Football season is finally back as the Eagles get set to open their preseason against the Bucs tonight, which means it’s time to once again make some bold predictions. Last season, this series of articles took on an identity of its own, from predicting upsets to breakout games, big plays from under the radar players and much more, it rapidly became one of the most accurate Eagles game-by-game predictions series out there. This year, it’s time to take it up a notch. Here are five bold predictions for the Eagles preseason opener.
Trey Burton to receive for 70 yards and a touchdown:
Burton has had a phenomenal Training camp to say the least. I’ve been backing a big season for Burton since the arrival of Doug Pederson..and that all starts in preseason.
With Ertz and Celek signing big extensions during the offseason, there’s no competition at the starting TE positions..nor should there be any need to give either of the Tight Ends excessive action. Rotation however is going to be key. With Travis Kelce playing such a vital role in the success of the Chiefs Offense last year, Pederson could want to try and create the same effect in Philadelphia. This means that along with a lot of experimentation, new formations and 3-TE sets, guys like Burton and M.J McFarland are going to see a lot of action.
Burton has proven to be a threat as a pass catcher over the middle, a slot receiver and even a fullback at times. The versatility makes him an incredible weapon for Doug Pederson to use..and tonights game will be the first time we see just how Pederson plans on using Burton in his system.
With Bradford, Daniel and Wentz (and even McLeod Bethel-Thompson) all sharing snaps tonight, it will be interesting to see how the playbook opens up depending on who’s calling the signals. There’s going to be a lot of variety tonight and with Burton proving to be one of the most consistent and efficient pass catchers in Training camp, he’s going to see a lot of targets.
Considering how much rotation there’s going to be, this is an interesting prediction for Burton and it’s likely that he’s targeted when the team are inside the redzone due to his ability to leap up and make a big play. A receiving touchdown and 70 yards is what we’re going with here..but it could well be more.
Carson Wentz to rush for a touchdown:
As aforementioned, it’s going to be very interesting to see how the playbook varies depending on who’s at QB..but if there’s one thing we can expect to see when Wentz is at the helm, it’s athleticism. He’s more mobile and agile than both Bradford and Daniel..and it’s something Pederson is going to want to capitalize on.
Wentz has had an inconsistent Training camp. From big plays to a tendency to overthrow his receivers, it’s been clear that the NDSU product is at his best when he’s on the move or forced to scramble and make a play. With the rushing attack being so pivotal in Pederson’s Offense, it’s almost naive to expect the Eagles not to utilize the eyebrow raising athleticism of Wentz inside the redzone.
What may look like a simple rush up the middle could actually end up being a quarterback sneak or even a play designed for Wentz to take off. His passing may be where the focus is going to be for analysts, but expect the second overall pick to make a solid contribution on the ground and potentially rush for a touchdown.
Aggression is the name of the game for the Jim Schwartz Defense and with so many positions up for grabs, you can expect a hard hitting and physical display from the Eagles D.
The starters may not see a huge chunk of playing time..but the ruthlessness will be just as intense with the backups and the rookies. Regardless of who’s seeing the bulk of the snaps on the Defensive line or what the rotation looks like at Linebacker..look for the Eagles to rack up at least three sacks against the Bucs tonight.
The swiss-army knife:
It’s well known that Byron Marshall rushed for 1,000 yards and received for 1,000 yards during his time with the Oregon Ducks and with Wendell Smallwood sidelined, Ryan Mathews expected to be limited and Kenjon Barner seeing slightly less action after being evaluated for a quad injury, his workload could skyrocket tonight.
Pederson loves dual threats, it’s what made his Chiefs backfield so dangerous in 2015. Darren Sproles is arguably one of the best “swiss army knives” in the game..the perfect back for Marshall to learn under.
With an increased workload, the Eagles are banking on one of the most versatile rookie backs in the game to step up and make a big contribution. It’s not in the same vein, but I’m predicting that Marshall will rush for 50 yards, receive for 50 yards and score a touchdown.
Sleeves heats up:
It’s hard to talk about Sam Bradford without mentioning your opinion on his offseason actions or his infamous “seven game stretch” at the end of 2015. But whatever your opinion, the Eagles starting quarterback ended the year as one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league.
So, you take Sam Bradford’s accuracy, put him in a run-heavy Offense where there’s arguably more short passes than there were under Chip Kelly and theoretically, you’re left with a solid quarterback who can drop it in the bucket for new deep threat Chris Givens as well as hit his wideouts on curls and slants.
He may have had a slightly inconsistent camp, but without having to rehab his knee while finally being able to build chemistry with his receivers, this could be a big year for Bradford..a year that starts tonight.
With this in mind and how well Bradford played against the Packers last preseason, I’m predicting Bradford to complete 70% of his passes and throw for a touchdown.
Mandatory photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports