CBS NFL play-by-play man Ian Eagle dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Thursday and delivered arguably the most cordial greeting in Gio and Jones history.
“Good morning, Gregory. Wonderful to be on with you,” Eagle said. “Brian, an honor to spend some time on your show.”
Eagle didn’t have to be asked to elaborate.
“Guys, I’m being very business-like because that’s what the Jets and Patriots are being this week,” said Eagle, who is calling the game. “Very business like, no bulletin-board material, no hype, just straight-to-the-point-narrative football.”
Of course, the Jets (4-1) and Patriots (5-0) won’t be quite as polite this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
“I’m excited,” Eagle said. “I’m looking forward to the matchup. These guys might be downplaying it, but this is a premier matchup in the NFL this week. It’s going to be a great scene at Gillette Stadium this weekend.”
With first place in the AFC East on the line, the outcome of the game may hinge on the Patriots’ ability to protect Tom Brady.
“Well, there’s no doubt that New England has some issues on the offensive line,” Eagle said. “They’ve been able to put the patchwork together and make it work and Brady has just been locked in. He’s a machine right now. But Marcus Cannon is dealing with a toe injury. He had already stepped in as we know for Nate Solder. So they’ve got a rookie in Shaq Mason playing left guard. They’ve got a rookie in David Andrews playing center. Josh Kline has kind of backed up all spots. He’s starting at right guard. (Sebastian) Vollmer could be starting at left tackle. Cameron Fleming could be starting at right tackle. All of this is up for debate right now as far as how New England is going to approach it.”
Regardless of which lineman plays where, the Patriots need to keep Brady upright – which might be easier said than done.
“The Jets’ front seven has been fantastic,” Eagle said. “It’s been everything they hoped for. The addition of Sheldon Richardson obviously provided a boost last weekend against Washington. It’s a strength of New York. And I don’t want to say it’s a weakness, but its one of the more vulnerable areas for New England.”
Just how vulnerable? The Cowboys sacked Tom Brady five times in Week 5 – in the first half. Do the Jets think they can get to Brady and apply pressure?
“I think they do,” Eagle said. “I think there’s general feeling from Tom Brady and this Jets team that they’re going to be able to get to the quarterback week-in and week-out and working that in concert with their secondary. Now, Buster Skrine is a question mark. Skrine has been a huge addition, obviously. They re-worked that entire back line with Revis and (Antonio) Cromartie and Skrine – and not just on those three positions. I think everybody has kine of gotten caught up in that. Marcus Gilchrist has played well. Gilchrist struggled at times with San Diego. He was a converted cornerback playing safety. He’s been much better this year. That could be just timing for him in his fifth year kind of understanding everything, and it could be that he’s playing for Todd Bowles and he’s been well-coached and he’s been well-schooled.”
The Jets are second in the league in pass defense (186.6 yards per game) and rush defense (82.6) and first in scoring defense (15.0 points per game). It’s been a no-nonsense bunch since the start of the season.
“This team has responded in the way that Todd Bowles was looking for,” Eagle said. “Little fanfare, go under the radar, don’t create a lot of drama. And as we know, that’s something that the Jets had done in previous years under Rex Ryan. There was a whole lot of talk. Sometimes they backed it up, and sometimes they had to eat crow.”