On July 25, the Eagles reported for the start of Training Camp. That seems like forever ago as the final preseason game is set for tonight when the Eagles host the New York Jets. For a vast majority of the starters, it's a night off. Nose tackle Bennie Logan said that he will play after missing the early portion of Training Camp as well as the first preseason game with a hamstring injury. Today's edition of 5 Things To Know Today looks at what to watch tonight ...
1. Matt Barkley Takes The Reins
Tonight, Matt Barkley will start his first game of any kind as an Eagle. The second-year quarterback is 20 of 32 (62.5 percent) for 242 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He was a perfect 4 of 4 in last week's win over Pittsburgh in a series that ended with a missed field goal. Barkley has looked much more comfortable running the offense. The biggest difference tonight, Barkley explained, is the opportunity to get into the flow of a game and have the chance to react to what the defense presents.
2. Lane's Last Stand (For Now)
Starting Monday, second-year tackle Lane Johnson is not allowed to be at the NovaCare Complex as he must begin serving his four-game suspension. Tonight will present Johnson's last opportunity to play or train with the team until the end of September. After initially thinking about remaining in the area, Johnson decided to go to a training facility in Dallas that one of the strength coaches recommended. He will be allowed to have contact with his teammates during the suspension. Johnson has anchored an outstanding second-team offensive line this preseason which has alleviated concerns entering Training Camp about the depth behind the starters.
3. Sorting Out The Skill Position Players
The starters at running back and wide receiver are set. What about the backups? At running back, it is unknown whether Chris Polk will suit up and play with the hamstring injury that has caused him to miss the first three preseason games. Kenjon Barner has now had a week to work in the offense after making his preseason debut for the team about 36 hours after arriving in Philadelphia. Matthew Tucker has scored four touchdowns and rookie free agent Henry Josey has looked impressive this preseason, also reaching the end zone.
Meanwhile at receiver, Brad Smith has worked his way back from a hamstring injury and Arrelious Benn was cleared to return from a concussion. Ifeanyi Momah has looked so much improved compared to last year. Damaris Johnson and Jeff Maehl have contributed to the team in the past and Will Murphy and Quron Pratt are also battling for roster spots.
4. Feeling The Heat At Outside Linebacker
Linebacker Brandon Graham is tied for the team lead in sacks this preseason and defensive coordinator Bill Davis said that it's "pretty close" between Graham and Trent Cole with regards as to whom will start.
This week, Graham had some sage advice for rookie first-round pick Marcus Smith II. Smith's athleticism and ability to drop back in coverage has been evident this preseason. The technical part of rushing the passer is the one area Smith has worked hard behind the scenes at improving, including post-training session workouts with former Pro Bowl tackle Tra Thomas. Smith could provide key depth for the Eagles this season and tonight should offer a barometer of how far he's developed.
5. Who Will Win The Kicker Battle?
While Barner had just over a day to adjust to his new surroundings, rookie free agent kicker Cody Parkey had even less time. He was traded to the Eagles last Wednesday and met head coach Chip Kelly for the first time in the locker room prior to the Steelers game. Parkey kicked off twice and scored on an extra point. Parkey will get a long look tonight as the team decides whether to go with him and/or incumbent Alex Henery, who has had success in his first three seasons but struggled this preseason missing two of his three field goal attempts.