Pats 'D' has much to prepare for in Eagles

Pats 'D' has much to prepare for in Eagles
November 24, 2011, 3:58 am
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FOXBORO -- New England has a short week before meeting the Eagles Sunday. Limited preparation is a headache for any team, but for the Patriots, it compounds a unique problem facing the defense.

Who the hell are they playing against?

"We've got to prepare for two different guys."

Exactly right, James Ihedigbo: The Eagles have a quarterback toss-up.

Philly's 100-million dollar man, Michael Vick, missed the last game with a pair of broken ribs. Head coach Andy Reid said Vick has been throwing but wouldn't practice Wednesday, relinquishing all reps to back-up Vince Young. Does that mean Young will be the game-day starter again?

Maybe. Probably.

The uncertainty and doubled workload are too obvious a challenge for Ihedigbo to shrug off. Not only do the two QB's have very different styles, but Young was a decent stand in for Vick last weekend. Though he didn't wow on the stat sheet (23-for-36 passing, 258 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions), he pulled off a fourth quarter 80-yard scoring drive in 18 plays to secure a 17-10 Eagles win. After back-to-back losses, that's all the team needed.

The Patriots secondary is focused on breaking down how it happened. Young hasn't played in a calendar year, so that final drive is also a testament to the weapons he's working with.

Philadelphia's ground game is an well-known danger. LeSean McCoy, one of the league's most explosive backs, leads all rushers with 188 for 1,019 yards. Vick alone has 21 rushes of 10 or more yards.

But these birds also fight in the air.

"You're facing threats all across the board," the safety said. "DeSean Jackson-- just everyone across the board that they have. We still have to prepare and that goes into the extra studying each week."

Jackson is averaging 16.9 yards per catch. Tight end Brent Celek, who has 28 catches for 309 yards and two touchdowns in the team's last five games, could give the Patriots trouble a la Pittsburgh's Heath Miller. And these are the guys behind Jeremy Maclin. Shoulder and hamstring issues held Philly's most potent receiver (642 yards on 461 receptions; 14 touchdowns) out of the game last week, but that's just the trouble for the Patriots -- Vince Young won without him.

"It's just as big as the rush -- their top two receivers are fast, they're dangerous with the ball in their hands, they can get downfield, they know how to get open and they're targets for whoever's at quarterback. It's definitely something we have to study. We have to study the routes they run, the concepts, things they like to do good, things they don't do well -- all of that. Really have to put in extra time and dig down for this big game."

Maclin practiced Wednesday. If he returns, New England's patchwork secondary will have more than enough to worry about. Ihedigbo says his crew understands the task at hand is complicated. They can only make the most of what they've got.

"We're a day behind in preparation so we have to catch up," said Ihedigbo. "We have to spend extra time as a defense, extra time as a secondary, piecing together what we have to do this week.

"We're excited about the game plan; we have a lot of good stuff ahead. It's going to be an exciting game, definitely."

With these variables in play? Yeah, you could say that.