It all starts today, at 1 o’clock the only thing that matters is performance on the field. No more moral questions, just football. This afternoon guys like Winston Justice and Jason Babin are more important than Mike Vick, and that is a beautiful thing.
As excited as we should be about this new year, there are many big time question marks on this Eagles team that need to be answered in order to know where we are all destined to end up in January.
An offensive line with 4 new starters.
A rookie 5th rd pick replacing a hall of fame free safety.
Literally no starting depth at linebacker.
A rookie defensive coordinatoor replacing one of the best in the history of the game.
An elite running back who had 2 offseason surgeries and is already listed on the injury report.
The challenge begins today against a Panther team coming off an outstanding 12-4 regular season that was thrown away by quarterback Jake Delhomme. In one of the most jaw-droppingly terrible playoff performances ever, Delhomme turned the ball over six times with five interceptions and a fumble lost. Somehow he retains his starting job going into this season. So even with the lack of talent at QB the Panthers still boast arguably the most talented 1-2 combo at running back in the league. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart paired with their physical offensive line and superstar receiver Steve Smith setup multiple matchup problems for the Birds defense.
The positive news for the Eagles is that the Panthers D is nothing to write home about. The Cats have 2 standout players in left end Julius Peppers and middle backer Jon Beason but their supporting cast is lacking. They can be especially vulnerable in the secondary, so as always giving McNabb time to throw is key.
Matchup’s to Watch
Winston Justice vs Julius Peppers
Infamous for his one and only disastrous start against Osi Umenyiora, Justice gets another chance to prove himself as he steps in for the enigmatic Shawn Andrews at right tackle. It wont be easy as he’s facing the 6’8 278lb All-Pro Peppers. Coach Reid cannot leave Justice on an island, they need to provide tight end and running back help or it could be a long day for McNabb.
Asante Samuel vs Steve Smith
Two of the most talented players in football are set to be locked up against each other all day. Will Samuel’s aggressiveness lead to big plays for Smith or can Asante’s closing speed create a nightmarish flashback for Jake Delhomme?
After showing next to nothing in the preseason the Birds offense will come out soaring but so will the Panthers. This will not be a marquee game for either defense. High scoring but it comes down do a field goal late.