Bat­tle of the back­ups with Foles vs. Fitz­patrick

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Bob Grotz bgrotz@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @bob­grotz on Twit­ter

Af­ter the hugs, the hel­los and the how-are-yous, the Ea­gles get to see how much Beau Allen and Vinny Curry re­ally know about their of­fen­sive line, which they prac­ticed against the past two years.

If you don’t be­lieve it starts up front for the Ea­gles, who op­pose the Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers Sun­day at Ray­mond James Sta­dium

(1 p.m., Chan­nel 29, WIP 94.1FM), you weren’t pay­ing at­ten­tion when they won their first Su­per Bowl with a backup quar­ter­back al­most ev­ery­one had given up on.

Speak­ing of re­tread quar­ter­backs, 36-year-old Ryan Fitz­patrick, who plays crib­bage with Allen, starts his sixth game for his sixth dif­fer­ent team against the Ea­gles. Try say­ing that six times fast.

“It’s hard to play this game,” said 33-year-old Chris Long, tied for the Ea­gles’ lead with 1½ sacks. “And to play it for 14 years like he has, that’s a lot of ups and downs, that’s a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence, and guys re­spect that. And I think that’s why his locker room re­spects him so much. You hear guys over there talk­ing about him. They def­i­nitely be­lieve in him. And he’s a heck of an op­tion when you don’t have your start­ing guy.”

But back to the in­tel­li­gence gleaned by Allen and Curry through OTA’s, mini­camps, train­ing camps and reg­u­lar sea­sons. It’s not just the of­fen­sive line calls the Ea­gles must al­ter. Fitz­patrick has a cheat sheet on what the de­fen­sive line does best. There is gen­uine con­cern the Bucs could ben­e­fit.

“At the end of the day you still have to line up and beat us,” Ea­gles pass rusher Bran­don Graham

The fore­cast for the 1 p.m. kick­off is 91 de­grees, with a real feel tem­per­a­ture of 104. Should be some tired mis­takes made. The dif­fer­ence is the Ea­gles are just stronger up front on both sides of the ball. The pick: Make it Ea­gles 34, Bucs 29

— Bob Grotz

said. “But they know a lot of stuff about us.”

Typ­i­cally, teams in­sert dummy calls when the op­po­si­tion has an in­ti­mate knowl­edge of what they do best, and how they do it. That hap­pens a lot in divi­sion games where teams play each other twice a year. This game has some of that fla­vor.

“It’s some­thing we take into con­sid­er­a­tion,” Ea­gles head coach Doug Ped­er­son said. “The other thing we take into con­sid­er­a­tion is they have to fo­cus on their job, ob­vi­ously. Two great play­ers that we ob­vi­ously owe a lot of grat­i­tude for help­ing us win a cham­pi­onship last year. We just have to ex­e­cute and be sort of mind­ful of when they’re in the game. But there will be some things that we have to change up just be­cause they know the ter­mi­nol­ogy up front.”

Fitz­patrick isn’t your typ­i­cal backup quar­ter­back. This is the sev­enth stop for the prod­uct of Har­vard, yet also the 121st start. He’s 49-70-1 in his ca­reer, in­clud­ing 3-1 with the Bucs. He’s 1-3-1 against the Ea­gles, the vic­tory com­ing on a late scor­ing drive in Buf­falo set up by Juqua Parker jump­ing off­sides.

Fitz­patrick earned NFC player of the week hon­ors by throw­ing for 417 yards and four touch­downs and rush­ing for a score in the Bucs’ season-open­ing 4840 win over Drew Brees and the New Or­leans Saints.

While Fitz­patrick is keep­ing the seat warm for starter Jameis Win­ston, sus­pended the first three games for vi­o­lat­ing the league’s per­sonal con­duct pol­icy, he de­vel­oped a unique chem­istry with game-break­ing re­ceivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jack­son dur­ing train­ing camp.

No one re­al­ize how good it was un­til the first game. Though the Bucs didn’t drop those ob­scene numbers on the Steel Cur­tain, it’s tough to win a shootout against Brees in the Big Easy.

“I don’t think any­body ex­pected 48 points,” Ea­gles safety Mal­colm Jenk­ins said. “You know they’ve got of­fense, they’ve got play­ers. But 48 points? That gets your at­ten­tion. The ball is go­ing to be in the air. He’s not go­ing to hold on to it with the re­ceivers that they have. They’re go­ing to test the deep part of your de­fense. We’ve got to be able to hold up.”

Line­backer Nigel Bradham re­turns from his one-game sus­pen­sion for vi­o­lat­ing the per­sonal con­duct pol­icy in the nick of time for the Ea­gles, as he can at least re-route hulk­ing Bucs tight ends O.J. Howard (6-6, 249) and Cameron Brate (6-4, 245).

Nick Foles, who makes his eighth straight start in place of Car­son Wentz, still doesn’t have Al­shon Jef­fery, who will miss the game. Third down back Dar­ren Spro­les (ham­string) also is out although that could be a bless­ing in dis­guise for Corey Cle­ment, an­other star of the Su­per Bowl who was barely used in the opener.

Allen, Curry and Jack­son, who’s com­ing off a con­cus­sion, will be pumped to play the Ea­gles, and vice versa.

“It will be fun for a lit­tle bit but at the same time we’ve got a game to win,” Cle­ment said. “We know what’s at stake. We’re try­ing to go back home vic­to­ri­ous. Ev­ery­body hates the plane ride los­ing. They’re a sound foot­ball team. They did a great job against the New Or­leans Saints. You’ve got to pre­pare to al­most beat them to their own punch. I can’t wait to get out there, try to put some points on the board.”

The Ea­gles got just two touch­downs, both by run­ning back Jay Ajayi, in their 18-12 win over the At­lanta Fal­cons. Both were in the sec­ond half, af­ter Foles and the of­fense found their rhythm.

“I think if we run the ball bet­ter ear­lier, usu­ally when we do that we usu­ally start games pretty well,” of­fen­sive tackle Lane John­son said. “Last week we didn’t re­ally run the ball ef­fec­tively un­til kind of later in the game. So, if we can get that go­ing ear­lier we’ll have a good day. We’ll change some calls, as far as the scheme. Just kind of the O-line calls that they may know.”


For­mer Ea­gles and cur­rent Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers wide re­ceiver DeSean Jack­son cel­e­brates a touch­down catch from vet­eran backup quar­ter­back Ryan Fitz­patrick last Sun­day against the New Or­leans Saints.

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