Eagles Six For Sunday: Week 2 Vs Falcons by Matt Lombardo

Each week as the Eagles game draws near, Taking It to The House will put the focus on six storylines to watch. This week, All eyes will be on Michael Vick in his Georgia Dome return. However, maybe the biggest question mark for the Eagles today is: Can Philadelphia stop the run against a back that averaged 10 yards a carry in Week 1? 

When the Eagles and Falcons kick off in Sunday Night Football tonight, the Georgia Dome will be abuzz because of Michael Vick’s return to face the team that made him the number one overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. There’s no doubt that how Vick handles that emotional circus will play a key role in how the Eagles offense functions, at least early on. However, Philadelphia’s showdown in Atlanta is one of the more difficult games on the schedule, against a multifaceted Falcons team that dominates it’s home field.

6. The Eagles must get their speed on offense involved. Last week Vick was pressured from all angles against the Rams. When the blitz came, number seven’s first instinct was to tuck the ball and run, reverting to his school yard football tendencies. That must change today. On a fast track in the dome, it’s imperative that the Eagles stretch the field early with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin on the outside and LeSean McCoy out of the backfield putting the Falcons defense on its toes.

5. Control Vick’s emotions. Two years ago the Eagles played the Falcons in the Georgia Dome and with a fourth quarter lead Andy Reid turned the offense over to Vick, which resulted in a touchdown pass to Brent Celek, which incensed Falcons owner Arthur Blank. Blank called the play “A gratuitous gesture of disrespect.” With all of the emotions running through the building, Vick must keep his in check and play in control. Vick has called this week a ‘business trip’ for him and his teammates, he must keep that mentality on Sunday night.

4. Vick’s play must improve from last week. Against St. Louis in week one, Vick was spectacular at eluding the pass rush. However, in the pocket his play left a lot to be desired. Vick completed just 43 percent of his passes, going 14 of 32. Last season he averaged 19 completions per start. A higher completion percentage is what makes Vick such a duel threat, and so difficult to defend because it loosens the front sevens of defenses because they must respect the speed on the outside of the Eagles offense. Vick can’t afford to turn Sunday night into a street ball game. Keep in mind, Ben Roethlisberger only averaged 12 completions his rookie season.

3. Can the defense get to Matt Ryan early and often? The structure of the Eagles defense is predicated on getting to the quarterback with a strong pass rush from the defensive line. With cornerbacks as the foundation and the liability of undersized linebackers, the offensive line getting to the quarterback is crucial. Last week against St. Louis the Eagles recorded five sacks, all from the front four. Against a team that’s equally committed to running the ball as it is to the pass, the Eagles must make the Falcons play one dimensional football, and that starts with getting to Ryan.

2. The Eagles must stop the run. Can this defense stop the run? That’s a question that remains to be seen. Steven Jackson had 56 yards, including a 42 yard touchdown scamper last week before exiting with an injury. Cadillac Williams added 91 yards on the ground against the Eagles defense. Tonight the Falcons will likely duplicate the Rams’ early game plan of pounding the run game early with Michael Turner. Turner only carried the ball ten times against the Bears last week on a brutal field in Chicago, but still managed to reach 100 yards. The Falcons boast a superior receiving corps and more polished quarterback then St. Louis, but it all will start for this defense up front. The wide nine defensive line style the Eagles play invites the run game with wider gaps in the rush lanes, and last week Casey Matthews his ground against the run. If that type of performance is duplicated, it will be hard for this defense to get off the field.

1. Protecting Michael Vick is crucial. In the season opener Michael Vick took more punishment than any quarterback in the league. Vick was hit a total of 21 times. Of the hits, 12 of them came while Number seven was in the pocket. That type of performance can’t be repeated weekly, or else it will be the Vince Young ‘Dream Team’ experience before too long. The SS Eagles Makeshift Offensive Line faces a tall order against the Falcons with two physical and imposing edge rushers in John Abraham and Ray Edwards at defensive end. Make no mistake, the Falcons will send blitzes from all angles on Sunday night. Will the Eagles offensive line be up to the task of neutralizing the pressure? For Vick and this offense’s sake, they better be.  



Matt Lombardo is the Philadelphia Eagles beat  reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL or by Email at MDLombardo@yahoo.com


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