Once again, it's time for our weekly Q&A session with a blogger who covers the Patriots' upcoming opponent. Up this week is Thomas Jackson from Eagles Eye. Here's what Tom had to say about the Eagles and Pats leading up to Sunday's game.
1. Who should be the starting QB for the Eagles? Is there any regret of handing Michael Vick $100 million after one great season in the NFL?
If there's any doubt at all about Michael Vick's two cracked ribs threatening his health or impeding his play, then Vince Young should get the start against the Pats. However it goes, there's no regret in Philly in signing Vick to a $100 million long-term contract. The only number that matters there is the guaranteed money--- $40 million. That guaranteed money is what counts---and it pretty much covers his "underpaid" season in 2010, his current 2011 season, and a lock on him for 2012. That averages out to $13.3 million per season ... and that's the going rate in the NFL right now for a Top 10 QB...You gotta pay to play, and I will say that's a fair price to put on a QB you think can take you to the top. It's probably not going to happen like that for Philly with Vick... but the entertainment value he's brought to the franchise justifies the guaranteed money. The merchandise sales alone of Vick paraphenalia could justify the investment...
2. Should DeSean Jackson be paid like a number one receiver? What is your reaction to how he has handled not being paid?
DeSean Jackson is an interesting case. He deserves #1 WR money if you consider he commands double coverage on his deep routes... but where his value falls is his reluctance to go over the middle on intermediate crossing routes. And there's some common sense in that mindset of Jackson... he may have 4.1 speed, but he is a little guy (5-9, 175) and can only absorb so many big hits and concussions...Plus, his value falls when he gets too theatrical during heated moments in a close game. Only age 24, DJax has a lot of maturity and ego issues... In my mind, DeSean Jackson is a 3-year, $12 million contract talent with $5 milz guaranteed... Problem is, DJax thinks he's a 5-year, $30 million guy...no doubt a concept fueled by his agent Drew Rosenhaus.
3. A lot of Philadelphia's offseason was devoted to the defense. Still, the defense lacks in some spots or not has shown up in games. What is wrong with Juan Castillo's defense and can it be fixed?
Juan Castillo's defense has been a tragically late bloomer. First, he installed a "Wide 9" pass rush scheme without first making sure his linebackers and safeties were set up properly to cover the gaps left exposed by the DE's and the DT's pulsing downfield... Then he had huge problems deciding whether Nnamdi Asomugha at right corner should fit into a zone scheme or play press man coverage. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie became odd man out at slot cornerback coverage and seemed lost at times... Safeties were late in coming up to compensate and were missing tackles that were there to be made. Adjustments were finally made and resulted in a great defensive game against the Cowboys...then a tragic letdown against the Cardinals...then another successful adjustment against the Giants. Castillo is hoping he has the right formula of balanced coverage against the Pats.
4. What is the key for Philadelphia to beat the Patriots at the Linc this weekend? Who is the X-Factor for the Eagles?
I think the biggest key to the Eagles beating the Pats in this one will be the ability of the Philly pass rushers to get big---and I mean REALLY BIG---pressure on Brady. They've got to get Brady to move around a lot. They've got to get him out of his rhythm. If they cannot get to Brady, this game is in the W column for the Pats. He will slice and dice us. Going along with that theory, Nnamdi has got to be put on man coverage against the tight end Gronkowski. Aso has to shadow Gronk's every move. If Wes Welker beats us, so be it...but don't let Gronk be the one...And of course, it goes without saying really, the Eagles have got to avoid turning the ball over on offense. Their turnovers late in games have cost them at least 5 wins this season.
5. Who wins the game and why?
I think, realistically, you have to favor the Pats to win this one, 27-23...and I'm basing that prediction on 3 factors: (1) Eagles have lost 4th-quarter leads at home this season in 4 out of 5 games; (2) Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will adjust by the 4th quarter to whatever might be working for the Eagles defense prior to that point; and (3) "The Who" defense of the Pats will surprise the Eagles offense into unexpected mistakes downfield as the Eagles underestimate the emerging strength of the Patriots' secondary and linebackers... It will take weird things to happen for the Eagles to win this game. I'd take a tie, to tell you the truth...
6. Can the Eagles still make the playoffs? Are they done in your opinion? Why?
The Eagles have no realistic shot at making the playoffs this season. They'd have to run the table to do so, and even that might not be enough, as they have lost wild-card tie-breakers already to the Bears, the Falcons and the 49ers...