The Philadelphia Eagles made their preseason debut against the Oakland Raiders just four days ago and if the play of their starting units is any indication, the Eagles are back and ready to contend. While the Eagles will likely only play their starting offense and defense for one or two series, this should provide a good measuring stick for the Browns.
The Eagles pass happy west coast offense appears to be making the shift to a more run based approach to the game. The primary reason for this shift in philosophy is the desire to limit the hits taken by quarterback, Donovan McNabb. Also when you have two outstanding backs in Brian Westbrook and Ryan Moats, running the ball should be a top priority.
Donovan has shown no signs of last years season ending injury. The ball is
coming out quick and most importantly, he is hitting his targets in stride. He
has a live arm that can truly stretch the field. His ability to buy time with
his legs can frustrate opponents. Donovan will provide an excel
The Browns will likely receive a heavy dose of backup quarterback (and former Brown) Jeff Garcia. Garcia has neither the arm strength nor the accuracy of McNabb but he can dishearten opposing defenses with his ability to avoid pressure by getting outside the pocket and making plays with his legs.
The Eagles enjoy using the RB as the safety valve in the passing game. The
Eagles are very effective in using the running back screen as a potent weapon,
when they spread the field with multiple receivers. The Eagles also appear set
on running everything to the right side.
When it comes to the offensive line, the Eagles support one of the best in the game, especially along the right side. Veteran right tackle Jon Runyan and Shawn Andrews can open up the running game with ease. Jon makes very few mistakes and he is providing tremendous leadership to this line. For those young tackles out there, watch Jon's use of hands as he is pure textbook in how to control the defender.
Shawn Andrews is one of the best young guards in the game and a slimmer,
quicker Andrews looks poised to have an outstanding season. Shawn has lost over
The Eagles receiving corps has endured a great deal of change but the most
intriguing prospect on this roster is undrafted rookie Hank Baskett. Hank is
having a tremendous camp and with veteran Todd Pinkston and second year
sensation Reggie Brown nursing injuries, Hank has made the most of his
opportunity. The 6-
The Eagles also have the weapon everyone forgets about, until he makes the
big play. L.J. Smith hauled in 61 catches last year for nearly
Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has to be smiling with what could very well be the best front four in football. "The Freak", Jevon Kearse is a 3 time pro bowl defensive end. He is coming off of another solid year in which he led the team in sacks. The Eagles signed former Saint, Darren Howard in free agency. Howard is renowned for being an elite sack artist.
The interior of the line should also be improved with the drafting of rookie Broderick Bunkley. Bunkley was the highlight of this year's NFL combines and should find himself in the starting lineup before the opening game. The Eagles used their first round draft choice on this beast of an interior lineman. Next to Broderick will be Mike Patterson, the Eagles 2005 first round draft choice. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson is looking to build upon his rookie campaign in which he led the team in tackles.
The Eagles linebackers may be the weakest unit on this team. Jeremiah Trotter is a force in the middle against the run or when asked to blitz but when he drops into coverage, he becomes a liability. Dhani Jones doesn't have many glaring weaknesses but he is more of a competent linebacker than a play making linebacker. Matt McCoy may be the surprise of this group as he has sensational speed that allows him to get to the ball quickly but he will need time to become comfortable in his new starting role.
The Eagles secondary is as good as it gets in the NFL. Brian Dawkins is
entering his 11th year in the NFL and although he may have slowed a bit, he
makes up for it with experience. Brian is one of the truly elite safeties in the
game today. Alongside Dawkins is free safety Michael Lewis. Lewis has excel
The corner tandem of Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown are just as ta
The Browns have weapons everywhere you look on offense but unless this
offensive line finds a way to open up running lanes and also protect quarterback
Charlie Frye, these weapons may not materialize. Losing LeCharles Bentley, the
best center in football is bad enough but when backup center, Bob Hal
With the losses of Bentley and Hal
Veteran guards Joe Andruzzi and Cosey Coleman are healthy and looking to improve upon last year's performance. The pair of veterans got off to a great start last year but hampered with injuries down the stretch, neither finished out the season with strong performances. Backup guard Atlas Herrion had a great year in NFLE and has looked very good in camp this year. Keep a close eye on this virtual unknown when the backups enter the game. Atlas may be the dark horse surprise of this year's camp.
