Thursday night's preseason game against Cleveland will be considered the dress rehearsal for the season opener in St. Louis on September 11. After last week's performance against the Steelers, the Eagles want to have a bounce-back performance. Here are my 10 players to keep an eye on as there are starting jobs and roster spots to be won in these final two preseason games.
OT King Dunlap - Dunlap has made marked improvement as he's adjusted to Howard Mudd's scheme. He turned in a nice performance last week against the Steelers working with the first-team offense. Winston Justice is getting closer to returning to action, but if Dunlap has another good performance could the Eagles turn to Dunlap as the opening day starter at right tackle.
C Jason Kelce - The rookie sixth-round pick took all of the first-team reps in practice this week and will get to show if he can handle the starting job on Thursday. After working against two 3-4 defenses in the first two preseason games, the Browns present a 4-3 front with two massive, but active, defensive tackles in Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin. Kelce could not only be looking to wrap up a roster spot, but a starting job Thursday.
DT Trevor Laws - Sidelined with a hip injury, Laws is going to dress but it remains to be seen how much he will play. Playing in a scheme that highlights his strengths, Laws should thrive under defensive line coach Jim Washburn. But Laws hasn't had much of a chance to prove himself and the veteran additions of Anthony Hargrove and Derek Landri have played well with the added reps. Laws is fighting for a roster spot and needs to show the coaches that he can produce on the field.
K Alex Henery - He's had five kickoffs and all of them landed in the end zone in the first two preseason games. He's had two field goal attempts and was good on both of those. He didn't get field goal work last week against Pittsburgh and only one kickoff attempt (the other two were onside kicks). While you don't want to settle for field goals, the rookie kicker needs as much game action as possible before the season begins.
LB Casey Matthews - Matthews will certainly be under the microscope. He has been the starter at middle linebacker since the start of training camp. It's been a quick learning process for the rookie. Matthews got his first extensive game time last week against the Steelers and the coaches said he got better as the game progressed. Like the Steelers, the Browns feature a physical running game and a veteran offensive line. Will Matthews continue to show improvement?
S Jarrad Page - Page worked with the first-team defense as the Eagles are giving Nate Allen some rest due to the knee injury he suffered last season. Page is a physical safety with great size. In the first preseason game, Page picked off a pass in the end zone (certainly a plus for the red-zone defense). Page can be a valuable insurance policy for Juan Castillo's defense.
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - Rodgers-Cromartie might not be the starter, but in the nickel formation he's worked in on the outside and in the slot. He's been utilized as a blitzer. It will be interesting to see how Juan Castillo utilizes him. Rodgers-Cromartie has amazing size and breakneck speed. With all of the attention on Nnamdi Asomugha's man coverage skills and Asante Samuel's ballhawk skills, Rodgers-Cromartie could be the X-factor for the secondary.
LB Brian Rolle - Rolle will work with Jamar Chaney in the first-team nickel package on Thursday night. Rolle is looking to follow in the footsteps of his former Ohio State teammate Kurt Coleman as a late-round pick who could make an immediate impact on defense as a rookie. Rolle has thrived with the backup units, but now he'll get his chance to be in the spotlight with the starters.
QB Michael Vick - Vick is looking to move past last Thursday's performance against the Steelers. Vick predetermined his throws and forced passes that weren't there. It was not the way he performed in 2010. Vick didn't have a great 2010 preseason and we all saw the end result. However, it would be great for Vick to build momentum towards the regular season.
QB Vince Young - Young has showed the athleticism that once made him the No. 3 overall pick in 2006. In less than a month, Young has had to adjust to a new locker room, new offense and new role as a backup quarterback. He is working with the No. 2 offense and could get at most a quarter-plus of action. Nonetheless, the coaches have been pleased with his progress and Marty Mornhinweg said he expects Young's development to be expedited in the coming weeks.
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