(Originally Posted: Friday August 27, 2010)
As my loyal readers know, the Couch is not a big fan of the pre-season. But it’s still here, and the 3rd game is traditionally the most important game of the cycle, let’s take a quick look at what we should be looking for out of the Birds tonight. Besides an excuse to drink excessively.
• Kolb to continue his solid play
Kolb has looked solid through the pre-season. More or less what we hoped/expected to see from him. He seems to have a solid grasp of the playbook and the play calling. He has moved the team down the field when he has time. You can see the leadership that the organization has been crowing about for years. It will be most definitely be an up and down season from him, but it feels thus far that the team made the right decision at quarterback. Especially with He Who Will Not Be Named already wearing an aircast in DC.
• Better play out of the O-line
The offensive line was atrocious last week. I know they’ve been riddled with injuries and the middle of the line has been all back ups, but last week was a disgrace. I’m looking forward to seeing some more starters in there this week, but they need to give Kolb more time. It would be shocking if this front five play 16 games (or even 10 games) together this season, so some of these back ups need to step up. The one bright spot has been undrafted rookie Austin Howard. Keep an eye on him, and don’t be surprise to see him at starting guard by the end of October this year. The offensive line, which has always been the biggest strength under Andy Reid teams, is the biggest concern I have going into the season. Oh, and learn how to line up on the freaking line too. Sheesh!
• Penetration out of the D-line (I know, Hot!)
The biggest thing I took out of the two losses to Dallas to end the season last year, was how poorly the penetration of our defensive line was, and how good the Cowgirls was. The Eagles addresses that in the draft with their first pick, Brandon Graham, who has been named starter. Graham has looked good in both games so far, but seems to be getting more Mammula’s than sacks. (“Mammula” is an unofficial stat I keep for getting real close to the quarterback, but getting there just a second too late. If you need more of an explanation, then you’re probably on the wrong website.) I know we’re still in the vanilla defense part of the year, without doing a lot of the fancy blitz packages and such, but I’d like to see our front four getting to the quarterback more. If this D-line could begin to dominate, this defense becomes much scarier and will be more dominating this year.
• Clarity in the Secondary
This is actually more set than I expected at this point for the starters. We got Asante at corner, Mikell at strong safety and rookie Nate Allen at free safety. I can’t tell you how excited I am that Nate Allen seems to be working out. Besides DJax, can’t remember the Eagles getting a second round pick right.
The problem with the secondary is the second corner position and the nickel and dime. It feels like we got a bunch of the same guys (Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hanson, Macho Harris, and Dimitiri Patterson.) Can you tell me anything different about those guys? Go ahead; think about it for a minute. Yeah, me either. They’re all decent dime or maybe nickel guys, but I don’t want them starting. We also have those later round rookies who will be in the mix, but they won’t be contributing until later in the season. You know who would’ve been a good fit at starting corner? Sheldon Brown.
• Touchdowns, Touchdowns, Touchdowns
Please, for the love of God, can we score a touchdown in the red zone? Or some touchdowns period. It’s like He Who Will Not Be Named left his magical amulet that won’t let the team in the end zone from inside the 20 when he left for Washington. I really hoped that this problem was shipped down I-95 in March, but I haven’t seen much of an improvement there yet. It’s not time to hit the panic button yet, but it’s time to turn the key and open up the plastic cover over the panic button. Hopefully, Mike Bell’s return can help in the red zone, and we won’t have stupid penalties taking them off the board. This is another place the O-line needs to step up.
I’m almost afraid to write this one, because I don’t want to jinx the team, but the Birds have had a pretty injury free pre-season and camp. (Ingram doesn’t count; he’s should be on the permanent IR list.) This is the last game that the starters will play, and the last big event until the season starts. This is the most important category. If we make it out if this game without anyone getting hurt, then nothing else really matters.