Here are the five storylines that I'm following tonight as the Eagles take on the Colts tonight at 8 PM on FOX.
1. Will King Dunlap And Winston Justice Protect Donovan McNabb?
Four of the five starters on the offensive line are sidelined for tonight's game. Two of the replacements - Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles - have experience as starters. There's not much concern there. But fourth-year vet Winston Justice is starting at right tackle and second-year man King Dunlap is manning the left tackle spot. Justice started last week's game against New England and played well. He's never started consecutive games in any way at the NFL level. He played well against the Patriots and the Colts offer a much-quicker look. King Dunlap is a massive prospect who spent his rookie year on injured reserve. He's going against a Pro Bowl end in Dwight Freeney. Sure, there is concern about whether Donovan McNabb will be protected but at this point you need to know whether the young pups can play. Tonight will provide a good barometer.
2. Can The Front Four On Defense Generate A Pass Rush?
Peyton Manning was sacked three times ... in one series in the Colts' preseason opener. The Eagles will not have Trent Cole (Shoulder), Darren Howard (groin) or Bryan Smith (concussion). Victor Abiamiri makes his preseason debut along with tackle Trevor Laws. Jason Babin was outstanding against the Patriots with a sack and a near interception. Now, he'll get a significant amount of reps against the Colts' top offensive unit. Chris Clemons was the star of the defensive line at training camp. It would be great to see that continue tonight. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott likely won't throw anything exotic at the Colts offense. It will be up to the front four to generate the pass rush. Let's see if they are up to the task.
3. Are The Special Teams Going To Be Special Once Again?
We got to see Jeremy Maclin show some explosiveness as a punt returner last week against New England. He also muffed a punt. The punt coverage team allowed a 75-yard return for a touchdown. David Akers had a field goal attempt blocked and missed another. What you have to realize is that it was the first opportunity for the special teams unit to go live. No hitting ever takes place during special teams practice. You definitely want to see a sharper, more disciplined performance now that there's a game to build upon.
4. Is Eldra Buckley Or Lorenzo Booker Going To Be The 3rd RB?
Eldra Buckley proved against the Patriots that he's a tough north-south runner. He also made all of the catches that he was asked to, including a short pass in the flat that went for a touchdown. Buckley was the star of the Patriots game with his two-touchdown performance. Even though he may not be a traditional West Coast running back, Buckley also showed prowess in pass protection and played well on special teams. Lorenzo Booker is ahead of him on the depth chart and made a highlight-reel grab down the sideline against the Patriots. Booker is a quicker and catches the ball well out of the backfield. Who will win a roster spot? Let's see who stands out tonight.
5. Can Brandon Gibson Win A Roster Spot?
The rookie wide receiver has shown precise route running, good hands and a strong, physical style of play. He laid out a nasty block against the Patriots. Looking at the depth at the wide receiver position, you have Jason Avant, Hank Baskett, Reggie Brown, Kevin Curtis, DeSean Jackson and first-round pick Jeremy Maclin. The Eagles kept six wide receivers last year and only lost one in the off-season. A sixth-round pick, Gibson could be a steal for the Eagles. The only issue is whether there's room for him on the roster. And if you keep him who do you let go? Gibson is currently listed on the depth chart as the fourth-string Z-receiver behind Jackson, Brown and Avant.
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 12:00 p.m., August 20