The game tonight between the Eagles and the Packers matters for a number of reasons. Winning it isn’t one of them, but playing well is, especially the first-team units. They’ve played well in their first two games, so continuing that tonight would be a plus, but there are a number of specific areas of focus for Chip Kelly and his football team.
First of all, we need to get another good look at Sam Bradford tonight and he needs to get more plays under his belt. He played less than 15 snaps against the Ravens, so he needs to get some work to scrub off the rust from two years in the training room. This will be a great setting for him in Lambeau Field in front of a noisy crowd. The Birds number one signal caller needs this work in game conditions where the adrenaline is flowing and a quarterback must keep his cool in the midst of the chaos.
The former Oklahoma Sooner needs to get more work with his wide receivers, especially Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff and Riley Cooper, so he can develop better timing with them. He needs to get comfortable in the pocket to the point where he feels the pressure from the backside defensive end and knows when to throw the ball away. Bradford needs to get comfortable in the pocket and he must get a feel for the plays coming in at break-neck speed. The Birds quarterback has to get used to the defense changing fronts just before the snap. He need snaps to develop in this area.
Secondly, inside linebacker Kiko Alonso needs to get on the field, make some tackles and get accustomed to the speed and aggressiveness of a real game. It’s been over a year since he played in a real NFL battle, so he needs to get on the field and get his feet wet.
The Eagles inside linebackers Alonso, Mychal Kendricks, and DeMeco Ryans need to get on the field together and get used to playing with each other. That’s not a problem with Kendricks and Ryans, but Alonso needs some work with the Kendricks.
The former Oregon Duck and Buffalo Bill will also need to get used to playing with outside linebackers Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham. Many times on run fakes and play action passes, the inside and outside linebackers are exchanging assignments. They must get to the point where they know each others voices in the noise. They must be able to communicate both before and after the snap.
The same is true of Alonso and the defensive line. Fletcher Cox, Cedrick Thornton and Bennie Logan must be able to pick up his voice out of the noise. Many times Alonso will be responsible for moving them, changing their alignment on motions and shifts by the offense and altering their assignments. He will be working with them on blitzes, stunts and pass rush games.
The next area I will be focused on will be the Eagles secondary. I want to see Walter Thurmond make some open field tackles. I never had any doubt about him as a safety versus the passing game, but I want to see what he does when he has to tackle a 229 pound running back like Eddie Lacy in the open field.
Thurmond doesn’t look like he’s weighing 200 pounds,so I want to see if he can tackle big guys in the open field and I want to see if he can stay healthy doing it. Let’s see how Thurmond does against the Packers running backs and tight ends.
I will also be checking out the nickel backs, Eric Rowe, Jaylen Watkins, and E.J. Biggers, to see which one of them steps up and takes the starting job. One big play could do it. Of course the coaching staff would like to see Rowe do it, but he hasn’t taken that step yet. There are flashes but we haven’t seen the consistency.
The third quarterback battle between Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow continues. Neither of them played particularly well last Saturday, so the job is still up for grabs. Barkley would be more valuable on the open market, so it would be good for the Eagles if both of them play well. If they both play well the rest of the way, Tebow will make the team and Barkley will get the Birds a draft pick in a trade. We will only see Mark Sanchez for a drive tonight, but the way he’s played he could use the work.
There are other battles taking place between players for roster spots. Andrew Gardner seems to have sewn up the right guard spot, so he’s just getting more comfortable next to Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson. You also have running back Kenjon Barner continuing his drive to win a roster spot and safety Ed Reynolds going after that backup safety role.
The second half