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Tonight Is The Night To See ...

With the starters expected to play for most of, if not all of, the first half, tonight's preseason game should provide some significant clues about the Eagles and where they stand right now. There are some important things to watch, including ...

  • The red zone offense (with Donovan McNabb on the field) went one for two last week in Pittsburgh. The good news is that the Eagles moved the ball extremely well with McNabb out there. The running game looked good. The passing game had openings and took advantage of those openings. McNabb was sharp, and the offense put together long, impressive drives. The Eagles want to be better tonight in the red zone, for sure. They aren't going to necessarily unveil their master plan in the scoring area, but it's safe to say that the offense has some wrinkles it wants to introduce this season that maybe it didn't use last year. The philosophy hasn't changed, neccessarily, but the approach has been tweaked. Look for a more aggressive, throw-it-in-the-end zone series of play calls against the Panthers.
  • With Brian Westbrook playing, the Eagles can use some of the formations we have seen in training camp, as well as some of the personnel groupings that are potentially very exciting. Westbrook and Lorenzo Booker are going to play together, and tonight is the first time they will do so in a game. Both have speed and know the route-running adjustments they have to make to open up the field and make big plays.
  • It's another test for the run defense, which gave up some yards last week in an 80-yard Steelers touchdown drive that opened the game. Carolina likes to pound the football with DeAngelo Williams, so the Eagles will have to step up and play stout at the line of scrimmage.
  • Max Jean-Gilles starts at right guard, so he has another opportunity to work on his game. He has made huge strides this summer. It's exciting to see his development, and it means a lot for the Eagles to have some depth at the guard spots.
  • Todd Herremans is the left tackle and Scott Young is the left guard tonight as Tra Thomas sits out. Thomas' back pains are a worry, but he seems to go through this every preseason and then takes care of the situation and comes back strong. The left side of that line is worth watching tonight.
  • Without Chris Clemons, who has a calf strain, the Eagles will get a longer look at some of their defensive ends, including Jerome McDougle. Could he really make the team after all he has been through? If McDougle continues to play really well, what would that mean for the Eagles as they think about the Victor Abiamiri situation? How long do the Eagles wait to see if Abiamiri can play this year? Questions, questions.
  • Asante Samuel makes his debut, and here is hoping that Jake Delhomme throws Samuel's way a few times. I want to see Samuel in action. He looks extremely talented in camp with the way he breaks on the ball, changes direction and plays aggressively. I want to see it tonight, too.
  • Reggie Brown is the wide receiver who I want to see get into the game early. I think it's important that he gets into a flow early this season and is productive right off the bat. That would mean a great deal for the offense.
  • Big game for Kevin Kolb, who was up and down in Pittsburgh. Here is my vision: Eagles score three times with McNabb at quarterback and then Kolb comes in with most of the starters still on the field midway through the second quarter and gets some time there and then goes into the second half already in a groove when he is playing with the backups and deep reserves.
  • Who is this team's starting fullback? Right now it's Jed Collins, who was considered a long, long, longshot in the spring. He has worked hard and deserves his shot. Does he spend the first half chipping on Julius Peppers?
  • The special teams need to play better than they did last week. All around. I need to see Booker stick it up in there on kickoff returns, and I need to see DeSean Jackson find a crease and hit it in the punt return game. The coverage teams have to be better. One thing I loved last week, which nobody talked about: David Akers had great leg strength on his kickoffs. He was short by a few yards on a 64-yard attempt the other day in camp, by the way.
  • Is Joe Mays the real deal at middle linebacker? I expect to see a lot of the young man tonight once the Eagles turn over the defense to the backups. Mays played pretty well last week, but he more to learn and grow.
  • Is Dan Klecko the team's fourth defensive tackle? Yep, now he is. Watch him hustle and play harder than everyone on the field when he's out there.
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