PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Looking for a fast start, the Philadelphia Eagles couldn’t pick a better opponent for the season opener.
The Cleveland Browns have 15 rookies on the roster, including starting quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson. They’re coming off a 4-12 season, and they’re just 1-12 in Week 1 since returning to the NFL as an expansion team in 1999.
All that factors into why the Eagles are a 9-point favorite on the road Sunday. But they have to make sure to avoid a letdown, especially early when emotions are high.
“The initial excitement of getting out there, starting a new season, fired up and ready to start off on a great note,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said Friday. “You’re going to get a little overly excited because it’s the first game. It happens. But I think after a quarter or so, guys kind of settle in, settle down and settle into it. Of course, that first one, that first quarter, everybody’s going to be overhyped and over-amped.
“Everybody’s going to be all into it.”
That’s when those rookies can be particularly dangerous, especially because the Eagles aren’t as familiar with them. They faced Weeden in the preseason, but neither team showed much. Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick, sat out the entire preseason because of a knee injury. So, the coaching staff had to look at college tapes to get a read on both players.
Weeden, a 28-year-old former minor league pitcher, impressed Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and coach Andy Reid.
“He was one of the just pure passers coming out,” Mornhinweg said. “I thought he just throws the ball effortlessly. He’s got a big arm. He’s just a natural passer and I can understand why Cleveland took him. I believe it was a little bit higher than other people had him, but I understand that totally. He’s just a pure passer. Absolutely. Won a lot of ballgames there at Oklahoma State. Fantastic player coming out, no question.”
Reid called Weeden “a very talented player,” and said the Eagles got a taste of what he can do in the preseason.
Richardson is listed as questionable. Still, Philadelphia gameplanned against him.
“With the scheme that they run, it is basically the same scheme he ran at Alabama,” defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said. “So really what we try to do, what we’re working on, is just taking care of our gaps and being gap-sound. When he gets through that gap, we have to make the tackles. We know what he looked like in college. We know he’s a great football player and they’re not really going to run different schemes than what we’ve seen, which are the schemes that fit the type of runner that he is.”
The Eagles beat St. Louis on the road in their opener last year, but lost the next four games and never recovered. They failed to live up to enormous expectations and finished 8-8.
That won’t cut it this year. Beating the Browns is critical because the Eagles play six of their next seven games against 2011 playoff teams.
“Week 1 is the first moment to show what you are made of as a team,” cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. “Our No. 1 thing is showing what we’re made of and starting off fast and that’s going to be our main focus.”