Three things to watch for when the Eagles host the Jaguars

Zach Ertz Philadelphia Eagles Zach Ertz could be a red zone force for the Eagles this season. Credit: Getty Images

The Eagles kick off their new season with a relatively easy test against the offensively (and lets face it, defensively too) challenged Jacksonville Jaguars.

If the same Eagles squad that tore the Steelers apart in the third preseason game shows up to play at Lincoln Financial Field, on CBS at 1 p.m. Sunday, the result could be just as dynamic.

Everyone who is expected to play is looking good, save for Josh Huff who didn’t practice on Wednesday.

Here’s a look at three things the Birds must do to avoid being embarrassed by the Jaguars in Week 1.

Stop the run

It is assumed that without a real, bonafide No. 1 quarterback the Jaguars will rely heavily on their running game and Toby Gerhart. Chad Henne, while decent under center, has to throw to unproven rookies likeCecil Shorts II, Marquise Lee and Denard Robinson.

Shutting down Gerhart and the Jacksonville rushing attack will turn a bad team one-dimensional and allow the Eagles to hand the ball over to their dynamic offense.

But defensive coordinator Bill Davis knows it’s a new season, and the Jags could come out doing almost anything on offense.

“These guys have come out and they have shown a lot of different multiple offensive sets and schemes,” Davis said. “I don’t know if they keep it tight to their vest in the preseason or not.So early in the season, the first three games, you really are on high alert to handle thing that comes your way because you don’t know what they have been working on all offseason and what they are ready to unleash on you. You are ready for most offensive schemes to come your way.”

Take it to Jacksonville’s defense

The Jaguars missed 122 tackles last season. They ranked No. 29 at stopping the run and No. 28 at points allowed.

The Birds can really make a statement early if they can pound the Jaguars defense into submission. However, they boast a new scheme, and a handful of really talented players that could be thorns in the Eagles’ side.

“The model for it certainly is Seattle where [Jaguars head coach] Gus [Bradley] was previous,” Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said, “and then this year they went out and got two pieces to add to the defensive line, [DE] Chris Clemons and [DE] Red Bryant, who were in Seattle, two guys that have really helped them up front.So I think that’s where you see the biggest change. [LB Paul] Posluszny, everybody would love to have him as a middle linebacker and then I think they are just a solid, steady group that plays well together.”

Attack the offensive line

The Eagles didn’t generate nearly as many sacks as they wanted to last season. In Week 1 against Jacksonville, the Birds have an opportunity to jumpstart their pass rush against a young and underachieving offensive line.

“You always hope that you win that match up,” Davis said. “The matchup in the trenches is the key to any game, and their offensive line has been‑ they have had some injuries and they are moving people around but they have also I think strengthened their offensive line. They have [T Luke] Joeckel back. Now he’s the left tackle, where they drafted him for. They have not played a lot together and that hurts most offensive lines. But they are a solid group and I think they will have it solidified and they will be fine. But that’s a matchup we have to win, the d‑line versus o‑line.”

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