Five Things to Watch As Eagles Face Bengals
With one preseason game in the books, things are starting to come into focus for the Eagles. That doesn’t mean a few big questions don’t still loom though. The first-string defense only played six snaps against Jacksonville, so the focus tomorrow night will be on evaluating that side of the ball. The offense struggled mightily in the red zone and will be looking to gain consistency in that area. Below are the top five things to watch tomorrow night against Cincinnati.
5. Ellis Hobbs – Does the Eagles second corner really have anything to prove? The fans and media think so, while Hobbs feels like he needs to earn more respect. I’ve already seen enough to believe he’ll have a good season, but by process of elimination he sneaks onto the list at number five. Hobbs was good enough to start in New England during the Patriots 18-1 season, but given his injury last year he hasn’t shown off his skills in the City of Brotherly Love. Hobbs impressed in camp, but what else is there to watch? The defensive line looked great against the Jaguars and Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims, Asante Samuel and Quintin Mikell aren’t much of a question mark. The offense moved the ball well, with one exception which makes the top five list.
4. Akeem Jordan – Six plays weren’t nearly enough to evaluate Jordan in as a starting strong side linebacker in game situations. The big question still remains – have the Eagles plugged someone into the SAM spot who can provide reliability in covering the tight end? The Benagls tight ends may not be the toughest matchup in the league, but it’s still a test.
3. Nickel Cornerback – Joselio Hanson has the top spot here, and the competition hasn’t been discussed too much. However, Dimitri Patterson has made some impressive plays. He’s given up some big plays as well, but so has Hanson. A now-healthy Macho Harris might get into the mix there as well. There may not officially be a competition, but Hanson doesn’t have a ton of room for error. Regardless, the Eagles may come into the season with their weakest nickel corner in the Andy Reid era. The Birds have been deep over the years at cornerback.
2. Red Zone Offense – Philadelphia made it into Jacksonville’s red zone on eight of its first 11 drives last week, but came away with only two touchdowns. This has also been an area of concern in the past, as the Eagles scored touchdowns on only 48 percent of their red zone trips last year, leaving them 23rd in the NFL. Head coach Andy Reid says the blame can be spread to every position and the coaching staff, but until results are shown that’s just coach speak. With a young offense, it’s particularly important to work out the kinks in the preseason. What’s a possible cause of the red zone problems? The Eagles ranked 28th in the NFL in percentage of touchdowns in the red zone scored by running backs at 24 percent. Just three of the bottom 10 red zone teams were over 40 percent, while 10 of the top 12 squads were over 40 percent. That figure includes both rushing and receiving touchdowns by a running back.
1. Nate Allen – The Eagles rookie safety drew a ton of attention on the practice fields at Lehigh University. Sean McDermott and Quintin Mikell expressed genuine surprise at how quickly the South Florida product picked up the defensive schemes. Allen certainly has the physical tools and instincts, and constantly found himself around the ball on passing plays. Six plays last week weren’t enough to answer the question that remains – can he do it in a game?
Check back tonight for ITI’s Weekly Radio Show. We’ll discuss the Eagles/Bengals game, the state of the team heading out of the Lehigh Valley and we’ll hear from Eagles tight end Cornelius Ingram in an exclusive one-on-one interview.