The Eagles kick off their regular season with a game at Lincoln Financial Field against the Cleveland Browns and there is plenty to be excited about. After an exhilarating offseason, the Eagles will be led by a new starting quarterback in a new Offense ran by rookie Head Coach Doug Pederson. The intense Jim Schwartz Defense will catch the attention of many, but who are the five players to keep an eye on amidst all the chaos?
This goes without saying. The second overall pick has been thrust into a starting role after a trade sent Sam Bradford to the Vikings and naturally, there is an abundance of questions. “Is he ready?” “Will the Offense change with Wentz under center?” “What about his lack of experience?” The NDSU star will be looking to silence the critics in a run-heavy West-coast Offense against a less than intimidating Browns Defense.
Wentz showed flashes of brilliance in preseason and with fans pining for the continuity experienced during the McNabb years, the Eagles die hards are filled with anticipation as they await the debut of their franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz.
It will be interesting to see how much Doug Pederson puts on the shoulders of Carson Wentz, especially during the early stages. Cleveland’s Defense will bring the pressure through plenty of blitzes, can Wentz be trusted at such an early stage to stand tall in the pocket and make things happen deep down the field? Or will Pederson look to ease him in with quick, short passes, read options and rushes?
Mathews was kept quiet in preseason, but will likely play a huge part in tomorrow’s game. The running back often labelled as injury prone has a great supporting cast behind him to help shed the workload, but if he can replicate his average of 5.1 yards per carry last season , life will become much easier for Carson Wentz and company.
The West-Coast Offense thrives on a strong running game..and the Eagles will be hoping to establish dominance on the ground in the early stages in order to help their rookie quarterback and move the chains with ease, sustaining drives and taking pressure off of Wentz who threw just 24 times in preseason.
Mathews is a back who thrives when bursting through holes created by the Offensive line. Under Chip Kelly, those opportunities were few and far between but a revamped line under Doug Pederson looked much better during preseason, allowing Kenjon Barner to average 6.1 yards per carry through three preseason games. The zonal run blocking scheme seems to suit the versatile line which could see an even bigger game for Ryan Mathews as he tries to punish the Browns Defense.
When you think Eagles linebackers, Stephen Tulloch won’t be a name that comes to mind straight away. But with there being just five linebackers (after the re-signing of Najee Goode) on the roster, rotation is going to be very important..making wily veteran Stephen Tulloch invaluable.
The Browns lack offensive weapons..but some unpredictable threats on the ground, the mobility of RGIII and a physical TE in Gary Barnidge could force a lot of pressure on the linebackers if the Browns somehow work out how to tame the ferocious Eagles pass rush.
Tulloch has proven to be extremely effective under Jim Schwartz and a 100 tackle season last year despite coming off of an injury suffered in 2014. In fact, 2014 was the only year Tulloch did not rack up 100 tackles since 2009..and all of those seasons but one were played under Jim Schwartz.
Tulloch is still a strong coverage linebacker..and if the Browns want to exploit the middle of the field with players like Barnidge, his skills may be called upon more than many think.
The Eagles number one receiver has had a strange offseason. From being predicted to move outside, seeing some competition from free agents who were later released and then missing all of preseason due to an injury, Matthews will lead an extremely young receiving corps in 2016 and could rapidly emerge as a favorite target for Carson Wentz.
We reported earlier in the year how both Wentz and Matthews arrived at the NovaCare Complex before Training Camp started to put in some extra work..and it’s that kind of chemistry that both will be relying on against the Browns in order to build momentum.
After two season of being so close to receiving 1,000 receiving yards, this may finally be the year that the Vanderbilt star is utilized..and it all starts this week in an Offense that craves stability. Six touchdowns in his last six games showed a surge in confidence for Jordan Matthews, confidence he will be hoping can help lead the receivers in 2016.
Matthews is listed on the depth chart as the lone slot-receiver, but it remains to be seen if he will see any outside reps. The Eagles want to find a rhythm early against the Browns..and the presence/ability of Jordan Matthews who has worked tirelessly during the offseason to overcome the problems that plagued him 2015 will be crucial.
With the departure of Eric Rowe, Ron Brooks is expected to be the corner lining up behind Nolan Carroll on the depth chart and taking over the nickel spot when needed. An erratic and inconsistent preseason raised concerns over the former Buffalo special teamer, but he will need to be a force on both units tomorrow.
The hard-hitting cornerback has enough potential to develop into a solid cornerback, but his presence on special teams will be just as important with Trey Burton suffering a calf strain this week.
The Eagles secondary is still an area of concern, but with the only corner behind Brooks being seventh round pick Jalen Mills, Brooks could see a lot of responsibility tomorrow..but if he can prove consistent and patient enough in his tackling, the hole Eric Rowe has left at cornerback may start to fill.
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