Eagles Wake-Up Call: Players To Watch vs. IND
The Eagles travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts at 7 p.m. tomorrow night. Here’s what I’ll be watching for:
It’s unclear how much the 23-year-old will play against the Colts, but he is slotted to play some snaps with the first-team offense. It sounds like Doug Pederson will give Green-Beckham a few more route concepts to focus on to not overwhelm the recent addition, but I anticipate Green-Beckham’s role to be similar to last week’s in that the Eagles will target him in the red zone. Expect another jump ball scenario for the young receiver on a fade route in the end zone, except this time Sam Bradford will likely give Green-Beckham a chance to make a play on the ball. I’d also like to see Green-Beckham catch a ball over the middle or be in a situation where he faces contact soon after the catch, because he’s a physical receiver who is sometimes very difficult to bring to the ground.
This will be the rookie running back’s first NFL game, but he shouldn’t be limited at all tomorrow night and he’s expected to play with the first-team offense. Smallwood has really impressed the Eagles’ coaches throughout the spring and summer by being a receiver out of the backfield, and the Birds need all of the help they can get in the passing game, so I expect Pederson will try getting Smallwood involved in that area of the game. I’m also going to keep a close eye on Smallwood’s pass protection, because that will play a significant role in how big of a niche he can carve out for himself in his first year. Kenjon Barner has had one of the best preseasons among players on both sides of the ball, so Pederson probably doesn’t need to see much more of him, allowing Smallwood to get some additional reps in Indianapolis.
At this point, it sure seems like the starting left guard spot is Isaac Seumalo’s to lose, but this is Wisniewski’s best shot to stake his claim. However, even if the veteran plays well, I’m not sure how open-minded the Birds will be about replacing Seumalo. The rookie took a clear step forward from his first game to his second, and more game reps is what will help his development the most, particularly when it doesn’t matter in the preseason. But Wisniewski has 77 NFL starts under his belt, and the Eagles clearly want to compete this season. Wisniewski hasn’t been very impressive during training camp and the preseason, but perhaps he makes this a legitimate competition again.
The Eagles’ starting quarterback played pretty well in the first half against Pittsburgh last week, but this is the best look we’ll get at Bradford before the regular season starts. The Colts will be without six of their cornerbacks tomorrow night, but both teams will be game-planning some for the other and we’ll — hopefully — see the Birds take some shots down the field. With Jordan Matthews out, I’m especially curious about the connection between Bradford and Green-Beckham, because Green-Beckham could give Bradford a dimension the quarterback hasn’t had much of in Philadelphia: a playmaker on the outside.
Carroll appeared to gain an edge in the starting cornerback competition with his impressive play last week, but do the Eagles think highly enough of him to not trade for someone else? Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports recently reported the Birds are “sniffing around on corners” to acquire, but Carroll could ease some concerns by continuing to stand out. It’s also not out of the question for Ron Brooks to still be the starter in Week 1, so Carroll could be competing both with guys who are and are not on the Eagles’ roster right now.
WHAT YOU MISSED
We said goodbye to Tim, and hello to BLG.
“It’s a big opportunity for me to go out there and show them why I’m here, what I came here to do.” Dorial Green-Beckham is excited to be a part of the first-team offense tomorrow night.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
With a roster spot on the line, Marcus Smith is showing signs of improvement, writes Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com.
Smith played just 68 snaps as a rookie, getting more than seven snaps in only four games. Last year, he played five or fewer snaps in nine of 16 games.
But new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has given Smith every opportunity to shine, and he liked what he saw in Pittsburgh.
“The thing I’m most proud about with Marcus is that he’s done a good job in the run game,” Schwartz said.
“He’s a very skilled athlete. He’s fast and he’s smooth. I think he was a quarterback when he first went to Louisville. I mean, that stuff shows. Where he’s really making good improvement is setting the edge of our defense [and] attacking tackles.
“He did that against a physical group from Pittsburgh. That was a great sign.”
Smith was asked about his run defense being an underrated part of his game, and he disagreed with the assessment.
“For myself, it’s not an underrated part, but everybody else thinks that it’s underrated because they see me as just a pass rusher,” he said.
Tommy Lawlor reviews the offense, including the running backs, in last week’s game against the Steelers.
Kenjon Barner – Another good game. 6-41-1 on the ground. I know stats can be deceiving, but they aren’t in this case. If anything, the numbers don’t tell you how well Barner is playing. Really good vision. He is seeing the field well and running to the right spots. Barner has the speed to get out wide when there is room. He’s tough enough and disciplined enough to run up the middle. He uses a good burst to get through the hole and up the field. He’s running through initial contact. Barner isn’t just lowering his head. His TD came on an inside run and he made a great cut in the hole to get away from a tackler. Really impressive summer for Barner.
Byron Marshall – Getting better. 8-18 on the ground. 2-19 as a receiver. Marshall is the RB who caught the hot read from [Chase] Daniel on the blitz play. Marshall ran a good route and made a smooth catch. Caught short pass on 3rd/9 and made LB miss, then got upfield for the 1st down. Looks very natural in space. Had to chip block on some plays and you can see that’s something he needs to work on. Makes contact, but doesn’t deliver a blow. More worried about getting out in the route. At his best when he can be elusive as a runner. Lacks the physicality to be an NFL RB right now, but that can be worked on. Numbers weren’t great due to serious penetration on multiple runs. Had nowhere to go. Talented, but needs work.
We’ll have a more extended look at Jaylen Watkins’ journey and his success so far in the preseason.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.