Eagles Wake-Up Call: What We’ll Be Watching

What to look for in the Eagles-Bucs matchup.

Jalen Mills. (Jeff Fusco)

Jalen Mills. (Jeff Fusco)

The Eagles open up the preseason tonight with a 7 o’clock home game against the Bucs. Here’s what we’ll be watching:

Right tackle, obviously.

Lane Johnson has not been suspended as of yet, and even if he were, he’d still be able to take part in preseason activities. With news swirling of a failed drug test, though, the Eagles have to weigh how to proceed here as they get ready for the start of the regular season. The team has been quiet on the Johnson front and hasn’t said if he will suit up tonight. While the Johnson camp hadn’t received definitive word as of Wednesday afternoon, its assumption was that the Eagles would play him.

Either way, the first team likely won’t be on the field long and Doug Pederson will want to get a look at some possible replacements should Johnson be unavailable to him. Dennis Kelly is listed as the backup at right tackle on the unofficial depth chart with Halapoulivaati Vaitai behind him. The Eagles could also try Andrew Gardner or Allen Barbre in that spot. The more reps the better for these candidates, just in case.

Left guard competition.

One potential solution (and perhaps the best one) if Johnson is out is to move Barbre to right tackle and have Stefen Wisniewski start at left guard. We’ll see if Jeff Stoutland and Pederson decide to go that route if the situation calls for it. If not, Barbre and Wisniewski will both be vying for the starting LG spot. Right now Barbre is in front, though a standout showing from the Penn State product this preseason could narrow the gap.

Corner battle.

Ron Brooks has gotten the majority of the first-team reps opposite Leodis McKelvin during training camp. (In nickel, Brooks slides inside and Nolan Carroll takes his place.) It looks like his job to lose at the moment, but perhaps Carroll can help change Jim Schwartz’s mind over the next several weeks.

The wildcard in all of this is Jalen Mills, the confident seventh-round pick out of LSU that has held his own in camp to this point. He’ll get plenty of work during the preseason and there’s a good chance he opens some eyes.

Carson Wentz.

He may be a little ways away from starting, but nothing is as important to the health of this franchise than the development of No. 11. The Eagles have been tweaking his mechanics. Given that he’s working through technical adjustments and attempting to absorb an NFL playbook all at once, it would be unfair to expect excellence right out of the chute. But it would ease some minds if he showed some flashes of it here and there.

“I just want to play smart. Lots of completions – completions is the biggest thing and really manage the offense, control the game and show my leadership capabilities and make plays when plays are there to be made,” said Wentz, who is expected to play most of the second half. “I’m not going to worry about statistics or anything. I just want to play smart and execute.”

Receiver rotation.

Jordan Matthews is out, meaning all the more reps for the rest of the receivers. And they could use them. All eyes will be on Nelson Agholor in search of signs that he’s ready to take a step forward. Rueben Randle will look to build off his solid camp, Chris Givens can establish himself as this team’s primary deep threat while Josh Huff needs to make a case for why he should be a significant part of rotation. It’s also worth watching Paul Turner, the 5-10, 193-pounder out of Louisiana Tech who has drawn praise from the coaching staff for his performance on the fields of NovaCare. Now he has an opportunity to prove his skills translate in a game setting.


Our Twitter Mailbag question talks about the Lane Johnson situation.

Other questions surrounding Johnson, including who will replace him if he is suspended and regarding guaranteed money in his contract.


What we know about rookie QB Carson Wentz after the past two-and-a-half weeks of training camp, from Jeff McLane of the Inquirer.

Perhaps there has been an indicator of either future success or failure, but not even a football savant could declare with any certainty how Wentz will ultimately perform. No one knows how he’ll fare in his preseason debut Thursday night, let alone once he becomes the Eagles’ starter.

But Wentz has about 30 practices in the book since May, and almost any objective observer would have likely made the following evaluations of the 23-year old after his first three months in the NFL:

He has a right arm that is more than strong enough to make all the necessary throws.

He is an above-average athlete for a quarterback.

He can be an effective thrower on the move – perhaps partly because of that athleticism.

He can be inaccurate and needs to work on ball placement.

When he has missed receivers on intermediate-length routes, the passes have tended to sail high.

He has a tendency to hold the ball too long in and out of the pocket.

After a surreal tragedy when he was 12 years old, long snapper Jon Dorenbos has turned that into magic, writes Joseph Santoliquito for PhillyVoice.

Jon has always found refuge through his magic. It’s been the great healing elixir. It’s helped Dorenbos cope with the passing years, each a little easier to endure than the next.

“There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think of my mother,” Jon says. “What happened to my mom was 24 years ago, and I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t still hurt. I wish she could see all the good things I’m doing now. I think that’s what hurts the most. But you also have to heal and time — and my magic — have helped me get through it. You never really get through it. I see my mom all the time and everywhere. It’s how I choose to live.

“I’ve been very fortunate. I have two great careers that I love. But I never wanted either one to define me. I’m passionate about football and I’m passionate about magic. Both have saved my life. I don’t know where I would be without football, and I definitely don’t know where I would be without magic. I have a lot of fun doing both and it’s a great balance. The fact that I’m able to do what I love to do is really all I wanted. Whenever my time comes, I want to die happy. The two things I love doing have made me happy, but it’s also important to me that it makes a lot of people happy — especially kids.”

In a sense, Dorenbos was robbed of his childhood.

On Tuesday’s episode of Hard Knocks, viewers found out why former Rams and current Eagles receiver Deon Long was cut from the team, from Jonathan Tannenwald of Philly.com.

The show included footage of the meeting where [Jeff] Fisher told Long he was being cut.

“What part of the rules, what part of ‘no female guests in the room,’ did you not understand?” Fisher said.

Fisher later met with the team and told them he had no plans for the Rams to be mediocre (meaning a record of 9-7, 8-8 or 7-9).

Fisher told the team of Long’s violation of the rules and why he was cut: “We had some 7-9 [stuff] this morning and we can’t have that. Deon is gone. That is 7-9 [stuff] and we don’t need it.”


How about some football? Eagles-Bucs at 7.

Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.