The Philadelphia Eagles are scheduled to play a meaningless preseason game against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night. But while the final score doesn't count, it will still be interesting to see how the team's players perform as they prepare for the 2015 NFL regular season. This is the final preseason game where key Eagles players will suit up. The fourth and final game is reserved for mostly backups.
Here are the 10 Eagles players to watch in tonight's game.
1) Sam Bradford
Bradford passed the first test last week. He took a few hits and stayed in the game to lead a touchdown drive. That was an encouraging sign. Now Bradford needs to look sharper this week. A few of his throws against the Ravens were a little too high. Bradford is expected to get more playing time this week so he should have ample time to shake off the rust and establish a rhythm. Bradford has looked great in practice this summer. Now it's time for him to carry his success over to the game. This is likely his last appearance until the Eagles' regular season starts on Sept. 14.
2) Kiko Alonso
Alonso is expected to make his highly anticipated debut on Saturday evening. Alonso missed a few weeks while recovering from a concussion, but he's back now. This will be the first time Alonso has suited up in game action since the 2013 season. Recall that Alonso missed all of 2014 after suffering an injury last offseason. Alonso's debut should be exciting because he's heck of a player. He was a beast as a rookie. Since then, he's had the time to build more strength. The pairing of Alonso and Mychal Kendricks in the middle has the potential to be quite the special inside linebacker duo for years to come.
3) DeMeco Ryans
The 31-year-old Ryans is expected to play for the first time since suffering a season-ending Achilles injury halfway through the Eagles' season last year. It seems like Ryans might not be 100% yet, so one can wonder how much he'll really play. Maybe the team just wants to get him a few snaps to gauge his readiness for the upcoming season.
4) Nolan Carroll
Carroll has had a good summer while playing on the outside. Now he'll be tested in the slot when the Eagles shift to their nickel defense. Statistics suggest Carroll has fared well as a nickel cornerback in the past, but the sample size has been small.
5) Eric Rowe
Rowe will line up at outside cornerback when Carroll shifts to the slot. The rookie defensive back will get a chance to prove he deserves playing time. Rowe has looked OK in the slot, but it's likely not where the team wants to keep him in the long-run so it'd be ideal if he excels on the outside while Carroll looks good on the inside.
6) John Moffitt
Moffitt has really struggled through Philadelphia's first preseason games. It's apparent he's been away from the NFL for two years. For what it's worth, Moffitt is the lowest overall graded guard by Pro Football Focus so far this summer. Moffitt doesn't need to show he deserves to be a starter against Green Bay; he merely needs to prove he still belongs in the league.
7) Najee Goode
With Emmanuel Acho being waived, Goode's chances of making the final roster and/or practice squad (yes, he's still eligible) went up a little. The Eagles have been high on Goode in the past, but he's seemed to struggle through two preseason games. Goode needs a goode game here.
8) Ed Reynolds and Jerome Couplin
I'm listing two players here because Reynolds and Couplin are basically in the same boat. They're fighting for a fifth safety spot on the 53-man roster that may or may not exist. Reynolds flashed in the Eagles-Colts game with two interceptions while Couplin returned to football last week and made some nice tackles against the Ravens. Special teams is going to be critical for any depth spot, so both of these players need to stand out there as well. One would figure the Eagles will keep at least one of these players on their 53-man roster or practice squad.
9) Diaheem Watkins
Diaheem Watkins is the G.J. Kinne of defense. High praise, I know. But for real ... Watkins has surprisingly stood out this summer. The Eagles only signed him after Travis Long went down, so it's not even like this is a guy they were all that high on. The 22-year-old rookie has showed up, though. He's done a good job of rushing the passer with five hurries and one sack. There might not be room for Watkins on the active roster but he's playing himself into a practice squad spot, especially with the Eagles so thin at outside linebacker.
10) Matt Barkley and/or Tim Tebow
It's a lock that Bradford and Mark Sanchez will play against the Packers. But with those two guys eating up most of the snaps, how much playing time will there be for Barkley and/or Tebow? Assuming the Eagles treat the quarterback order like they have so far this preseason, Barkley will come in immediately after Sanchez. That might not leave much, if any, playing time for Tebow. At this point, the competition for the third quarterback job is wide open in theory. Neither candidate has really done much to separate themselves. The biggest thing Tebow has going for him is that the team has tried to move on from Barkley.