Tony Hunt is moving to fullback. Darren Howard is going to play both right defensive and left defensive end. Quintin Demps is a safety who could play some at cornerback and who certainly will return some kickoffs Friday night in New England. It's the preseason, a time to experiment and fit the right 53 pieces into the roster puzzle that is going to be whittled down starting Tuesday.
How much does Game 3 of the preseason mean? Well, it means that it is time to tighten up some areas that to date have not been outstanding, and it's a key game to evaluate personnel across the board. The schemes aren't going to change much from the previous two games, and the Eagles aren't going to alter their approach just because, for example, the first-string offense struggled last week against Carolina.
Some things to discuss ...
- Special teams. They need work, for sure. And Demps is going to get the majority of the touches in the kickoff return game in New England, but maybe more important to coordinator Rory Segrest is the discipline he needs to see in coverage and in the return game. The Eagles are committing too many penalties on returns, which has hampered any momentum they've been able to generate. While Demps is square one in the bull's eye on Friday, so is the discipline factor. The Eagles need to be much better in that department.
- Worried about David Akers because he missed a 45-yard field goal last week? Not at all. He has been outstanding all summer, is showing great leg strengths on his kickoffs and is accurate in practice from between 40-49 yards. Akers, the best kicker in Eagles history, will get in his groove.
- Hunt appears to be attacking his new responsibilities at fullback with great earnest. It's hard to tell a thing in practice because the action isn't "live," but Hunt seems to be carrying out his assignments all the way with the understanding that he knows this is his shot. If he doesn't make it at fullback, can the Eagles afford to keep Hunt at halfback? Four halfbacks? I don't know.
- The Eagles have been impressed with Howard all year, so it's interesting to note that Jim Johnson is going to give Howard some snaps at left defensive end. I think the end positions are really something to watch, and extremely critical to the overall success of the defense. Trent Cole is a Pro Bowl player. What about left end? Well, Juqua Parker is gamer, a worker, a hustler, all of those things. He will play well for the Eagles if he has a chance to rest. Chris Clemons is injured and that is a disappointment. He needs to be on the field, having missed one preseason game and a question mark for Friday night. Bryan Smith has all kinds of potential and ability, but he is young and not ready. Jerome McDougle has played very well with the second- and third-team defense, and is truly making a roster run. Victor Abiamiri is making excellent progress after surgery on his wrist, but is still quite a long ways away from playing. So Howard again becomes a central figure. He has to produce. He has to contribute. Otherwise ...
- How is the roster battle shaping up at linebacker? Joe Mays continues to run with the second-team defense at middle linebacker, and he figures on my 53-man roster as the fifth player at the position. Has Rocky Boiman secured the sixth linebacker position? I don't see it that way, because Andy Studebaker, Pago Togafau and Justin Roland are still very much in the mix. I'm thinking the Eagles keep six linebackers.
- Fifth cornerback? I don't know who he is. I wouldn't be surprised if Kyle Arrington works his way into the picture with another good game on Friday night. Actually, Arrington is already in the picture, isn't he?
- If the Eagles keep 10 offensive linemen, who are we talking about? Tra Thomas, Todd Herremans, Jamaal Jackson, Shawn Andrews and Jon Runyan are the starting five. Max Jean-Gilles is six. Then I have a bunch of names and really no clarity. King Dunlap? Yeah, probably. Scott Young? At this point, I think he deserves it. Winston Justice? Can the Eagles keep a specialty left tackle (Dunlap) and a specialty right tackle (Justice)? Mike McGlynn? He is a fourth-round draft pick with a lot of promise. I don't know how the names and numbers are going to work here. Who is the backup center? Questions, questions.
- I know there are some people who are down on Lorenzo Booker because he has struggled on kickoff returns. Don't lose faith in the young man. He is going to help this team from the line of scrimmage. Booker fits in perfectly into the offense.
- I love the way the Eagles are soft selling DeSean Jackson. It is the right thing to do. His talent and ability, hey, that's obvious. He has a chance to be a really good player at this level. But too often the preseason is a mirage. Let's wait to see how Jackson plays in the regular season before going overboard. I admit, though, he looks great out there.
- Friday night is a great chance to see how the Eagles' secondary fares against a high-powered offense that likes to spread the field. You will see the Eagles using three and four cornerbacks on the field all game.
- By the way, Asante Samuel turned down a request to talk about returning to New England. He doesn't do too much with the media, but, Samuel sure has a great presence and personality on the field and in the locker room. I love watching him play in practice, and he has a terrific sense of humor and sense of competition on the field.