Sure, we all want to see Juan Castillo's defense line up against Tom Brady and attack the concepts of the Patriots offense and see how the strategy works. But if Brady isn't going to play, or will play very little as the media reports indicate at this point, what does that matter in the big picture?
If Mychal Kendricks runs down the field in coverage against Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski or Visanthe Shiancoe, aren't you just interested in seeing him and his athletic ability against any of the high-caliber tight ends on the Patriots' roster?
I'm here to see the Eagles play and play well, whether it's against New England's first- or second-team players. This isn't about winning and losing. It's about everyone getting on the same page, working at the same tempo and executing as a team, top to bottom.
Whether Brady plays or not, the Eagles aren't specifically game planning to get him off his game. They've worked in a few concepts during the past few days, sure, but this is nothing like a regular-season game. This is about putting players like Kendricks into we-need-to-see-him situations and then learning just a little bit more about the young man, about all of these men on the roster.
So, yeah, I'm geeked about tonight. I'm not sure what else there is to write, because you know all of the storylines, such as ...
- Left offensive tackle. King Dunlap starts and free-agent signee Demetress Bell is second team. Bell could see some reps with the starters, but the expectation is that the experienced Dunlap gets the call and runs with the ones. The focus, though, isn't just on Dunlap. The entire offensive line needs to play well and combat an ever-changing New England defensive scheme, which has been infused with pass rusher Chandler Jones, a first-round draft pick who has wowed the analysts.
- Michael Vick hasn't had a chance to get into much of a rhythm this summer, so here's his chance. It's hard to envision Vick playing at least a half tonight and them coming back after a couple of days rest and playing in Cleveland and then again in the fourth preseason game, so this could be the end of the preseason for Vick and many of his offensive mates. Here's to a strong showing ...
- While the defensive line asserted itself with seven sacks in the preseason opener against Pittsburgh, the rest of the defense played poorly. The tackling was spotty and the attention to detail was not as sharp as Castillo wanted. For the back seven, this is a step-it-up game, or the questions will come fast and furious. All eyes are on DeMeco Ryans at linebacker and on the safety spots in the deep secondary.
- There are the usual roster battles to consider. Mat McBriar leads Chas Henry on the depth chart at punter and the two have three games to continue their competition in dual roles (holding on field goals must be considered, too). The roster spot for the third halfback role is up in the air between Bryce Brown and Chris Polk, and the fullback job, led strongly Stanley Havili, is open. Who plays in a reserve role along the offensive line, at linebacker, on the defensive line, etc. ... all are good storylines as well.
- Of course, we all want to see more from Nick Foles, the rookie quarterback who has been so impressive. Is he the real deal? Is he as good as he has looked? How will react to adversity? Foles is the No. 2 quarterback tonight. Is there any chance in the world he carries that role into the regular season, even if Mike Kafka is healthy?
- It appears that the rookie class is going to have a chance to make a special, and sudden, impact. Kendricks starts at SAM linebacker. Fletcher Cox is challenging for major playing time at defensive tackle. Vinny Curry is on the rise at defensive end. Brandon Boykin is the team's kickoff return man and Damaris Johnson is the kickoff return man. Both could have significant roles in the defense and offense, respectively, too. Foles, of course, is a highly-anticipated young player.
- I wonder what the grand plan is for defensive tackle Mike Patterson and safety Colt Anderson. As in, are both going to start the season on a reserve list, and open two roster spots? And if there are two roster spots open, who takes them? Can the Eagles keep both Cedric Thornton and Antonio Dixon? Is Jaiquawn Jarrett going to make this roster? Who steps up as the stopper on special teams?
So many questions ... and only three preseason games to go ...
So, you see, it's all about the Eagles and how those battles, and more play out. We've got 11 days between now and the end of the preseason and in that very short period of time, plus a few days after for general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Andy Reid to play with, a roster is going to be formed and the Eagles will be constituted for the regular season.