Left tackle, Kevin Shaffer has not shown any glaring weakness in pass protection. He has adequate footwork but his hand usage is outstanding. Kevin is a beast of a run blocker that improves as the game wears on. Look for the Browns running backs to run a great deal behind Kevin Shaffer, especially when Jerome Harrison is in the game.
The right tackle position is still up for grabs but Nat Dorsey appears to
have the lead. Dorsey must have a great showing. Ryan Tucker will likely be back
by the start of the season but his long term future is in doubt. This is a great
opportunity for Nat to not only showcase his ta
Quarterback Charlie Frye will likely play the first quarter depending upon
the performance of his offensive line. There isn't a great deal of ta
The battle for the number two quarterback thus far is between Ken Dorsey and Derek Anderson but depending on this performance, the Browns could look to bring in a vet to compete. To be honest, Ken would be last on the depth chart behind Darryl Hackney and Lang Campbell.
Braylon Edwards is not expected to play. This will give the backups a chance
to not only show their ta
One of the more intriguing Browns positions is the running back. It is uncertain if the Browns will look to get starting back Reuben Droughns back into the flow of carrying the rock or will they look to see what rookie Jerome Harrison can do against NFL competition. The likely answer is neither. Look for the Browns to showcase William Green and Lee Suggs as one if not both may become trade bait as teams like the Eagles are hit with a rash of injuries at the running back position. The Eagles are thin at running back and the best way to sell a running back to a team, is to have the trade bait back shred the defense.
The battle upfront with will go a long way in seeing how far this front seven
of the Browns have come. The Eagles line is big, physical and most of all ta
The Browns linebacker corps has endured a tremendous overhaul. This is a great opportunity for the Browns rookie linebackers to make a statement. With Chaun Thompson recovering from a leg injury, D'Qwell Jackson will get the start. D'Qwell has been impressive in camp with thunderous hits but his most impressive aspect is his ability to play through traffic while finding the football. D'Qwell can go a long way in locking down his starting role with a good performance. Also Andra Davis is feeling the heat from rookie Leon Williams. Andra will either step it up especially in making plays at the line of scrimmage or he may find himself stepping out of the way for the freakish athletic rookie.
The outside linebackers are Matt Stewart and Willie McGinnest. Willie hasn't
shown any signs of age and appears ready to put together another pro bowl
caliber year. Matt Stewart may not be able to hold down his starting role for
any amount of time with first round draft pick, Kamerion Wimbley showing
improved coverage skills and an unre
The Browns secondary is poised to have a break out year. Leigh Bodden and Gary Baxter are two of the best open field tacklers at their position. Both are solid in coverage with the ability to make plays on the ball. The depth behind the two starters is thin with injuries to Daylon McCutheon and DeMario Minter. The backups should get a great deal of playing time and their football careers may very well depend on this opportunity.
The safety position is hosting one of the most highly contested battles between Sean Jones and Brodney Pool. It appears as if Sean has a leg up but Brodney is progressing well and will receive a great deal of playing time. Keep your eye on backup free safety Justin Hamilton. This kid loves the big hit and has a knack for reading the eyes of the quarterback. That can be a very dangerous combination for opposing receivers. Bryan Russell is the incumbent free safety and it will take a solid showing for anyone to unseat him at the moment but don't be surprised if Brodney Pool and Justin Hamilton make a hard push for playing time as well as a starting role.
The best battle in this game is certain to be between two excel
Dennis Northcutt can take it the distance at any time returning punts but the
Eagles have Reno Mahe. Mahe lead the league last year averaging almost
Eagles' punter Dirk Johnson is healthy and seems to have a stronger leg than before. He has a knack for pinning the ball inside the 20. Browns punter Dave Zastudil may be the best punter in the game today.
It is only preseason and the one thing all fans should hope for is no injuries. This is a good test for both teams' starting units. The fun of preseason is the second and third string players that are giving it everything they have to make the team. Defenses will likely dominate this game and as a result it will become a game of field position and special teams play.