When the Eagles host the Ravens this afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field one thing will be certain–they must play a much cleaner game than they did a week ago if they expect to improve to 2-0. With that, here are three keys to how the Eagles can clean up last week’s sloppy effort stay “perfect” on this young season.
1. Give LeSean McCoy the football. The Eagles will want to slow up the rhythm of what suddenly looks like an explosive Baltimore offense. And they’ll probably also want to protect the football better than they did a week ago. One seemingly easy way to do that would be by giving running back LeSean McCoy the football. His 20 carries a week ago wasn’t exactly an insultingly low number, but the Eagles would be smart to give the ball to McCoy 25 times if they want to win this game. Last week, Bengals’ running back Benjarvis Green-Ellis found some running lanes and had success against the Baltimore defense, so it’s not unreasonable to say McCoy could have some success today. Whether it’s McCoy, Dion Lewis, or Bryce Brown, 30 to 35 carries is the magic number.
2. Don’t stop giving Michael Vick the football. Yeah, it’s important for the Eagles to establish their run game and take some of the pressure off of Vick. The Eagles can’t ask their quarterback to put the ball in the air 56 times today, but they shouldn’t necessarily limit him either. If the Eagles have any chance of winning big this season, Vick can’t be considered a liability and can’t be handled by the coaching staff as such. It seems like people want to turn Vick into this checkdown, game-manager type of quarterback, but that simply will not work for this offense. Vick still needs to take chances down the field. It’s what has made him a dangerous quarterback–Vick and his coaches can’t forget that today.
3. Stop Ray Rice. Everyone is making a big deal about Joe Flacco’s 299 passing yards that were sparked by an effective no-huddle offense. And they should. But the Eagles’ primary focus still needs to be on Ray Rice as he figures to play a much more prominent role against the Eagles than he did a week ago. Rice had only 13 touches last week (10 carries, 3 catches) which matched his 2011 season-low, but you can be sure he’ll see a significantly increased workload this week. The Ravens will test linebacker DeMeco Ryans, and I expect that they’ll do that by running and throwing in his direction.