Colts vs. Eagles preview


Both teams fell behind by double digits in their Week 1 game. Only one team was able to fight its way back to win the game. The other fought back but was stopped on fourth down in the fourth quarter.

The Philadelphia Eagles spotted the Jacksonville Jaguars a 17-0 lead before coming back and winning 34-17. The Indianapolis Colts trailed the Denver Broncos 24-0 before coming back and eventually losing 31-24.

The Colts and Eagles meet Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in a battle between one team that is struggling to get a consistent pass rush, Indianapolis, and another team with offensive line problems, Philadelphia.

ESPN Eagles reporter Phil Sheridan and Colts reporter Mike Wells discuss the game.

Sheridan: The Eagles will be coming into a dome with a banged-up offensive line. Without Robert Mathis, do the Colts have the defensive playmakers to take advantage of that?

Wells: That’s a question that nobody has an answer for yet. Counting the preseason, the Colts’ starting defense has only three sacks in five games. That’s not going to get it done when the NFL is a passing league. The Colts struggled getting pressure on Peyton Manning in Denver last weekend. Philly lost two offensive linemen to injuries this week, so Indianapolis has no excuse for not being able to get after Nick Foles, especially since Jacksonville sacked him five times. Bjoern Werner, who is starting in Mathis’ place, has to mature quickly and not play like a second-year player. Werner needs help, though. Fellow linebacker Erik Walden and the defensive front have to do their part.

It's not always a smooth transition for college coaches making the jump to the NFL. That hasn't been an issue for Chip Kelly, with the Eagles making the playoffs last season. Why hasn't it been a tough transition for Kelly?

Sheridan: I think he’s fundamentally just a good football coach. Kelly likes to say that if you weren’t in the room with Rockne and Stagg, you’re just borrowing ideas from other people. He’s a gym rat type of guy who enjoys nothing more than trying to figure out what works and why, then playing around with it until something new emerges. He does some things -- his practice approach, the up-tempo offense -- that are novel in the NFL right now, but all of them are based on sound, traditional ideas, not on throwing stuff at the wall to see if it sticks. Andy Reid was an NFL guy to his bones, but he was much more enamored with throwing every down and gadget plays than Kelly is. The other element is that Kelly came to the NFL from college just as the NFL was starting to embrace more of the ideas generated by college coaches. The players who are coming into the league often come from schools that ran spread offenses and didn’t huddle, so the foundation is already set.

It’s a badge of honor for quarterbacks to be able to bring their teams back to win late in games. Andrew Luck has already shown his knack for that. But wouldn’t the Colts be better if they could start fast and avoid the whole late-rally thing?

Wells: Getting off to quick starts is an issue the Colts have been talking about for more than year. And they’ve yet to solve that problem. They’ve even tried opening games in the no-huddle offense to try to change the tempo. All the comebacks make Luck look good because of his ability to overcome deficits with his no-quit attitude, but at some point the Colts aren’t going to be as fortunate. That happened last weekend in Denver. The Broncos jumped out to a 24-0 lead and that was too big of a deficit for the Colts to come back from.

Speaking of slow starts, the Eagles spotted the Jaguars 17 points before scoring the final 34 points. Are slow starts something to be worried about going forward?

Sheridan: I don’t think so; at least not yet. The first game of a new season is always a little odd. You’re not sure what the other team is going to look like. Were they showing their real offense and defense in the preseason or were they playing possum? I think Foles was thrown off just enough by the Jags’ coverages and pass rush to hold the ball and disrupt the entire rhythm of the offense. My guess is that Kelly will make sure to find some plays that get Foles into a rhythm early against upcoming opponents. If Foles isn’t able to take advantage, and if poor starts become a trend, then it will be time to worry.

In Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, the Eagles have a couple of playmaking tight ends. With injuries at linebacker and scorch marks from Denver’s Julius Thomas, how can the Colts bounce back and minimize the damage from these two?

Wells: No offense to Celek and Ertz, but the Colts are happy they don’t have to see Thomas or New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham this weekend. Graham lit the Colts up in the third preseason game. Tight ends with speed, like Thomas and Graham, give the Colts problems because they don’t have linebackers capable of lining up out wide to defend them. D’Qwell Jackson doesn’t have the speed to keep up with fast tight ends and fellow middle linebacker Jerrell Freeman is dealing with a hamstring issue. If Foles is smart, he'll take a page out of Manning's book from last week and find a favorable matchup and keep going to that player.

Offensive line problems are nothing new for the Colts. Luck has been sacked 76 times in barely two years. Jacksonville got to Foles five times last weekend. Do you think the Eagles have legitimate offensive line problems -- like the Colts -- or was it a matter of them facing a Jacksonville team with a strong front seven?

Sheridan: The Eagles’ line was one of their primary strengths last season, when all five starters played all 17 games, including the playoff loss to New Orleans. But right tackle Lane Johnson is suspended for four games for PED use, and two linemen went down in the first half against Jacksonville. One of them was Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis. So there are legitimate concerns about the Eagles’ line going forward. There will be two new starters Monday night -- Dennis Kelly at left guard and Andrew Gardner at right tackle -- dealing with crowd noise and the Colts' defense. It’s important for the Eagles to establish LeSean McCoy and the run game early, putting the Colts back on their heels a little and quieting down that crowd.