- Phil Sheridan, ESPN Staff Writer
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The suspense at quarterback is over, but there are still some interesting things to look for when the Philadelphia Eagles play the Jacksonville Jaguars tonight in Jacksonville. Here is a handy user’s guide to the proceedings:
Now that he has the starting job, how will Michael Vick fare in what figures to be the closest thing to regular-season action he’ll see before opening day? Chip Kelly isn’t going to unveil his entire playbook, but he does need to see Vick work the no-huddle offense and run some more complex plays. Under new head coach Gus Bradley -- who was in Philadelphia to interview with the Eagles when Kelly suddenly accepted the head coaching job -- the Jaguars' defense will likely show a bit more complexity, as well.‘Twas the blitz that derailed Vick after his 2010 burst of excellence. It is the blitz he is going to have to solve if he’s going to thrive in Kelly’s offense.
Over the years, the Eagles have had plenty of first-round offensive tackles who looked like they were in slow-motion in their first preseason. Lane Johnson, the No. 4 overall pick, has not. He hasn’t been perfect, but he has been very solid.“It’s great to know where Lane is now is a starting point,” left guard Evan Mathis said. “It’s a great starting point.”
Johnson will have to deal with former Eagles defensive end Jason Babin, who goes all-out for the quarterback on every snap. That should be a good test, since learning to pass-block at this level is the biggest adjustment for a young offensive lineman.
There is plenty to watch along the offensive line. Jason Peters plays in his first game since the end of the 2011 season. The big left tackle has to get a feel for Kelly’s scheme, as well as rushing to the line of scrimmage after every play. Since he has a knack for getting downfield on run plays, that could be an adjustment. And then there is Danny Watkins. The former first-round pick didn’t play last week because of a concussion. When right guard Todd Herremans missed practice this week because of a sore knee, it was Allen Barbre, not Watkins, who practiced in his place. There’s no other way to put it: Watkins is fighting for his NFL career at this point.
It will also be intriguing to watch how Kelly deploys his tight ends. They figure to be a big part of this offense, but the entire group caught just four passes for 57 yards against Carolina last week. James Casey, the free agent brought in from Houston, wasn’t even targeted. Kelly isn’t going to show his hand, of course, but we’re hungry for every clue about how this offense is going to look in the regular season. There might be a few more clues in this game.
And yes, the Eagles have a defense. For all the fascination around Kelly and the offense, Bill Davis’ squad will have much to say about how this season goes. Last week, Davis gave linebacker Mychal Kendricks some opportunities to blitz. He is likely to test a few more of his guys, especially the safeties, in order to see exactly what they’ll be capable of once the real game-planning starts.It would be nice for Davis, and for Eagles fans, to see a big play or two by anyone in the secondary.