The game on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles could turn out to be a true feel-good story and a tremendous start to one of the toughest NFL schedules a team has had to endure in many years (not because of the travel but the competition). With Sam Bradford coming into his sophomore season, can you imagine him throwing for 300-plus yards to Brandon Gibson, Lance Kendricks and Danny Amendola? Will guard Harvey Dahl and the rest of the offensive line open holes for Steven Jackson to run for 100-plus yards? I feel the Rams in the new Josh McDaniels offense will hold their own and put points on the board.
Most of the talk headed into Week 1 was about the newly constructed “Dream Team.” The Philadelphia front office, head coach and ownership, were busy building a championship foundation that could last for many years to come, and did an exceptional job accruing talent. The Big Easy will have to be smart with the football, because lurking in the secondary will be Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel; all Pro-Bowl corners. If they are on the field at the same time, things could get very dangerous.
At the helm for the Eagles is one of the most prolific athletes to ever play the quarterback position in the NFL in Michael Vick. I witnessed his ability when he was coming out of Virginia Tech and up close, live and in living color when he was at Atlanta.
Defensive coordinator Ken Flajole and I were at Carolina during the Michael Vick era in Atlanta, and “Flaj” fully understands what he brings in the way of challenges to a defense. The words gap responsibility, contain, pressure and squeeze the pocket, gang tackle, angles to the ball, pursuit and several others are used to describe the formula in slowing down Vick. One player years ago described him as “a painful toothache that just won’t go away.”
In 2010, Vick developed more as a pocket passer, becoming the second player in NFL history to throw for 3,000 yards, rush for over 500 yards and finish with a passer rating of 100.2 (Steve Young was the other). He earned the 2010 AP Comeback Player of the Year award, not to mention receiving his second $100 million contract.
What Flajole and his staff will have to contend with is not only MV7, but all the talent that surrounds him. Vick is flanked by the triplets (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Steve Smith), players that have compiled more yards when you start comparing them to other groups of receivers (San Francisco, Indianapolis and San Diego). The running game has a one-two punch with speed back LeSean McCoy and newly added Ronnie Brown (UFA). While the offensive line has struggled to find continuity among the front five with a few rookies thrown in the mix, they still have MV7 who is at his best in my opinion when improvising outside the pocket or down field past the second level.
I faced Vick twice a year in the NFC South. We struggled to stop him. Let me re-phrase that. We struggled to slow him down, and in a blink of an eye, he would turn what seemed like a competitive game into the “Nightmare on Elm Street.”
This game Sunday in the Lou may come down to a Josh Brown game-winning field goal. I just hope that Freddy Krueger doesn’t show up to spoil Week 1.