Jacksonville runs the football, plays physical defense and likes to stand toe-to-toe with a team and slug away. This is precisely the kind of opponent the Eagles after their sluggish performance last week in Indianapolis. I've got my list of Things To Watch, which I will share for you here ...
**OFFENSIVE LINE COMING TOGETHER
Both Jason Peters at left tackle and Stacy Andrews at right guard start against the Jags, so the line looks like this, from left to right: Peters, left guard Nick Cole, center Jamaal Jackson, Andrews and right tackle Winston Justice. The group isn't all way the intact, but it is in much better shape than in the opening two games.
Peters has practiced all week and is healthy after suffering a quad strain early in training camp. Let's hope he can get through three quarters with no physical problems. Andrews has come along so very well after tearing his ACL last season. Now he sees his first live action, so maybe we will see the Eagles dial up some runs behind right guard to see how far along Andrews really is in his recovery.
Good test. Good physical Jags defense and the offensive line should get a good feel for Peters and Andrews.
**BRIAN WESTBOOK AND HIS PRESEASON DEBUT
You really never know on this one. Andy Reid could change his mind and decide to keep Westbook under wraps and not play him at all in the preseason. I *think *Westbrook will play, and if he does it's going to be brief. Westbrook has looked terrific in practice and he is moving around very, very well. It really is big if he takes a few snaps and gets a carry or two and then looks ahead to the Panthers.
**VICK AND HIS DEBUT
Michael Vick is scheduled to play with the starters and we will see a glimpse of what the Eagles have in mind for him. It will be important to see Vick run around and see how his speed and instincts are in his first game since December 31, 2006. Will he drop back and throw the football as a quarterback? Will he run around out of the Wildcat formation? Tune in. Everybody is going to have all eyes on Vick.
**ROTATION AT WIDE RECEIVER
Kevin Curtis may not see action much, if at all, because of some knee swelling he had earlier in the week. Jeremy Maclin should see more reps with Donovan McNabb on the field, and Brandon Gibson continues to push for a roster spot. Among so many things for the offense to show, they have to get the receivers involved in the red zone and score some touchdowns. The Eagles lead the NFL in preseason passing, for whatever that is worth. They'll throw the ball around some tonight to try and sustain drives.
**JOE MAYS AT MLB AGAINST THE RUN
This is not a down-the-field Jacksonville offense. This is an offense that likes to run the ball, so Mays sees his first between-the-tackles test against the run. He has been pretty strong against the run, but tonight is a different kind of test. Keep an eye on Moises Fokou, who took some reps in the middle earlier in the week and could see some time there tonight, too. Big game for Mays. He needs to take a clear step forward in this game.
**THE FREE SAFETY STORY
Quintin Demps is the starter and he is coming along well, but the Eagles have also taken some peeks in practice at Macho Harris running with the starters at the free safety position. Is there a legitimate battle going on here? Could be. If Harris comes on the field to replace Demps at any time, you know the coaches want to see the rookie in live action and see how he does mentally and physically.
**EDGE DEFENSE AGAINST THE RUN
This is an annual question: Are the Eagles big enough on the edges to contain a power running game? Tonight is a good test, because the Jaguars are coming with the smash-mouth running game. Trent Cole and Victor Abiamiri have to continue to seal the edges and turn the play inside to outstanding tackles Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley. Trevor Laws must step forward and get involved as the third tackle.
**STABILIZING ON SPECIAL TEAMS
It's always a cluster on special teams trying to get everyone organized. Ted Daisher is running players in and out of the lineup. Tonight, with the starters playing perhaps into the third quarter, there could be more of a sense of normal for Daisher. He wants to get a long look at his coverage units. He wants more explosiveness from the return game.
**BATTLING FOR ROSTER SPOTS
Leonard Weaver won't play tonight, so Kyle Eckel has a great chance to impress at fullback tonight. The young offensive linemen won't play as much as they have in previous games, but for Justice and players like Mike McGlynn and King Dunlap, any time is valuable time. Dimitri Patterson looks like the leader for the fifth cornerback spot because of his special teams excellence and there are still a lot of battles at wide receiver, linebacker and defensive end to consider.
**KEVIN KOLB IN HIS FIRST PRESEASON GAME
He needs to be sharp. Kolb had outstanding preseasons in 2007 and 2008 and now gets just two games to work off the rust in this preseason. He is expected to play the fourth quarter, although that could extend should Reid pull the starters earlier than the third quarter. Kolb must play with confidence and throw to the right spots, even if he is playing with a group consisting largely of players who won't make the team.
**GENERAL EXECUTION OF THE LITTLE THINGS
There were too many formation penalties and special-teams mistakes and mental breakdowns in the first two games. This is the game when the front-line players need to clean things up. It is a big game in that respect. The win doesn't matter, although it is always nice to grab a W. The Eagles need to come out playing with intensity and a sense of purpose and do the the little things right to make Reid a happy head coach with one week to go in the preseason.