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Eagles Begin NFC East Gauntlet With WinAndrew Perna. 30th October, 2009 - 12:35 pm
In dire need of a bounce-back week, the Philadelphia Eagles got just what they needed against the turbulent Washington Redskins on Monday night. After falling asleep at the wheel against the Oakland Raiders one week prior, the Eagles used a balanced attack to keep pace in the ultra-competitive NFC East.
Hitch: Action Jackson
DeSean Jackson continues to emerge as one of the most explosive players in the NFL, scoring on two plays of fifty-plus yards. The first, a reverse very early in the first quarter gave the Eagles a lead they would never relinquish. The second, on a pass from Donovan McNabb in which he separated himself from coverage with amazing ease, effectively ended any slim chance the Redskins had at making it a game at FedEx Field.
He still has some moments that make you shake your head, such as when he thought about returning a punt before the ball reached him, leading to a near fumble, but the positive has largely outweighed the negative this season.
Jackson emerged on the national stage on Monday Night Football against the Cowboys last fall ? remember that infamous touchdown celebration that began a tad too early? ? but he's not all flash and cockiness. He knows how to use his speed, as he did when he got behind the defense on his 57-yard touchdown catch, and is becoming McNabb's favorite long-ball target.
Slant: Westbrook Down Again
Everyone knew it was going to happen sooner or later, so I doubt anyone's jaw dropped when running back Brian Westbrook left the game with a concussion. That might sound insensitive considering the fact that he was knocked out briefly and remained motionless on the field for several scary moments, but a Westbrook injury occurs just as often as a Michael Lohan opens his mouth -? and that's a lot.
The Eagles are better prepared to handle the absence of Westbrook this year than they have been in the past, but with the Giants and Cowboys coming up in back-to-back divisional matchups his injury couldn't have occurred at a more inappropriate time. Now, rookie LeSean McCoy will be handling a majority of the carries against a New York defense that has been beaten up in consecutive weeks and is looking for vengeance.
The onus will have to be on McNabb and his receivers to open up the box for McCoy, who will likely be the target of the defense at the start of the game. If the Giants can take away the running game early, they'll force McNabb to make a few bad throws, which the G-Men are more than capable of capitalizing on.
Post: Two Weeks Of Bruising
The Eagles are in the midst of three consecutive NFC East battles and actually caught a break in Washington with all the turmoil that the Redskins are dealing with this season. Typically, any game is tough in this division; no matter what the opposing team's overall record is leading up to the kickoff. With that said, Philadelphia certainly didn't escapes the District of Columbia unharmed.
With a 4-2 record, which I think to a man the organization would agree should be 5-1, they must prepare for a pair of games that will dictate how the second half of the season plays out. New York and Dallas are on opposite ends of the spectrum currently, with the Giants on a two-game losing streak and the Cowboys riding high with two straight wins and the emergence of receiver Miles Austin, but the outcomes will be similar. It's doubtful that either of the Eagles' next two games will be decided by more than 10 points.
Andy Reid and Co. have had success against both clubs recently, having defeated Dallas on the final Sunday of last season to grab a playoff berth and knocked New York out in the said postseason. Their ability to kick the Giants while their down and limit the surging Austin will greatly alter their playoff chances even though there will still be eight games and a pair of head-to-head battles remaining.
Fade: McDermott's Defense
New defensive coordinator Sean McDermott certainly isn't new to the team, but he did enter the season with some rather large shoes to fill. In the wake of long-time coordinator Jim Johnson's death, the Eagles have rallied around each other and their new, young leader. Not even a training camp injury to starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, followed by injuries to a number of their fill-ins, has broken the unit.
Let's take a look at how this season Philadelphia's defense stacks up against 2008.
Points Per Game: 18.1, 19.3
Pass Yards Per: 182.1, 190.2
Rush Yards Per: 92.3, 96.8
Sacks: 23.0, 40.0 (proj.)
Interceptions: 16, 11 (proj.)
Forced Fumbles: 10, 16
Takeaway Ratio: +3, +11
Their per game scoring and yardage totals are pretty consistent, but the Eagles are a much more opportunistic club this season. Of course, their opponents thus far have been pretty weak (aside from New Orleans in Week 2) and it's doubtful that they'll remain on pace for 40 sacks and have a +11 takeaway ratio by the end of November.
Curl: The Magic Man
The position of long snapper may not be the most glamorous, but the Eagles have themselves a gem in Jon Dorenbos. Not only is he effective on the field, but he also mingles with Philadelphia's fans unlike any professional athlete I've seen.
Every Monday night, excluding the weeks the team is featured on Monday Night Football, during which the event switches to Tuesdays, Dorenbos hosts a football viewing party at a Dave & Busters in the Philadelphia area. The fun doesn't stop there. Not only does he take pictures, rub elbows and sign autographs for fans, but he also brings signed memorabilia from some of his more heralded teammates to give away and puts on a magic show.
That's right, a rabbit-out-of-hat magic show.
He co-hosts the weekly bashes with Casey Foster, a local radio personality from 93.3 WMMR's popular "Preston & Steve Morning Show" and I'm jealous that my geographical location keeps me from attending what seems like a really cool night of fun, football and magic.
If you are in the Philly area, even if you aren't an Eagles fan, I highly suggest checking out the act of Dorenbos, who is just as talented with a deck of cards as he is with a football.
Andrew Perna is Deputy Editor of RealGM.com and co-host of RealGM's Radio Show. Please feel free to contact him with comments or questions via e-mail: Andrew.Perna@RealGM.com. You can also follow Andrew on Twitter: APerna7.