With Michael Vick ruled out for Sunday, Kevin Kolb will once again take the field as the starter for the Philadelphia Eagles. The San Francisco 49ers have greatly disappointed this season with many analysts picking them as their surprise NFC Super Bowl contender, but at 0-4 appear to be in a worse situation than they were last year when they finished 8-8. But with how flat the Eagles’ offense looks behind Kolb, the Niners’ 13 points per game could be enough to surprise Philly, especially if the Eagles run defense hasn’t improved. And in case Eagles fans have forgotten, this weekend marks another match up with a former Philly great: Brian Westbrook.
Vick, the most dynamic weapon for the offense who in turn sparks fires under DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy, will most likely be out next week as well, so Philadelphia needs to take advantage of the 49ers slow start this season in order to carry some momentum into their game against Atlanta. It’ll be up to the defense to slow down running back Frank Gore, a big, bruising type of runner who weighs 217 pounds but stands just 5-9. Not only is Gore San Francisco’s leading rusher with 270 yards and one touchdown, he’s also their leader receiver with 263 receiving yards and one touchdown as well. These numbers show how little the Niners’ offense has accomplished through four games, but with the way Philadelphia’s defense has been moving out of the way for running backs lately those numbers could jump by the end of the game on Sunday. And if Gore’s not getting it done, I’m sure Westbrook would love a crack at his old team, though it’s less than likely he’ll even see the field as he has just one carry all year.
San Francisco also has some talent in their receivers as well, though they haven’t shown it yet. Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan and Ted Ginn Jr. are both quick options who could easily burn either Ellis Hobbs or Joselio Hanson, the most likely replacement for Asante Samuel who will sit with a concussion this week. Shawn Bradley still hasn’t been tested much with a dynamic tight end but he’ll get that match up this weekend with Vernon Davis, by far the most dangerous weapon in the red and gold. Everyone saw Chris Cooley run right past Bradley last Sunday for an easy touchdown, and anything similar this weekend will definitely create trouble for the Eagles.
The Niners’ defense doesn’t have many big names but they can get the job done. They’re 16th in the league in run defense and 20th in the league in pass defense, but neither of those bode well for the Eagles. McCoy will most likely play this weekend as he participated in the whole practice on Friday, but Reid will probably use him sparingly since the offense can’t afford another loss. It was clear on Sunday that Kolb isn’t comfortable standing in the pocket for extended periods as he reads through his progressions, so offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg only called quick slants, outs and screen passes. Without attempting to get the ball to his big three receivers down field, Brent Celek included, Kolb won’t be able to stretch the defense enough to open up running room for McCoy. San Francisco’s opponents are averaging just under 26 points per game against them, but don’t expect anything close to that if Kolb doesn’t take some chances deep.
With Samuel out leaving Hobbs to cover Crabtree, expect the 6-1 speedster to blow by Hobbs’ lackadaisical coverage for at least one touchdown. Gore should be good for another, and I’d be surprised if Davis doesn’t a touchdown in a red zone situation. Unless massive changes have been made to the offensive line’s mentality and Kolb feels more comfortable, the Eagles could be looking at a two touchdown loss, giving the Niners their first win of the season.