Monday the Eagles play at New England, return home in the wee hours of Tuesday morning and leave for Cleveland on Thursday to play the Browns on Friday night. An early Saturday morning arrival sets up the final week of the preseason, which concludes on August 30 at Lincoln Financial Field against the New York Jets.
It is Andy Reid's job to throttle back, or push forward, or whatever he does to get his players at their best for the preseason games, and then to peak for the season-opening game in Cleveland on September 9.
So as the Eagles get into a routine at the NovaCare Complex and leave training camp behind, some thoughts about where this team is and where it needs to be in due time ...
- I'm not particularly worried about the veterans on this team, some of whom have yet to play their best football. I look at a player like offensive tackle Demetress Bell, who should not yet be counted out of the left-tackle equation. I think, and this is just a guess, that Bell is experiencing some culture shock. The Eagles had a physical camp. By today's NFL standards, the Eagles hit a lot and practice at a very high tempo. Bell needs to get his legs back. He needs to get his body right and his mind sound and bear down and do what Howard Mudd needs and allow his natural athleticism to take over. For players like Bell and DeMeco Ryans and Oshiomogho Atogwe, it takes time to get used to understanding how it works here. That's why I think *last *year's group of newcomers will play at a very high level in 2012. They know how it's done here.
- The Eagles will treat Monday night's game (8 p.m., ESPN/6abc in Philadelphia) as its regular-season preview, so expect the starters to play at least a half. It is, then, fair to expect the starters to get into some kind of rhythm against the Patriots. Michael Vick, hey, come out and lead an early scoring drive and let's get the offense going. I'm interested to see what Juan Castillo does against Tom Brady, who is always so difficult. Brady had a huge day against the Eagles defense last season. The Eagles didn't blitz him a whole lot and Brady threw for 361 yards and 3 touchdowns.
- Here is how I would treat the defensive line situation: Keep every lineman worthy of helping this football team. Maybe the Eagles can keep as many as 10 defensive linemen. Can they keep an 11th lineman, and maybe a sixth end? We have three preseason games to go here. A lot is going to happen. I'm not one of those guys who says that so-and-so player has made the team. There are going to be injuries and performance issues ahead.
- The one injury to discuss is that to wide receiver Riley Cooper and how his recovery impacts the group there. I think he has a shot, at least by the initial four-to-six week recovery period, to play in Cleveland on September 9. And if Cooper isn't there, it won't be long after that. I see the Eagles keeping five receivers, with Damaris Johnson, at this point and subject to change, joining Cooper, Jason Avant, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
- I guess I would be very surprised if the Eagles played their starters at all in Cleveland. If they play a half on Monday night, what does it help them recover physically by playing Friday night in Cleveland?
- Wondering if Bobby April will give Mat McBriar a chance to hold for Alex Henery in New England. Chas Henry is great with Henery and part of the equation at punter is the holding aspect on field goals.
- The Nick Foles Experience continues in New England, with a lot of hype behind it. Fifty-one percent of the more than 5,500 votes on the PhiladelphiaEagles.com homepage poll say Foles should be the No. 2 quarterback. I'm not there yet. I think Foles has been terrific and he clearly has ability. But he hasn't seen a whole lot of what the NFL has to offer. These defenses are extremely complex. Foles has three games in a short period of time to continue his growth. Looking forward to seeing him play.
- Here is hoping that Dion Lewis stays healthy at running back, because I think the second-year player has a lot in him. He has terrific vision, quick feet and a nice burst, and he's physical. The Eagles are going to count on him to carry a handful of times each week. Running the ball a few times more each week is fine with me. I think the Eagles can have a dynamic running attack. Lewis and Bryce Brown or Chris Polk must be reliable options behind LeSean McCoy.