If you are looking at Friday's night's preseason opener in Chicago to provide an indication of what lengths Chip Kelly will take to involve Darren Sproles in the offense, or how much Bill Davis is going to blitz in 2014, well, you know the deal. You know that the preseason is not about putting new concepts on film for the rest of the league to study.
Instead, the preseason is important to find out as much as possible about the 90 men on the current roster, a number that get s knocked down to 53 players before the season opens against Jacksonville on September 7.
So instead of looking at the X's and O's in Chicago, focus on the one-on-one performances many players will find themselves in. Look at, for example, the cornerbacks when they are matched in single coverage. Look at the edge pass rushers and see what kind of success they have winning the corner on the path to the quarterback.
And unless the Bears go against the norm - which is possible if Chicago thinks a preseason game can make a "statement" for the season - the offense won't see a lot of intricate blitzing and alignments.
So what is worth watching on Friday night? The players, man, the players. Here are the players on my short list, because, you know, I'm going to watch every player and every situation as the Eagles open the preseason (in which jerseys) on the road.
Jeremy Maclin, WR
I know what Maclin can do on the field. He's a fine receiver. He's tough. He's reliable. And he missed all of last season with a knee injury, so this is his first game action since the last game of the Andy Reid era in 2012. Giving Maclin a touch, seeing him bounce up from a tackle ... that's all I need and I'm good to go with Maclin. He and Nick Foles have had good chemistry in training camp and Maclin has been durable since the injury, but this is a hurdle to clear.
Allen Barbre, OT
Lane Johnson's suspension vaults Barbre into the starting role at right tackle, and every rep means something in the preseason for the offensive line. Barbre is a strong guy, a powerful run blocker, and he's adapted well to this scheme under line coach Jeff Stoutland. Barbre is a huge piece of the offense through the preseason and the first month of the regular season.
Earl Wolff, S
So, yeah, there is a starting job available at safety next to Malcolm Jenkins. Nate Allen is listed as the starter on the depth chart, but both players have split reps in the training sessions. Wolff is healthy and looking to make a run at the starting job, so he needs to prove he can be durable and become the playmaker the Eagles are looking for in the deep secondary.
Jordan Matthews, WR
Yes, just because. The kid has been terrific at the NovaCare Complex and Lincoln Financial Field, so how does that translate into a game situation? He and Mark Sanchez have had a great connection in practice, so expect Sanchez to look for big No. 81 in the passing game against the Bears.
Tackling On Defense
The Eagles haven't taken a ball carrier to the ground in a live situation during camp, but they've emphasized being in the right place at the right time and running through the ball with the correct form. Now it's time to take that practice into a live situation, so let's see how these young players react to the speed of the game.
Who returns kicks? Who wins the placekicking job? How much of an impact can we expect from free-agent additions Bryan Braman and Chris Maragos? The Eagles don't work on "live" special teams action in camp, so here is Dave Fipp's chance to evaluate his personnel.