I’m very concerned about this game and the matchups of the Eagles inexperienced offensive line against a talented Rams defensive front. If the offensive line can hold it’s own, the Birds receivers will torch the mediocre Rams secondary. On the other hand, if they can’t block these guys, it will be a long day for Michael Vick and the Eagles offense. All they have to do is give Vick some time early and the Eagles will jump on St. Louis and allow the Birds offense to grab a quick lead and force the Rams to play catchup.
The Rams defensive line sacked the quarterback 43 times a year ago. Their best pass rusher is right defensive end James Hall, who registered 10.5 sacks a year ago, but he will be handled the Birds best blocker Jason Peters, so he’s not a concern. There is reason for concern elsewhere.
Let’s take a look at some of those matchups:
Left Defensive Tackle Fred Robbins 6’4″ 325 vs. Right Offensive Guard Kyle DeVan – 6’2″ 306 – The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t like the thought of veteran defensive tackle Fred Robbins matched up against rookie right guard Danny Watkins, so they signed former Indianapolis guard Kyle DeVan. He’s not anything to write home about, but he knows Howard Mudd’s “jump set” technique of pass blocking.
Steve Spagnuolo brought Robbins to St. Louis and he’s a good inside pass rusher. He had six sacks last season, so he’ll be a challenge for DeVan, who is listed at 6’2″ but standing next to him, he seemed more like 6′ or 6’1″ at best. He’s probably going to have an arm length disadvantaged, so he’s got to be quick on his feet to stay in front of Robbins.
Right Offensive Tackle – Todd Herremans vs. Left Defensive End Chris Long – Of course Herremans is new on the right side of the line and new at the offensive tackle position. He will face a huge challenge because of the noise in the Dome. He’s got to hear the snap count and not come out of his stance too early or too late.
Herremans has been used to sitting there right next to the center, but being out at tackle hearing the snap count is a much tougher job. He also must get used to faster pass rushers than the defensive tackles.
Long isn’t a speed burner around the corner, but he never stops coming. He gives tremendous effort and does a good job with his hands. Herremans will need to win the hand fight by getting his hands on Long, while he’s trying to knock the tackle’s hands down.
I think Herremans will get his biggest test on 3rd downs when the Rams bring in rookie first round draft pick Robert Quinn, who is a pure pass rusher. They will move Long inside against Eagles left guard, Evan Mathis.
Left Guard Evan Mathis vs. Right Defensive Tackle Justin Bannan – Mathis a veteran guard, who has started 22 games in his seven year career. I feel there’s a reason he’s been a backup for all of his career, but he has a chance today to show what he can do.
He’s a good athlete for a guard, who is a better pass blocker than he is a run blocker. Mathis moves well and does a good of getting position on defensive tackles rather than overpowering them. Bannan is a run stopping defensive tackle, who isn’t much of a pass rusher. He won’t have a problem pass blocking Bannan, but he will have a challenge of run blocking the big fella.
Mathis will have to handle defensive end Chris Long on third downs and that will be a challenge because he’s faster, quicker and has better pass rushing technique than Bannan.
Center Jason Kelse vs. Crowd Noise In The Dome – Of course I must mention that rookie center Jason Kelce will be playing the first game of his NFL career. The Rams will move a defensive tackle over his head on most of the defensive fronts. He’ll be challenged to run block Bannan and pass block Robbins. He’s got to be patient on his pass blocks and persistent with his run blocks.
Kelce’s biggest challenge will be snapping the ball and communicating properly despite that ridiculously loud noise in the Edward Jones Dome. Count how many times something goes wrong with the snap. How many times will the snap be too early and how many times will it be too late? If you end up forgetting about the noise then you know the rookie did a great job.
The winners of this matchups will likely help their team with this opening day battle.