The preseason is always a better barometer for certain players and position than others. We know that Andy Reid prefers to run a very basic, vanilla scheme on both offense and defense. Given the fact that the Eagles play the Jaguars for real in week 3 of the regular season, he certainly isn't going to show them anything tonight he plans to do on September 26th.
With that in mind, most people will have their eyes on Kevin Kolb in his first game as the permanent starter. Whether or not he leads the team to points in his one quarter of play isn't terribly important with a vanilla offense, but things like mechanics and execution are. You want to see the accuracy we've all been hearing about, you want to see him make some decisions under pressure, and you want to see him in charge of the offense. Andy Reid laid out his expectations from Kolb.
"I think what you look from a quarterback to do is to execute the offense and to lead the offense and to make sure that he manages the game the proper way. So that's how I approach it with him, I think that with any quarterback in the National Football League. If they think that they are going to complete every ball than that's a good thing."
As for Michael Vick, you want to see some of the same things as Kolb.. but more than anything, I'm interested in seeing the athleticism. Vick's ability to run around like he once did is going to end up having a lot more value to the team this year than whether he looks like he can be a starting QB once again.
For the rest of the team, it's really about winning individual battles.
The blocking schemes will get more complex in the regular season, but the offensive line can either win individual battles or it can't. The Jags won't throw complex blitzes at them, so it'll be really important to focus on whether these guys are winning at the point of attack. Jason Peters has had a year in the offense and should be more comfortable and in shape. It would be nice to see no false starts from him... Mike McGlynn has a real shot to win the starting center job in this next couple games, so he'll definitely be a guy to key on. Stacy Andrews will be starting at RG tonight and he's obviously a huge question mark. He's fully healthy this year and knows the system so there's no excuses for him anymore. He's a massive guy and really was turning into a nice player before he got hurt in Cincy. If he can be the player they hope this year, it'll be a huge boost for the offensive line.
On defense it's about individual battles as well. Sean McDermott won't be using all the exotic blitz schemes the Eagles are known for, he's going to ask his guys to win one on one. Brandon Graham is going to get a lot of opportunities and it'll be interesting to see if he can get to the QB... But I'm really interested to see if the Eagles can get some pressure up the middle. That was something they really lacked last year and they've brought in guys like Daryl Tapp & Daniel Te'O-Nesheim to rush the passer from the inside in nickel situations. Plus, we've all been hearing about the strong camp that Trevor Laws has had, so he'll be a guy to watch on the inside.
Finally, tackling. Tackling is a pretty basic element of the game that doesn't change in the regular season. Whether the boys up front, the linebackers with Stewart Bradley & Ernie Sims, or the secondary with the tackling challenged Asante Samuel... it's important to see good tackling tonight. One guy I'll certainly have my eye on is rookie safety Nate Allen.
More than anything though... cross your fingers that everyone stays healthy!