The third preseason game is tomorrow night. It’s standard at this point for Eagles commentators/beat writers/bloggers to put up a “what I’m watching” post, and I’m no different. I will say, however, that I tend to look at things a bit differently. For example, at Birds 24/7, Tim McManus is watching:
– Kenny Phillips
– Russell Shepard
Click the link to see his rationale, but none of those strike me as particularly meaningful, though they’re all of some interest.
Defensive Line, especially Logan/Curry
So far, the defensive line is FAR ahead of where I (and most others) expected them to be. Preseason performance obviously has to be discounted, but there’s no doubt the group looks stronger than I thought they’d be. Of note here are Bennie Logan and Vinny Curry. Both players have shown signs of being very good players in this defense. However, both have also been predominantly matched up against backups. I want to see what they do when playing against #1s.
Logan, in particular, is an important piece, by virtue of Sopoaga playing in front of him. Sopoaga isn’t exactly a world-beater at NT, and isn’t likely to produce anything beyond mediocre play. Every team needs some draft luck in order to contend, and hitting on a 3rd round NT would certainly qualify. If Logan can contribute, it eliminates a big hole in the defensive roster.
Rumor has it both Logan and Curry will rotate in early tomorrow night. If we’re talking long-term (and we should be), that’s the biggest thing to watch. Can either player be a significant contributor?
It’s looking more likely that Nate Allen will be starting for the Eagles this year, at least in Game 1. The question here is, can he be average? With what is expected to be a very good offense, the Eagles don’t need a GREAT defense, just a passable one. Last year, the team’s Safety play was horrendous. Missed tackles and bad angles against the run and broken coverage in the pass game. I’m confident that Patrick Chung (while he’s healthy) will provide solid, if unspectacular, play. If Nate Allen can do the same, the Eagles will have filled the biggest hole on the team.
Now that he’s the unquestioned starter, I hope to see a better representation of Chip’s playbook. We won’t get it all (he’ll save a lot for the regular season), but we should get a much better feel for how the offense will function. Beyond that, I’m looking for one thing from Vick: Can he hit throw the bubble screen accurately? So far, it looks like the WR screen will be a foundation of the offense. However, it’s not as easy a throw to make as it looks. To be successful, the ball has to be delivered quickly and with precise accuracy. If the throw ends up on the WR’s back shoulder, it essentially ruins the play. With DeSean especially, it can mean the difference between a huge gain and a negative play.
TEs in the Slot
There might not be an area of this offense I’m more excited about. With the TEs the Eagles have, specifically Clay Harbor and Zach Ertz, this should be a consistent source of positive match-ups. I want to see a lot of it. At the highest level, it forces the defense to change its personnel. Normally, the defense would be in a Nickel alignment, with 3 CBs to cover the offense’s 3 WRs. However, a CB won’t be able to consistently cover Harbor/Ertz.
There are a few options for the defense, but none of them are that attractive. It also plays to both Harbor and Ertz’s strengths, namely the Size/Athleticism combination.
I’m not overly concerned with the bottom of the roster. It’s obviously important for the players, but for the team’s overall performance, the last few spots on the roster aren’t going to matter much. However, I want to remind everyone that a few of the Eagles’ offseason additions and presumed starters must still be considered injury risks. Specifically:
– Patrick Chung. He’s missed 14 games over the past 3 seasons. In all likelihood, he won’t play 16 games this year. Someone has to be able to step in and provide adequate play. I’m not sure that person is on the roster.
– Bradley Fletcher. He played all 16 games last year and in 2010, so I’m more confident in him than I am in Chung. Let’s not forget that he’s torn the ACL in his right knee TWICE (as well as the MCL once). The Eagles aren’t exactly deep at CB.
Therefore, if you want to watch what’s really important during the second half of the game, keep your eyes on the DBs. It was the team’s biggest weakness last year, and while it should improve based on the current starters, there’s very little depth. If the wheels are going to come off this year, it’ll likely have something to do with this position group.
Whether its Wolff, Coleman, Phillips (not likely), Whitley, Lindley, etc… doesn’t really matter. The Eagles just need SOMEBODY that can step in and deliver non-catastrophic play.