5 Things to Watch in Eagles’ Opener vs Browns
The Eagles spent the entire offseason and training camp with the intention of starting Sam Bradford at quarterback. Then last Saturday, things changed, and the future started now when the team announced rookie Carson Wentz would be named the starter.
Here are four things to consider when the Eagles open the season against the Cleveland Browns at 1 p.m. Sunday, live 97.3 ESPN.
1. With Bradford out, the Eagles future starts now. Here are three things to consider when starting Wentz, who suffered a hairline fracture to his ribs in the Eagles' preseason opener, which limited him to throwing just 24 passes for 89 yards and an interception in 35 total NFL preseason snaps. Will we see reckless play, trying to do too much right away - something he can't do in the NFL. Will he have better accuracy, his ball was high in the preseason game against the Bucs, maybe a product of being excited during his first game, but he hasn't had a chance to play again in a game since. And lastly, can he realize that you can't stay in the pocket all day and make plays with his feet as he displayed while at North Dakota State.
2. On passing plays, the it will be interesting to see if the Eagles test the Browns three new starters in the defensive backfield by taking some shots down-the-field. The Browns feature new starting cornerback Jamar Taylor, who will start across from Joe Haden. Taylor is a reclamation project and former second-round pick who couldn't stay healthy in Miami with the Dolphins. He could be the guy the Eagles target in the passing game if they are going to go downfield. Former Eagles draft pick Jordan Poyer is also a starting safety for the browns, the 2013 seventh-pound pick is a converted corner, who showed some playmaking ability (22 tackles, 2 interceptions) in four starts for the Browns last year, but struggled against the run.
3. One of the keys of the game will be the Eagles’ ability to stop Robert Griffin III if he decides to run. The Browns run game shouldnt't give the Eagles problems, but one area of concern could be left tackle Joe Thomas against the Eagles smaller defensive ends. He'll most likely be lined up against Connor Barwin, if Thomas can win that battle, it could set up some play action and give RGIII the ability to break the pocket and pick up some big yardage.
4. It will be interesting to see the running back rotation of the Eagles. I’m figuring Ryan Mathews will get about 20 touches in the game while Kenjon Barner will have a limited role in the game, about five or six carries. However the Eagles main weapon could be Darren Sproles, who should be more involved on passing downs than he was in Chip Kelly's offense. New Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich utilized Danny Woodhead, who had 80 catches last season, in the red-zone frequently in San Diego last year, and Sprles could see a similar role in Philadelphia this year.
5. Fletcher Cox signed a six-year, $103 million extension through 2022 with $63 million guaranteed and this week against the Browns he gets to show the NFL why the Eagles were willing to make that investment in him. The Browns interior line is a weakness and Cox is the Eagles biggest strength. if he can cause problems up-the-middle, the Browns offense could be in for a long day. The defensive tackle position in Jim Scwartz defense has produced some big time performers, like Ndamukong Suh, Marcell Dareus and Albert Haynesworth, the Eagles hoping to see that from Cox, starting in Week 1 against the Browns.