Eagles' 'Dream Team' could have nightmarish start vs. Rams


The Philadelphia Eagles have been referred to as the "Dream Team." Well, things might not get off to a good start for Michael Vick and Co. when they visit St. Louis. The Rams have several ingredients to hand the Eagles a loss come Sunday.

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Philadelphia gave up 31 passing touchdowns in 2010, tied for third worst in the league. They added Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the offseason to address the problem and are a better team because of the moves. However, it's going to take time for the team to come together with all the changes. Sam Bradford could be ready to take advantage of those growing pains at home with a little help from Steven Jackson.

Steve Spagnuolo spent eight years with the Eagles and knows what they like to do. St. Louis had 43 sacks last season and could get after Vick, especially with the Eagles starting two rookies on the offensive line.

Two matchups could dictate who wins this game:
LT Rodger Saffold vs. DE Trent Cole
RT Todd Herremans vs. Chris Long

I think the Rams win the NFC West this season. Once the Eagles get to the bye week, they'll be really good, but they're probing a bit at this point.

Week 1 success a playoff predictor

When I was with the Dallas Cowboys, we won 17 straight season-openers, which is a record. During that streak, we made the playoffs 16 times. Winning in Week 1 can put on you on the right path the rest of the season.

Last season, the 12 eventual playoff teams went 9-3 in Week 1. Two of those losses came against other playoff teams -- Atlanta fell to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia lost to Green Bay. The other team to drop its opener and make the postseason was Indianapolis after losing to Houston.

Since 1978, when the current 16-game schedule was introduced, there have been 474 games to take place in Week 1. The teams that won in Week 1 made the playoffs 251 times and won 147 division titles. The teams that lost in Week 1 made the playoffs 106 times and won 63 division titles.

Playoff parity will continue

In an unpredictable game, playoff turnover has been a constant. The NFL has seen an average of five new teams in the postseason annually since 2000. That will continue with Dallas, Detroit, Houston, San Diego and St. Louis all making it this season.

The one thing that each of those teams has in common is either an ascending passer or an already-established quarterback.

Rookie roundup

Each year, I like to track how many draft picks and undrafted guys make 53-man rosters around the league to see what teams are collecting the best young talent. Two organizations stood out this time around.

»  Seahawks: They had 11 rookies make the roster, including three undrafted free agents. They also kept one CFL player -- cornerback Brandon Browner. Browner and fellow rookies James Carpenter and John Moffitt are going to start.

One of the up-and-coming players on my training camp tour was Josh Portis. The quarterback seems to have special ability but lacks playing experience.

» Eagles: They had 10 rookies make the team -- nine draft picks, one undrafted free agent. Five of those rookies are going to start: Offensive linemen Danny Watkins and Jason Kelce, linebacker Casey Matthews, kicker Alex Henery and punter Chas Henry.

» In total, 61 undrafted free agents made NFL rosters. That's the highest number in the past five years.

» There are 39 rookies likely to start in Week 1, including 12 offensive linemen. Tailback is the only position not to have a rookie starter, which is probably the easiest spot for a young guy to come in and play.

All roster numbers above are based off initial 53-man rosters.

Roster odysseys

» The Packers kept five tight ends, which coach Mike McCarthy explained by saying he wanted the best players on the team. I think that's history. Not sure that's ever happened before.

» The Cowboys are carrying four rookie offensive linemen: First-round pick Tyron Smith, fourth-rounder David Arkin, seventh-rounder Bill Nagy and undrafted free agent Kevin Kowalski. Nagy will be a starter and Smith would have been if he didn't get hurt. That's unusually high number of rookies up front for a team that's expected to contend.

» Nine draft picks remain with the Cowboys from their last two draft classes. Over that same span, 10 undrafted free agents are still on the roster.

» It's not strange for a team to carry two rookie kickers, but it does raise eyebrows when it's a playoff contender like Philadelphia. In most cases, you want at least one veteran in the mix.

» Wisconsin has five rookies expected to start in Week 1: Nagy with the Cowboys, J.J. Watt with the Texans, Gabe Carimi with the Bears, Moffitt with the Seahawks and Lance Kendricks with the Rams. That's impressive.

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College player who helped his stock

Last week, Baylor receiver Kendall Wright got off to a strong start with 12 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns in a win against TCU. He's making a case to be a late first- or early second-round pick in 2012. He has everything you look for in a wideout: Great hands, 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash and is an excellent route runner.

The only weakness with Wright is his size (5-foot-10, 194 pounds), but it's the same as Eagles WR DeSean Jackson. And like Jackson, Wright can return kicks. He also threw two passes last week, including a 40-yard touchdown.

Over the last 10 years, there have been five occasions when six or more wideouts have been drafted in the first round. With that, here are my top five senior receivers:

Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
Greg Childs, Arkansas
Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M
Nick Toon, Wisconsin



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