By Brandon Pemberton
catch me on twitter @Bashir28
The Philadelphia Eagles travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers tomorrow night for their second preseason football game. Look for the starters from both teams to play almost the whole first half of football. The Steelers are coming off of a bad showing against the Washington Redskins the prior week and I expect them to come out tomorrow looking to be physical and play some smash mouth style of football.
The Eagles offense looked good in their one and only drive of the game last week, scoring a touchdown on a short pass for Mike Vick to Brent Celek. The will be tested greatly this week dealing with Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense, spearheaded by linebackers Lamar Woodley, James Harrison, and Lawrence Timmons. Starting Right Tackle Ryan Harris tweaked his back last week against the Ravens and King Dunlap will have the start protecting Vick’s blind side. The Eagles would be wise to give Dunlap some help going against Lamar Woodley is passing situations. I also will be paying close attention to the rookies, Jason Kelce at center and Danny Watkins at right guard on the Offensive line. The Steelers run a medley of blitz packages and it should be a good test for the rookies and the Eagles o-line as a whole.
DeSean Jackson will see his first action after holding out and it will be interesting to see how he plays out there if there is no deal in place before the game starts Thursday night. He clearly sets this Eagles offense apart with his ability to take the top off of opposing defenses and while he might not pile up the numbers like Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, or Roddy White, his value and worth to this team is unmeasurable. He is the perfect fit for what this team does. My message to Eagles management: Get the damn deal done!
We all know the Steelers are blitz happy and have a great pass rush. I wonder how many runs will Andy and Marty mix in offensively Thursday night. The have a nice 1-2 punch at running back with LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown, hopefully they will put their talents to use. I also thought rookie running back Dion Lewis had a nice showing last week and I look forward to seeing more of him this week.
The Eagles Defensive Line played with an different style and aggression last week and I loved every minute of it. Even down to the 2nd and third string players, you can see the influence of new defensive line coach Jim Washburn. He plays his defensive ends wide in a 9 technique where their job is to get up field and play the run on the way to the quarterback. The addition of Cullen Jenkins and Antonio Dixon in as a starter clogging up the middle and pushing the pocket from the middle is one of the more underrated changes on this defense. We know the Steelers like to establish the run and set up the pass, so I will be watching how the d-line plays at the point of attack.
Im my eyes the linebacker core is one of the weak groups of this team and the starting group only played eight snaps last week against the Ravens. The will definitely be put to the test as they will get a nice dose of Rashard Mendenhall and the Steelers rushing attack. The jury is still out on this crew of young inexperienced players and if you ask me personally, I believe the Eagles need to add a veteran with experience to this group. Jamar Chaney has three starts under his belt at the Mike backer and they now have him playing Sam, Moise Fokou has no instincts, can’t play and is a special team player. And finally fourth round pick Casey Matthews has been handed the job at the Mike backer and while we know his name, we don’t know if he can play. We will have some sort of idea of what this group is about the game Thursday night and most definitely after the third preseason game. Personally I would like to see Keenan Clayton the second year player out of Oklahoma have a shot to start at the Will linebacker spot.
The Eagles secondary is going to have more plays on the field together to mesh and figure things out. I’m not really worried about the group of star corners, I’m more worried about the young group of safeties. Nate Allen is coming off of a knee injury late in his rookie season and as of last week, Kurt Coleman was also in the starting lineup. Jaiquawn Jarrett was drafted in the third round and has promise, but with no OTA’s due to the lockout you can only expect soo much from a rookie. The Steelers like to run play action and send wide receiver Mike Wallace deep, so i will be interested in how the Eagles defensive backfield does in coverage down field.
Lastly the Eagles have rookies at Kicker and Punter and I look for obviously clean holds and made kicks on the field goal unit and nice high accurate punts from Kicker Alex Henery and Punter Chas Henry.
Enjoy the game tomorrow night and the other preseason NFL action around the league and look forward to my reaction and analysis from this game and others over the weekend.