Here is my list of the top 5 players in order that will be under the microscope on Sunday afternoon against the Pack.
1. Donovan McNabb- Has 5 returned to form? McNabb will have an excellent opportunity to show he still belongs in the NFL elite, especially against a very active Green Bay defensive line. Our offensive line will have their hands full Sunday, making McNabb's short passing game and ability to run out of the pocket on display for everyone. There is no doubt Green Bay will bring the blitz almost every down, no question. Rather than focusing West, I feel they will make McNabb beat them with his arm after missing the last 6 games of the 06 season. Does McNabb still got it? He showed in preseason that he has not lost his touch, but the difference in tempo between preseason and the regular season is vast.
2. Sav Rocca- It seems it's not just me, but Rocca is just about as big of an unknown than Gocong, Gaither and Considine. Can he display consistency in the kicking game? Can he hold snaps for Akers? Is Akers comfortable with Rocca holding the ball? One thing is for sure: The moment Rocca botches a snap is the last snap he will ever hold in an Eagles uniform. Regardless, Rocca has that rare ability to wail the ball 60-70 yards on any given punt. That kind of advantage is SO important to a football team, given that the game is nothing more than a game of field position. If Rocca can show what he has shown in preseason on a consistent basis, it will be a huge step forward for the Eagles, which is why I'm putting this at number 2. The Eagle's offense may show a lot of 3 and outs on Sunday, making Rocca's performance is huge. Dirk Johnson haters, like myself, finally have our boomer, but will he fold under the pressure?
3. Jim Johnson- No doubt about it. This will be a huge game for Jim Johnson given the lack of experience and youth in the defense. Can Jim Johnson create a scheme that hides inexperienced players like Chris Gocong, Omar Gaither and Sean Considine to play to their strengths? Gocong and his ability to make an open field tackle, Gaither and his inexperience being the leader of an NFL team and read play action, Considine and his ability tackle and not make bone head plays. These three young players looked awefully tentative during preseason and cannot be seen in the regular season. I want to see that dawg in each of these players come Sunday afternoon. No hesitation on opportune sacks. No thinking, just puttin a hurtin on. The potential is there: The rotation of our defensive line is top notch, Broderick Bunkley will become a reliable starter, possible stud, Patterson and Van Oelhoffen will rotate to stop the run, our defensive backfield is top notch, spare an unproven Considine. It's up to Jim Johnson to get it done.
4. Shawn Andrews- This could be the offensive line as a unit, but since Andrews hasn't played all preaseason, I'm gonna single him out. He is, without a doubt, the best players on the Eagles roster. What he showed along with Runyan on the right side was just out right dominance in the second half of last season. I fully expect that kind of dominance this season as well. The question that remains is the insertion of Andrews to the offensive line and whether or not they have lost a step or not. Westbrook needs his carries if this team wants to go to the Superbowl, and it all starts with Andrews.
5. LJ Smith- Everyone knows the story on this kid. He's been injured, he is in a contract season and the Eagles don't seem to want to resign him, and he's got a young kid named Brent Celek breathing down his neck for playing time. Can LJ Smith regain his form and play at the level we're used to seeing him perform? Like it or not, the Eagles NEED LJ to get his ass back on the field. Celek looks good but is he ready? Absolutely not. This is a huge game for LJ. He can set the tone for the entire season all year by having a dominate game. A major reason for the dominant running attack in the second half of last year was LJ Smith. He went from being a below average run blocker to a very good one in a very short amount of time. Can he show the same blocking skills he showed or will his injury hamper that ability? Will he be a liability on the field because of this? Huge game for LJ Sunday.