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The Philadelphia Eagles' 8 Biggest Game-Changers so Far

Bernie OllilaContributor IIIOctober 11, 2016

The Philadelphia Eagles' 8 Biggest Game-Changers so Far

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    The first two Eagles games have been roller coasters, to say the least.

    The Birds have come from behind and edged out nail-biting one-point wins in both games, leaving fans in a distressed, relieved kind of euphoria on each occasion.

    How have they done this?

    The answer is consistent play from some, and gutsy, ferocious crunch-time tenacity from others.

    The following is a short list of a few key players without whom the Eagles wouldn’t have two in the NFL standings’ wins column. 

8. Nate Allen

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    How about Nate Allen not missing critical tackles? In fact, he’s got 15 total, which leads the team.

    Allen is starting to develop into the player we wanted him to be.

    He’s looked great in coverage, which says something about his instincts for the game: they’re developing.

    I haven’t once thrown up my hands in disgust after seeing him bite—hard—on a play action and get burned for a huge gain, or miss what appeared to be an easy tackle that cost the team mightily.

    If Nate Allen continues to play the way he has, it may be time to start calling him a good player instead of an overachiever. 

7. Brandon Boykin

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    Joselio who, son?

    Is it me, or is Brandon Boykin a relentless, ferocious little monster? I’m not even talking about returning anything; I mean in the slot.

    Aside from being all over the field last Sunday, with less than two minutes to play, Boykin knocked down a rocket headed for Jacoby Jones that could have ultimately won the game for Baltimore.

    That was a huge stop, especially considering what could have followed. After all, the Ravens were down by one, and Justin Tucker may as well have been making field goals from the parking lot.

6. DeSean Jackson

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    DeSean Jackson has looked great because he’s happy. He’s happy because of his contract.

    It’s wonderful to see him as fiery as ever, pointing ahead on first down catches, making plays in the middle of the field, and even throwing punches (even though that’s bad, it could have cost the team, and he shouldn’t have). To see Jackson this into things is encouraging.

    Even with all of that, the fact that DeSean is serious—a 180 from last year—was evident on that 49-yard bomb he caught with Ed Reed lurking, waiting to strike. 

5. Brent Celek

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    There’s no question the Eagles don’t win last Sunday without Celek.

    Celek does it all: he blocks, he can catch, he can hurdle safeties, and he’s not easy to bring down.

    Is he the best tight end the Eagles have ever had? I don’t know, but he’s certainly the best I’ve seen in my 26 years.

    Sometimes Celek doesn’t get the credit he deserves, but his contributions to the team’s offensive success are definitely noticeable.  

4. LeSean McCoy

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    I know he only had 81 yards and one touchdown on Sunday, but he could have had two if it weren’t for the Vick draw play.

    Even though the numbers may not indicate it, McCoy has looked fantastic when he gets the ball. And his ability to move in space and juke defenders is outstanding.

    However, he can’t be expected to be effective and sturdy, playing every down for the Eagles. If McCoy is going to succeed, one of the other three running backs needs to get more reps.

    For now, though, Shady’s been a beast whose presence alone has contributed to the Eagles’ success because of his versatility. He’s a threat that opposing defenses need to account for on every down.

3. The Pro Bowl Cornerbacks

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    I haven’t decided yet if Asomugha and DRC are more like two regular blankets or two thick, heavy, uncomfortable quilts in the summer time.

    Granted, Jacoby Jones beat Nnamdi—bad, too—for a touchdown; but, other than that he’s been outstanding.

    You could tell Nnamdi Asomugha meant business from the get go when he stopped a Travis Benjamin run from the other side of the field in the Eagles’ Week 1 victory over the Browns. That’s the kind of hustle that makes you feel like it’s okay to trust Asomugha. And, aside from the Jones touchdown play, there hasn’t been much to complain about from the $60M cornerback.

    Opposite Nnamdi is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who may very well be the team’s best corner.

    Rodgers-Cromartie has uncanny athletic ability, and closing speed that makes you think twice any time a receiver looks like he’s got a step on DRC.

    Even though he hasn’t been perfect, he’s been good. Very good.

    I’m looking forward to a few more picks this year, as well as a possible Pro Bowl start from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

2. Michael Vick

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    It was nice to see Mike Vick throwing the ball to guys wearing green on Sunday.

    Even though the stats say he threw two interceptions against the Ravens, I’m really only holding one of them against him. That second pick was a freak deflection off Brent Celek’s hands.

    Even though he was a part of two drives that ended in handoff fumbles which could have resulted in points on the board, Vick looked comfortable.

    Michael Vick has led the Eagles to two game winning fourth-quarter drives in consecutive weeks. It didn’t have to be that way because of turnovers, he won the game nonetheless.

    He was running, he looked good scrambling, and he looked poised the entire time.

    Perhaps what was most impressive was the way he got up after being knocked down every time. It’s like the pain didn’t affect him.

    I’m comfortable—confident, in fact—in Michael Vick this year. Sure, he’ll probably miss some time, but while he’s out there the Eagles have a chance to win. That’s what matters.

1. The Linebackers

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    It was hard not to make Vick No. 1. I'm a huge Vick supporter; but all things considered, he's been a part of too many turnovers, and at times has failed to do his job. These guys have done their job: stop the other team from scoring, or at the very least minimize their offensive threat. 

    So far, there’s a lot to like about the Eagles’ defense.

    In fact, if you evaluate the Birds’ D based on the offensive performances of the Ravens in Week 1 and the Browns in Week 2, you could make the case that the Eagles’ defense is one of the best in the NFL.

    Even if it isn’t, their success is due in large part to the outstanding play of both veteran DeMeco Ryans, and SAM rookie Mychal Kendricks.

    It seems like every series, one of these guys is making a huge play to disrupt the opponents’ offense. Whether it’s stuffing runners; DeMeco Ryan picking off passes and coming up with fourth-quarter sacks; or Mychal Kendricks using his freakish athleticism to make tackles in the open, these two are nothing to scoff at.

    Perhaps no play was more crucial than Mychal Kendricks on the Ravens’ last down in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win—Ray Rice couldn’t make the play, and Kendricks was on him.

    Regardless, we’ve seen these guys play well in coverage and be huge contributors on stopping the run.

    DeMeco Ryans is proving that preseason performance doesn’t hold any water when the games matter, and Mychal Kendricks has been one of the most pleasant defensive surprises in recent memory.  

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