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Thinking Out Loud As Game Time Nears

FOXBOROUGH, MA -- Some things I want to watch tonight when the Eagles kick off against New England and play their starters into the second half .. and a whole lot more as the time ticks down before it gets underway ...

  • Big game for the lines. Shawn Andrews returns to the right guard spot, so the Eagles have their starting fivesome intact for the first time this preseason. Timing is critical. I think the Eagles want to see how well conditioned for football Andrews is and the only way to do that is to see how he fares on the field. Andrews is in fine shape as far as he weight (331 pounds) and his conditioning, but the football side of things is different. I want to see Andrews on a screen pass and I want to see him get out around a corner and pull on a running play. Too, let's see how it all comes together in pass protection up front. As you might imagine, the Eagles are going to throw the football.
  • I'm encouraged by the play of the defensive line and think, actually, that the Eagles are in good shape with their four tackles -- Mike Patterson, Brodrick Bunkley, Trevor Laws and Dan Klecko. Would love to see Bunkley take the next step this season after the big leap he made last year. The Eagles need him to be a down-in, down-out force. Klecko is an amazing story -- a fullback in the spring who has transitioned back to tackle so well. He and Laws have played about 30-40 snaps each in the first two games.
  • Speaking of throwing the football, the offense needs to get L.J. Smith into the flow of things and maybe they will give him a few shots to contribute. They also want to spread the ball around to the receivers, so I expect Donovan McNabb to come out peppering the ball through his progressions. Yeah, that means looking to DeSean Jackson, Hank Baskett, Greg Lewis and Jason Avant. And maybe using Brian Westbrook and Lorenzo Booker as receivers.
  • There is no update yet on how long Kevin Curtis is going to be out following his sports hernia surgery. Andy Reid will update, I'm sure, after the game.
  • Really excited to see how Tony Hunt does in this game. Will Andy Reid call three straight runs with Hunt leading Westbrook through the hole? Here is wishing Hunt the best of luck. It isn't exactly a make-or-break situation, but it is a huge game for him.
  • The fourth quarter, once the starters are out, is important for the backup offensive linemen. In the big picture, as you project to 53 players, the final preseason game is probably more important, but I can't give you more than a guess about who makes the roster behind the five starters other than Max Jean-Gilles and probably Mike McGlynn.
  • Fifth cornerback? I could see the Eagles giving Quintin Demps some reps at cornerback in these two preseason games. The Eagles, because it seems very obvious they are going to keep six receivers, have to crunch some roster numbers. If Demps shows he can play cornerback in a pinch, he could help save a roster spot by playing both safety and cornerback. If he can't, I wonder who that fifth cornerback is on the roster.
  • Special teams need to have a big game. I'm waiting to see this group come together. No penalties, please. Play with discipline. Play with speed.
  • Will the Patriots go after Asante Samuel just to mess with his head? I don't know about that, but there are some people at Gillette Stadium who think that could happen. New England approaches preseason games at times to work on very, very specific things. They have, for example, blitzed their strong-side linebacker on 10 straight plays with different personnel just to find out who is a capable bllitzer. That is really what the preseason is all about.
  • I have to say that one player I'm really rooting for tonight is Booker. I think he's going to be a key player for this team and I also know that he is disappointed with how he played on kickoff returns in the first two games. So here is hoping he gets some touches tonight and we can all see how productive he can be in the offense.
  • Rookie report: Joe Mays is the backup middle linebacker behind Stewart Bradley and he has a real chance to make this team. This is no time to let up, though, so we'll see how Mays plays now that he has played his way onto the roster -- at this point.
  • Look for Darren Howard on both ends of the defensive line tonight. The coaches are raving about his play so far, so keep your fingers crossed.
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