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Players Value Preseason Reps

Posted Aug 6, 2014

Earl Wolff gets it. He knows that a job is there to be won at safety, and to win it, he must perform well in preseason games ...

Earl Wolff gets it. He knows that a job is there to be won at safety, and to win it, he must perform well in preseason games.

If not, well, Wolff is taking the positive approach.

"These games are a chance for me to play well and give the coaches confidence that I can be the starter and that I can be counted in," said Wolff, who has been jockeying for a starting safety spot alongside Malcolm Jenkins all summer. "I'm really excited about playing against Chicago. Last year ended on a sour note with me. I wasn't healthy. Now I feel good and I'm ready to get out there and show how much better of a player I am."

Even for someone like running back LeSean McCoy, who comes off a season in which he led the NFL in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage and who could certainly carry an attitude of "I don't need the preseason," these games are valuable. Play a handful of snaps, get a touch or two and then call it a night. That's fine for a player like McCoy, who is only concerned with his timing and his game conditioning.

For much of the rest of the Eagles' roster, the preseason that begins on Friday night in Chicago (8 PM, 6abc in Philadelphia) carries some heft. Only 53 of the 90 players on the roster are going to make the team, so there is the idea of winning a roster spot, and these games are obviously hugely important spotlight moments.

Beyond that, there is a matter of timing and cohesiveness and generally just knocking the rust off that provides importance for these preseason games.

"It's been a long time since we played a game so it's a chance to run around out there and get used to the way an NFL game is played," said veteran tight end Brent Celek. "Every chance you go play on an NFL field in a game, you want to put your best foot forward and play the best you can. 

"The games don't count in the standings. We understand that. But guys are fighting for jobs and the competition is real out there."

Rookie cornerback Jaylen Watkins has come a long way since the Eagles made him a fourth-round pick in May's draft. He's improved his technique and his understanding of the defense. He feels like he's in the NFL and his play has improved exponentially.

What is the pace of Friday's game going to be like for Watkins, given the general thinking that a game has more tempo than Training Camp and the regular season is faster than the preseason and a playoff game is at an entirely different level ...

"The way we practice, with the tempo we have every day, I don't see how it could be faster in a preseason game," said Watkins, smiling. "I feel like I'm prepared for anything. I'm coming along, making progress. Now I can play against different players and a different offense. I'm excited about it."

So what are the key areas to watch on Friday night? Let's be honest: Isn't everything worthy of full attention and analysis? Is there a single position you don't want to see?

"We've been practicing against the same faces since the spring, so seeing new guys on the other side of the ball is going to be refreshing," said cornerback Cary Williams. "I'm going to go out there and have fun and play good football and then root on the rest of the team."

Even for those players on the roster "bubble," the preseason holds enormous importance: Every rep taken is an opportunity to put a repertoire for the entire league to see and evaluate.

"There are 32 teams in the league," said running back Henry Josey. "Of course you want to be with the team that you're with now, but you have to know that this is the time to put on tape what you can do. Every team is looking at every play. These games are really important. They're going to mean the difference between making it on a roster or not."

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