INDIANAPOLIS –With more than a dozen players working their way back from injuries and not in uniform for tonight, the Eagles are here preparing for the Colts knowing that jobs are on the line. For rookies and veterans alike, the chore in this preseason game is to impress the coaches and take a step toward securing a roster spot.
So who are the veterans really playing for a job? Here is a list of players to watch vs. Indianapolis …
Matt Schobel, TENo question that tight end is one of the most tenuous positions on the team. Did everyone hold your breath when Brent Celek was injured last week against New England? The realization is that only Matt Schobel has any experience behind Celek, and Schobel has not been overly productive in his time as an Eagle. Now he has a chance, albeit in a preseason game. Whether the Eagles use Schobel as a receiver in the passing game or a blocker in the running game or even line him up next to left tackle King Dunlap to battle Dwight Freeney, Schobel has to play well.
It is fair to wonder what the Eagles are going to do at tight end behind Celek. Schobel missed a lot of time in the preseason with a calf injury, but now he is back and he has to prove himself. Can the Eagles keep three tight ends? Do they like rookies Eugene Bright and Rob Myers? Is there a trade in the works to back up Celek? Is Schobel the No. 2 tight end, able to help in the receiving and the blocking game?
Jason Babin, DE
A big game from Jason Babin could give him a firm advantage over second-year player Bryan Smith, who is out with a concussion. Babin has demonstrated his skills as a pass rusher who is a hard worker against the run. Make no mistake, though: If Babin is to make this team, it will be because the Eagles want to use him as a pass rusher first and foremost. Quick off the ball, Babin has some moves and is strong for a 267-pound end. He needs more from the inside technique, and he is working on that part of his game.
Will the Eagles keep six ends? Hey, they will keep as many good pass rushers as they can, and right now Babin fits that bill. He has a lot of work ahead in the final three preseason games, but Babin made a good first impression last week.
Dimitri Patterson, CB
A good special-teams player and a tenacious cover corner, Dimitri Patterson is working on earning a fifth cornerback job, should the Eagles keep five. He will have his hands full with the Colts' good group of receivers. Look for Patterson to play as the team's dime cornerback. He should see a decent amount of playing time against quality receivers, which is something the Eagles want to see. And, of course, Patterson is a gunner in punt coverage, a group that was burned for a touchdown return against New England last week.
Lorenzo Booker, RB
There is a fantastic battle looming for the third halfback spot between Lorenzo Booker and Eldra Buckley. Booker had a good game last week and he made a sensational catch on the sidelines, but his performance was overlooked by Buckley's two-touchdown game. Now, the competition goes to another level. Buckley is a serious player who is tough, who blocks pretty well and who can gain yards around the goal line. What about Booker? He catches the ball well and he is quick and he fits the profile of what the Eagles like from their running backs as far as moving around the formation.
This could go down to the wire. Booker needs to block and play well to hold off Buckley. It is a tight, tight competition.
Tank Daniels, LB
A good player on special teams, Tank Daniels is in a battle with rookie Moises Fokou for a linebacker job. It could very well come down to the fourth preseason game. Playing the Colts helps the coaches evaluate both players against a pass-oriented team that likes to spread the field. The linebackers have to cover well and have to play the run effectively in space.
Dan Klecko, DT
Quick off the ball and with a high motor, Dan Klecko has skills to help the Eagles as the fourth defensive tackle. But is that what the Eagles are looking for from a fourth tackle? They are looking forward to seeing Trevor Laws in this game, and Laws is the rotation tackle with Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley. When the team goes in the nickel, the defense lines up four ends across the front. Should the Eagles keep four tackles, do they want somebody who can rush the passer or somebody who can stuff the run?
It is an interesting situation for Klecko, who plays a lot of snaps and who gives every bit of effort. The guy is a total winner. Fitting four tackles into the 53-man roster is going to be tough. Through it all, Klecko continues to have a great attitude and continues to work hard and play the game to the best of his ability. And we all wonder if he fits in as the fourth tackle.
Sean Jones, SS
Many expected Sean Jones to challenge for a starting job, and that may still happen. To date, though, there has been no indication that Jones is ready to push Quintin Demps for a position. Jones is playing a lot of special teams and is hoping to make an impact there. He is going to see a lot of time in this game at safety as the Eagles look to see how he runs and covers the field. The Eagles appear to have a foursome that is fairly established at safety: Quintin Mikell, Demps, Jones and rookie Macho Harris. Reshard Langford is pushing, and the rookie free agent is a player to watch in the next few games.
Jones knows the way it works in this league. He has to ramp it up, make a play or two and get the coaches to have some faith that he will be around the football as he was in Cleveland.
King Dunlap, OT
Obviously, King Dunlap has a huge assignment starting at left tackle. His story has been told and you know that the second-year player must face Dwight Freeney and protect Donovan McNabb's back side. This is Dunlap's huge opportunity. He has to be quick off the ball and prepare himself for Freeney's array of moves and quickness.
The Eagles want as many of their young linemen to step up and prove they can play at this level. Dunlap is first in line this week.
A.J. Feeley, QB
With the acquisition of Michael Vick, the Eagles have a glut of quarterbacks on the roster. Who stays? Who goes? A.J. Feeley was fantastic last week against the Patriots and he is scheduled to play the second half of this game. Who stays? Who goes? Feeley has proven to be a good, solid backup quarterback here. He knows the offense and he is a good teammate in the locker room. And he can go out and win football games.
But the Eagles are going to be hard pressed to carry four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster and if they can't keep four, somebody has to go. So Feeley, on national television, has a big chance in front of him.
Hank Baskett, WR
Again, this is a numbers situation. Hank Baskett had a fine, fine summer. He is a good football player. And he is in the midst of some heavy competition in the roster game. Rookie Brandon Gibson has emerged as a legitimate prospect who has played well.
Baskett helps as a receiver with size who runs well after the catch. He has good hands, plays very well on special teams and is a good blocker. Baskett deserves to play a role in the offense. But does he beat out Gibson? Do the Eagles have bigger plans for Baskett?
His situation is one of many to watch as the Eagles line up against the Colts. Game two of the preseason has fascinating storylines to follow, even with so many key players back in Philadelphia watching on television.