INDIANAPOLIS - One of the brightest spots of the Eagles' Week 1 win over Jacksonville was the pressure the Birds managed to bring on Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne. Henne was sacked only three times, but he was under duress a lot more than that. Passes were tipped, passes were hurried, timing was disrupted a lot more than has been common lately for the Eagles' defense, which ranked 32nd against the pass in 2013. Henne completed 12 of his final 27 passes, for 99 yards.
Getting that kind of result tonight at Lucas Oil Stadium figures to be a lot tougher. For one thing, the Redskins sacked Henne 10 times yesterday, which raises the question of how much the Eagles' rush really has improved; maybe the Jags' offensive line is just memorably bad. But the bigger factor tonight, literally, is 6-4, 239-pound Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
It's hard to harass Luck into inefficiency. He keeps his eyes downfield, and he can shrug off a hit. As Eagles coach Chip Kelly noted this week, Luck also is an excellent runner; he can buy time to throw it down the field, or he can take off and go.
"He's a strong, physical guy and an athletic quarterback," Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said. "It changes it a little bit. He's not gonna just stand there. You face some guys, you know exactly where he's going to be, you know how he drops and sets up, and he's going to be there.
"You've got to see through the blocker . . . he'll give you an opportunity. He's just a little bit harder to take down than some guys in this league."
Luck's ability to extend plays means a big test for the Eagles' secondary, which had several breakdowns en route to falling behind 17-0 in the first half against Jacksonville. Rewatching the game, it seemed there were receivers open in the second half, as well, but under pressure, Henne wasn't able to find them.
"I think we're going to have to cover and stop the run game," said inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks. The Colts' running game never really got going in Week 1, as they fell behind the Broncos by 24-0 and went to the air to forge a comeback, ultimately losing, 31-24. Indianapolis managed just two rushing first downs. Trent Richardson (six carries, 20 yards against Denver) and Ahmad Bradshaw (three carries, 15 yards) are the Colts' backs.
"They've got the potential to really be a good run team," Kendricks said.
Brandon Boykin, the Eagles' nickel corner, expects to play more than the 23 defensive snaps he got in Week 1. The Colts use more three-wideout sets than Jacksonville. In Week 1, Reggie Wayne caught nine passes on 13 targets, for 98 yards, but T.Y. Hilton, who caught 82 passes for 1,083 yards in 2013, managed just five catches on 11 targets, for 41 yards. Ex-Giant Hakeem Nicks caught all five passes thrown to him, for just 36 yards. Tight end Dwayne Allen caught four of five for 64 yards, including a 41-yard TD.
"He can run the ball, and then still throw it down the field. That'll be something we'll have to watch out for, is just keeping tight coverage until the play is over. We've practiced that," Boykin said. "You just can't be guessing. You've got to have 'honest eyes.' "
Corner Cary Williams agreed that "you have to cover longer."
"It's difficult for corners to cover a guy for more than 5 seconds. [Luck] has the ability to extend plays [longer than that]. We're conscious of that," Williams said. "He's a big-play guy, with his feet or with his arm."
Williams said the pass rush has to be tightly focused - getting a hand on Luck's leg isn't going to do much.
"We gotta have guys attacking his throwing shoulder, his throwing arm, get balls lifted," Williams said. "We gotta get in his face. Get the pocket a little muddy, so he doesn't have open lanes to throw in . . . I think we've got a great game plan to disrupt timing with his wide receivers."
Williams said there's no question this is a big test for the Eagles' secondary. "It's a big opportunity, as well," he said.
Eagles safety Nate Allen likened Luck to Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger, another physically imposing QB who moves well.
"If the rush gets there and he somehow gets out, we definitely have to tighten down on coverage and just lock on to somebody," he said. "It's something we're taught, always . . . basically it turns into sandlot football, when your receivers are just going to do anything to get open."
Both Jacksonville touchdowns last week had to do with safety mistakes - Allen not helping Bradley Fletcher on the first, Malcolm Jenkins incorrectly stepping toward the backfield to stop what he thought would be a bubble screen on the second. Those kinds of errors will be harder to overcome against Luck, the first player taken in the 2012 draft, who has led eight fourth-quarter comebacks for wins the past two seasons.
Hamstrung running back Chris Polk was listed as "probable" Saturday by the Eagles, who will again be missing wide receiver Josh Huff (shoulder) and offensive lineman Matt Tobin (ankle) . . . Brandon Boykin downed a Jacksonville punt on the 1 last week, something he has done more than a few times since coming to the Eagles as a fourth-round pick in 2012. "It's just kind of having an awareness of where you are, and a good awareness of where [punter Donnie Jones] is going to put the ball," Boykin said.