How much of what we see on game days now matters in the big picture? The score of the game doesn't necessarily matter, but the play of the individuals does matter. The Eagles must reduce the roster from 90 players to 80 players by August 30 and then they go from 80 to 53 after the final preseason game.
So in addition to depth-chart changes and scheme modifications, the Eagles must correctly evaluate the players in uniform. Let's talk Eagles, then ...
- Head coach Andy Reid said on his radio show Monday night that Jarrad Page and Nate Allen are splitting practice reps at strong safety. Allen spoke after practice about his surgically-repaired patellar tendon and admitted that it wasn't quite as healed as he thought heading into training camp. So, the competition is wide open. It's really that way throughout this roster. Signing Page, a veteran in the league, could prove to be one of the most important in this off-season. Remember something that we have learned over and over again: A player coming back from a major injury usually, it seems, takes longer than a full season to make it back to full strength. The Eagles made sure to have quality depth in Page and second-round draft pick Jaiquawn Jarrett just in case Allen struggled.
- The Giants blew out the Bears on Monday night and everybody in New York should be happy, right? No way. The Giants lost cornerback Terrell Thomas, a starter who led the team in tackles and interceptions in each of the last two seasons, for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Combined with defensive end Osi Umenyiora's lingering knee injury that required surgery and the broken foot suffered by first-round draft pick, cornerback Prince Amukamara, and the New York defense has suffered serious losses.
- King Dunlap's performance against Pittsburgh, a good one, could have serious ramifications as far as roster spots go. Ryan Harris practiced on Sunday but then did not practice on Monday because of a lingering back injury. What becomes of Austin Howard? Has he done enough to earn a job? Is versatile veteran Evan Mathis easier to keep because he can play guard and tackle? When Winston Justice returns, which seems pretty close, does he move right into the starting job at right tackle?
- Casey Matthews is the starter at middle linebacker and I don't see that changing any time soon. The Eagles want to give the young man a chance to get better and better. He has a big game on Thursday night against a physical runner in Cleveland's Peyton Hillis.
- An unsung injury here is the calf injury that has sidelined defensive end Juqua Parker the last couple of weeks. It doesn't sound like it will extend into the regular season, but the Eagles need Parker on the field to execute the constant-rotation plan line coach Jim Washburn wants to use.
- If Mike Patterson plays on Thursday night I hope that the fans at Lincoln Financial Field recognize him and give him a standing ovation. It is a remarkable situation, that Patterson would be able to play only a few weeks after suffering a seizure on the practice field. Amazing.
- When Steve Smith gets on the practice field and shows he is healthy enough to play, who is the slot receiver here? Is it Smith, who made the Pro Bowl two seasons ago with 107 receptions for the Giants? Or is it Jason Avant, who has demonstrated a terrific ability as a slot receiver here? Or can the Eagles use both? I smell a lot of sets with four wide receivers this season? Why not? Who is going to cover this group of four receivers?
- I think of the 53-man roster in my head and I wonder over and over again if the Eagles can keep three tight ends? And if they keep only two, who is the odd man out? Look for Donald Lee to get some added game reps this week.
- Nobody is talking about Danny Watkins at right guard any longer. That, folks, is a good thing. He is doing a solid job.
- Who are you keeping if it comes down to Johnnie Lee Higgins or Chad Hall at the wide receiver position? And don't forget about Sinorice Moss, who had a couple of excellent kickoff returns against Pittsburgh and who has done a good job as a receiver here.
- I look forward to fifth-round draft pick Dion Lewis getting his hands on the football. The kid is electric. I have seen where some fans compare him to former Eagle Ryan Moats, but that isn't accurate. Lewis is much thicker in the core and in his legs. He runs with power and quickness. Moats was thin and, while he was fast, he didn't have a lot of power. Lewis has made eye-opening plays in each of the first two preseason games. He has a firm grasp on the third halfback role, and I wonder if he could get a bit of time with the regulars on Thursday night, just to see him against front-line NFL players.
- Should Jason Kelce start on Thursday night, as it appears will happen, the Eagles are going to have five rookies in their starting lineup with Kelce, Watkins, Matthews, placekicker Alex Henery and punter Chas Henry. Really amazing mix on this roster.