Now we can really hone in on the regular season and what awaits the Eagles. They have some business to conduct: 14 players must be cleared from the existing roster to reach the 53-man limit by Saturday at 6 p.m. You know that. They know that. The Eagles aren't going to get the news out much, if any, earlier than that as they exhaust every opportunity to improve the team.
So we wait. And while I'm killing time, I'm here thinking about this and that ...
- What are the weaknesses on this defense? I'm looking at the Rams, and I see a team with an excellent running back in Steven Jackson, a good quarterback in Marc Bulger and fine receivers. The Eagles have to dominate at the line of scrimmage. And I'm looking specifically at the Trent Cole-Orlando Pace battle. Cole is now a Pro Bowl player. Certain prestige and a new level of expectation comes with that. Pace has had a rough go of it in the last year, but he a pro's pro. To me, then, the Eagles can match up fine with the Rams receivers, and the linebackers are going to have their sights set on Jackson. It comes down to the defensive line. Always does, anyway.
- If the Eagles decide to come out and run the football next Sunday, I won't complain. I would love to see the offense spread the field and give Brian Westbrook some cracks against a defense that would then have to tackle Westbrook in the open field. Without Kevin Curtis, the Eagles are without a weapon in the passing game. I think Westbrook's work load is going to be considerable early in the season.
- General Manager Tom Heckert holds a conference call on Saturday at 6 p.m., so maybe we will find out then about the condition of guard Max Jean-Gilles. He went down late on Thursday night. It is the one piece of news that is still hanging out there as the process of the roster trimming is conducted.
- Feeling good about the quarterback situation? It's hard not to be optimistic. Donovan McNabb looks tremendous and is primed to lead the offense to a big season. Kevin Kolb clearly has made huge strides since his rookie campaign. A.J. Feeley is a seasoned professional who is as accomplished as any third-team quarterback in the league. When is the last time there hasn't been a whisper of an Eagles quarterback controversy all the way through training camp and the preseason?
- My guess is that the cornerback trio of Asante Samuel, Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard will play about 65 percent of the time next Sunday. I see the Rams going with three wide receivers for much of the game. And at the end of the day, nobody is going to care about which cornerback didn't start or how the corners are lined up.
- I've been scouring the names that have been released and nothing is exciting yet. No, Rosevelt Colvin is not a fit at linebacker for this team. If the Eagles need to add a linebacker, it should be somebody who can come in and help right away on special teams.
- Did anyone notice David Akers' kickoffs on Thursday night? The first three landed at the goal line or a yard or two in the end zone, and the fourth kickoff went to the 5-yard line. There is no question that Akers has improved his leg strength since last season.
- A key player to watch in the week ahead is defensive end Chris Clemons. He needs to get back on the field for this defense. It just helps so much when he is out there in the nickel and the Eagles can line up four ends to rush the passer. Without Clemons, the Eagles lose some inside punch when they go after the quarterback. This is a role Bryan Smith has to grow into during the season. Whether he lines up at end or inside at tackle, Smith has to provide a consistent pass rush and be someone the Eagles can relay upon. Smith sure has improved a great deal since April. How much farther can he go during the regular season?
- Any injuries around the league to watch? The Cowboys lost third receiver Sam Hurd for at least the first week of the season with an ankle injury. The Giants have some bumps and bruises and the Redskins have questions with a handful of players. St. Louis has some players, including cornerback Fakhir Brown, who are iffy for this game.