We are now just hours away from the first Eagles game of the season and there’s plenty to look forward to as well as plenty of players to keep an eye on. Here are the top five players to keep a keen eye out for in the season opener.
5: Eric Rowe
This is probably the most controversial player on the list because he’s the only one who isn’t expected to shine from the off. Rowe has had a bumpy pre-season in his transition from Safety to Corner and has recently been training at the position he played most in at College. If Nolan Carroll does indeed start at corner then the Eagles rookie will be placed on centre-stage. Rowe struggled in the four pre-season games as he continued to let receivers in behind him for big gains and tripped at one stage against Green Bay, allowing a big yard loss. But the team have expressed confidence in Rowe and he has a chance to learn and grow with this new secondary.
Why is Rowe a key player to watch? BEcause after such a good camp and a mediocre pre-season, it remains to be seen if he can do it in the big games. Rowe may not play that much and there are two players behind him waiting for their shot. But Rowe has had over a week to examine the film, talk with the coaches and patch the holes to try and stop one of the highest rated receiving tandem’s in the league. It will be a game of maturity for sure and a few plays scattered across the board could bode extremely well for the rookie. Don’t expect interceptions left right and centre, but a big play could really boost his own confidence after having the world expected of him when moving to a brand new position in the most competitive league in the world.
4: Kiko Alonso
Not many people were too pleased with the Alonso move when it was announced but as time went on, it may be arguably one of Chips finest moves (we’ll save that debate for another article). The Eagles linebacker core was already among one of the finest in the league and the team racked up 49 sacks, finishing third in the NFL. Alonso was ferocious in his rookie season and despite only playing limited snaps in pre-season (just one game) due to a camp injury, Alonso is fully fit and ready to show the world how dominant he is. 159 combined tackles in his rookie season was one thing, he now joins one of the most elite linebacker cores in the league and comes up against a scrambled Offensive line that has serious doubts over it. The Falcons Offensive Line has been filled with scepticism all off-season and it’s the perfect opportunity for Alonso to burst back onto the scene..keep an eye out for some big plays.
3: Byron Maxwell
The most expensive addition to the Eagles revamped secondary is also the most interesting. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher were replaced very early on in comparison to Kelly’s recent moves, showing confidence in Maxwell who has been refreshingly honest in the media. Maxwell already has an Interception to his name in pre-season and made some huge plays in those first four games. But he has a trial by fire against the Falcons as he’s tasked with keeping Julio Jones and Roddy White on chains. A big game here could inspire the Eagles Defense to do great things in their season opener. Maxwell is more than up to the challenge and aiming to break out of Sherman’s shadow and emerge as one of the best shutdown corner’s in the game. If he can stop Julio from exploding..he can stop anyone. He doesn’t need to shut him out or necessarily stop him from scoring. As long as the Eagles don’t give up those dreaded X-Plays then it’s a huge improvement in a matchup that this time last year would have fans on the edge.
2: Nelson Agholor
The Eagles first round pick is set to make his debut against Atlanta and with the help of one of the most accurate passers in the game, he could be bound for a huge first game. Agholor has experienced scoring a touchdown in pre-season and he’s looked emphatic from start to finish. From THAT 34 yard gain to leaving corner’s in the dust, Agholor’s route running has been exceptional and it adds another element to this Eagles Offense. Whilst Jordan Matthews is going to be the prime target, once Agholor breaks into open space there is very little hope of catching him…we’re expecting the rookie to receive for 70 yards and a touchdown on the night and he will be an insanely exciting player to watch tonight.
1: Sam Bradford
There is no one who is more fitting to top this list. Bradford himself has had a roller-coaster off-season, from being traded to the Eagles whose fans had no idea what Chip had planned at the time, to going 10/10 and scoring 3 touchdowns in his most recent pre-season game. Bradford looks as good as he ever has and is expected to play all four quarters tonight but don’t be surprised to see the Sancize make an appearance in the second half just to keep the former AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in top condition. Bradford may not go 10/10 in a regular season game..but he has shown fans that whilst he doesn’t fit the stereotypical QB for this Offense, he has every weapon in his arsenal to lead this team to greatness.
The Eagles receiving core is coming up against the only Defense in the league to have a Pass D worse than the Eagles in 2014. Scarily enough despite adding a former Seahawks Defensive Co-ordinator..there haven’t been THAT many moves. Behind the top two corners sits uncertainty and the secondary still remains wobbly. This could spell out victory for Bradford as he picks apart this Falcons D with short passes to Sproles just as the Saints did with #43, or by dropping a long pass perfectly into the hands of Matthews.
For Bradford, it’s the perfect way to kick start his tenure with the Eagles. It’s a Defense that’s challenging but more than beatable. The important thing is to not jump to early conclusions. If Bradford throws a couple of interceptions it isn’t the end of the world and if he goes 30/30 it doesn’t mean he’s destined for a Superbowl. It’s a long season and we have faith in #7. But it is extremely exciting knowing that a new era has descended onto Philadelphia and Sam Bradford is the man leading the charge. We’re predicting he goes 36/48 and throws 4TD’s, 1 INT.