While most football fans are circling the Carolina–Denver and New England–Arizona matchups as the must-watch games for week one, one game is being left out: the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns.
Cleveland Browns at Philadelphia Eagles is Most Interesting Week One Matchup
Carson Wentz and Robert Griffin III Debut for Their Squads
Sunday’s matchup is the debut for two new quarterbacks. Eagles first round pick, Carson Wentz, will be the first rookie quarterback in Eagles history to start a week one game. With his name being written in the record books, he wants to leave a big mark.
This will only be the second time Wentz will be suiting up in Eagles green, but the fans still have high expectations for the young quarterback. His inexperience may be visible considering he has only played in less than one half of a preseason game in his NFL career. Wentz will be learning on the fly Sunday.
Doug Pederson however, has confidence in throwing the rookie on the field cold, “This is what I believe in. This is what this organization believes in. … I’m very comfortable with our football team and Carson being our starter,” [97.5 The Fanatic].
On the Browns offensive side, Robert Griffin III will be making his first start since the 2014 season with Washington. His career with the Redskins started high in 2012, when he won the division, but went down each successive year. He was benched all of last year, but the Cleveland Browns decided to give him a shot. Nerves will be running high for Griffin since he needs to prove to the league that he is still an NFL quality quarterback. Cleveland will have a short leash on Griffin, considering Josh McCown sits attentively at the number two quarterback spot. McCown started eight games last year, averaging about 264 passing yards per game with 12 touchdowns. If Griffin plays the way he did at the end of his stint in Washington, look for McCown to step in later this year.
A First for Coaches
Doug Pederson will walk onto the field Sunday being called “head coach” for the first time in his career. He served as the offensive coordinator in Kansas City for the past three years and has had other coaching positions in Philadelphia in the past. Pederson’s expectations are set relatively low since Eagles fans are happy with anything other than previous coach, Chip Kelly, but the fans will let Pederson know if they are unhappy with the team.
Defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz, will also be making his debut for the Eagles. After taking last year off, Schwartz will be returning to the sidelines this season. His résumé is highlighted by his head coaching job in Detroit from 2009 to 2013. He brings the 4-3 defense to Philadelphia, which is a change from last year’s 3-4 defense.
Cleveland has had a different offensive coordinator every year since 2011, with Hue Jackson being added to the list. The position is notorious for being a one-and-done job, but Jackson hopes to be solidified as a long term coordinator in Cleveland. He has been around the coaching carousel with stints in Cincinnati, Oakland, Baltimore, Atlanta, and Washington. Jackson brings his recent success in Cincinnati with him, hoping to revive the Cleveland offense, which he will showcase Sunday in Philadelphia.
Questions on Both Sides
Fans that like to see teams break the scoreboard should tune into this game. However, good offenses are not the reason for the high score, it is poor defenses. The Browns last year were victim to about 378 yards and 27 points per game. The defense did not make any key additions during the off-season. They can only expect the same results on the field. The secondary was a weak spot, giving up 250 passing yards per game. However, the quarterback on the other side, Carson Wentz, is appearing in his first NFL game. A rookie quarterback against a top five worst defense from last season can only bring about sloppy football.
The questions that surround the Eagles defense are about their newly improved defensive line and the struggling secondary. The Philadelphia secondary surrendered more passing yards than Cleveland last year, but they added Leodis McKelvin, Rodney McLeod, and Ron Brooks to the crew. Those additions should be able to patch up the holes down the field, but they have yet to prove themselves. Robert Griffin III will be seeing a starting NFL defense for the first time in two years. It is unclear whether he will be able to read the defense and make the quick decisions he needs. Being away from football for a year may affect his mental ability at quarterback. Both Griffin and the Eagles defense need to prove themselves Sunday, as they look to improve from previous seasons.
With two new quarterbacks making their debuts and countless questions surrounding both teams, it makes for a great game to watch on the field. Both teams are unpredictable and there are expectations high and low for both sides of the ball. Variables across all spectrums of the game will lead to a surprisingly entertaining matchup.