Personally I’m more concerned with how our own Eagles offense fares against a Denver defense that still looks like a Super Bowl-quality unit. Maybe I shouldn’t care about the fact that a 6-7, 245-lb. veteran has just taken over the reins of a struggling Denver offense.
It will be Osweiler’s first start for the Broncos since 2015, when he started seven games while Peyton Manning was injured. Osweiler was pulled in the regular-season finale after the Broncos had four first-half turnovers, and Manning started every game thereafter in the run to the Super Bowl 50 title.
Osweiler then left in free agency for Houston. After throwing 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions as the Texans’ starter in 2016, Osweiler was traded to the Browns, who released him this preseason.
“I’ve been given this opportunity,” Osweiler said Wednesday. “I’m being told to protect the football. … The old saying is, ‘Ball security is job security.'”
As the guys at Sports Illustrated have pointed out, Osweiler is likely to play to roughly his per-game average over his last 10 starts (19-of-33, 183 yards, one touchdown, one interception, 71.1 quarterback rating). Maybe the Broncos get thrashed up front by the Eagles’ defensive pressure in the first half Sunday and Vance Joseph decides to put Paxton Lynch through the ultimate stress test, swapping him with Osweiler at the half. That would be my personal dream scenario…
BUT—There’s always that “John Skelton”-type nightmare factor to consider. SI.com draws that nasty little number up like this:
“Osweiler finds himself in Mike McCoy’s offense and lets it rip. His only in-game performance with McCoy as an offensive coordinator was in 2012 (Dec. 30) in a 38–3 rout of the Kansas City Chiefs. In that game, Osweiler went 2-of-4 for 12 yards. But … McCoy has a great reputation with quarterbacks and even though Osweiler’s time in Houston was a complete disaster, there were moments when some thought he could save himself. Bill O’Brien clearly wanted to move on but, in the right circumstances, McCoy could call a mix of plays that maximized Osweiler’s strengths.”
In other words, a tall, immobile, gun-slinging QB gets hot at the right time for Denver and at the worst possible time for the Eagles defense.
I reckon that negative scenario for Philly only happens if we have trouble stopping the Broncos’ running game. Osweiler will need a strong rushing attack to set up his play-action passing.
“They are still a Top-10 run offense,” said Eagles DC Jim Schwartz. “C.J. Anderson is a tough back to handle and Jamaal Charles has still got some gas in the tank. Those guys — and playing the run has been important to us, defensively, because when you can make that team one-dimensional — look, people say that a lot of times, ‘make it one-dimensional.’
“For us, it really is the case because it allows our pass rush to shine, so to speak, and it helps our coverage concepts. But, we have a lot of respect for what they do on offense. We know we’ve got our work cut out for us with a couple different kind of backs. They feature three backs. They get all those guys some touches.”
I submit the Eagles better get a strong run game established themselves in order to somewhat neutralize the nasty pass rush of the Broncos’ front seven. It won’t be easy. Eagles’ OC Frank Reich called Denver’s run defense the best the Eagles will face this season:
“No doubt,” said Reich. “This is the biggest challenge that we face in the year, offensively. This run defense is near the top every year. This year is no exception.”
“They have good schemes, but they are just good up front,” Reich explained. “They are athletic. Everybody talks about Von Miller as a pass rusher. He’s really crafty in the run game. He’s powerful, but he just has a way of sliding by you. And then their interior players, Wolfe, he’s a stud player. Great play at the second level and their linebackers, they give you a heavy box almost every snap. They challenge you to throw it and then they got really good corners that can play you in the pass, play just a lot of man-to-man.
“So, if you have lock-down corners and then you can give a guy heavy box and they can contest every throw on the outside and if you can’t win outside, it shrinks the field and makes it harder on the offense to run the ball. We’ve got to mix it up and make plays down the field. You go up against a team like this, you’ve got to be patient in the run game.
“There’s going to be some two- and three-yard runs, but you have to still believe it and you still have to mix it in, even though it’s tempting to want to say, ‘Why not throw it on every down when you’ve got a team that can defend the run this well?’ Your experience tells you, you just look at it over the years, you’ve still got to mix it up.”
We should also be wary of throwing excessively because of Denver’s excellent coverage guys in cornerbacks Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, and nickel corner Bradley Roby.
The Eagles are an 8-point favorite at home in this one. But pay no attention to that bookie behind the curtain. I sense a battle royale that could go either way in this one.