What To Watch For In Eagles Final Game
While the Eagles final game of the season is devoid of playoff implications, there are some things that fans should be looking for in the season finale on Sunday.
On offense, the Eagles have put up plenty of yards, but turnovers have been a huge issue all season long. Their 5996 yards rank third in the NFL behind only New Orleans and New England and their 24.1 points per game is good for eight best in the league.
It appears that LeSean McCoy will play, and he has a shot to win the NFL rushing title this season. The Eagles tailback has played more snaps than any running back in the league this season and if the Eagles were in playoff contention, a case for McCoy could be made that he is the MVP of the league this season. His 1309 yards and 20 total touchdowns make him on of the games best weapons and at just 23-years old, McCoy looks like he will be the Eagles featured player for the next four-to-five seasons.
McCoy confirmed after practice on Thursday that he's ready for Sunday's game. Eagles offesnvie Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg acknowledged that the Eagles have discussed getting McCoy the rushing title as long as it's "within the structure" of the offense. McCoy will enter the game needing 128 yards to catch Maurice Jones-Drew.
If McCoy is out this week, lets hope that Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg give a look at McCoy's college teammate; Dion Lewis. Lewis has just 11 carries all season long, but the Eagles need to find out if he can carry the load if McCoy was ever to miss extended time over the next few seasons.
Michael Vick completed 18-of-32 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns while adding three rushes for 10 yards to lead the Eagles to a 20-7 victory over the Cowboys in Week 16. It was one of Vick's most complete games of the season, another solid performance might make the Eagles brass feel better about the $100-million contract he was given in the off-season. While poor line play early, drops and injuries have set-back Vick, he tried to hard at times and really had a average season.
DeSean Jackson indicated after the win over Dallas that he hopes to return with the Eagles next season. Jackson's status with the team remains unclear after being suspended for missing a mandatory team meeting earlier this season, and allowing his contract situation to become public. The two sides are reportedly ''not close'' on agreeing in value and the Eagles fans seem to be split on how to handle Jackson this off-season. A big finish against the Redskins on Sunday can certainly sway some voters his way.
First round pick Danny Watkins and sixth-rounder Jason Kelce have caught on to Howard Mudd's scheme, the Eagles' offensive line has gone from one of the shakiest in the league to one of the best since mid-season and the two rookies have been a big part of that. It will be nice to see both of them finish out the season strong for a line that looks like has developed continuity and should have all-five of it's starters back next season.
Tight end Brent Celek was able to team-up with Michael Vick and Vince Young plenty over the past two months, Celek is up to 56 receptions, 725 yards, and four TDs heading into the season finale versus the Redskins and has again become one of the top tight end targets in the game.
On defense, the Eagles rank eight in the NFL in total defense, and their 21.2 points given-up is tied with Green Bay for the 12th best in the league.
Pro Bowler Jason Babin continues to thrive in Jim Washburn's "wide nine" formation, after racking up 13 last season with Washburn in Tennessee he enters the final week of the season with 18 sacks, just three shy of the Eagles team record set by Reggie White. It will be interesting to see how Babin approaches the final game needing four sacks to obtain that record.
Trent Cole has 10 sacks on the season, his career best is 12.5 which he has recorded twice, in 2007 and 2009. He has a three sack game this season, in week 14 against the Miami Dolphins. Three sacks this week verse the Redskins and he will have a career high 13 sacks this season.
The line-backing core has had a roller-coaster season, which has had substantially more lows, then highs. Since Jamar Chaney has been replaced by Casey Matthews in the nickel package the team has won three straight. Matthews was over-matched in the middle, but has been more of a play-maker in the nickel, notching 16 tackles and a sack since re-entering the line-up. In mid-November, Brian Rolle was replaced by Keenan Clayton in the first-team nickel defense and it gave the Eagles five different linebackers that played a role in the team's new look defense.
Rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett will get another chance to show what he can do in the season finale with starter Kurt Coleman being placed on the IR with a torn bicep. Jarrett hardly impressed in his earlier audition, but a second-round pick, the Eagles need to see what he can do.
It also appears that Asante Samuel will miss the game, meaning Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will again get a chance that he can handle the right corner spot in 2012. Another solid game from Rodgers-Cromartie could lead to the exit of Samuel. The three corners just never fit together with Rodgers-Cromartie clearly a better outside corner then slot corner, a role better suited for Joselio Hanson.
A pair of players who might get some more time in the season finale are defensive tackles Derek Landri and Cedric Thornton. Landri has been a solid, hard-working addition after being cut in the preseason, he was brought back when Antonio Dixon was lost for the season in training camp. Thornton was expected to be a middle-round pick but some medical concerns dropped him down draft boards, and the Eagles thought enough of him to promote him from the practice squad.
It seems like a lost season for last year's top pick, Brandon Graham, who underwent microfracture surgery last December. Although he says he feels healthy, the Eagles have been exercising caution. Graham has appeared in just two games all season, opening up some playing time for CFL castoff, Phillip Hunt. During a recent two week stretch, Hunt had six tackles and two sacks, extended play might be just what Hunt needs in the final week of the season.