CINCINNATI - As the Eagles prepare for their second preseason game, and first on the road, against the Cincinnati Bengals, here are some of the storylines to keep an eye on during tonight's game, scheduled for 8 PM on FOX.
1. How will the Eagles' cornerbacks handle Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens?Ochocinco, 6-1, 192, and Owens, 6-3, 224, are both impressive physical receivers who will test a first-team secondary that could be without Asante Samuel on the left side. Ellis Hobbs, 5-9, 195, is a willing tackle and is stout for his size, but he does surrender some height to both of the Bengals' wideouts. On the left side, Joselio Hanson, 5-9, 185, will get a chance to prove himself as a viable option outside, as will Dimitri Patterson, 5-10, 200. The prowess of Ochocinco and Owens will also be a test for rookie free safety Nate Allen, thrust into a starting role opposite Quintin Mikell. In the second half, watch for rookie Trevard Lindley, who is coming off a solid debut last week. Lindley could be matched up with second-tier Bengals receivers like speedster Jerome Simpson and rookie Jordan Shipley, who had five catches for 50 yards last week.
2. Will the first-team offense convert red-zone opportunities into touchdowns?Last week, Kevin Kolb and the starters on offense moved the ball with ease against the Jacksonville defense, but stalled once they crossed over the 20-yard-line. But, barring an uncharacteristic drop from Brent Celek on a nice throw by Kolb, the Eagles would have hit paydirt on their first series. Celek will continue to be a red-zone threat for Kolb, who also has the sure-handed Jason Avant and Jeremy Maclin and the explosive DeSean Jackson to turn to. Scoring will be a test against a Bengals defense that only allowed touchdowns on 28.6 percent of opponent red-zone trips last season, the third-best mark in the league.
3. Can the rookies keep it up?A stellar rookie class that includes 13 draft picks has been impressive all summer, but now is the time for them to prove they can do it under the lights. Brandon Graham, the team's top pick, is pushing for significant playing time at left defensive end and is already a member of the first-team nickel defense. He was a half-second away from his first sack last week, so he's anxious to get that first one out of the way. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim is also a factor for the nickel defense, as one of the primary inside rushers, along with Trevor Laws. Quarterback Mike Kafka will get a chance to run the offense in the fourth quarter and build on what was a solid debut last week when he went three-of-seven for 87 yards and a QB rating of 83.0. Tight end Clay Harbor and wide receiver Riley Cooper were two of the stars of training camp and are both making cases to be factors in the passing game come the regular season. And a host of other first-years including Keenan Clayton, Jamar Chaney and Kurt Coleman will need to show they can contribute on special teams if they're to be given a roster spot. Finally, undrafted left tackle Austin Howard had a coming out party of sorts last week and will be a player to watch in the second half as he protects the two backup quarterbacks.
For more on tonight's game, check out our game preview.
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 1:30 p.m., August 20