In the scope of the big picture, what matters now is that the Eagles have as strong a 53-man roster as possible when they line up on September 9 at Cleveland. Why, then, does it feel like so many out there are pinning such high hopes on Monday night's game at New England?
It makes sense, wanting to see a strong performance just to settle some concerns and put all of that positive mojo on the front burner heading into the regular season ahead. After all, the first half of last week's' preseason opener against Pittsburgh wasn't pretty, and we all tend to get a bit anxious around here.
But the coaches have been down this road before. Andy Reid's physical camp has weeded out some, elevated others and provided the hoped-for competition from the top of the roster to the bottom. Reid and general manager Howie Roseman want to win, sure, and they want to see the first teamers get out to a strong start, but it's far more important to see progress from young players and to gain as much information on each player as possible to accurately evaluate and assemble the 53-man roster.
So I'm watching practice on Thursday and I see quarterback Nick Foles roll to his left and throw across his body. His pass was a strike, delivered with great accuracy and zip, into a receiver's chest.
What mattered on that play was seeing Foles make the throw. He's made them all to date, but that's one I hadn't seen. He did it, pulled it off without a hitch, and no doubt drew a gold star in offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's master book.
That's what this time of the year is all about. It's about creating situations for individuals and seeing how the players react.
The preseason is over two weeks from the time I finish this piece. Three games between now and then provide to Reid and Roseman all of the data they need to narrow the roster to 53 players. I'm sure that there are going to be plenty of moves between now and then, continuous "tweaking" of the roster that honestly never stops.
The best battles on the roster are at wide receiver (Damaris Johnson has the advantage in reps over Chad Hall, Marvin McNutt, Mardy Gilyard and Jamel Hamler), quarterback (Can Foles possibly stay in the No. 2 spot? Does Trent Edwards have a chance to make the team? How much does Mike Kafka's hand injury hurt his progress?) and, without question, throughout the jam-packed defensive line.
The Eagles are actually preparing just a little bit for New England, as they treat this game as a regular-season game test. The starters are likely to go into halftime, or even into the third quarter. Reid and his staff want to see some intensity and good football.
Just understand, though, that it all changes on September 9. No matter how good or how otherwise the Eagles appear in the next three games, the slate is wiped clean heading to Cleveland to start the regular season.
That's when it matters. Then, and only then, is when wins and losses count in the standings.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- Tra Thomas had tears of joy and emotion when he held his press conference on Thursday to "retire as an Eagle." I find it refreshing and very, very welcome when former players come back to retire here. It wasn't that long ago when the Eagles were criticized for not embracing their past. The entire perception has changed dramatically in the last couple of years. I'm proud of the relationship the Eagles have with the players who have made this franchise so great.
- It sounds to me like defensive end Jason Babin won't play in the preseason, which is fine here. As long as Babin is ready to go for the regular season and can play without any risk that his calf injury will linger, hey, that's all that we care about.
- Great that cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha came back from Monday's nasty mid-air collision with Nate Allen to practice on Thursday. Asomugha may or may not play against New England, but he'll recover in plenty of time for the regular season. For a few minutes after the collision at Lehigh, I wondered about the long-term situation with Asomugha.
- A lot of people have asked this: What happens if Foles and Trent Edwards absolutely tear it up in the final three preseason games? Would that cause the coaches to think about shuffling the order at quarterback? Yeah, no question about it. That's why they play these preseason games. They mean something.
- Prediction: Demetress Bell will be a factor at left tackle before the end of the preseason. King Dunlap, hey, he deserves a lot of respect and an equal chance to win that job. That he is No. 1 on the depth chart is not necessarily a temporary thing. If Dunlap keeps playing well, he's the guy. I just think Bell is going to rise up and challenge for the spot before too much longer, once he totally absorbs what Howard Mudd is teaching.
- For all of you clamoring for a "big" wide receiver for the red zone, maybe the Eagles can use tight end Clay Harbor in tandem with Brent Celek to create some good matchups. I can tell you this: All of these Plaxico Burress questions have to stop That's a move that just does not appear to have any chance of happening right now.