Five Keys to an Eagles Win Over the Browns
The Eagles are expected to cruise to a win today in Cleveland, and they are definitely the better team on paper, but there are certain areas the Browns could exploit to make it a closer game than expected or even pull off the upset. Here are five keys for the Eagles.
1. Protect the Football – Michael Vick needs to make good decisions and protect the football. Turnovers are the great equalizer in football, and the Eagles are the better team and could do without any equalizing Sunday.
2. Stop the Run – The Browns will likely look to run early and often with a rookie quarterback in Brandon Weeden and a lethal Eagles pass rush. If the Eagles can stop the Browns from establishing the run early, the Cleveland offense should struggle all day. It's hard to predict how Trent Richardson, the third overall pick in the draft, will perform after missing the preseason due to arthroscopic knee surgery. That said, it would be surprising if the Browns didn't try to find out right away.
3. Avoid Rookie Mistakes – The Eagles will have lots of rookies in prominent roles. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks is starting on the strong side, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox will be a big part of the rotation at defensive tackle and cornerback Brandon Boykin is the top slot corner for the Birds and should be on the field quite a bit. On special teams, Boykin will return kicks while Damaris Johnson will handle punts. Johnson should also get involved at wide receiver, while Bryce Brown may get a handful of carries. The Browns have Weeden and Richardson as integral parts as well, so rookie mistakes could be pivotal.
4. Find Offensive Rhythm Early – The Eagles starting offense didn’t get much time together in the preseason due to Michael Vick’s injuries, and the longer it takes them to shake off the rust and find a rhythm the more hope the Browns will have and the tougher the crowd will be to deal with. The key here is for the Eagles coaches to weight their play calling toward short routes that can give Vick some easy completions early on. That should boost his confidence, get the offense rolling and prevent him from taking too many hits.
5. Contain Cribbs – Special teams can spark underdogs and the Eagles don’t want that to be the case for the Browns. Josh Cribbs is one of the more dangerous return men in the NFL, so the Eagles need to do a good job of boxing him in with their coverage units.
For a more in depth breakdown of the five keys, read more.
Ryan Messick covers the Eagles for 97.3 ESPN FM. Follow him on Twitter.