Editor’s Note: Here’s a new weekly Friday feature in which our staff writer Steve Fini breaks down five key players who will likely decide the outcome of this week’s upcoming game.
1. Lesean McCoy (RB/Eagles) – Shady could have a huge day catching the football. The Rams linebackers cannot keep up with him in coverage. The line will take a little while to adjust, so that means there should be plenty of early opportunities for check down passes to McCoy.
2. Jason Kelce (C/Eagles) – This is obvious to any Eagles football fan who watched any preseason snap this year. Kelce’s ability to direct the offensive line in his first game with what should be an amped up crowded will have a direct effect on how well the Eagles will be able to throw the football. The hope is that that since the Rams are an average, but certainly not a great defensive team, Kelce will gel with the rest of the offensive line and play well. This will allow the line open up holes,pick up blitzes, and keep Michael Vick’s jersey completely clean. Still, there’s a concern that Steve Spagnuolo’s blitz scheme completely confuses the hell out of the interior linemen, they don’t know which way is up, and Michael Vick is left running for his life. Let’s hope it’s the former.
3. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB/Eagles) – He’s played on the outside his entire career. Now, he has to cover a smaller, quicker receiver player in space in Danny Amendola. Amendola makes quick cuts and knows how to get open. In smaller spaces, DRC’s speed is less important and we’ll really get to see if he can cover a man and not just a zone.
4. Lance Kendricks (TE/Rams) – Want to know who Sam Bradford targeted the most during the preseason? Not Amendola, Mike Sims-Walker, or even Steven Jackson. It was Kendricks. The rookie tight end has shown the ability to get down field, get open in the red zone, and block effectively. We all know about the Birds woes covering good tight ends, so if they forget about Kendricks we could be talking about another frustrating day getting off the field on 3rd down.
5. Quintin Mikell (S/Rams) – Make no mistake about it. The former Eagles All-Pro was angry about not getting a contract from the Birds and he’s going to be out to prove they made a mistake. He knows this offense better than anyone on the Rams and he knows the receivers especially well. He might not be able to stop Desean Jackson when he goes deep, but he’ll sure be ready to lay the hit on whoever comes over the middle. If the Eagles can get good protection from the offensive line, look for Mikell and Brent Celek to be battling it out on critical third down plays.