Philadelphia's second preseason game is on Friday and after a sloppy showing last week, the Eagles need improve their performance as the team gets closer to the first cuts of training camp. The Eagles have been practicing with the Patriots this week and will now face them in a game.
The Eagles starters are likely to play the majority of the first half, which will give them a bigger sample size against a quality team. BGN's Mike Kaye and Dan Klausner are eager to see what a week of practice and game tape can do for the Eagles. Below are five questions heading into Friday's game.
What matchups are you looking forward to on Friday night?
Mike Kaye: The Eagles first team offensive line against the Patriots first team pass rushers will be a nice test. I think the offensive line needs to improve a lot from last week and New England's pass rushers will be an interesting test. Chandler Jones is a very good player.
Dan Klausner: Nick Foles going up against what should be one of the better defenses in the NFL is the answer here for me. He needs to be much better than he was against Chicago. With Maclin and Cooper out, I'll be keying on Jordan Matthews. Will he get to see Darrelle Revis? After a shaky first preseason game that momentarily curbed the Hall of Fame talk, Matthews has to get over the jitters and bounce back. After reports all week of the Eagles defense being vastly improved and giving the Patriots offense all it could handle, I can't wait to see what the unit looks like against Tom Brady and friends in the heat of game action.
Last week was an awful showing for the starters, which offensive player are you most concerned about? Who are you concerned about on defense?
MK: Nick Foles had a very rough game, but I would say Allen Barbre on offense. He just looked super stiff out there and is the least proven starter by a mile. Foles has shown the ability to bounce back big after bad games and Barbre, well, hasn't bounced back from anything. I know that it was one game for Barbre, but he is different than a set starter or a rookie, he's a journeymen. He needs to prove he is a better option than Matt Tobin, Andrew Gardner or Dennis Kelly at right tackle. Hopefully, he will bounce back against the Patriots.
On defense, I'd say Fletcher Cox. I am not necessarily concerned about him but I am curious as to why he isn't dominating. He is scheme versatile and has athleticism for miles, but he just hasn't made a big impact in practice and was nowhere to be found in the first preseason game. I am sure that will change.
DK: I won't say Foles just yet, as it'll depend on how he looks in this game. Barbre and Cox are good choices. If Barbre struggles again, it wouldn't surprise me to see Tobin out there with the starters for the third preseason game -- maybe he plays guard and Todd Herremans bounces outside to tackle? As for Cox, he is the only player I feel overly concerned about on defense. While reports are that everyone else on the defense -- and the unit as a whole -- has taken gigantic steps forward, reviews of Cox's performance have not been so glowing. For someone who should be ready to make that leap in his third season in the NFL and second season in the 3-4 defense, he has been disappointing during camp so far. Cox has sounded sluggish and just "blah" overall. He needs to be a distinct impact player and serve as this defense's version of Muhammad Wilkerson. Period.
Just so Mike and I have some variation, I'll go with Jordan Matthews for the second straight answer. He figures to get time against the Patriots' starters on defense and needs to ball out. My main concerns with Matthews in college were his ability to get separation and inconsistent hands. After tantalizing everyone during practices, those warts appeared for Matthews in the game against Chicago.
What has been the biggest surprise of training camp so far?
MK: The improvement of Ifeanyi Momah probably. He was a serious afterthought for me heading into camp and I thought he'd be among the first cuts, if not released sooner. By all accounts, it seems to be night and day for Momah from last year to now and that's great for him. I do think he has a solid shot at the roster if they keep six receivers. Hopefully, he takes advantage of the reps he gets on Friday.
DK: Yeah, has to be Momah. I never gave him a shot after 2013 training camp, but voila, he's improved by light years and has a very real shot to make the roster. On defense, I'll say it's Beau Allen. I thought he'd be a nice backup nose tackle to spell Logan, but from camp reports and his play in the first preseason game, it appears as though Allen could see a lot more snaps than anticipated in the base defense. He annihilated the interior of the Bears' second-string offensive line last week.
If Cox continues to struggle, we could very well see a starting three-man defensive line of Thornton, Allen and Logan.
Special mention to Mark Sanchez here. I don't know what everyone expected, but suffice to say it wasn't for there to be rumblings already about him taking Foles' job during the season.
Which fringe players are you most eager to see step up in the game?
MK: I'd say Curtis Marsh and Arrelious Benn. These guys are everywhere on the spectrum. Marsh has had a great camp and Benn has kind of flown under the radar. Remember, just because you don't make the Eagles roster, doesn't mean you can't make another with a solid preseason. I'd like to see Marsh continue to do what he's been doing throughout August, and I want Benn to flash for his sake. I also have interest in seeing how Emmanuel Acho and David Molk perform as well.
DK: I thought Benn was going to make the roster when camp started, but that doesn't sound like it's happening. I want to see which of the fringe wide receivers step up. Brad Smith likely has the fifth spot on lock, and if the team keeps six it'll come down to Momah or Maehl -- the battles rages on! B.J. Cunningham has fallen off after an impressive minicamp that had some people buzzing he was a player to watch. Undrafted rookies Quron Pratt and Kadron Boone have both had their moments of standing out it in camp and are fighting for practice squad spots.
I guess since Chris Polk, Matthew Tucker and David Fluellen are all out, Henry Josey should get a bulk of the carries after McCoy and Sproles exit. That'll be a great showcase for the undrafted rookie as he tries to make the Eagles practice squad or catch on with another team after roster cut-downs. Hey, maybe Chip and Shurmur will let Trey Burton reenact his college days and line up in the backfield to get some carries (!) on account of the lack of depth at the position for this game. I would love that.
Marsh and Roc Carmichael are battling for that sixth cornerback spot, if the Eagles decide to keep that many, and the clear edge goes to Marsh right now. For what's worth, I still think it'll be five cornerbacks and five safeties on the final 53-man roster.
Travis Long gets the nod here again. It'll be against second- and third-stringers, but for a defense looking for help at outside linebacker, especially in a pass rush capacity, I want to see what Long can do.
Oh, and will Matt Barkley show us anything or just continue to look like a fringe NFL player/third-string quarterback who might be entering his last season as an Eagle?
What do you want to see from Nick Foles on Friday night?
MK: No turnovers would nice. However, I am more looking forward to him spreading the ball around and being able to expand his mid-range game. I want touchdowns from all of the quarterbacks, but it would be nice to see Foles rebound in a big way. Again, preseason doesn't mean a whole lot for him, but you also don't want to see him fall on his face. Hopefully, the line will protect better and Foles will be able to make good decisions.
DK: I just want him to look confident, in control and sharp. I want to see him get the ball out quickly and throw with conviction -- pick apart the Patriots defense with surgical precision, with a this-is-MY-team swagger. I think it's even more imperative for Foles to have a strong showing in a game where he'll be missing his top two wide receivers in Maclin and Cooper. Whatever, make their replacements shine, that's what the best quarterbacks in the league are able to do. People might pooh-pooh this as "only being preseason" and therefore not to get worried if Foles has another tough outing, but my question to those people is -- what do you think happens, a switch flips when the regular season starts and he's automatically back to being the Nick Foles of 2013? Excuse me if I'm not as optimistic that's the case. Speaking of which, CAN SANCHEZ LIGHT IT UP FRIDAY NIGHT AND CONTINUE TO STOKE THE -- AHEM -- QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY FLAMES???