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Ever since Vince Young uttered the phrase "dream team" at Eagles training camp this year, it's been a source of derision and ridicule for the Eagles. Anytime they seemed to struggle in preseason or made a personnel move, media and opposing fans would chuckle and repeat "dream team!' over and over again. However, after today's 31-13 destruction of the Ram at the Edward Jones dome, the joke doesn't seem as funny. This game played out exactly like the Eagles would have planned it as they built a lead with a dynamic passing game and then shut the door with a ferocious pass rush and stifling secondary.
The Eagles seemed to answer many of the questions critics had prior to this game. Would the defense with all it's new players and with first coordinator Juan Castillo be up to the task? They sacked Rams' QB five times, Juqua Parker ran back a fumble for a TD, they held the opposition to 13 points and knocked Sam Bradford out of the game.
The other big question? Was Michael Vick's 2010 just a fluke? Was it a mistake to reward him with the $100 million deal so soon? So far, it seems like last year was anything but a fluke. Vick threw for two TDs and recorded his 12th career 100 yard rushing game of the season, that's the most ever by a QB.
"It felt great to know that I can go out and play lights out," Vick said. "I trained very hard this off season and I feel better that I've felt before. I give a lot of credit to the way the situations turned out with the new CBA. It's given us a lot of time to rest and prepare ourselves. I feel good. I feel like I could play another four quarters right now."
DeSean Jackson also made his case for a big new contract with six catches for 102 yards and a TD. He also dropped two other would be TD catches, but all in all it was a big day for DeSean and certainly helped his case to get a big, new contract from the Eagles. He says that his performance proves that he won't let his contract situation affect his play on the field.
"I think it speaks for the heart and determination I have to play this game regardless of off the field issues" DeSean said. "I'm here to work, I'm here to play football and do it at a high level. Anytime I can go out there and perform and help my team win, I think it speaks for itself."
Late in the game, The Closer ™ went to work. LeSean McCoy just began gashing the Rams defense and capped off the final scoring drive with a 49 yard TD run. A fitting end to a game that started with a 47 yard TD from the Rams' Steven Jackson. McCoy finished the game with 122 yards on the ground, two catches and two touchdowns (one via the air and one via the ground). After the McCoy game I tweeted the following "Gashing the other team with the run in 4th quarter when you've got a lead is the sweetest feeling ever." And it really is.
All in all, this game played out exactly like the Eagles are built for. They built a lead with exciting plays through the air, then finished off the game by running McCoy down their throats and feasting on their QB as the Rams tried to catch up. You absolutely can not beat the Eagles this year if that's how things play out. This is exactly how they are built to win game this year.
Sam Bradford has been getting absolutely crushed this afternoon against the Eagles, but he seems to have been injured on one of the few plays where he did not get hit. Bradford has left the game with what it being called a "finger" injury and his return has been deemed questionable. However, with the Rams getting blown up with less than 4 minutes left, there’s no good reason for him to come back anyway.
Bradford seemed to have his wrist snap awkwardly on what was easily his longest throw of the game, a 31 yard completion to Brandon Gibson. His hand may have hit the helmet of Cullen Jenkins, but it was hard to see.
Bradford has been taking a beating otherwise, he’s been sacked five times and knocked down at least that many as well. His injury was not even the worst the Rams have experienced today as Steven Jackson was lost after the first offensive play of the game with a hamstring injury and Danny Amendola could be lost for the year after suffering a very ugly dislocated elbow. So graphic was the way his arm bent, that FOX refused to replay it.
All in all it was a nightmare afternoon for St Louis, who trails 31-13
It’s been an odd road to get there, but all in all the Eagles have to be satisfied with a 17-10 halftime lead over the Rams on the road to start the season. The game got off to a nightmare start for the Birds as they went backwards on their first offensive series and surrendered a 47 yard TD run to Steven Jackson on their first defensive snap of the season. However, they would settle down and pretty much control the game for the remainder of the first half.
Michael Vick got rolling on the Eagles second drive with passes of 41 and 20 yards to DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant respectively before hitting LeSean McCoy for a 7 yard TD to tied the game at 7 a piece. The Eagles second TD came on a mistake from Sam Bradford who seemed to have some miscommunication on a handoff, which allowed Darryl Tapp to strip the ball, which was picked up by Juqua Parker and returned for a 56 yard TD. The teams would each add a FG before the end of the half.
The fact that the Eagles are up by only a TD probably flatters the Rams a bit. They have ran the ball well, but Sam Bradford has looked shaky and their passing game is the same dink and dunk we saw from them last year. Their defense has also started to struggle, although they got a big play on the Eagles second to last offense drive when Quintin Mikell put a blindside hit on Michael Vick, causing a fumble and costing the Eagles at least three points.
