Five Keys to an Eagles Win Over the Browns
The Eagles are expected to cruise to a win today in Cleveland, and they are definitely the better team on paper, but there are certain areas the Browns could exploit to make it a closer game than expected or even pull off the upset. Here are five keys for the Eagles. For a full game preview, click here.
1. Limit Turnovers – Michael Vick needs to make good, quick decisions and avoid turnovers, which can be the great equalizer and allow an underdog to stay in the game. The Eagles have a big advantage over the Browns and don’t want to see any equalizing today. If you see Vick setting and throwing as soon as he gets to the top of his drop, as opposed to running around buying time, chances are he’s making good, quick decisions.
2. Restrict Richardson – The Browns will likely look to run early and often with a rookie quarterback in Brandon Weeden facing a scarily good Eagles pass rush. If the Eagles can stop the Browns from establishing the run early, the Cleveland offense should struggle all day. This is a big question mark, because Richardson hasn’t played at all this preseason due to undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on September 9. Even based on his college days at Alabama, the Eagles know what they’re in for.
“He’s a good football player and we know that and so we’ve got to be ready for him,” said Eagles head coach Andy Reid. “He’s very tough and quick and strong and everything. He’s a good running back.”
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3. Avoid Rookie Mistakes – The Eagles will have lots of rookies in prominent roles, with the more important ones being on defense. Mychal Kendricks, a second round pick from Cal, will start on the strong side. Fletcher Cox, the Eagles first round pick from Mississippi State, will be heavily involved in the rotation at defensive tackle. Brandon Boykin, a fourth round pick from Georgia, is the Eagles top slot corner. Boykin and Kendricks, in particular, need to avoid big rookie mistakes that can lead to big plays. It’s less likely that a mistake by Cox leads to a huge gain, given his position.
“Just through camp and preseason I think [with] Brandon Boykin you see he is a playmaker,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. “[He is] an athletic and tough kid and smart kid. Likewise with [LB] Mychal [Kendricks]. Mychal is a smart, athletic and relentless linebacker. I think we’ve all seen them make the plays during preseason and practices and so now they are getting all of the reps so they’ll be ready.”
4. Find Offensive Rhythm Early – The Eagles offense didn’t get much time together in the preseason due to Michael Vick’s injuries, and the longer it takes them to shake off the rust and find a rhythm the more hope the Browns will have and the tougher the crowd will be to deal with. Were the 12 preseason snaps Vick played enough for him to step in and be up to game speed?
“I have no concerns at all, because we have great confidence in each other,” said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
“Michael’s done a nice job,” head coach Andy Reid said. “He’s come out; he doesn’t look like he has any repercussions of the ribs or the hand or anything else. I mean, he’s out throwing the ball and throwing it well, worked very fast and aggressive with his receivers, trying to get his timing with them right.”
5. Contain Cribbs – Special teams can be a big spark for teams who might not otherwise be able to hang. That could be the case today for the Browns and their dangerous return man, Josh Cribbs. The 29-year-old has three career kick returns for touchdowns and eight career punt returns for touchdowns. Last year, he returend 34 kicks for 388 yards and 39 punts for 974 yards. The Eagles should kick away from him whenever possible and need to be on point with their coverage units, which have struggled early in the season in the past.
“Boy, he’s a good player,” said Eagles special teams coordinator Bobby April. “He hasn’t played much in the preseason, but over the last eight or nine years, he has to be in everyone’s top two or three as the best special teams player. He’s got to be. He’s a dynamic player.
“We talked about him [this week] as well as far as coverage, wrapping up, finishing the play. He’s really good and he’s fun to watch. If you’re a football fan, he’s one of the guys that you have to love watching as tough as he is and as physical as he is. I look at him that even though is a big threat, he’s the guy to watch. I really like being in the game against him because you know you’re going against a guy who is really going to compete and put his heart and soul into it.”