Speaking to reporters early Friday, Andy Reid announced that Kevin Kolb will start his third game of the season against the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday—but Michael Vick could be dressed standing next to him on the sidelines.
No, it’s not another quarterback controversy, but Reid likes how Vick has improved this week and said although he doesn’t think he could go a full game, if he improves tomorrow like he did in Friday’s practice Vick could be on the sidelines and potentially used in some capacity. While that sounds great, don’t expect him to do more than answer a phone every now and then since Reid doesn’t typically press injuries. When the Eagles get Vick back, they want him back for good.
Regardless of who’s running the offense for the Eagles this Sunday, they’re going to have their hands full. The Falcons could be the best team in the NFC right now with a record of 4-1, losing in week one to the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime 15-9. Atlanta finally got the offense working in week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals and abused them all game for a 41-7 win, and since then beat the reigning Super Bowl champs and division rival Saints, the 49ers and the Cleveland Browns.
Falcons quarterback and Exton, Pa. native Matt Ryan has had a lot to do with their success with seven touchdowns and just three picks this season for an 86.9 passer rating. His receiving corps all has above average talent, especially Roddy White, Brian Finneran and the returning Mike Jenkins. Future Hall-of-Famer Tony Gonzalez is his tight end and a sure-handed target for Ryan, which means middle linebacker Stewart Bradley is in some trouble. Bradley’s return has been a huge storyline all season for the Eagles, but his inability to cover tight ends has weakened his love affair with the city. This weekend could end that love completely if he lets Gonzalez by for a cheap touchdown or two.
Ryan gets help from running backs Michael Turner and Jason Snelling in different ways. Snelling is great on the ground but it’s his ability to catch the ball in the flats that helps Ryan the most. Tuner is the main running factor for the Falcons, who has two 100-yard performances this year and averages about 80 yards a game on the ground. The Eagles defense looked much better against the run last week when they kept the Niners and Frank Gore to under 80 yards, but Turner is much quicker than Gore and will be a different problem. Turner only has one touchdown this year but could easily leave Philly with his second and third.
The Eagles’ offense will have a tricky situation on their hands as they feel out what they can get from the defense. LeSean McCoy was efficient last week even with his broken rib, but the Falcons have the eighth-best running defense in the league and allow an average of 86.6 yards on the ground each game. McCoy won’t have too much help either, since the newly-acquired Jerome Harrison, who we received from Cleveland in a trade for Mike Bell, has yet to learn the playbook and most importantly the blocking schemes. Eldra Buckley is the likeliest of backup running backs this week, and while I like what he’s shown in small doses I doubt he can make a big impact against this Atlanta defense.
The potential lack of a running game won’t be the only thing keeping the Eagles from getting a groove in the passing game. The Falcons’ front four on defense have wrecked havoc on quarterbacks this season, accounting for seven of their 11 sacks. John Abraham has been big this year with four sacks, which means trouble for Kolb since Abraham will face King Dunlap this weekend with Jason Peters coming off of knee surgery. The only hope for the Eagles is that Abraham is limited on Sunday as he was in practice this week because of a stiff back, and maybe one solid pancake block could be enough to send him to the side for a couple snaps.
Conerback Dunta Robinson will likely cover DeSean Jackson this week, and he’s no slouch when it comes to covering down-field threats. In last week’s win against the Browns, Robinson was one of the biggest factors in the Browns never completing an offensive play for more than 20 yards. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, the man most likely to be on Brent Celek, was also limited at practice this week with a knee injury. If Celek will actually catch some of the long balls Kolb throws his way, the Eagles have a chance of hanging in this.
This one could go either way. Come back Sunday night for in-depth analysis of the Eagles’ 1:00 P.M. match up with the Falcons.