Wednesday, August 28, 2013
(Almost) 5 things to watch: Eagles-Jets
By Phil Sheridan
If there are five things to watch in a preseason finale, these are probably the things to watch when the Eagles play the New York Jets on Thursday night at the Meadowlands:
1. Matt Barkley’s summer swan song: Nick Foles will start the game, according to Chip Kelly’s plan. The guess here is Foles will be out of there after a series or two. Barkley, the fourth-round pick from USC, will be next up at quarterback.
That’s probably the last time you’ll see Barkley for a while. For all those five-QBs-throwing-at-once drills Kelly has been running throughout camp, the regular season is about preparing the No. 1 quarterback for each week’s opponent. Michael Vick will get most of the work, while Foles gets enough to be ready in case he’s needed.
Barkley will barely practice unless he moves up the depth chart because of an injury or other catastrophe.
Even more interesting (maybe just to me): Will Kelly play Dennis Dixon or G.J. Kinne at all? It seems strange to expose those two to injury when they are almost certain to be released this weekend. Of course, it seems strange to carry five quarterbacks on a 75-man roster.
How strange? Only two other teams, Jacksonville and Buffalo, have five. Both of those teams have injured starters and real question marks as backups. Ten teams had four quarterbacks as of Wednesday afternoon. Most of the league -- 22 teams -- carried just three.
Seems like a minor thing, but with so much competition at other positions, every roster spot counts.
2. The first-round picks whose pedigree means nothing: Kelly’s clean-slate approach to evaluating players means guys like Danny Watkins didn’t have any strikes against them. But it also means Kelly doesn’t care that Watkins was a first-round pick, or that the Eagles traded up to get Brandon Graham instead of Jason Pierre-Paul.
Kelly is just going by what he sees on the field and in the film room.
Neither of those guys is a starter, which says something, so they should get a fair amount of playing time in the last tune-up game.
Graham, who is making the awkward transition from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker, appears safer than Watkins. He has made strides at his new position and, frankly, there isn’t a lot of fierce competition there.
“It could be better,” Graham said of his coverage skills. “I’m not a pro at that, but I’m trying. My heart’s in the right direction. That’s all I can manage. All I can do is compete. Whatever happens, happens.”
At worst, Graham could be used situationally to rush the passer from different spots on the field.
There is much stiffer competition along the offensive line. Allen Barbre can play tackle and guard. He’s likely to start at tackle, leaving Watkins to start in one of the guard spots. A poor game really could result in Watkins being released.
3. Keep an eye on Everette Brown: He hasn’t gotten much attention this summer, but Brown is a former second-round pick (Carolina, 2009). He’s another DE/OLB tweener.
He’s worth watching because Pro Football Focus pointed out that, in 22 snaps, Brown had a sack, a hit and two hurries. He earned a +2.6 grade from PFF. Not bad for a guy who has been under the radar. When and how he is used will indicate whether the Eagles coaches were as impressed.
4. The safety position: Yes, yes, you’ve heard way too much this week about Nate Allen and Earl Wolff. They will both get a chance to win the starting safety job alongside Patrick Chung.
Advice: Make a play, somebody. A big hit, an interception, anything. The first guy who looks like he can make an impact should start.
5. The clock: When it hits zero, the preseason is officially over and the countdown to Sept. 9 begins in earnest. Finally.