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Much To Gain By Winning Now

I know how some of you fans feel. You are thinking about draft positioning and you are considering all of the potential changes that may or may not take place once the 2012 season is completed. That isn't the way the Eagles are thinking. The team is thinking about one thing, and that's taking the momentum generated on Sunday and keeping it going against Cincinnati on Thursday night.

It's important that these young players -- Nick Foles at quarterback, Bryce Brown at running back, Mychal Kendricks at linebacker, etc. -- learn how to win in the NFL. It means something for them to understand the tempo of playing games against teams that have playoff aspirations.

So the Eagles are playing to win, and they're doing so with a lot of younger players. Let's check in with some of the kids ...

NICK FOLES, QB:It all begins with the quarterback, doesn't it? Nick Foles has progressed nicely in his four starts and now he faces another tough defense. Cincinnati is outstanding up front, with a seven-deep line and some punishing ends. He's going to have to be on top of his game mentally as Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer challenges the Eagles with a lot of different looks. How does Foles bounce back on a short week with everyone now expecting so much of him?

FLETCHER COX, DT:With three sacks in his last five games, Fletcher Cox has improved his consistency. He's got to learn more from a technical standpoint and must use his strength better, but those are things that experience will bring. Cox a big-time talent. The Eagles look at Cox as a player around whom they can build the defensive line.

MYCHAL KENDRICKS, LB:The move from SAM to WILL linebacker against Tampa Bay suited Mychal Kendricks just fine. It freed him up to make play and find the football. Kendricks registered seven tackles and three passes defensed. Who does Kendricks fit in for the future? That's to be determined, of course. But the more freedom Kendricks has, the more he is around the ball. Having him chase a tight end is a good thing, but it seems that Kendricks is best suited to play at the line of scrimmage and even to blitz from time to time.

BRYCE BROWN, RB:LeSean McCoy won't play against the Bengals, so Bryce Brown gets to be the main running back once again. The Bengals are very tough up front, so the running lanes may be tough to establish. But the Eagles aren't down on Brown one little bit. He's done a very good job blocking in pass protection and he's catching the ball well. Brown still gives the Eagles a legitimate threat at running back and defenses have to respect the play-action passing game.

DENNIS KELLY, OT:As with the rest of the offensive line, Dennis Kelly had his hands full on Sunday in Tampa. He's got another huge challenge against the Bengals' Carlos Dunlap, who is fast and strong and Cincinnati's best pass rusher. Kelly has to be strong at the point and has to protect the edge. He's made good strides and has at least played his way into the picture moving forward, but is Kelly a starting tackle in the future?

MARVIN McNUTT, WR:In his first NFL action, Marvin McNutt was targeted three times against Tampa Bay. He was actually open all three times and had to impress the coaches when they reviewed the tape. Does that mean McNutt will get more time, especially with Jeremy Maclin limited because of a groin injury? We'll see. It might be interesting to see if the Eagles utilize McNutt in the red zone in the final three games, just to see if he satisfies the "big receiver" role the offense has lacked near the goal line.

CURTIS MARSH, CB:A third-round pick last season, Curtis Marsh seems to be around the football more and more in a good way in the last couple of weeks. He's making progress athletically and he's using his body well. Cincinnati has some deep threats, and Nnamdi Asomugha is hurting after his dramatic flip and hard landing in Tampa Bay, so maybe Marsh gets a few more snaps on Thursday night.

DAMARIS JOHNSON, PR/WR:He's making plays, for sure, and he's got some juice, no doubt. Damaris Johnson generally does good things with the football in his hands. He's made mistakes in the return game and has to continue to improve his judgment, but Johnson is making strides.

BRANDON BOYKIN, CB:An up-and-down season has stabilized just a bit for Brandon Boykin as the third cornerback here. He has played under control and in the right position for the last several weeks and Boykin is clearly making good progress. As a return man, Boykin is improving, but he needs more help from the blocking scheme.

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