Let's say you're a coach and your team has one glaring weakness. Let's say you spent an entire off season, and preseason trying to address that weakness. Let's say that weakness wasn't really tested in week 1. Let's say in week 2, you're facing a team that will test that weakness, and test it, and test it, and when you think they're done, they'll go right back to testing it. That's exactly what Andy Reid is facing tonight.
The Packers don't have a running game, so there really wasn't a running game to shut down last week. All the Redskins have is a running game, and they're bound and determined to use it. The Eagles are going to get a steady dose of Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts tonight, in fact, it wouldn't be surprising to see the two combine for over 40 carries. The Skin realize this is the strength of their team, and they don't want the ball in their young quarterback's hands too often. It just so happens, no one thinks the Eagles can stand up to this type of game plan. Tonight is the opportunity to prove everyone wrong.
There are a couple of ways you can stop a team from running the ball down your throat. The first is to win individual match ups at the point of contact. The defensive tackles need to soak up blocks, if not push the blockers into the backfield. The linebackers need to fill gaps. The defensive ends need stretch plays to the outside, and maintain disciplined lanes to eliminate cutback opportunities. Everyone has to tackle well. In a nutshell, they need to do exactly what they haven't been able to do for so many years.
There is another way to thwart the running game, get a lead early. A big lead. Put up a 14-point lead in the first half, and force Gibbs to throw the ball. If you can't do either of these things, it's going to be a long night.
I saw signs of improvement from the Birds in week one, especially from the DTs which I thought was the weakest position on the team last season. Was it smoke and mirrors? Did an anemic Green Bay running game make the Eagles D look good? We're about to find out. In two and a half hours, we'll see if Andy Reid and Co. have the ability to address a need in the off season.
If they have passed this crucial test, the sky is the limit for this team. If they haven't, well, we saw what happened in the return game last week, we could be in for a repeat from the front seven tonight.
Buckle up Eagles fans, we're closing in on Monday Night Football. For a preview of what the Eagles are up against, check out Len Pasquerelli's column from ESPN