Eagles-Saints scouting report

Posted: September 18, 2009

Recent history: The Eagles defeated the Saints in New Orleans on Dec. 23, 2007, 38-23. The Eagles lead the series, 16-10.


Eagles: 267 yards a game (23rd)

Saints: 515 yards a game (1st)


Eagles: Kevin Kolb, who will start in place of injured Donovan McNabb, has just 45 pass attempts in two-plus NFL seasons, including 11 last week. He's got a strong arm, but has had ball-security issues in his few appearances, throwing four interceptions (in 34 attempts) last year.

Saints: Drew Brees has established himself as one of the best and most accurate QBs in the game. He's thrown 24 or more TD passes in each of the last five seasons. He throws a lot off three-step drops, which makes him extremely tough to sack. Also has a good nose for the blitz.


Running back

Eagles: While Brian Westbrook still will be the Eagles' go-to RB this season, they hope to lighten his load a bit by rotating in LeSean McCoy. The rookie played well in Week 1, rushing for 46 yards on nine carries. Westbrook will try to exploit mismatches vs. Saints linebackers and safeties in the passing game.

Saints: Sean Payton envisioned Reggie Bush being the second coming of Brian Westbrook, but he doesn't have Westbrook's inside running skills. His strength is as a yards-after-the-catch receiver on the outside. Pierre Thomas averaged 4.8 yards per carry last season, but sat last week with a sprained knee.



Eagles: TE Brent Celek picked up in Week 1 where he left off last season. He had six catches (one TD) vs. Carolina, giving him 25 in the last four games. He's got five TDs in the last five games. Eagles WRs had just six catches for 59 yards vs. Panthers and have just 12 touchdown catches in the last 20 games.

Saints: Drew Brees throws a lot to his TEs and RBs. TEs Jeremy Shockey and Billy Miller combined for 95 receptions last season. WR Devery Henderson is the Saints' deep threat (career average of 21.6 yards per catch). Marques Colston, 6-4, presents Plaxico Burress-like problems because of his height.


Offensive line

Eagles: RT Winston Justice did a credible job in just his second career start. But in a Week 2 game that's likely going to turn into a shootout, he'll have to fend for himself more than he did vs. Panthers, and the Eagles will get a better idea whether he's capable of being the long-term answer on that side.

Saints: LT Jammal Brown had hip surgery last week and is out for 6 to 8 weeks. His replacement, third-year man Jermon Bushrod, will be making only his second career start and will have his hands full with Eagles Pro Bowl DE Trent Cole. But Drew Brees gets the ball out quickly, which will be a big help.



Eagles: 169 yards a game (1st)

Saints: 231 yards a game (7th)

Defensive line

Eagles: Eagles' d-linemen had 3 1/2 of the team's five sacks in Week 1, including two by nickel tackle Darren Howard. But Drew Brees uses a lot of three-step drops, which is going to make it difficult for the front four to get pressure on him without blitz help. They also need to keep Brees in the pocket as much as possible.

Saints: The Saints had just 28 sacks last season, including only six total from highly paid edge-rushers Will Smith and Charles Grant. They are pretty solid inside with all-rookie selection Sedrick Ellis and veteran Kendrick Clancy.



Eagles: Drew Brees throws a lot to his tight ends and running backs, which means this unit must play well and limit the yards after catches. The Saints will look for the same kind of mismatches with linebackers for Reggie Bush that the Eagles will for Brian Westbrook.

Saints: Many were writing MLB Jon Vilma's career obituary after a 2007 knee injury. But he returned with a vengeance and solidified this unit last season, playing every down. OLBs Scott Shanle and Scott Fujita are functional players who don't have great speed, but do everything pretty well.



Eagles: Eagles DBs had four interceptions and held the Panthers to a paltry 4.06 yards per attempt. But Drew Brees is to Jake Delhomme what quantum physics is to first-grade math. Brees almost certainly will go after rookie FS Macho Harris early and see how he responds.

Saints: Saints have invested money in the corner position the last 2 years, using high picks on two (2008 second-rounder Tracy Porter and '09 first-rounder Malcolm Jenkins) and signing another in free agency (Jabari Greer). They also brought in 33-year-old FS Darren Sharper, who had two Week 1 INTs.


Special teams

Eagles: The coverage units were inconsistent vs. Carolina, giving up a 26-yard PR and a 33-yard KR. PK David Akers, who had three FG attempts blocked last year, had another one snuffed. PR DeSean Jackson is a home run threat every time he touches the ball. He had an 85-yard return for a TD in Week 1.

Saints: With PK Garrett Hartley serving a four-game suspension, 45-year-old John Carney is handling the kicking duties. He was 35-for-38 on FG attempts last year with the Giants. Coverage units gave up a 43-yard punt return and an 87-yard kickoff return last week vs. Detroit.


Hot and not


Eagles: DE Darren Howard. Had five tackles, two sacks, three hurries and a forced fumble vs. Carolina.

Saints: QB Drew Brees. Has thrown nine touchdown passes in the last five quarters and has a .699 completion percentage in his last three games.


Eagles: QB Kevin Kolb. Replaced injured Donovan McNabb last week and averaged just 2.09 yards per attempt.

Saints: RB/PR Reggie Bush. Rushed for just 14 yards on 7 carries vs. Lions and averaged just 3.7 yards per attempt on three punt returns.

Key matchups

1. Eagles RDE Trent Cole vs. Saints LT Jermon Bushrod: Cole is a high-motor pass-rusher who will be going up against a guy making just his second NFL start. Edge: Eagles

2. Eagles QB Kevin Kolb vs. Saints FS Darren Sharper: Sharper fleeced one guy making his first career start last week, intercepting rookie Matthew Stafford twice. Now he's going up against another first-time starter in Kolb. Edge: Saints

3. Eagles WR DeSean Jackson vs. Saints CB Jabari Greer: Greer had as many interception returns for touchdowns last season - two - as Jackson had TD catches. Jackson needs to win this matchup if the Eagles are going to stay with the Saints' high-powered offense. Edge: Even

Domowitch's prediction

Saints 31, Eagles 30

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