With just a few more days until the 2012 NFL season kicks off for the Philadelphia Eagles, the team received some positive news with the return of defensive end Jason Babin. Babin claims to be ready to go when the Eagles open the season in Cleveland against the Browns, but a decision may have to be held off until closer to kickoff.
Babin returned to the team and declared himself nearly 100 percent back to form after tearing his calf muscle in the preseason. His return to the Eagles lineup figures to give the defense a little bit of a boost after a less-than-inspirational preseason. Babin put together 18 sacks last season and his calf injury kept him out of action for the entire preseason. With Babin now back and ready to roll, the Eagles will gladly welcome back one of their top defensive players this weekend for the season opener.
Babin is not the only key player practicing at nearly full strength. Quarterback Mike Vick has also been getting back in to a rhythm after an injury riddled preseason and with extra protective gear to rely on Vick and the Eagles hope to be able to keep the quarterback from missing time this upcoming season.
One way to keep Vick from missing any playing time will be to adjust his quarterback style. As heard on 94 WIP Tuesday morning, former NFL quarterback Jim Kelly joined the army calling for Vick to slide more and start throwing the football away more than he ever has before. Are habits hard to break? Naturally, and this is certainly nothing new when it comes to discussing Vick. But with head coach Andy Reid seeming to have a little more fire in his approach to leading the team this preseason and with many interpreting recent statements from owner Jeff Lurie suggesting Reid’s job could be on the line, perhaps this could be the season Vick changes his style at the request of the coaching staff.
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Whether or not Vick changes his approach under pressure will be something to keep an eye on this season, starting this weekend against a defense. Fortunately for Vick and the Eagles, the Browns had just 32.0 sacks last season and their defense had just nine interceptions (only two teams had fewer picks last season). What this means is Cleveland may not be the sort of team you expect to see too many offensive adjustments against on an individual level, specifically from Vick.
Instead the Eagles may try to get their offense off on the right foot, seemingly at full speed with Vick in good shape after a rough start to the preseason. A quick start may be needed as well. While Cleveland may have struggled on offense last season, their defense held up their end of the bargain by allowing 19.2 points per game.
For Cleveland, the Browns are awaiting to see what the status of rookie running back Trent Richardson will be. Richardson tore up opposing defenses at the college level for Alabama and is expected to play against Philadelphia a month after undergoing surgery on his knee. The Columbus Dispatch reports Richardson has been working with the first-string offense, which suggests he will see some playing time, if not starting. This is where having Babin back in the trenches will come in handy, as the Eagles will have one of their top linemen ready to try and slow down Cleveland’s new offensive weapon.
The Browns are also waiting to see if cornerback Joe Haden will have an appeal of a suspension approved, which would allow him to play this weekend. Haden is facing up to a four-game suspension for a possible failed drug test. If Haden’s appeal will not be upheld, the Browns will be without three starting defensive players, which should help the Eagles move the ball a little easier to open the season.
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Kevin McGuire is a freelance writer covering all things Philadelphia. His work can be found on Examiner.com.