During the offseason it looked like we might not have a football season this year. The lockout went on for what felt like years as the two sides were on able to come to an agreement. It forced teams to squeeze a few months of decisions into just a few days. Unless you have been living under rock for the last few months, you would have heard that the Eagles have had a successful offseason and head into the season as one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Now with all of the frustration of the lockout completely behind us, we get to do what we fans wanted to do all along. Simply just watch football on Sundays!
The Eagles start the season on the road visiting one of last year’s surprise teams the St. Louis Rams. Last season the Rams had success under first year head coach and former Eagles assistant Steve Spagnuolo. Along with Spagnuolo the Rams were led by rookie QB Sam Bradford who took them from a 1-15 record to 7-9 and just missing out on the playoffs.
Sunday September 11, 1:00: 0-0 Philadelphia Eagles vs. 0-0 St. Louis Rams
Last season the Eagles had one of the most explosive offenses in the game. The Eagles offense gave defensive coordinator nightmares as they tried to figure out how to stop their collection of play makers. They were 2nd in total yards and 3rd in points per game last season. They somehow added to the list of weapons during the offseason. After trading backup Kevin Kolb they added former Pro Bowler Vince Young to be the team’s backup. Former 1,000 yard rusher and Pro Bowler Ronnie Brown signed as McCoy’s backup and former 100 catch WR Steve Smith was signed to compete with Avant for the team’s slot duties. The Achilles heel for this unit will once again be the protection of Mike Vick. The offensive line struggled last year and a healthy Vick is a must for this team to be successful.
This unit begins and starts with second year QB Sam Bradford. The former number one overall pick was sent to wolves last season as he started every game as a rookie for the Rams. Bradford experienced his share of injuries while at Oklahoma but was able to make it through his first season without missing a game. He wasn’t amazing last season but he showed some flashes how why the Rams drafted him so high. The success of Bradford took some pressure off of workhorse RB Steven Jackson. The 28 year old Jackson has started to show his age as he has been used and abused by the Rams early in his career and it seems as though he is warring down. The Rams offense finished 26th in the NFL in points per game last year and total yards.
As Eagles fans we have been use to seeing the Birds put some great defensives on the field over the past decade. We were spoiled for years as we had one of the greatest defensive minds in the history of the game Jim Johnson picking our opponents apart. But I don’t know if even JJ would have been able to have a lot of success with the talent playing on the opposite side of Samuel. It is no secret that the Eagles have upgraded the defense during the offseason. They know have a Phillies like group at corner and plenty of fast balls on the defensive line to attack the opposing QB. I’m not even going to mention the 2010 rankings because I expect this unit to be one of the league’s best in 2011.
The Rams defense struggled last season but it is full of young players who should only improve this season. At the heart of the Rams defense is former Buck Eye MLB James Laurinaitis. The 3rd year pro led the Rams in tackles with 112. I think he will continue to improve and become one of the best MLB in the game. The Rams were one of the teams that might have benefited from the Eagles offseason. Philly made the decision in the offseason to not bring back many of their own free agents and allow them to sign elsewhere. This meant they would part ways with one of the most underrated safeties in the game Quinton Mikell and the Rams jumped at the chance to add some veteran leadership to their D. Last year they finished 14th in total yards but were 21st in PPG.
Matchup to watch: Eagles LB vs. Rams TE
A lot of the media coverage has been focused on the Eagles young LB and how they will fare against the Rams running game. But I feel the bigger concern to the Birds is how they will handle the passing game. With the lockdown corners on the outside, Bradford will be forced to look toward the center of the field to move the ball. And over the last few seasons the TE has been one of the things that have killed the Eagles. If the Birds could shut off the middle of the field, it could force Bradford to try his luck on the outside.
Prediction: Eagles 31 Rams 16