It's time for the preseason to begin, and with that, well, everything changes for the Philadelphia Eagles. Seeing the New York Jets on the other side of the line of scrimmage on Friday night (7:30 PM kickoff, NBC10 in Philadelphia) means everything to a team that has been going at it, Eagles vs. Eagles, since the spring. The personnel is new, the calls will be unique, and, yes, the tempo for a preseason game will be ratcheted up here.
Welcome to real football, preseason style! We're going to look at everything, of course, but let's pick out a few particulars for the first of three preseason games ...
1. Starters finding some early success
Head Coach Nick Sirianni said on Wednesday that the starters could play one or two series, which is not a lot of time to do much of anything other than to knock off some rust and gain a taste of the preseason. Then again, some early success would go a long way. Should the offense get out there and string together some first downs, well, that would be fantastic. You'd love to see some rhythm established out of the preseason gates.
Same with the defense – get some quick stops and get off the field and the night would be a rousing success. We know how the preseason goes and how sometimes these things go sideways, but it's always good to keep the broader goals in mind: Get out there and get some work in and get off the field healthy and everyone is happy. That's the true bottom line of a preseason contest.
2. Cam Jurgens and the rookie class making preseason debuts
With Jason Kelce sidelined after having a procedure on his right elbow, second-round draft pick Cam Jurgens steps into the starting lineup at the center position. He's jumping right in, and that's just fine with the Nebraska product who has gained positive reviews from the coaching staff and his offensive line teammates throughout Training Camp. Now, Jurgens takes his game to a new level, so it's going to be exciting to see how he fares with what the Jets do up front, with the size they bring to the table and the aggressiveness they've played with – the Eagles saw it last season in joint practices and a road win at MetLife Stadium.
Defensive tackle Jordan Davis said it was "a dream come true" to make his preseason debut, so he's excited, and the rest of the Draft Class will get plenty of reps to see how it goes against the new tempo and a new team. How much of an impact will the rookies have this season? Friday night is a great test to see how they acclimate to the NFL game environment.
3. On special teams, it's live!
You know the routine by now: While the tempo at the Training Camp practices is high and the execution is crisp, look, it's just not "live." Michael Clay is outstanding at simulating game action, but it's not truly game action. The preseason is, so Clay gets a chance to see how his return game and coverage teams fare in their first true game action. Once the regular season comes around, special teams often becomes a puzzle of mixing and matching available players. That's why it's important that so many players take special teams reps throughout the course of the summer.
In the return game and in coverage, the preseason games are really, really important. We're all going to be watching closely against the Jets.
4. Wide receiver Devon Allen plays in a game for the first time since 2016
Tough to zero in on one player because every single player on every single play is under the microscope, but Devon Allen's story is a truly interesting one, right? Former standout at Oregon, two knee injuries, goes all-in on the track and field game and becomes one of the world's top 110-meter hurdlers and twice competes in the Olympics, is a three-time United States Champion ... and here he is an NFL preseason game.
Allen has "made progress every day," said Wide Receivers Coach Aaron Moorehead, and that's encouraging. Allen has worked hard to learn the wide receiver craft, but how close is he to making it at this level? Will he get a shot in the return game so we can see his world-class speed? How many reps will he get in this game?
All good questions. Tune in and find out.
5. Young quarterbacks will get some time on the field
Obviously, it would be great to see Jalen Hurts get out there and move the football and put points on the board, as stated above. And Gardner Minshew is going to get his time and play the way we saw him play in two starts last season – with great energy and intelligence, with athleticism, and with productivity. The Eagles are in great shape 1-2 at the quarterback position.
But what about after that? What do the Eagles have in young quarterbacks Reid Sinnett and Carson Strong? We'll find out a lot in the preseason. The Eagles claimed Sinnett off of waivers from Miami last season and he has a solid foundation in the scheme. Strong joined the Eagles after the 2022 NFL Draft after a lights-out career at Nevada and he will have a chance in this preseason to show what he's got.
Sirianni hasn't announced his quarterback rotation, so we don't know how much the young guys will play, but both should see action in these three games.
6. Who is going to make his name known?
It happens every year and it's likely to happen again in 2022: A player who hasn't gained a lot of notice to this point will show up in game action and make a serious run at the 53-man roster. How about tight end Jack Stoll last summer? Running back Corey Clement did it in 2017. Way back when it was safety Quintin Mikell and before him, it was defensive tackle Hollis Thomas. You get the point, right? It happens throughout the league. Friday night is a time when the lights are bright and the action is live and every team is watching every bit of the minutia.
That's why you stay up late and watch all four quarters. With a 53-man roster, with a practice squad, and with 31 other teams watching, every snap counts.