On the Offense:
I will start with the difficult side of the ball this week (difficult meaning that you have probably heard of more guys on this side of the ball for the Eagles than on their defense, which is filled with unknowns). My opinion only, but the MIGYNHO on offense for the Eagles is Jason Peters, their Left Tackle.
Why He Is Important
Last season, the Eagles went 4-12, which enabled them to draft a Left Tackle many us were slobbering for in the draft run-up, Lane Johnson. So we here at BFTB have heard of Lane Johnson, who is their starting Right Tackle this season, but many of us have not heard of the guy that set up the Eagles having such a crappy 2012 season and that is Peters. Yes, Jason Peters, a 4 time All-Pro, started the Eagles slide to the dregs of the NFL in 2012.
Peters ruptured his Achilles tendon on March 28, 2012 during an off-season workout. Already questionable for all of 2012, his season was ended when a device he was using to move around his house (a "Roll A-Bout") malfunctioned, putting him flat on his face and rupturing the same Achilles tendon in May 2012. Losing the cornerstone of your offensive line, together with a porous (read: absolutely horribly awful) defense, and several other key injuries sent the Eagles 2012 season spiraling down the bowl.
Peters is a special athlete at Tackle. Playing his college ball at the University of Arkansas, young Mr. Peters was a 320 pound TIGHT END(!) that registered 21 catches compared to 61 "knockdown" blocks in his senior year. He auditioned as a lineman at the NFL Combine. He went undrafted in 2004, eventually signing with the Buffalo Bills and starting for them in 2006. After a tumultuous career in Buffalo, complete with contract disputes and hold outs, he was traded to the Eagles prior to the 2009 season. He has two years left to go on a $60 Million contract signed in 2009.
Peters does not allow many sacks and remains a road grader in run blocking. Eagles fans got spoiled with his highest quality pass protection and run-blocking, which partially explains their dissatisfaction with King Dunlap last season. For Chip Kelly’s brand of fast – break read option offense, Peters is a perfect fit. Of course, a tackle with his combination of quickness and power can fit in any offense in the league. The Eagles will be counting on Peters to create running lanes for LeSean McCoy and keep Freeney off of Michael Vick.
Jason Avant – WR: With Jeremy Maclin blowing out his ACL early in training camp, it now falls upon Avant or the Grand Dragon (Riley Cooper) to draw some attention away from DeSean Jackson. Avant has labored for 8 seasons in relative obscurity behind the flashy Jackson and uber-effective Maclin. Over 101 games, Avant has caught 261 passes for 3,212 and 10 TD’s. During last week's game, Cooper caught more passes than Avant, but you have probably heard of him, just not for football.
On the Defense
The Eagles have several guys you’ve never heard of playing defense. This can be expected from a unit that finished 29th in the league in scoring allowed in 2012. For the Eagles defense, I believe the MIGYNHO is linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
Why He Is Important
Kendricks’ importance to the Eagles defense is comparable to Donald Butler’s for the Bolts defense and for many of the same reasons. Dude just makes plays. The 6’0" tall, 240 pound Sam LB in the Eagles 3-4 is blessed with power and sub 4.5 second 40 speed. He was one of the better players as a rookie last season for the mostly ineffective Eagles defense. Finishing his rookie year with 58 tackles (good for 3rd on the team), he also defended 9 passes (also 3rd on the team), got 1 sack and 6 tackles for loss.
Look for Kendricks to be active in both tackling Mathews, covering Woodhead and Gates, and blitzing when the Eagles feel the need to put some extra heat on Rivers. With the tape from Monday night against the Texans, it is likely that blitzing will be used often by the Eagles defense. You may not have heard of Kendricks yet, but chances are good we will get sick of hearing his name on Sunday.
Brandon Boykin – CB. Boykin saw limited action as a rookie last year, starting only 4 games. Despite the limited action, he finished 4th on the Eagles with 5 passes defended. The 2012 4th round pick is officially listed as the #2 Left CB behind Bradley Fletcher on the Eagles, but he will be starting on Sunday, with Fletcher being ruled "Out" for this game (Fletcher was concussed against the R____ins Monday night).
The Eagles are counting on him to defend against Brown or M80 on Sunday. It is certain that Whisenhunt will test Mr. Boykin’s ability at some point early in the game.