As far as Eagles openers go, today is kinda weird for a multitude of reasons.
First off, it is against an AFC opponent. Second, it is at home — the first time the Eagles have begun a season at Lincoln Financial Field since 2010, and last but certainly not least, pretty much everyone — myself included — expects them to win and to win comfortably.
That is a bit unusual for Week 1 games in the NFL. The birds are the trendy pick in survival pools around the country today and have the biggest spread on any game, entering as 10.5 point favorites over the Jaguars.
In ways, it speaks to how far the Eagles have progressed considering they were in essentially the same position as Jacksonville back in December 2012. The Eagles were 4-12, and the Jaguars were 2-14. Both teams would pick in the top four of the draft and had to hire new coaches. The Eagles went with the super innovative Chip Kelly while the Jags gave the job to Gus Bradley, who might have been minutes away from being the Eagles coach had Kelly opted to stay at Oregon.
Kelly turned things around immediately as the Eagles went 10-6 and won the NFC East while Bradley went 4-12 in his first year running the show.
What does this all mean? It means that later today will hopefully allow us to grade the Eagles on style points as opposed to just scoring more points. A Week 1 victory is a Week 1 victory, but how the Eagles hopefully do it might provide a little more insight about them as the season gets going.
With that said, here are five Eagles numbers that I hope to see in a box score come 4:15 p.m. today.
- Less than 21 points scored by the Jaguars — In its first four games last season, the Eagles defense gave up 27, 33, 26, and 52 before settling into a nice groove. Facing Chad Henne and a young Jacksonville offense gives Billy Davis’ unit a nice opportunity to start fast and feel good about itself as Andrew Luck looms in Week 2.
- Nick Foles sacked no more than two times — Everyone is going to be focusing on Foles’ interceptions — or hopefully lack thereof — following his insane 27:2 ratio last season, but one part of his game that he can improve upon is taking less sacks that cost the Eagles field position. Foles was sacked more than two times in six starts last season, and the Jaguars have some solid pass rushers in Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, who were part of the Super Bowl champion Seahawks last season. Hopefully Allen Barbre proves to be an adequate replacement for Lane Johnson and strides are made today.
- At least 50 receiving yards for Zach Ertz — I have ‘the kid from Stanford who they got playing for em’ down for 60 receptions, 800 yards, and eight touchdowns. For my dude to achieve that yardage number, he would theoretically need to turn in 50 yards each game. He exceeded this mark three times last season and should see more snaps now after looking like an absolute stud in the preseason. Do the damn thing, Zach.
- A minimum of one tackle for loss by Fletcher Cox (and hopefully more) — Cox is a player I will be keeping my eye on early on. The third year pro is playing in a two-gap scheme when he really belongs as a 4-3 defensive tackle, but he can be so good. Cox really flashes at times but will then turn invisible for a few weeks. Toby Gerhart and his 231-pound frame is not the easiest guy to bring down behind the line of scrimmage, but I would be hella pumped if Cox could show some consistency and do it at least once today.
- No less than 1.5 combined sacks for Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham — I really want to set this at 2.5, but I’m holding back because I am unsure how many snaps each player will see. These two are quite possibly the best pass-rushers on the team but neither one starts because similar to Cox, they are leftovers from the Andy Reid regime and not exactly scheme fits in Davis’ hybrid 3-4. Still they looked hungry in the preseason. Zane Beadles is a nice player, but the Jaguars’ offensive line is not particularly strong. Curry and Graham might be the Eagles best shot at making Henne uncomfortable. Feed them, Billy Davis. Let them have extra dessert.
There you have it. That is what I will be looking for in about 15 hours: 21, two, 50, one, 1.5, and hopefully a nice W to begin a really fun season.