on offense except for maybe Mercedes Lewis, who like Dan said, is really only a redzone threat.
[Ed. Note: For what it's worth, Shorts left Jaguars practice early with a tight hamstring on Thursday.]
5) Do you have an annual season opener tradition? If not, what are you doing for the game?
DK: Come to think of it, I don't have a tradition. I'll either be in Manhattan watching at a bar with college friends following a Saturday of work in THE CITY, or I'll be hitting up @dr_pizza_MD and @JasonAAV to watch the game while guzzling some alcoholic beverages and orally vacuuming deliciously unhealthy food.
MK: I have a few actually. I typically sport a beard but shave it off to start the season. I also (and this is for every weekend) never wear Eagles stuff the day before a game. I also typically watch a Dawkins pre-game speech prior to the first game to get hyped. I'll be at home with my fiancee watching the game, trying to avoid throwing a Miller Lite (her choice) at the TV when Allen Barbre allows his second sack of the first half...