Thursday night, the Philadelphia Eagles will take the field for the first time in 2011, when they play the Baltimore Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field. Who should you watch out for as sleepers to make the team? This is a position-by-position preview of what to look out for and expect tomorrow night.
At quarterback, you need to look out for quite a few things. First off, MAKE SURE THAT VICK DOES NOT GET HURT. Michael Vick, your starter who carried this team throughout the season last year will play a whole quarter. If he got injured, the Eagles would have to turn the ball over to second year player Mike Kafka or Vince Young.
The second quarter will go to free agent signing Vince Young. The most important thing with him is to see whether he has any command what so ever. He also needs to show that he has some grasp of this offense.
The third quarter will be interesting, going to Mike Kafka. Kafka must show that he has developed his arm. Last season, in pre-season, he looked like he had a tremendously weak arm. If he wants a future in this league, he needs to prove he has an NFL arm.
The fourth quarter will go to a peculiar prospect. Undrafted free agent signing Jerrod Johnson was a heisman candidate before his shoulder surgery prior to his senior season. The man has great size at 6’5 and 250 pounds, so while he may not make the team, he needs to show that his skills are back and that he potentially can be a good player.
Like quarterback, you must keep starter LeSean McCoy healthy. He is a highly considered back in this league that the Eagles can not afford to lose.
Ronnie Brown will be playing, but do not expect much time out of him as he is important too.
The guys to look out for at this position are Eldra Buckley, a work horse power back that has proven his worth on special teams, the shifty Dion Lewis, the team’s fifth round pick out of Pittsburgh, undrafted free agent Graig Cooper, who has battled injuries in college but is deadly when healthy, and other undrafted free agent Derrick Locke, who may add value as a returner.
The battle looks to be down to veteran Eldra Buckley and rookie Dion Lewis. Lewis may have the leg up because he is small, shifty, and can catch out of the backfield, but do not count out Eldra as special teams is tremendously important.
There isn’t much competition at this position. Owen Schmitt, the incumbent player will almost certainly get the spot. He is a tough, blue-collar blocker who takes pride in doing the dirty work. To back him up, the Eagles have seventh round draft choice Stanley Havili. He is a long shot to make the roster, assuming that there are no injuries to Schmitt. Havili will get most of the time, so you want to see how he looks picking up the blitz and catching out of the backfield.
The starters at this position are Jason Avant and Riley Cooper. These two do not need to prove anything as they have already solidified spots on the team. There are really three players to pay attention to tonight.
Chad Hall, returning from the practice squad last year has a legitimate chance to make the team as he knows the system and provides in the return game. Sinorice Moss, who played with the Giants is another guy who is small and returns punts. He has stood out in camp and could be a good target to make the team. Finally, the most likely guy to make it is former Raider Johnnie Lee Higgins. Higgins has great experience in the return game and adds a nice receiving piece to the team.
Look out for those three tonight.
Everyone knows what you’ll get out of Brent Celek, so it is not important to watch him. Watch out for Clay Harbor and Donald Lee. With the Steve Smith signing, the Eagles may keep one extra receiver and cut one extra tight end, so this may be a battle. Lee is experienced and is an athletic pass catcher. While Harbor has less experience, he has spent a year with the team, so he knows the playbook.
The Offensive Line battle will provide astounding entertainment, as there are so many candidates, but so few spots to fill. There are about 6 people who will definitely make it in Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans, Jason Peters, Ryan Harris, Jason Kelce, and Jamaal Jackson.
There aren’t any other players who have a one hundred percent chance of making it.
Who should you watch tonight on the outside? Watch to see how Ryan Harris fits in to the blocking scheme. He is most likely the starting right tackle day one, so it is vital that he understands Howard Mudd’s system.
Keep an eye out for the type of shape Jason Peters is in, if King Dunlap or Austin Howard have improved, and if Fenuki Tupou has a grasp of how to use his size.
On the interior, see how Danny Watkins adjusts to the pros, if Mike McGlynn can stand out after looking expendable through training camp thus far, and if Jason Kelce can handle first teamers at center.
Evan Mathis will be making his Eagles debut tonight, and he will add good depth behind the starting guards.
With so many injuries, the main concern at this position is for guys to keep healthy. Antonio Dixon, Trevor Laws, and a few others have already suffered injuries so the idea is to keep the important guys off the field.
The players to watch on the interior are newcomers Derek Landri and Anthony Hargrove. Both players will be able to make significant contributions in Jim Washburn’s rotation. Hargrove may make the biggest impact with his ability to get to the quarterback, but Landri can play a little too.
The other guy that may draw some eyes are undrafted free agent Cedric Thornton. Thornton has great size at 6’4 309 pounds and had a good career at Southern Arkansas.
Defensive end was an issue last year that has been greatly addressed in this years’ offseason. Returning are Trent Cole, Darryl Tapp, Juqua Parker, and Daniel T’eo Nesheim. The signings include Jason Babin and Phillip Hunt.
The three players that will get a majority of the playing time will be T’eo Nesheim, Darryl Tapp, and Phillip Hunt. Nesheim was the team’s third round pick in 2010 and didn’t get much time to prove himself last year. Tapp may be due for a breakout season as he may fit in well to Jim Washburn’s scheme. Lastly, Phillip Hunt will be a sleeper to make the team, and has shown a ton of promise in training camp.
Hunt was the CFL rookie of the year.
Obviously you have to pay attention to how Jamar Chaney does on the strong side, how Moise Fokou does, Akeem Jordan, Keenan Clayton, and Brian Rolle, but the most important thing is to see how Casey Matthews does. For more details on Casey Matthews tonight, read this.
Once again, click the link about Nnamdi Asomugha, but you also much watch standout training camp star Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and other guys who are fighting for a spot.
The most legitimate threats to make the team as the fourth and fifth corners are veteran Joselio Hansen, second year player Trevard Lindley, and third round pick and standout star in camp, Curtis Marsh.
Curtis Marsh is definitely the player to watch out for tonight. He has been a stud in camp, and if he can prove himself in the game, he’ll go from a long term project, to a star in the making soon enough.
Tonight, watch all the safeties. Some might get more time than others, but Jaiquawn Jarrett, Kurt Coleman, Jarrad Page, and Colt Anderson are the players to keep an eye out for.
Nate Allen is the only one who if healthy, has a starting spot solidified, so all these players will fight for a couple of spots. Colt Anderson seems to be the odd man out, but he is a monster on special teams. Watch out for this guy tonight because he will make it if the Eagles truly value special teams.
With two rookie kickers going tonight, the law firm of Henery and Henry will be a huge thing to pay attention to. Alex Henery, the rookie kicker has a monster leg, but it is important for him to show accuracy tonight, while Chas Henry must show consistency with his punts.