Clearly, we've all be occupied the last few days with concern and grief for the Reid family after the loss of Garrett Reid. The outpouring of support and love has been amazing and, please understand this, much appreciated from the Reid family and from the Eagles organization.
The head coach is back with the team and is taking an all-business approach. He is hurting inside, no question about it. But Reid is also back at his job, back with his extended family.
So, we're looking now at Thursday night and the preseason opener against Pittsburgh (7:30 p.m., 6abc) at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles take the next step from competitive practices to playing against another team, and if history tells the tale, the Steelers will blitz and be aggressive and play fast football.
There are so many things I like about this game ...
- Brandon Graham has been outstanding in training camp. He will start at left defensive end and we can see how far he has come physically in the last year. Pittsburgh has some questions up front, but the Steelers run the ball well and generally find ways to free up the passing game. I would love to see Graham get off early and get his season rolling in the right direction. We're also going to see a lot of Phillip Hunt and Darryl Tapp and Vinny Curry as the Eagles take a long look at their depth at defensive end.
- The starters won't play long, but we all want to see Michael Vick come out of the game without a single grass stain. The Eagles have worked a lot on fast decision making in camp, and the screen pass and three-step drop seems more prevalent in the offense. I will be thrilled if Vick avoids every bit of contact in the series or two (three?) that he plays.
- That said, I hope Marty Mornhinweg dials up the running game when Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk are on the field. Truth is, LeSean McCoy doesn't need to prove anything, so if he has zero touches, I'm fine with that. But Lewis, Brown and Polk have run the ball extremely well in training camp. Here's to hoping that isn't a mirage. I don't think it is. I think the Eagles have an extremely talented backfield top to bottom.
- I think Oshiomogho Atogwe is a game player, so I want to see him make plays against Pittsburgh. To me, Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen are solid and playing well and will no doubt start for this defense if all continues on course. The Eagles need Atogwe and Jaiquawn Jarrett to step up for depth. I've seen flashes in training camp. Atogwe, I think, is one of those veterans who knows when to peak. I'm looking for it on Thursday.
- Speaking of safety, there is no update on the health of Colt Anderson, who continues to rehab his knee. If another week or two goes by and Coleman remains out of practice, he may not be around until he comes off the Physically Unable to Perform list midway through the season.
- Akeem Jordan is one of those players who has bounced around between starter and reserve in his five seasons here. He looks like the "stopper" of the special teams now. Jordan led the Eagles with 14 special teams tackles last season.
- Yeah, I want to see Mychal Kendricks in action. I think he has a chance to be a terrific linebacker in this league. He is in the right place on the field, he has the physical skills and he is up to speed mentally in the defense.
- Mat McBriar is punting without the left leg brace he wore early in training camp and he enters this game first on the depth chart. If McBriar is healthy and kicking as he has kicked in the past, it's his job to lose. McBriar is also an accomplished holder in the NFL. Chas Henry has to be at his very, very best to win the punting job here. It should be a fine competition between two talented guys.
- The training camp practices have been beneficial to watch the cornerbacks and see how the players have separated themselves. Now the cream will truly rise to the top. Beyond Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, there are battles galore for roster spots. Joselio Hanson is the starter at the nickel spot, pushed by rookie Brandon Boykin. A slew of other corners have pushed for spots after that. Who's in the mix? Brandon Hughes, Curtis Marsh, Trevard Lindley, Kevin Thomas and Cliff Harris, with Wade Bonner trying to show the coaches he can play in any coverage position. I'd say Marsh and Hughes have the advantages right now. I project five cornerbacks making the 53-man roster.
- You won't be able to tell much just by watching the game, but the backup spots along the offensive line are critical. Beyond King Dunlap, I can't say much about who has jumped out in practice.
- Can the Eagles get the football to tight end Clay Harbor early in the game? I think he has played so well in training camp. I would love to see the Eagles develop a strong two-tight end personnel package and move Harbor and Brent Celek around the formation to create some good matchups.
- I'm high on Marvin McNutt, particularly in the last 10 days. He has used his body well and he's caught everything thrown his way and he has been separating from defensive backs. What you want to see from young receivers is improvement and he has come a long way since April. There's a lot to like about McNutt right now.
- Finally, the return game is being handled by rookies, Damaris Johnson and Boykin. Can't wait. The Eagles need to be explosive in the return game. These kids get the first shot at upgrading Bobby April's teams.