After week one, the Philadelphia Eagles made a valiant comeback after Michael Vick stepped in for the then-concussed Kevin Kolb. There was doubt the team would be able to succeed in their following two “gimme games” against the Detroit Lions and the Jacksonville Jaguars after Kolb’s lackluster, albeit just one half, performance. But, the resurgence of Vick as a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback in the win against Detroit gave fans hope once more. With Vick now the starter for the rest of the season, his performance will be what makes or breaks the team and he has to take advantage of games against teams like the Jaguars.
Jacksonville is 1-1 on the season with a week one 24-17 win against the Denver Broncos, which was promptly followed by a week two 38-13 shellacking by the San Diego Chargers. The biggest threat on the Jags offense is Maurice Jones-Drew but he’s been limited this year with an ankle injury and has rushed for only 129 yards and no touchdowns this season. Quarterback David Garrard started the year with an impressive three touchdown performance, two of them to his big tight end Marcedes Lewis, but took a gigantic step backward with four interceptions in three quarters week two and was finally benched before he tossed another. Garrard finished with 173 yards and one touchdown to go along with his four picks, leaving him with a 62.7 QB rating. In contrast, he finished week one with a 138.9 rating.
With MJD nursing an injury and Garrard throwing as many picks as touchdowns in his first two games, the Eagles should have no problem sealing a win this week. With Stewart Bradley stepping back into the starting middle linebacker role he should be able to handle the tight end Lewis over the middle. Omar Gaither had 11 tackles last week stepping in for Bradley but Detroit’s tight end Brandon Pettigrew had over 100 yards receiving. Bradley is much better in coverage than Gaither and Lewis isn’t quite the player Pettigrew is, so don’t expect too many passes over the middle.
I wouldn’t expect many passes deep down field either, since safety Nate Allen has started his career nicely with two interceptions in two games. Corners Joselio Hanson and Ellis Hobbs both have a pick as well, which means Garrard will have to think twice about throwing anywhere into coverage. Asante Samuel will most likely be on Mike Sims-Walker this week so expect him to have a couple chances for his first interception of the season as well.
With the deep threat all but eliminated for the Jags, expect them to get Jones-Drew started early. He’s a similar threat to Detroit’s Jahvid Best, who beat up the Eagles for over 200 total yards last week. Best ran for 75 yards on a screen pass and had a 33-yard run as well, so it’s clear that the rush defense is the biggest problem for Philly right now. If they can make a couple big plays to completely shut down the Jaguars passing game early on and stack the box against Jones-Drew the rest of the afternoon they should be set, but I still expect MJD to get his first touchdown of the season this week.
The Eagles should have no issue putting up big numbers against the Jacksonville defense. The Chargers scored 38 points without a down field threat like DeSean Jackson, and Phillip Rivers threw for 334 yards for three touchdowns and two picks. His favorite target was his tight end Antonio Gates, who finished with five catches for 57 yards and touch touchdowns. Brent Celek will definitely be a big target for Vick this weekend since there seems to be a soft spot in the middle of the Jaguars defense. With no true defense threat in their secondary, Jacksonville can’t afford to protect against the run at all. With LeSean McCoy coming off a career-best game and Vick showing his legs are fresh, this game should be blown wide open by halftime.
This is a big week for the Eagles, who need to get all the kinks out of their system before their show down next Sunday versus McNabb & Co. Hopefully they aren’t thinking about that now, because looking past this game could come back to bite them big time later in a playoff race at the end of the season.