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Players To Watch Against Jaguars

The headline says "Players To Watch," and I'm going to list a dozen or so players I'll keep my eye on in this preseason opener. Truth is, every player is worth watching for a variety of reasons. We know, for example, how good DeSean Jackson is, but how can you not watch him? Ditto Jeremy Maclin and all of the young standouts the Eagles are counting on so much this season.

For the first preseason game, however, I'm giving you a more specific list, one to carry you through the preseason opener. The starters will play a quarter, the second team through half of the third quarter and then the third-team players looking to open eyes in the third and fourth quarters. As far as an excitement meter, I'm about as geeked as I've been since the 2004 preseason when Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse made their debuts. Of course, Andy Reid dialed up a Donovan McNabb-to-Owens bomb on the first offensive play from scrimmage and the crowd went wild and the Eagles went 13-3 and advanced to the Super Bowl that year.

This time? I'm not sure what Reid has in mind with Kevin Kolb at quarterback, but we will find out soon enough. Kolb is at the top of everyone's list of players to watch, but here is a look at some others who may not exactly be top of mind for every Eagles fan ...


He starts after last year's washout, and Andrews has high expectations. The Eagles need Andrews to be a road grader in the running game and they need Andrews to have the lateral mobility to protect in the passing game. He wasn't all there last year. But Andrews is healthy now, and he has been a durable part of a banged-up offensive line this summer.

How good is Andrews? It's time to find out. The Eagles seem to be in good shape with Jason Peters and Winston Justice at the tackle spots, but the guard-to-guard look is in question. A strong performance from Andrews would ease a lot of nerves out there in fandom.


This one is obvious. Bradley has looked so, so good at training camp and he has so much desire to go out and get rid of the cobwebs after missing all of last season. Think about how much a back-to-full-strength Bradley would mean to the defense.

Jacksonville is a power running team, so Bradley will get a chance to play downhill and make some plays at the line of scrimmage. The Jags set up their play-action passing game and attack the intermediate areas, a perfect test for Bradley's cover skills.


The team's first-round pick has impressed everyone in training camp with his variety of moves, his enthusiasm for the game and the energy he brings to the field. Now Graham goes against a team in a different uniform. And now we have a chance to evaluate him in a different light.

Graham isn't a starter -- he is second team behind Juqua Parker at left end -- but Graham has taken a lot of reps in the defense's first nickel alignment and can play left end and tackle. He will have his family in the stands and is going to have plenty of motivation to go out and play a great first game.



With Mike Bell and J.J. Arrington out with injuries, the Eagles are a bit short in the backfield. LeSean McCoy will only see limited time, so both Eldra Buckley and Martell Mallett will play a lot. So will Scott, who could see time at both halfback and at fullback.

Scott is an interesting guy to keep an eye on. He is a big man with nimble feet and he has done a nice job in training camp. But he is clearly behind Buckley in the battle for the third halfback spot, so Scott has to have a huge preseason performance each week.

Scott is willing to go in and bust some skulls in the blocking game. He has some good ability with the ball in his hands and he has the mental part of the offense well in hand.

This is a big, big one for Scott. He has been moved to fullback and now has to re-invent himself to stick on the 53-man roster.



Such a disappointment last season, Demps is a different player in 2010. Still, he is behind Nate Allen -- along player to watch, of course -- at free safety. Demps is pushing, though. He will get a lot of playing time in the game both at safety and as a kickoff return man.

Whether he starts or not, Demps is a valuable player on the roster. He has regained the trust of the coaching staff with his approach this year, and now Demps has to take it up a notch against the Jags.


Yeah, it's fair to wonder about the center position. The Eagles feel good about Jamaal Jackson's progress in his rehab from off-season knee surgery, but he hasn't practiced and is on PUP. Nick Cole has a knee injury. So McGlynn, who has played limited time at guard in his couple of seasons here, gets his chance to play the center position.

Jacksonville is good inside, so McGlynn is going to have a lot of pressure in his face. He has to be sure with his snaps and quick and powerful against a good group on the defensive side of the ball.


The kid looks extremely advanced playing a position that takes years to master. Kafka has plenty of arm, he is accurate and he has been decisive in his reads. Kafka also looks like he is willing to hang in the pocket, but of course he won't wear a red (don't hit me) shirt in the game and is live bait for Jacksonville's defense.

Kafka figures to have players like Kelley Washington and Cornelius Ingram to throw to, along with tight end Nate Lawrie. There is some talent catching the football here. So Kafka has to be confident throwing the football and expecting his receivers to make plays.


One of the most impressive players in camp, Laws is making serious inroads in his quest to gain some playing time. Laws looks like he is the real deal, so let's see how he does against the Jaguars.

The coaches want to see quickness, power and productivity. Laws has given all three in camp, but now he has to take it up another notch against the Jacksonville offensive line.

Is Laws the player the Eagles thought he would be when they used a second-round draft pick in 2008 on him? It is show time for Laws, and he knows it.



I want Jacksonville to come out throwing the football right at Hobbs. He has looked good in training camp and of course things change in the game. Hobbs is an emotional, intense player who is ready to rise to the occasion in his chance to be a starter again.

Here is his first chance. The Jags have big receivers and, well, aren't we all watching Hobbs against big-framed receivers?



Some of these young linebackers have to step forward. Chaney is running with the third-team group at middle linebacker, but he sure has flashed a lot at Lehigh, enough for the Eagles to feel they could trade Joe Mays.

Chaney moves well and looks good in coverage. He is a physical player. He is someone to keep an eye trained on in the opener.



It is very possible that the Eagles will keep only one tight end behind Brent Celek, so these two young talents have a lot to play for in this game. Harbor has been a pass-catching standout every day in training camp and Ingram has come on strong the last several days.

Both are good, young talents. Both catch the ball well. Both run well. Can either block well enough to help the offense in two-tight end situations?



I'm not sure what to make of Sapp, who at times flashes some real speed off the edge in the pass-rush game. He is looking to make it at a very crowded position and he is clearly improving, but he is strong enough and big enough to play in the NFL?

Watch him get off the ball. It is the key to his success, because Sapp is simply not strong enough to engage big offensive tackles. He needs to win with speed.



Juan Castillo loves athletes who weren't drafted, and Howard is the key this year. He is massive, he has terrific feet and he has long arms and a strong punch. Howard has been impressive playing left tackle in camp, and the Eagles also want to see him inside at left guard.

Can Howard make this team? Absolutely. He is a very good-looking prospect that teams just don't give up on. Can he do more than make the team? Let's take a look at him in this game and see how he fares against Jacksonville's pass rushers.

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