The Kansas City Chiefs will host our Eagles at their newly refurbished digs for the all important third game of the NFL preseason. Andy Reid announced this week that the starters will play into the third quarter and the second unit will play the fourth quarter. Several injured Eagles will be making their preseason debuts tonight including OG Todd Herremans and RB Mike Bell. Reid said Herremans will start but wasn't sure whether he'd play the full three quarters with the rest of the starters. Macho Harris, who has struggled with injuries throughout camp will also play.
This is ostensibly the last chance we'll have to see the Eagles first team offense and defense before the season opener. Starters rarely play the 4th preseason game so they'll need to work out all the kinks tonight. For the Eagles offense, chief among those kinks is red zone efficiency. The Eagles struggled scoring TDs in the red zone last year and have yet to do so in this preseason. That said we are talking about three red zone possessions in three preseason quarters so it's hard to call it a "trend" but if the problems persist through this game then it will start to be a real worry. After tonight, the Eagles starters will have played six quarters which should make for a good sample size. Andy Reid talked about the red zone issues this week.
"I think it's important. I would tell you that when you get into the red zone, you want to score. We try to do that in the preseason with a limited package, but at the same time you if execute, you score. I've mentioned this before, so I'll mention it again here, we did get it in the end zone this last time, and then we had the penalty, so we have to clean that up, and make sure we take care of business there. I think our guys have the confidence that'll it'll get done, whether it is now or during the season."
On defense, we'll see the debut of rookie DE Brandon Graham as a starter. Andy Reid was asked whether inserting Graham into the starting lineup was done with an eye on the future?
"Listen, all of those guys are going to play. We need all of them. I'm not going to sit here and slight [Juqua Parker], because he's had a very good camp, but Graham's playing well so we're giving him the opportunity to step in and play, and start and then [Parker] will spot him there."
The Eagles first team defense has allowed just one score this preseason and will look continue their solid play. The main area of concern so far has been depth at the corner position. We've seen Joselio Hanson burned for deep passes in each of the first two preseason games and Geoffrey Pope has been burned deep as well. Dimitri Patterson has played the best of the backup corners and we'll be looking for more consistency for him and the rest of that group. Someone will have to emerge to take on the nickel role behind Asante Samuel & Ellis Hobbs.
Speaking of Ellis Hobbs, Andy was asked a question that I think has been on all of our minds this preseason. Will DeSean Jackson & Ellis Hobbs be asked to return kicks at all? Both started last season and the first choice punt and kick returner but neither have been asked to do so in this preseason so far. It's been assumed that Jackson is just being saved for the regular season, but we've wondered whether Hobbs, who was a very good KR with Patriots, will get a chance to return given that he's coming off an injury last year and he's a starting corner this year. Reid only answered, "I’m working through that now."
In other words, we'll see tonight.