September 20, 2009

Prove it all night.

What the Philadelphia Eagles can prove today:

-That Kevin Kolb is worth a damn. At this point, the bar is set low enough that a single good game from the Kolbster would go a long way towards justifying his place on the roster over the last three seasons. Everyone says he's never had a chance to prepare with the first team offense, never gotten the opportunity to show what he's really got, and I happen to agree with them. But if Kolb comes up small today, with Jeff Garcia and Michael Vick waiting in the wings, not to mention the impending return of Donovan McNabb, Kolb's days as a viable quarterback option for the Eagles would be numbered.

-That the defense is as good as it looked. The general perception of last week's game seems a bit skewed: Sure, the Eagles defense played incredibly well, but Jake Delhomme is also in the midde of what seems to be an epic quarterback implosion. I get the sense that their performance kind of had an asterik attached to it nationally, even though everyone in Philadelphia was salivating over the schemes and strategies rookie defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was employing. How they perform against the Saints will help to clarify the situation -- they're probably one of the top two or three offensive teams in football.

-That running the ball might be in the cards for 2009. The optimum strategy against the Saints, it would seem, is to run the football. Even though they shut down the Detroit Lions' running game last week, they were among the middle of the pack in 2008 in rushing yards allowed. Plus, running the ball would slow down the tempo of the game, something that could knock the quick-throwing Saints from their rhythm. Easier said than done, I know, but watching Nick Cole and Jason Peters smash linebackers while pulling last week, along with a few solid LeSean McCoy runs, made me think that maybe the run-blocking and backup running back situation have been improved to the point where Andy Reid will feel comfortable upping the emphasis on the ground game.

-That this team has a good head on its shoulders. A cliché, I know, but an apt one. Last year there were games where the team started slow, looked lost or just plain looked uninterested, and it was unbelievably frustrating. They looked headed for yet another one of those games early last week, but (coincidentally or not, after what appeared to be a pep talk from Brian Westbrook) they snapped themselves out of it and terrorized the Panthers. At the first home game of the year, against a legitimate playoff, and maybe Super Bowl, contender, there's no excuse to show up unprepared. That, along with the team's confidence level with Kolb at the helm, will be something to keep an eye out for.

I said before last week's game that I had no idea what to expect: A blowout on either side of the ball wouldn't have been too surprising. But now that we're 1-0, I'm ready to expect more from this team. As much as I want to say it's OK to lose to a talented team like the Saints, especially if your backup quarterback is starting, coming up short in your first home game would be borderline unacceptable. This team looks capable of, although not yet destined for, greatness, and this is as good a week as any to confirm that their opening week fustigation of the Panthers was not a fluke.

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