Philadelphia Eagles News

Final Week Of Preseason Is Here

So it's a Saturday at the NovaCare Complex and the Eagles are here to review the win over Cleveland and to continue to install X's and O's and evaluate their personnel. If history holds, Reid won't play his starters against the Jets on Thursday. The reserves get the call, with jobs on the line.

What can we make of the Eagles through three preseason games? This is a talented team. That much is undeniable. The Eagles have a lot of work to do, too. That is also undeniable. Here is an overview of some key issues ...

IS THE OFFENSIVE LINE GOING TO BE OK?

There are a lot of questions here with all of the youth and the moving parts. I don't think Howard Mudd is totally settled on who is playing where. Jason Kelce started at center against Cleveland and had some rough moments early. He also had some outstanding moments, and the Eagles are likely to keep him as the starter and appreciate his rapid growth.

Simply put, they think the rookie has a huge future in front of him. His ability to get to the second level and maul is something the Eagles have not had at the position. As Kelce develops -- and it has been a rapid process already -- he has a chance to be really, really good.

Danny Watkins remains the starter at right guard and isn't going anywhere. He is playing better and better at a position that is, remember, new to him. Watkins is going to be a good, good player.

Who is the right tackle? Todd Herremans played there on Saturday in practice with Evan Mathis playing left guard. The Eagles are building some depth inside with Mike McGlynn and Julian Vandervelde. Jamaal Jackson, who is obviously not out of the picture at center, could also play some left guard.

Herremans makes sense at right tackle. He can play the position. He is agile enough and he is skilled enough to protect Michael Vick's blind side. Mathis is so key here. He has stepped up in the preseason and he has the chance to be a starter for a very good offense.

Yes, there are some uncertainties up front. It is something that Mudd has experienced before, and he doesn't seem particularly bothered at this point. He will scheme to make it work, because teams are going to blitz the Eagles and Vick until the offense punches back with big plays.

WHAT DOES WR PICTURE LOOK LIKE?

Both Jeremy Maclin and Steve Smith practiced on Saturday, a great sign for the offense. Both players are aiming for the opener against St. Louis, and if they can both get up to speed in that time, the offense will get a terrific boost. The receiver corps will look so potent. Imagine spreading out a defense with DeSean Jackson, Maclin, Jason Avant and Smith, and even splitting LeSean McCoy out wide. What team has five cover players to match that group?

The key, of course, is giving Vick time to get the football out accurately, and that is on Mudd and the offensive line. But the group at wide receiver, despite a very ordinary preseason, has big things ahead. The Eagles are going to dial up the passing game as much as any team in the league, and with good reason. There is no receiving corps out there better than the Eagles'.

WHERE ARE THE KEY ROSTER BATTLES?

All over, but the ones to pay attention to are the following ...

  1. Do the Eagles keep two or three tight ends? Where does free-agent signee Donald Lee fit here?
  1. How will the cornerbacks be handled? Brandon Hughes was used in the dime against Cleveland and there are all kinds of rumors about the Eagles fielding inquiries about Joselio Hanson. We'll see how that one goes. In the meantime, there are players like Hughes, Curtis Marsh and Trevard Lindley battling for spots. Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are going to be here. Hanson is a proven cornerback in this league. Hughes, Marsh and Lindley are obvious prospects.
  1. The safety situation is also one to watch. Do the Eagles keep four safeties or do they go with five? Colt Anderson is the fifth safety here, and he is a standout on special teams. He is an NFL-caliber player, but can the Eagles squeeze him onto the 53-man roster?
  1. Both lines of scrimmage have good competition and it figures that the Eagles might go heavy here. Defensive end is a particularly deep group and the Eagles have a bunch of good defensive tackles.

WHAT IS NEXT FOR THE DEFENSE?

After a really good performance against Cleveland, the defense is looking for more consistency and improved communication. The goal, as Juan Castillo explains, is to improve every day. Casey Matthews played well against Cleveland, alleviating concern among the fans. Jarrod Page started in place of Nate Allen at strong safety. Defense continues to be a work in progress.

There are still some key pieces out, namely defensive end Juqua Parker and defensive tackle Trevor Laws. Antonio Dixon practiced on Saturday, as did Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. This is going to be a very competitive group and a lot of players are going to play a lot of reps this season.

The defense looked so good against Cleveland -- fast, aggressive and on the football. Castillo will continue pushing them and looking for improvement as the tests grow more difficult.

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