Opposing View: Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro on the Lions-Eagles matchup

Posted Oct 14, 2012

This week's opposing view comes from Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro.

The NFL is a copycat league and the Lions have been seeing a lot of zone coverage and two-high safety looks this season to stop Calvin Johnson and their passing attack. The Eagles have two big, physical corners who are terrific in man coverage. What gives?
"It's going to be very interesting to see how defensive coordinator Juan Castillo attempts to cover Johnson. In a similar matchup at Arizona, the Eagles stayed relatively vanilla in their coverage against Larry Fitzgerald and he burned the Eagles with 7 catches, a touchdown and more than 100 yards. He had particular success when he lined up in the slot against rookie cornerback Brandon Boykin.

"How much of what happened then impacts what the Eagles do here? I think the Eagles have to play aggressively against Johnson and at the very least have safety help over the top. They can't let Johnson dominate the secondary. And while both Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are high-level cover corners who have primarily played bump-and-run coverage, it's not fair to ask either of them to play in single coverage against Johnson.

"Expect the Eagles to mix up their looks and try to minimize the damage Johnson inflicts, but how they slow him when he goes into the slot is the biggest question mark of all."

The Eagles are 11th in offense but 31st in scoring. How much have turnovers been an issue there and what are Vick and others doing to stem the turnovers?
"Turnovers are a huge issue and have been for the last season and a half. The Eagles haven't been explosive and they haven't been efficient in the red zone. Bad recipe for success. The turnovers killed the team early in 2011. This season so far, at least, the Eagles have cobbled together enough fourth-quarter magic to carve out a 3-2 record and lead the NFC East, but they know that to achieve success over the long term of the season they have to minimize the mistakes.

"It all starts with Vick, of course. When he was great in 2010, he protected the ball and was excellent achieving a balance with the offense. Since then, he's been way too loose with the ball. The Eagles are aware of it, the coaches preach it every day and Vick certainly understands that he has to play with the same excellence he's shown late in the fourth quarter of games from the moment the whistle blows. That's his major challenge. The Eagles can't win with all of these turnovers."

Is a 1-3 Lions team desperate for a victory a dangerous team in your opinion? What have the players and coaches been saying?
"Absolutely a dangerous, very talented team. Everyone respects what the Lions are and nobody thinks a 1-3 record represents the true Lions. Whenever you have a defense led by one of the most explosive front fours in the NFL going against an offensive line that has replaced two starters, yeah, it's a concern.

"Detroit's passing game is as explosive as any in the league. The players and coaches know they need to play an 'A' game to beat Detroit, a team that is rested coming off of its bye week and very urgently needs a victory here."

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz raved about the Eagles' linebacking corps this week. How much improved is that unit from past seasons?
"By trading for DeMeco Ryans and drafting Mychal Kendricks in the second round in April, the Eagles have made their glaring defensive weakness a strength. Ryans has been a terrific leader and impact player, as the Eagles hoped he would be. He is a much better fit in the 4-3 than he was in Houston's 3-4. Kendricks has been an immediate starter and a sideline-to-sideline player as a rookie.

"Both have upgraded the group tremendously. That said, the Steelers ran the ball effectively last Sunday and the linebackers did not play their best game as a group. Kendricks has a huge challenge in coverage against Brandon Pettigrew and Ryans has to make sure the Lions don't get off in the running game. Having a healthy Akeem Jordan on the weak side will help as well."

How has Michael Vick's game evolved over the last few seasons as an Eagle?
"The Michael Vick now doesn't resemble the Michael Vick who signed here in 2009. He's become a much more complete quarterback and he's been an eager learner and student of the game. Michael has been a pleasure to work with, a total gentleman who understands the demands from everyone in the organization. On the field, there have been some areas in which he has needed to step up. Teams are blitzing him frequently and he's improved in his recognition and the adjustments required to make a play.

"Still, that's the book on Vick: Blitz him, keep him contained in the pocket and force him to make quick decisions and beat you from the pocket, or beat the heck out of him and make sure to try to take the football away. Michael was not a complete quarterback when he arrived. He had never accepted coaching to learn the position. He's a much better all-around quarterback now. There are still flaws, but he's improved as a total quarterback."