Eagles vs Patriots - Five things to watch for

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The score of the game doesn't count, but it doesn't mean it's meaningless. For a number of Eagles, this is a very important game and a big opportunity. For fans, it's a chance to get a sneak peek at some of the guys we may not yet know, but could have a major impact on the season ahead. Here's my 5 things to watch for, in no particular order.

Winston Justice - We've all read the reports about the progress Justice has made in camp this year. Members of the coaching staff and of the local media have all mention of his improved play in camp. Andy Reid told Chris Mortenson that "the light went on" with Justice in this camp. While it's not entirely uncommon for some guys to take a few years to adjust to the NFL, Eagles fans are still understandably apprehensive about the prospect of him actually starting in a game that matters. Tonight, he has a chance to start to prove that his resurgence hasn't just been a camp anomaly.

LeSean McCoy - Skill players can always be somewhat iffy to evaluate in the preseason because of the vanilla nature of the playcalling, but McCoy's job is to find a hole and run through it. I think we'll have a good idea if he can do that. Also worth watching will be the job he does in pass protection. Reports from camp were positive on the progress he was making in the blocking department, but he didn't do much of that in college and it will be a major transition to do it in the NFL. His ability to pass block may very well tie directly into how much he plays this year.

Special teams - Particularly, the return games. We've got some pretty exciting options on both kick and punt returns that should be on display tonight. Jeremy Maclin was a great return man in college and should have chances to return both kicks and punts tonight. Newly acquired(and ex-Patriot) Ellis Hobbs led the AFC in kick return yardage last year and will feature on kick returns tonight. I'm not sure whether Desean Jackson will get any punt returns in this game, but he's a possibility as well. In addition, Danny Amendola should get a few cracks at returning punts. Last preseason, both Desean Jackson and Quintin Demps returned kicks for TDs against the Patriots.

The free safety battle - Second year man Quintin Demps and free agent signing Sean Jones have been doing battle all camp for the starting free safety job vacated by Brian Dawkins. Reports out of camp say Sean Jones might have a slight lead right now, but in reality this battle will be decided in the preseason. Whichever guys outplays the other in these next 3 or 4 games wins that job.

Joe Mays - Mays had a nice preseason last year and then was pretty much never heard of again. With Stewart Bradley locking up the MIKE job and Omar Gaither playing the utility backup man for the LB corps, there wasn't really a place for the rookie on the field. However, in his second year Mays finds himself as the probable starter after Stewart Bradley was lost for the season. Tonight, I just want to see Mays and feel like he belongs on the field with the starters.

And one more thing... I'm interested in seeing what happens to newly signed QB Adam DiMichele, who might have a chance to play a quarter after not even being on the team as of Wednesday morning. I actually don't believe he's even had a full practice with the team. It could be quite an adventure watching the kid try to survice out there.

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