December 4, 2006; Eagles 27, Panthers 24
In a game that would turn the tide of the squad's 2006 season, the Eagles overcame a seven-point deficit entering the fourth quarter and escaped Lincoln Financial Field with a narrow victory. Starting his second game, quarterback Jeff Garcia shined, completing 21 of 39 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns. Cornerback Lito Sheppard sealed the win with a fine interception in the Eagles end zone in coverage against Keyshawn Johnson. The win was the first of five consecutive victories to end the 2006 regular season.
2006 Season Review
It was a season of streaks for the Panthers, who looked great at times and completely inept at others during a disappointing 8-8 season. Carolina lost its first two games of the season, only to win the next four and appear back on track. The Panthers were 6-4 going into Week 12, only to lose their next four games and drop out of the playoff race. The Carolina defense was strong, finishing seventh in the league in overall defense, but was offset by an inconsistent offense. The Panthers attack finished 24th in the league in total offense and 27th in scoring.
QB David Carr, CB Curtis Deloatch, DT Chad LavalaisCarr is the big name newcomer in Carolina. Even though he is currently slotted behind Jake Delhomme, some fans have become dissatisfied with Delhomme's inability to consistently compile victories. The 28-year-old Carr has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in his five NFL seasons and carries with him a career QB rating of 75.5. Still, some believe that with a better supporting cast the former first-overall pick can be a winner.
WR Keyshawn Johnson, S Mike Minter, LB Chris Draft, TE Kris MagnumJohnson, Minter and Magnum all retired (Johnson after being released). Minter might be missed the most by the Panthers. Minter spent all ten of his NFL season with the Panthers, finishing the franchise's all-time leader in total tackles with 807
When The Eagles Have The Ball
All eyes will naturally gravitate towards Donovan McNabb should he play. The quarterback is slated to make his debut on Friday, and there's little doubt the Eagles will do whatever they can this early in the preseason to ensure he doesn't get hit, and that could include running the ball or max protect packages. More than McNabb, the Eagles need to show they can move the ball consistently after a poor showing against Baltimore in which the offense produced only 183 total yards. The offensive line failed to hold up against the Ravens' blitz packages, and will need to do a better job against Carolina.
When The Eagles Are On Defense
Once again, the Eagles are looking to improve on Monday's outing. The first-team defense settled down in their second series against Baltimore, but prolonged drives such as the Ravens' first one cannot happen. In particular, the defense needs to do better in third down situations. The Ravens were three-for-three in third down situations on the first drive, and the Eagles defense needs to make a play and get off the field. It's likely the Eagles will be tested in the running game against the likes of DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams, and it will be interesting to see how the new-look defense responds.
Panthers QB David Carr vs. Panthers QB Jake Delhomme
Though these players are on the same team, there is an interesting competition between the two. Delhomme is coming off a season in which he threw for 2,805 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in just 13 games. Despite that decent season, Delhomme hasn't won as expected since leading Carolina to a Super Bowl appearance in 2003. Enter Carr, who was jettisoned from Houston, where many feel he never truly had a chance to succeed. Carr went 6-for-8 for 83 yards and a touchdown in the Panthers' preseason opening 24-21 win over the Giants. Delhomme is the likely guy here to start the season, but a strong preseason from Carr and/or early Carolina struggles will lead to speculation.
Panthers DE Julius Peppers vs. T Jon Runyan
Runyan has fought his fair share of battles against elite defensive linemen in the past, the most notable of which being Michael Strahan. He'll see another one of the game's best on Friday in Julius Peppers. With Donovan McNabb likely making his return, there will be an added amount of pressure on Runyan to keep the former second-overall pick at bay. Peppers had a career best 13 sacks last year, but none of those came in the Panthers one meeting with Runyan and the Eagles.
Players To Watch
QB Donovan McNabb
The Eagles franchise quarterback is expected to make his return the field following a torn right ACL suffered in Week 11 last season. McNabb returned to practice in the June OTAs, and participated in nearly all of training camp. It's unclear how much McNabb will play or if there will be any rust, but more important than stats from this game will be how well McNabb is able to move and how comfortable the recovering quarterback looks.
TE Brent Celek
The Eagles tight end was by far the most productive player in an otherwise dim effort against the Ravens on Monday. Celek's four receptions and 59 receiving yards were both team highs. Inconsistency is common for rookies, so it will be interesting to see if Celek build on that production in this game. The Eagles need production from the back up tight ends to take pressure off L.J. Smith, and if Celek can continue his fine summer with a good performance is this game, the Eagles really might have a player on their hands.
Carolina WR Steve Smith
One of the most dangerous wide receivers in the league, Smith is coming off another stellar season in which he caught 83 balls for 1,166 yards and eight touchdowns. Smith can stretch the field or take the short pass and accumulate yards after the catch, and the Panthers almost always find ways to get him the ball. Smith will test the Eagles corners, especially if Lito Sheppard is once again absent, and keep the defense as a whole honest against the run.