The Eagles are just two weeks from the season opener against the Falcons at the Linc. But Thursday night will be the last time we see most of the starters before then.
So much of the preseason is about evaluating young talent and deciding who will make the roster. The third preseason game is slightly different. It's more of a dress rehearsal, where the starters play deeper into the game.
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That's what the Eagles are planning on Thursday night. Here's the plan from Doug Pederson (see story).
Here are 10 players to watch tonight:
In last week's game, Foles didn't play very well before he was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury early in the second quarter. Foles is OK after a brief scare and will start against the Browns. He's going to want to be better than he was last week when he went 3 for 9 for 44 yards.
Foles always talks about football being a rhythm and feel game for him. He wasn't able to find that last week. He's hoping to find it tonight. It would let some people relax a little bit if Foles looks good tonight, especially if he needs to start Week 1. Carson Wentz has said his return for Week 1 will be "close."
The young talented running back from Notre Dame missed last week's game with an ankle injury and also missed about a week of practice. That was a shame because he showed some flashes in that first preseason game. It was a nice surprise to see Adams back at practice on Tuesday. After practice, he said he expected to play.
Adams, Matt Jones and Wendell Smallwood are the only three running backs expected to play. Adams is the one I want to see the most.
But that doesn't mean I'm not going to watch Jones. After two years of Smallwood, I think I have seen enough of him. After Jones dropped three passes last week, he really needs to rebound. With his NFL experience, he should have been dominating late into last week's game and he didn't. Not even close. For a long time, I thought he was the favorite to win the fourth RB job; I don't think that any more.
These next two are obviously linked. Jim Schwartz said the nickel corner job will likely come down to the next two weeks. It seems like De'Vante Bausby isn't really in the competition anymore; it's turned into a two-man race between Maddox and Sidney Jones. Maddox is a fourth-round pick who has come on strong lately. Sure, he gave up a touchdown last week, but that was a tough ask, 1-on-1 in the red zone with Tom Brady at QB. Looking forward to seeing how he rebounds. With Ronald Darby in the final year of his contract, it's possible Jones and Maddox are starting next year. Jones outside and Maddox in the slot.
Speaking of Jones, he got absolutely roasted by Cordarrelle Patterson in that New England game. He's lucky his ankles weren't broken from that. But it happens. I still think Jones is supremely talented and is going to play a ton this year. That doesn't mean he won't take his lumps, but I think his talent eventually wins out. Hopefully, we'll see that tonight.
Big V had a terrible game against New England, but his comments about why were even more troubling. Vaitai admitted to reporters that he wasn't prepared the way he should have been after the Eagles won the Super Bowl. This is the first sign of a Super Bowl hangover we've seen, so the fear is real. Let's see if that was enough to wake up the left tackle. Vaitai will start this game and likely play a lot.
We're not sure if Hollins will play in this game; Pederson said they'd have to evaluate it. We did recently get a possible reason why Hollins has struggled this summer. According to a report from Adam Caplan, Hollins had sports hernia surgery this offseason. I guess that gives him a pass. He has been very disappointing this summer.
Ward is definitely a bubble guy, but I think he has a shot to make the roster if the Eagles keep six receivers. For a while, it looked like Kamar Aiken or Markus Wheaton, but both have been injured and a good preseason performance or two from a young receiver could help them make the roster. Ward will have the opportunity. Without Nelson Agholor in this game, Ward is probably going to start in the slot and get a ton of reps, even into the second half. Let's see what he can do.
For a long time the tight end race was settled. Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert and Richard Rodgers were on the team. But Rodgers suffered a knee injury in the last game and is now considered "week to week." That, combined with seeing him in a huge brace a couple days ago, makes me think he might not be ready for the opener. That leaves the possibility of a fourth tight end on the roster. And since Josh Perkins has been a little banged up, maybe this is finally time for Brown to step up a little. He hasn't done much of note all summer, but has a shot to be on the 53 now.
Tim Jernigan isn't going to be ready for the opener, so Ngata is probably going to start. Destiny Vaeao was taking first-team reps for a long time, but Ngata started last week and he'll probably start again tonight. I actually saw some good things from Ngata last week, so I want to see if he can keep it going. He blew up a run play and got doubled a few times. Let's see if he can do it again.