The Eagles defense looked like they needed a little help and they got it from Sam Bradford. The second year QB seemed to have some miscommunication with RB Cadillac Williams and failed to get the handoff completed. Darryl Tapp then got through and stripped Bradford, Juqua Parker scooped up the loose ball and returned it 56 yards for the Eagles second score of the game.
It was Parker’s second career TD, he also had a 55 yard INT return against the 49ers in 2008. It was the sixth longest fumble for a TD return in team history.
The first quarter is now over with the Eagles leading 14-7. The Rams are going to have to pick things up if they want to fulfill Marshall Faulk's pregame prediction that they would score 40 on the Eagles defense.
The Eagles got off to a nightmare start, but a Michael Vick TD pass to LeSean McCoy has righted the ship and tied the game at 7 a piece. The Eagles took the opening kick and after one first down, started going backwards. Jason Peters was called for a hold, McCoy was tackled for a loss and Vick was sacked. The Rams started their first drive with great field position, but they didn’t need. Steven Jackson took the first play from scrimmage 47 yards for a TD.
But on the ensuing drive the Eagles offense came to life. Michael Vick got protection and connected with DeSean Jackson for 41 yards, then hit Jason Avant for 20 before he found LeSean McCoy on a little screen for a seven yards TD.
The Eagles have released their list of inactives for today. Vince Young, Curtis Marsh, Jaiquwan Jarrett, Danny Watkins, Julian Vandervelde, Winston Justice and Phillip Hunt. That means that WR Steve Smith will dress and will play here in week one, which is of course something the Giants did not expect to see.
The only real notable inactive here is Vince Young, who won’t be able to go after suffering a hamstring strain in the final preseason game. That said, he is the backup QB and hopefully wouldn’t have played anyway… It is a bit of a bummer to see both the first and second round picks from this year as inactives, but then again given the super abbreviated offseason maybe that’s to be expected this year more than any other.
King Dunlap and Jamaal Jackson are the only backup offensive lineman dressed today. Dunlap will backup the tackle spots, while Jamaal Jackson will backup pretty much everyone else.
The Eagles open their 2011 campaign today at 1pm eastern in St Louis against the Rams. It is the 39th time these teams have met with the Rams holding a slight 19-18-1 advantage in the overall series. It is actually the third time in the last 11 years that they've met on opening day. Today's game will be on FOX with play by play from Thom Brennaman and color analysis from Brian Billick. Radio coverage will be on both 610-am and 94.1 FM with Merrill Reese and Mike Quick
Be prepared to see a lot of familiar faces on the Rams today as they are filled with ex-Eagles. Head coach Steve Spagnuolo was an assistant on the Eagles defensive staff for nine years. In addition to a number of guys from his coaching staff, Spags has also brought in former Eagles A.J. Feeley, Quintin Mikell, Danny Amendola, Al Harris, Brandon Gibson & Stephen Spach.
It will be a big day for Michael Vick, who makes his first start on opening day since 2006 when he led the Falcons out against the Panthers. That was 1,827 days ago. Another guy to watch will be LeSean McCoy, who has had some big games in domes in his young NFL career. Last season in two dome games against Detroit and Dallas McCoy rushed for a total of 269 yards, three touchdowns and an amazing 8.4 yards per rush.
Here's the coverage map for the 1pm games from the506.com. All the areas covered in blue will show Eagles vs Rams.
The Philadelphia Eagles and St Louis Rams each come into this game pretty much at full capacity. Neither team suffered a major injury in preseason and both have had mostly had their full compliment practicing this week. The only Eagle to not practice was backup QB Vince Young, who suffered a hamstring strain in the final preseason game. He did take some snaps yesterday, but is still listed as doubtful. If he can't go, Mike Kafka will serve as the backup and Andy Reid will just go with two QBs. Of course, if all goes well Young would have never played anyway.
For the Rams, TE Michael Hoomanawanui did not practice all week with an injured calf and is listed as questionable. The Rams will likely start rookie 2nd round pick Lance Kendricks in his place. Kendricks took a lot of snaps with the first team in preseason and played well, so the Rams probably aren't seeing this as a downgrade.
Steve Spagnuolo worked as a defensive position coach for seven year under Andy Reid before getting hired to run the Giants defense and later becoming head coach of the Rams. Obviously having been in meetings and gameplanning sessions with one another for so long, it’s safe to assume that Reid and Spagnuolo know pretty well how the other works. Andy was asked today whether he sees coaching against a former pupil as a challenge.
“When we first started here we had a few games against Seattle that were okay." Reid said. "And then, we’ve had a few of the other ones. But that’s how things work; we’ve had a couple good ones against Minnesota prior to. And I know there’s some pretty good coaches that I’ve worked for and also have left here so I respect them.”
Andy says that while it’s fun to see his former assistants, in the end it doesn’t mean whole lot once the game begins.
