Many thanks to Bleeding Green Nation for agreeing to exchange a brief word on his beloved Eagles for this Monday's game. Honesty: I don't know as much about the Eagles as I do Jason. He is the resource on finding out information on what is happening on that team which is why I value his input. You can find my thoughts on our team over at his site. Below is an overview of the Philly Eagles:
QB - Despite showing some rust in the first game, Donovan McNabb does appear to be healthy. I suppose there's not much more to say about that. Any fan of an NFC East has seen what he can do when healthy.
RB - DC area native Brian Westbrook is the #1 and the Eagles' best homerun hitter. He had a solid first game with over a hundred all purpose yards averaging over a 4 yards on the ground while hauling in 6 passes. The Eagles love to move Westbrook around and he always must be accounted for on a defense whether he's taking a handoff, catching a ball out of the backfield, or lining up out wide. When he's out in space, there's few players more dangerous in football.
WR - The Eagles' newest acquisition, Kevin Curtis, had a pretty preseason and nice debut against the Packers in week one. He's an excellent route runner with the speed to create separation, even from top level corners like Woodson & Harris. It remains to be seen whether he's the kind of wideout who can take over a game. Like I said, with his crisp route running and speed, he'll always catch a few balls... but can he change games? I don't know yet. Redskins fans probably know Reggie Brown well, as he's seemingly had several of the best games of his career against the Skins. That said, Reggie was very quiet in his first game this year. The third WR is Jason Avant who has made as big a jump in his second year as any rookie from last season. Thanks to a good preseason and camp, he rose up the depth chart to take the 3rd WR job and had a very nice first game with 3 receptions for 54 yards and a TD. He's a strong, possession type WR who doesn't possess great speed but has good hands and isn't afraid to go over the middle.
TE - LJ Smith is a solid, speedy and TE when healthy... which he is not. He's working back from sports hernia surgery in the off season and while he did catch a couple balls in the Green Bay game he didn't look up to speed. Rookie Brent Celek seems to have risen to the backup job after a very exciting preseason. In fact, you could very well say he was the biggest surprise of the off season. He's a big kid who looks like a solid blocker, he's got hands, and he finds space well. His number didn't get called a whole lot in the Green Bay game so he may be a guy to keep an eye on in the future.
OL - This unit is probably the strength of this Eagles team. It's the same group of guys that started all of last year and is just as good in run blocking as they are in pass blocking. There's 3 current and former pro bowlers on the line and 2 other guys that could well see themselves there eventually. I may question the job Andy Reid has done drafting linebackers, wide receivers, and some other positions... but he has an uncanny knack for finding good offensive lineman.
DL - This was an interesting unit last week. They sacked Favre 4 times and pressured him several others. The defensive tackles particularly looked dominant thanks to the emergence of last year's #1 pick, Brodrick Bunkley. Thanks in part to him moving the line around the Packers only managed 46 yards rushing. Last year, this unit was very weak against the run and I'm very interested to see them tested against a legit running attack like the Redskins. They looked great against GB, but let's be honest... Green Bay isn't the most fearsome running attack in the NFL.
LB - This unit, like the entire defense, played very well against Green Bay. However, like my concerns about the DL, I can't wait to see them take on a team that run the ball. It's hard to give a real scouting report on these guys because we've seen so little of them. All three guys are new starters at their positions. I will say that after an okay preseason, Takeo Spikes looked like he's returned to his pro bowl form. He was all over the field and was especially vicious against the run. Omar Gaither, the MLB, took over for Trotter in the preseason had a good game but he still has some to prove. He's much faster and better in coverage than Trotter, plus he also reaches the edges better. Like I've been saying though, he's still untested. The strong side linebacker, Chris Gocong, is a converted DE in his first year as a starter. He'll likely get matched up with Cooley. He's certainly plenty big and strong enough to deal with Cooley and has decent speed, but whether he can actually cover anyone is still a total mystery. The fact is that before this year the guy never played LB and no one really knows. I fully expect the Skins to target him in the passing game
DB - Despite some injuries this is a pretty solid group. Pro bowl CB, Lito Sheppard won't play and that will be a blow. He's the game changer of the group that's most likely to jump a route and take one back. However, the Eagles are still pretty solid at corner without him. Sheldon Brown is a very solid corner who had a good game last week. Will James will start in place of Lito and I believe has more starts under his belt than any other nickel DB in the league. He played for the Giants for a long time as Will Peterson, but injuries derailed his career there. He has the size to take on bigger receivers and he had a good first game, but I still expect the Skins to test him deep. He was burnt a few times in preseason. Both safties are a little nicked up, but will play. There's not much to say about Dawkins, even at 34 he's coming off arguably his best season. Sean Considine is in his second year as a starter and played very well against Green Bay. He's a very solid coverage safety, but there's still concerns over whether he has the size and strength to effectively support the run from the SS spot.
Special Teams - An absolute nightmare that cost the Eagles a win in week one. Two muffed punts by two different guys gave the Packers a week one win. In hopes of fixing that, the Eagles cut returner JR Reed and resigned Reno Mahe. Mahe is a not a guy that's going to scare anyone, and when I say that I mean he won't scare either team. He won't take one to the house, but he can fair catch a punt. David Akers is a pro bowl kicker, but there was some problems in preseason with a new snapper and holder. They did look solid last week though. Sav Rocca is the team's new Aussie punter who has a huge leg and hit a few 65 yarders in preseason.