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Eagles vs. Dolphins: 13 most interesting players to watch

Who will you be focusing on?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles are set to play another meaningless football game tonight against the Miami Dolphins. This preseason game projects to be the least meaningless game since the starters will play for at least most of the first half.

While the final score doesn't matter, it’ll still be interesting to see how certain players perform given that roster spots are up for grabs. Here are the 13 most interesting Eagles players to watch in tonight's game. Jersey numbers are listed next to player names for your convenience.

1 - Torrey Smith - No. 82

Smith’s had a pretty strong offseason. He’s caught mostly everything thrown his way. During practice, he’s shown that he can still beat cornerbacks down the field with his deep speed. In the preseason games, though, Smith has been pretty quiet. He doesn’t have a single reception so far. That’s not a major concern; he’s only played a limited number of snaps. Still, it’d be nice to see him get more involved.

2 - The starting offensive line

Tonight marks the first preseason game this summer where the Eagles’ entire starting offensive line is projected to play. They have a lot to prove after some not-so-encouraging outings over the past two weeks. The run blocking has been especially worrisome. It’s only preseason, yes, so you can only ask for so much. But it’d be nice to see the blocking at least be moderately effective instead of downright useless.

3 - Wendell Smallwood - No. 28

Smallwood is set to make his 2017 preseason debut tonight. There’s no question Smallwood has been the best running back during Eagles training camp. The only problem is he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Now that he’s back, it’s time for Smallwood to show he can be reliable and effective. The Eagles desperately needed someone in the backfield to step up. Smallwood might be the team’s only hope.

4 - LeGarrette Blount - No. 29

Blount is averaging 1.89 yards per carry so far this summer. Poor blocking hasn’t helped his cause. Still, it’d be nice to see more out of the big man.

5 - Donnel Pumphrey - No. 34

I might as well have grouped the entire running back position into one item here since Pumphrey is the third rusher on this list. There’s been speculation the Eagles could place Pumphrey on injured reserve with a phantom injury since he doesn’t look NFL ready. We’ll see if there’s any credence to that idea based on how often the Eagles use him tonight. One would also think Philadelphia wants to see how he looks against an opposing starting defense.

6 - Alshon Jeffery - No. 17

Last weekend, Eagles wide receiver coach Mike Groh said Jeffery was mentally “behind” after missing practice time. Jeffery went on to have a really great week of practice. Now it’ll be fun to see him go up against Byron Maxwell during tonight’s game. Jeffery and Carson Wentz weren’t exactly always on the same page last Thursday so let’s see if that’s any different against Miami.

7 - Carson Wentz - No. 11

Speaking of Carson, he’s always an obvious inclusion on this list. Wentz had his worst week of practice following the Eagles’ decision to trade Jordan Matthews. Wentz looked just OK against the Bills last Thursday but he’s since stepped it up during practice. The Eagles’ offense has stalled too often during these preseason games. It’d be an encouraging sign to see Wentz get in a rhythm and lead some successful scoring drives.

8 - Derek Barnett - No. 96

With Brandon Graham out, Barnett should get an extended look with the first team defense. Barnett has been dominating second-string offensive lines during the summer so far. Now let’s see how the Eagles’ first-round pick fares when he goes up against actual NFL starters.

9 - Joe Walker - No. 59

It could be Najee Goode who starts at middle linebacker with Jordan Hicks out but I’d imagine the Eagles might want to see Joe Walker gets some snaps there as well. Walker hasn’t looked flat out bad but he hasn’t looked like the same player he was prior to suffering a season-ending injury in 2016. The linebacker depth as a whole is still up in the air. Nate Gerry, Kamu Grugier-Hill, and Don Cherry are other names to watch.

10 and 11 - Ron Brooks and Patrick Robinson - No. 33 and No. 21

Who will the Eagles’ slot cornerback be? Ron Brooks was the guy in 2016. Patrick Robinson is also taking first team nickel reps, though, so it doesn’t appear Brooks is the undisputed answer. Maybe the Eagles keep both of these players since they’ve had issues with injuries, but it wouldn’t hurt for one to step up and claim the slot job.

12 - Tim Jernigan - No. 93

Jernigan hasn’t really individually stood out. That’s not to suggest he’s been bad. The Eagles’ defensive line has been playing well as a whole. Jernigan might not be shining as bright because there’s only so many big plays to go around and the likes of Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham have been making them. Thursday night’s game will offer an extended look at Jernigan. He’ll have more opportunities to make an impact than he’s had in the first two preseason games.

13 - Caleb Sturgis - No. 6

Sturgis is 3/5 on field goal attempts this preseason with misses from 45 and 46 yards. He’s been perfect in practice recently, so let’s see if that carries over to real game action. On a scale of 1-10, I’m at like 3 on the panic meter with him - not very high. More misses tonight could raise that arbitrary level to 7. A strong showing could lower it back to 1.

Honorable mention: It sounds like Bryce Treggs (No. 16) might be able to return tonight after dealing with a leg injury he suffered two weeks ago. Assuming he plays, Treggs is another player to watch. He had a strong outing against the Packers. Can he push for a sixth wide receiver spot?

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