“Well, you know, I think when it’s all said and done you play the game, that’s what you do. So you really don’t get into all that part of it. Once the ball’s snapped it’s about the guys playing and making sure that you maintain your focus as a coach and that you prepare yourself and are as sharp as you possibly can be.”
Michael Vick is set to begin his third year with the Eagles, but this Sunday will actually be the first time since 2006 that he will start on opening day. Obviously he missed 2007 and 2008 in prison, in 2009 he was a third stringer with the Eagles and last year Kevin Kolb got the start in the opener. So now, with a fresh $100 million contract in hand and coming off a pro bowl season, Michael Vick says he's excited to finally be the man again on opening day.
"You know, it's great to have an opportunity to have a starting role again in this league," Vick says. "And I'm excited about it, opening day, it's been a long time. I know the excitement that comes along with it, not only for myself, but my teammates are excited as well. So this is what it's all about."
Last season certainly ended on a sour note with the playoff loss to Green Bay, but Vick says he's grown since then and the team won't be dwelling on the way last year ended.
"I think I've grown tremendously over the last three or four months as far as football is concerned. I had a lot of time to think about the mistakes that I've made, a lot of time to look over everything that needed to be corrected. You know, it all remains to be seen. Experience is the best teacher like I've always said and we have to go out this week and show improvement. So [I] can't dwell on the past, can't dwell on what happened last year, it's all about moving forward."
Finally, he says they're prepared for what the Rams plan to do on defense and certainly aren't taking them lightly.
"They have a lot of guys on that defense who are straight ahead, guys fly around, you know look like their confident in what they're doing. And we're just going to have to attack them and just make sure that we're fundamentally sound in every area of the game and everything's precise. And we're on the road, crowd noise, [so] we have to deal with that. So there's a lot of elements, but good football teams find a way to prevail and we're looking to do that, hopefully we'll do that."
The Eagles sent out their first injury report of the week and the only real surprise was that Steve Smith was a full participant. That means he took all the snaps he was scheduled to and should be on track to play this weekend. Andy Reid has previously expressed some doubt about Smith being ready, but his being a full participant in practice is a pretty good sign. Reid said today that Smith has been running with the ones and that he wants to see how he feels at the end of the week
"He's going to go through this week, he's been taking reps with the first group in a rotation there, so I'm just going to see how he works out this week." Reid said. "I know he wants to play, and feels like he's ready. We'll just see how everything goes."
Practicing full go with the first team? We should all be very encouraged to hear that. The only player who did not practice today was Vince Young, who is still dealing with a hamstring strain. Reid says he's day to day and getting better.
"He's getting better; he's running on it in the pool, it's really just a day-to-day thing right now. Making great progress, working his tail off, he's been in there since he had the injury every day and long hours"
The Eagles thought they’d be starting three rookies this weekend in their season opener against the St Louis Rams, but as it turns out, only two will take the field. It was revealed today that newly signed veteran guard Kyle DeVan will start at RG in place of rookie first round pick Danny Watkins. DeVan has started for the Colts under now Eagles O-line coach Howard Mudd, so he understands the system and has the coaches’ trust already. The Eagles will however be starting another rookie on the offensive line, center Jason Kelce who says he’s excited for his first real NFL action.
"I mean, it is a business, but I think we all know that playing football is fun" Kelce said. "And to be able to do that at the highest level and to be put in an opportunity to play against the best of the best, no question there’s some excitement."
The center is the man who make the offensive line calls for the Eagles, which Kelce knows will be a challenge in the noisy dome in St Louis.
"For the most part guards are going to be able to hear what I’m saying, tackles maybe not, but we have to echo the calls across the whole offensive line and make sure that everybody’s on the same page. If we get some big plays happen that’s a good way to silence the crowd a little bit. So I really think we’ve been doing a good job in practice simulating a very loud environment and we’ve done a good job so far."
Middle linebacker Casey Matthews also gets his first start in the family business and says he looking forward to playing in games that count.
"I’m really excited and obviously looking forward to the opportunity. Playing in a game that really matters, and obviously the preseason matters as well, but these are the ones that count. I’m looking forward to seeing how well we can perform out there. Obviously, we know what we’re capable of doing and it’s just a matter of executing."
Matthews made a big improvement in the third preseason game after his rough outing against the Steelers in preseason week two. But he says he still has learning to do after such an abbreviated offseason.
"I feel I’ve progressed pretty well through camp. Obviously, we didn’t have any OTAs and offseason mini-camps, it was tough coming in day one and trying to run the defense. I feel more comfortable, and obviously you’re going to feel more comfortable the more reps you get. That’s the one thing I’ve noticed is that things are starting to slow down and I’m starting to learn what other people do out there other than my position. I feel like it’s coming along, and I can only get better."
The Eagles kick off their 2011 campaign this Sunday in St Louis