McNabb to Stallworth

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I did not get to see the game live this past weekend as I was camping in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains. Through the magic of TIVO and a dedicated if sometimes difficult effort to avoid all forms of media, I watched the game when I returned home not knowing anything about the outcome. I was quite pleased as I sat in my recliner at 1:00 A.M on Monday night.

How satisfying was it watching Dante Stallworth’s debut in Eagle Green. When Reid passed on Jevon Walker, Ashley Lelee and Deion Branch, I believed that he was going to go into the season with Reggie Brooks and Hank Baskett as his starting receivers. You have to give credit where credit is due and acknowledge that when Reid said that he looked at these guys and wasn’t interested either because they did not fit or the asking price was too high, he’s telling the truth. It has been written in these pages before but it bears repeating. The Eagles, as an organization, is committed to winning. They won’t always make the decisions that seem prudent or popular. They may pass on a high price free agent or they may let a good player walk because they don’t want to pay him as much as another team is offering but they management has a formula and they stick to it. For the most past, it’s been very successful and it allows us the comfort of giving them the benefit of the doubt. The Dante Stallworth trade is a perfect example as is the re-signing of John Runyan and contract extension of Brian Dawkins. The Stallworth trade came out of nowhere and, at least at the moment, looks like it was a good move. With only two weeks to learn the complicated Eagles offense he was able to put up those type of numbers. Very exciting stuff.

But, what allowed McNabb and Stallworth the time and coverage break downs to make it look so easy? Two words….Play action. Play action was working all day for the Eagles. On Stallworth’s touchdown catch the Houston safety bit so hard on the fake, they had to put a A.P.B out on his jock strap. Now, one has to ask why the play action worked so well. Hmmm…was it perhaps because the Eagles ran the ball? Both Westbrook and future comeback player of the year recipient Correl Buckhalter ran tough and loosened up the safety coverage on the receivers. A lot of good things happen when you run the ball well. Let’s hope it continues.

Speaking of running the ball, the second most lethal weapon in the Eagles offensive arsenal hurt himself in practice on Thursday. I’m talking about Brian Westbrook. The whole Westbrook injury thing is becoming very tiresome. He is so important to the team and yet, at this point, with the number of non-trauma related injuries he suffers, you have to start questioning his conditioning. Injuries are a part of the NFL but their is a big difference between a pulled hamstring and your tibia sticking up through your shin. One is potentially avoidable while the other is a tragic result of an extremely violent game. After sustaining the injury is was reported in the Philadelphia Daily News that both Coach Reid and Jeffery Laurie asked Westbrook to talk to Eagle killer Tiki Barber about his conditioning regime. Apparently, Barber, who met Westbrook at the pro bowl two years ago said he would be happy to help him if he asked. Westbrook’s reported reply was to the effect of I think my conditioning program is just fine. Okay, Brian but keep in mind two things. You are the second most valuable player on this team and your thirty million dollar contract is not guaranteed. Talk to Tiki, please.

After one game, the Eagles are in first place in the NFC East, If this holds up, I’ll score on a nice little 6-1 bet that I placed before the season began. Those odds have already dropped to 2-1. It’s easy for the commentators or lines makers to jump on the band wagon of the hot team and make predictions based on win loss records. That’s why the Eagles were 6-1 and the Cowboys, Redskins and Giants had much better odds. But, let’s remember one thing. Six games are played in the division. If a division rival is decimated by injuries, all of the other division teams will benefit. Consider the Eagles last year and how in at least one of the two games they played against each of the other NFC East teams they had a good chance of winning. Now consider Dallas, Washington and New Yorks’ records if you take away one of those wins. What if you take away two of their wins? Not so foreboding anymore. That’s not to say that all three of these teams have not improved and I would not even remotely suggest that the Eagles are going to sweep the division but 6-1 odds for the NFC East championship? That’s one line I’m going to drop some wood on.

Speaking of dropping some wood, I had a nice start to the handicapping season betting the Eagles big last week. As a three point favorite over the Giants at the home opener, I’m not so confident. The Giants at the moment are like a wounded animal after a tough loss at home last week to the Colts. They definitely do not want to fall two games behind the Birds, who have an upcoming cake walk of a schedule, this early in the season. It all comes down to the pressure they put on Eli Manning. If they can get to him, they’ll win. This is an early test to see if last week was just a good effort against a bad team or if the Eagles are ready to reclaim their rightful place as the best team in the best division of the NFL. It should be a good game but not one I’d bet on.

Go Birds!

Eric Written by: