Wake-Up Call: Let the (Preseason) Games Begin

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

The Eagles play their first exhibition game of the 2014 season tonight in Chicago at 8 p.m. (et) on 6ABC. Here’s a position-by-position preview:

Quarterback




Chip Kelly expects the first team to play 10-15 snaps. Nick Foles' night will be done before long, then, giving Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley extended time at the controls. There's a good chance Sanchez, currently the No. 2 QB on the roster, could see playing time at some point this season so getting him ready is no small matter.

Will this be a new-look Sanchez given the system that he's running?

"Yeah. I think it will be good because we move around quite a bit and I'm comfortable doing that," he said. "I'm comfortable playing at a fast pace, I really enjoy the tempo and the speed of things. Hopefully you'll see an improved guy, a six-year veteran ready to play well."

We recently wrote about what this means for Barkley.

Receivers

Riley Cooper (foot) is not expected to play. Jeremy Maclin said he is “100 percent” going to be out there Friday night. Kelly was less committal. Either way, the rest of the receiving corps is going to get plenty of work.

It will be the first time we get to see rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff in game action. Matthews will also be playing the role of head trainer, scoreboard operator and side judge in this one. Shouldn't be a problem.

Brad Smith looks like he’s in position to make the roster. There could be one more slot up for grabs, with the likes of Jeff Maehl, Ifeanyi Momah and Arrelious Benn competing for it.

“We want our guys to be able to go in and function, get lined up quickly, run the right routes.  When it's time to block, block, and do all the things we ask on the perimeter,” said Pat Shurmur. “Then when it's time, when you put the shiny pants on and the lights are bright, now what you want to see them do is when the ball comes their way, can they actually make a play?  Those are the things you see.  Because sometimes guys will be out here on the practice field doing excellent jobs, and then when the lights are bright, not so good.  So that's what we want to see.”

Maehl (ankle) just recently got out of a walking boot. Seems unlikely he would play.

Running back

When LeSean McCoy was asked what he is hoping to get out of these preseason games, he responded: "Not too much playing time." Think he'll get his wish. We get to see Darren Sproles operating in (a watered-down version of) Kelly's system for the first time. Chris Polk is out with a hamstring injury. This is an opportunity for Matthew Tucker to help build a case for why he should be part of the 53-man. David Fluellen and Henry Josey are both considered long shots.

Tight ends

The top three spots are pretty well spoken for. Emil Igwenagu is the favorite to make it if they decide to keep four. Blake Annen and Trey Burton are the other TEs on the roster. Many fans will be looking for signs that show Zach Ertz is developing. I think you'll be happy with what you see.

Offensive line

With Lane Johnson facing a four-game suspension, Allen Barbre will be running with the ones at right tackle. Will definitely be keeping an eye on him. Lots of questions about depth. Julian Vandervelde is out with a back injury and could be sidelined for some time. What does David Molk look like at center? What do rookies Karim Barton (G), Josh Andrews (G), Donald Hawkins (G) and Kevin Graf (T) have to offer? Is veteran tackle Andrew Gardner an option? How has Michael Bamiro developed? How do Matt Tobin and Dennis Kelly look? The Eagles have a lot of sorting out to do here.

Defensive line

Bennie Logan has not been a full participant during team drills because of a nagging hamstring. Beau Allen has received a lot of the reps at nose tackle and has made an impression on the coaching staff. Fellow rookie Taylor Hart has also stood out. These are two players to watch tonight.

Damion Square and Joe Kruger have been pretty quiet so far this summer. They could use a big showing here.

Linebackers

This is a tough position (both outside and inside) to get a feel for in a practice setting. Najee Goode will likely be asked to contribute this year. Jake Knott is suspended for the first four games so somebody (Emmanuel Acho?) will need to jump into the other reserve role. All eyes will be on first-round pick Marcus Smith on the outside. His athleticism is apparent. Now we get to see how it looks in a game setting. Also worth taking a look at Travis Long, who could make a push for a roster spot.

Cornerbacks

Camp standout Nolan Carroll will not suit up because of an injury. (Kelly said Carroll is being bothered by either his hamstring or groin. Guessing he knows which.) That's a bit of a bummer. Rookie Jaylen Watkins will play, though. A chance to check out the rookie out of Florida. Curtis Marsh has enjoyed a nice camp and will look to keep the positive momentum going.

Safety

Nate Allen and Earl Wolff are competing for the starting spot opposite Malcolm Jenkins. Allen is currently ahead of Wolff on the (somewhat meaningless) preseason depth chart. Chances are these preseason games will factor into Billy Davis' thinking when deciding who to start opening day. Rookie Ed Reynolds is still playing catch up and hasn't stood out much at camp. A chance for him to get on the radar.

Kicker

Carey Spear could get a kick or two but it sounds like Alex Henery will get the  bulk of the work. He's been focused on increasing his leg strength this offseason. Let's see if he looks any different.

WHAT YOU MISSED

I addressed Jordan Matthews and the cornerback situation in my latest mailbag.

Kapadia's 53-man roster projection doesn't include Brandon Graham.

Sheil provided a rookie progress report the day before their first NFL game.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

LeSean McCoy is the most indispensable non-QB in the NFL, says Field Yates of ESPN Insider:

The Eagles have an intriguing group of running backs, but we're not breaking any news in saying McCoy is a rare breed. The Eagles don't huddle on offense, and part of what catalyzes their operation is the ability to keep an opposing defensive grouping on the field by not subbing their own personnel; having McCoy on the roster is a fundamental part of that strategy, given his versatility as a three-down back.

McCoy does everything as a running back, and does so at an elite level. The Eagles don't have a backup who has proven he can handle the full workload that McCoy does. Darren Sproles is an effective pass-catcher and Chris Polk is an interesting power plunger, but McCoy triggers that O by doing it all.

McCoy thinks he's poised for a monster season.

COMING UP

We'll both be in Chicago for the game and will have you covered. Looking forward to seeing a little football.

Don't forget to pre-order your Eagles Almanac.

PDF: $10

Paperback: $25

PRE-ORDER SPECIAL: $40

Josh Paunil contributed to this post.

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  • Chip

    All 2000 of his yards will come against the Cowgirls…

    • JosephR2225

      You really think Shady sits out the 2nd Cowboys game?

      • TjPup

        THAT was funny…

  • cliff h-MOAR white goons

    whew, made it! Eagles football is back!!!
    .
    anyone watch Cowboys (reading btb and ‘efense sounds worse than i even hoped for) or racist potatoes?

    • airgreen7

      I watched a piece of both. ‘allas looks horrible on ‘efense. Weeden did a good job but their oline needs some work. For what I saw from the team I refuse to acknowledge, it seems that RGknee will have to change his name to checkdown charlie because of their oline…but djacc was on the sidelines so we might have to wait until he is actually in a game to make a fair assessment.

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        thanks, nice. saw couple of Wash it wasnt a racist slur 80 yrs ago so we are good highlites on ESPN, and was only checkdowns, where RG3-10’s form looked terrible. was half expecting the highlite to be a pick6.
        .
        Oline, eh, that’s supposed to be strength. mean rookie G isnt going to walk into NFL and dominate? who knew? plus RT is bit of an issue.

      • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

        I saw all I needed to saw of ‘allas on one play. SD Running play to the left, RB made one guy miss, tackle made a great down field block to allow for a nice jump cut to the outside, RB runs over some ‘allas safety named Dixon to finish a 15 yard run and the safety gets up and starts jawing at him…. DUDE, your defense just gave up four straight plays of 10 or more yards including that last 15 yard run, and you got run over… why on earth are you talkin smack? Coaching down there is great.

        • cliff h-MOAR white goons

          LOL…over at BTB, they love that play/player. said he’s the one hitter on ‘efense and was playing with some edge. ‘Allas’ LBrs sound absolutely awful.
          .
          think eagles can run for 300 against them?

          • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

            He had some edge, sure. I’m just not a fan of hot-dogging while you’re getting pile driven down the field.

          • cliff h-MOAR white goons

            it’s false brevado. it’s like fake hustle. only clueless people fall for that crap (95% of ‘Allas fans). like CWills pushing down Pratt or Boone. it’s meaningless.
            .
            imagine Dawks, he’d get and yell at DL and LB that got embarrassed.

          • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

            Exactly. Dawkins would be pissed that he even had to make that tackle (and he damn sure wouldn’t have gotten run over). He never did that crap on a big gainer because he know his unit failed. He didn’t care about his individual play. That’s why the man is a sure fire HOF’er in my book and should be first ballot.

          • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

            You mean 300 in one game right? Because there’s no doubt that we can run for 150 in both games. Hell, might even run for 300 in each game if they don’t find a way to fix it.

          • knighn

            They’ll fix it by selling out to stop the run. And Nick Foles will pass for 700 yards and 9 TDs… in Three Quarters.

          • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

            Why would he play the third quarter after doing that by halftime?

          • knighn

            No need to go full speed against that ‘efense!

          • Amar, CB who bought in

            Eagles get Monday and Tuesday off before the Cowgals game on Thursday.

          • cliff h-MOAR white goons

            so you are saying my dream of hanging half a hungde by HT is a real possibility.

          • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

            Would seem that way if ‘Allas can’t find the “D”

          • peteike

            ha, you guys are optimistic as all get out. Even with that awful D they played us well in both games last year. I didnt get it, for some reason they had our number a little bit and slowed us down. Even worse D this season yet Im not counting on a crushing victory until I see it. They do it in first game then Ill expect it in second game.

          • aub32

            I think their offense will put up a fight if Romo can play. However, I don’t see the D stifles this rushing attack. You make a good point about how we didn’t exactly crush them to end the season. I’m hoping our line is better with experience shows in a big way.

          • peteike

            ya it all looks great on paper and we should crush. I was just surprised we didnt last year and it couldnt be explained. Maybe its that div rivalry magic in a bad way

    • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

      I usually don’t read a lot of those “other sites”, but this gem had to get copy pasted…

      “The Dallas Cowboys defense was in midseason form Thursday night in a 27-7 loss to the San Diego Chargers in Week 1 of theNFL preseason.

      In fact, the Chargers didn’t even throw an incomplete pass until the fourth quarter and finished with 395 total yards.”

      • anon

        Yeah that was great to watch.

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        really the only guy who didnt play that can change things all that much is Melton. guy is good, but not sure he’s all world. plus coming off injury. sounds like Romo better get that back 100% squared away, only chance is to win in a shootout.

        • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

          Yea Melton is good. He’s not a game changer. The only way he’ll significantly help their “D” is with a 15 sack season and a whole bunch more pressures. I don’t see him as THAT good.

          • cliff h-MOAR white goons

            no, and certainly not with the garabage they have around him. plus, they are showing no signs of having any depth, and inferior talent gets hurt at a higher rate. big people beat up little people, big good players beat up big average players…beat up people end up on DL. by week 8 Cowboys will be knee deep in reserves and fans will be complaining and using that as an excuse. F i hate ‘Allas fans!!!

          • dnabrice

            Yeah. People can double Melton and not worry about the other guys.

          • cliff h-MOAR white goons

            better yet, Kelly will make Melton the read guy, and send Mathis, Peters and a pulling Kelce loose on a series of doubling teams.

        • aub32

          He’s good, but is he an upgrade from Hatcher? If not then they are in a worse spot than last year.

          • cliff h-MOAR white goons

            best is they have absolutely convinced themselves that current ‘efense is better off without Ware. DW might not be ’10 or ’11 version, but he still can play. offenses least gameplanned for him.

          • aub32

            Exactly. He finished off the season hurt and playing poorly, but he was a big help to some of their early wins. We was a force against the Giants in that first meeting. Their LBs are even worse than their front. I don’t see how they stop run first teams, of which they will face several.

          • dnabrice

            Maybe Shady can break a record against them and go for 300 with 4 TDs….

          • Amar, CB who bought in

            Ware on the other hand sacked Russel wilson on the 3rd play from scrimmage.

  • 370HSSV 0773H

    The #1 player I’m watching tonight – Nick Foles.

  • Andy

    I know I’m going to put my shiny pants on for the game tonight!

    • knighn

      “I don’t always wear pants, but when I do… they are shiny pants.”
      The Most Interesting Man Alive.

  • knighn

    Does preseason matter? Somewhat. It can give coaches and fans an idea of what problems may be looming. It gives young players and depth players a chance to make an impression… perhaps to move up the chart.

    But remember – there is a danger in placing too much weight on the results of the Preseason:
    The Lions were 4-0 in the 2008 preseason and went 0-16.
    Then Saints were 3-1 in the 2009 preseason and won the Super Bowl.
    The Packers were 2-2 in 2010 preseason and won the Super Bowl.
    The Giants were 2-2 in 2011 preseason and won the Super Bowl.
    The Ravens were 2-2 in 2012 preseason and won the Super Bowl.

    And for the example nearest and dearest to our hearts:
    The Eagles were 1-3 in the 2004 preseason and went to the Super Bowl.
    The Eagles were 4-0 in the 2012 preseason and went 4-12.

    • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

      All you’ve illustrated is that preseason wins and losses don’t matter. The games do matter though. Coaches need to see their players go in a live situation to determine depth charts. If you don’t think depth charts matter then you’re in trouble lol.

      • MagatBrackendale

        “Chip Kelly would not approve of this exercise.
        Asked yesterday about the Eagles’ depth chart, he said: “Seriously, the depth chart, I don’t care. I think [Eagles PR Director] Derek [Boyko] did it. I mean, it’s absolutely nothing. I know we’re going to get questions on it, and I’ll be honest with you, I do not care how that’s listed.”

        Posted yesterday on this blog.

    • Corey Dawson

      Duh? There’s very little game planning by the coaches as far as trying to beat the other team, especialyl in the early preseason games. They’re too busy teaching players the offense/defense and evaulating their own guys all week. The only thing they’re interested in doing is running their base plays to see how the players perform. Anyone who takes any stock in wins/losses in the preseason doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Any scoring on your part is just as likely due to a screw up by a new guy on the other side of the ball as it is someone on your side making a play.

      • knighn

        Duh.

    • RIP illa

      Anyone placing any emphasis on the outcome is crazy. But everything in between is important (IMO). Take the Pats for example. They handled the skins during there joint practices, then got totally handle during the preseason game. However, when the season starts, they’ll be back to handling teams. They’re like that almost every year.

      • knighn

        Crazy? You mean like at least half of our fans?

        • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

          Hey now – at least 75% of us are crazy. Give credit where it’s due buddy.

          • knighn

            Sports Highlights don’t help things either. I have a decent commute, about 35 to 45 minutes. I often will flip through the stations, and occasionally listen to WIP, ESPN and the NFL network on SiriusXM.
            What do they talk about as “news” on the NFL Network this morning? The pre-season game scores. And that was about it. If that’s all the casual fan hears as news, he’s going to start believing that the final pre-season score actually matters!

          • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

            I like mad dog sports radio on siriusXM, channel 85. I don’t like mad dog himself or steve torre, but the morning guys are good.

            I hear you though – the NFL actually acts like the outcome counts; it doesn’t. The game play sure does though. Maybe not to a casual fan, but to us hardcore fanatics it absolutely does.

          • knighn

            Good to know. Thanks! I know Angelo Cataldi and the WIP morning show is mostly useless, but I listen to it anyway. Sometimes there is a nugget of good info mixed in with all of the nonsense. I like Mike and Mike on ESPN… when they’re actually both there, but sometimes their replacements are just as good. I’ll have to start checking out channel 85.

            As for “the game play sure does” – sometimes. Is it truly #1s against #1s? How hard are the coaches trying? How hard are the players trying? Sometimes you will see coaches and players treat it like another practice and sometimes you will see coaches and players treat it like an actual game! I like the pre-season because it is the closest thing to actual football… but it still isn’t actual football.

          • aub32

            NFLN has been like that for quite some time now. I remember being excited when NFL AM came out. Finally some legit football as I get ready for work and not just reruns of yesterday’s total access. hen they spend the majority of time dancing or talking about Sanchez’s headband. What a disappointment.

          • cliff h-MOAR white goons

            but i REALLY hate that headband!

          • knighn

            Maybe Chip can get Sanchez to upgrade to a visor?!

  • JofreyRice

    Did McCoy actually underachieve last year? I think 2000 yards is definitely in the realm of possibility.

    This may have already been out there, but Chip Kelly has fielded a rushing offense with the highest yards per carry for 3 straight years, spanning the Eagles & Oregon. Top 5 for total rushing yards during that span, as well (when you get to the NCAA level you factor in teams that do essentially nothing BUT run, like Air Force & Army).

    The Eagles have that mind married up to one of the top 2 or 3 RBs on the entire planet at the moment.

    • cliff h-MOAR white goons

      yup. better downfield blocking and yr knowing the correct lane to pick, and in defenses are going to have to respect wr screne alot more, this could get ugly. especially if he’s a step quicker too.

  • JofreyRice

    If I didn’t trust in the Eagles process of monitoring injuries through data collection, I’d be a little more concerned about Maclin not playing. As it is, just for a confidence standpoint, you’d like to see him out there. This is the knee, right? I don’t think it’s “great” news that it’s been sore enough to hold him out a week for, but like I said, maybe they’re just being precautious based on the data.

    Even with a heavy dose of Mark Sanchez, I’m still pretty excited to see the 2014 Eagles in action!

    • cliff h-MOAR white goons

      think his legs are just sore from running, havent heard anything about his knee being an issue. last thing you want is muscles weakened around the knee. give it 2 weeks, if still issue then we need to talk. no need to run the guy into the ground now, long season.

  • peteike

    man, this game isnt on TV anywhere for us out of towners. I hate those illegal streaming sites but may have to go that route or just follow online comments.

    • JofreyRice

      If you can wait, NFL Network is doing a rebroadcast on Sat at 1pm. Between connecting my surface to the TV and paying the $20 fee for a lower quality feed, I’m thinking of just waiting until then. Kinda sucks that it’s not included in the NFL Season ticket I pay DirecTV for.

      • Max Lightfoot

        Thanks JR! I’m in the same boat, being in the Land of Enchantment (New Mexico). Saturday night it is!

        • peteike

          what are you guys smokin? waiting to watch it, no way Im following as it goes I just cant not do that. I will DVR it though to watch a bit and fast forward but maybe thats what you meant.

          • Max Lightfoot

            I’m not even in town to watch it tonight, even if I could, which I can’t, so I’ll wait. It’s a preseason practice game. We talkin’ ’bout PRACTICE …

          • peteike

            ha very true and its better to watch it then read about it for sure. I guess its first game, preseason or not so Im overly excited. Of course after about 2 possessions you remember its preseason and it kind of blows.

        • MagatBrackendale

          It’s Saturday morning. 10:00 a.m. PST.

    • cliff h-MOAR white goons

      which site do you use? best i found is wiziwig, it’ll show 10 or 12 sometime more different streaming sites. just click thru till find the best one.

      • peteike

        Ill check it out, sounds same as one I use, p2p4u. They have a bunch of options to click on and try for same show/game