Five Eagles Leftovers, Things To Watch

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.Here are some things to watch tonight, along with some leftovers from earlier in the week mixed in.

1. His name is Nick Foles

The rookie gets the start and will play the first quarter against the Jets. In three preseason games, he’s 36-for-57 for 507 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. In my mind, Foles has cemented the backup job, but we likely won’t find out if Andy Reid feels the same way unless Michael Vick gets knocked out of a regular-season game. As we’ve discussed, the Eagles don’t technically have to designate a backup if they keep three quarterbacks active on gameday.

Foles is 8-for-8 for for 45 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in the red zone. He said the key inside the 20 is making sure everyone is on the same page and executing on time.

“You have to play fast, and you have to be on time. You can’t be late,” Foles said. “The guys have been doing a good job, and we just have to finish this week in the preseason doing the same thing.”

Foles has also been willing to throw the ball into tight spaces and has allowed his weapons to make plays on the ball.

“You can’t go out there and play and be afraid to throw a ball into tight coverage, zip one in there,” he said. “Stuff’s going to happen. There are great players on the other side of the ball too.  I know coach [Marty] Mornhinweg wants us to be aggressive, really go through our reads and be smart about it, so I just really want to be aggressive and be sharp.”

2. Safety spots up for grabs

Don’t be surprised if the Eagles add a safety from another team once teams cut their rosters down to 53 on Friday. For now, the backups to Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman are Jaiquawn Jarrett, Oshiomogho Atogwe and Phillip Thomas. There’s probably only room for two of those backups – likely Jarrett and Atogwe – on the final roster.

Atogwe has had success in the league, but battled through injuries last year and was let go by the Redskins. He’s missed the last two preseason games because of hamstring trouble, but hopes to play against the Jets.

“At this point in time, I definitely believe I’m ready to go in there and play,” Atogwe said. “I have a firm grasp of the defense, continue to improve and learn more, but at this stage, I feel confident in being out there.”

If Allen goes down, the idea of playing Jarrett and Coleman together in coverage is cause for concern. We’ll see if Atogwe can go tonight and if he still as a job come Friday.

3. A role for Thornton?

Defensive tackle Cedric Thornton has had a good summer and looks like a good fit for Jim Washburn’s style of play. He should make the roster, but what will his role be? The Eagles have Derek Landri and Fletcher Cox at DT for now. Cullen Jenkins is in the mix too, but he’s been playing a lot of left defensive end with Jason Babin sidelined. And Antonio Dixon is on the roster bubble.

If the Eagles are confident in Thornton playing significant snaps right away, Dixon could be expendable.

I asked him what the key is to holding up against the run in Washburn’s system.

“Awareness, I mean we’re coming off the ball every time as fast and hard as we can. So it’s just awareness,” he said. “Once you come off, you’ve got to beat the man with the knife to get to the man with the gun. So we just beat the man in front of us, and I just look for the ball then.”

4. Kelly’s development becomes key

A month ago, I was of the opinion that Dennis Kelly would be a weekly inactive in his rookie season. Now, the fifth-round pick might be the first man in should King Dunlap or Todd Herremans go down.

Kelly started at right tackle last week against Cleveland, and he’s also played guard in the preseason. With Demetress Bell continuing to look lost, it seems likely that Kelly will be the first backup at tackle in Week 1 against the Browns.

“Tackle is where I feel most comfortable, that’s where I’ve played since college,” Kelly said. “But being down in the guard stance, getting in the three-point stance is probably the most different thing for me. I feel like I can do every position. I really haven’t done center yet so we’ll see if that comes.”

Kelly was joking about playing center, but playing guard is certainly in play, especially considering the Eagles’ lack of depth on the interior of their line. At 6-8, he said it’s a challenge to stay low all game. And sometimes, when he gets fatigued, he finds himself getting too high and making mistakes.

“I was in on that 10-minute drive and I got a little tired,” Kelly said. “You could tell on the film. So I just have to make sure that my cardio’s up a little bit and just to focus in when it gets hard.”

5. Vermeil on Andy

This has nothing to do with tonight’s game, but Dick Vermeil stopped by practice earlier this week, and the former Eagles coach continues to support Andy Reid.

“Andy knows what has to be done, and I really believe he’s the guy that will eventually get it done here in Philadelphia. I mean win a world championship, but it’s tough,” Vermeil said. “You’ve got to experience some good fortune. You’ve got to have good luck. You’ve got to stay healthy. You can’t turn the ball over, a ball can’t get batted up in the air some time in a critical, tight, tight game, because there are so many other teams trying to do it as well as Andy’s doing it, it’s tough.”

And Vermeil knows all about what it takes. As I was listening to him, it was impossible not to notice the giant Super Bowl ring on his right hand.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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