It’s time to strap it on again folks – the NFL’s preseason schedule kicks off this evening. Games of note are a rematch of last season’s Super Bowl as the Cardinals and Steelers meet, the Ravens and the Redskins meet in their Battle of the Beltway and the Eagles host the Patriots. I’ll be watching the Eagles closely tonight.
What are you expecting to see from your team?
The Eagles 2009 training camp has been like none other in recent memory (well maybe 2005). For the first time in over a decade camp opened up in Lehigh without Brian Dawkins and William (Tra) Thomas and Jon Runyan. Three weeks ago the team suffered a major blow when longtime defensive coordinator Jim Johnson lost his battle with cancer. Then of course there’s the injury bug which has come down heavy – the Birds have lost starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley and promising rookie Cornelius Ingram for the season with knee injuries. The new-look offensive line has suffered injuries to tackle Shawn Andrews and guard Todd Herremans. On the defensive line, end Trent Cole is nicked up. The most watched player is running back Brian Westbrook as he recovers from ankle surgery. It is projected that BWest will be ready for the season opener.
Here are some of the things that I will be looking for in tonight’s game.
- How will defensive coordinator Sean McDermott script the defensive scheme, and will he make the needed adjustments? The word on McDermott is that he is not as aggressive as Johnson in calling blitzes and I’m fine with that, the Eagles are an above average cover team. I am curious to see what adjustments are made if they struggle early.
- We won’t get to see the new offensive line probably at all this preseason, can Winston Justice finally step in? I say Winston Justice because of the Shawn Andrews situation. Yes his back is bothering him but I believe he’s still struggling emotionally with depression. If this is the case there’s no way that the Eagles can count on Andrews and will need to move on without him.
- Who will emerge as the new vocal/emotional leader of the Eagles in the absence of Brian Dawkins? No matter who came or went in the Eagles lockerroom it was always understood that Brian Dawkins was the unquestioned leader of the Eagles. Who, if anyone will take the mantle that Dawkins has held so long.
- Will Reggie Brown fight to get back into Andy Reid’s good graces, and if he does will he be traded? For the Eagles offense to be as productive as it was last season without Reggie Brown speaks volumes. Can they use him? I believe that they can, he’s more proven than Hank Baskett and with rookie Jeremy Maclin in the fold, the final receiver slot may come down to those two.
- How will rookie running back LeShon McCoy look with the first team offense? Deemed the heir apparent to Brian Westbrook rookie back LeShon McCoy has gotten the bulk of first team snaps and we should look to see plenty of him as the preseason goes on. Tonight is the first big test as he goes against one of the more complex defenses in the league.
- Who’s the primary signalcaller for the defense? Now that Stewart Bradley is done for the season who will be the primary signal caller for the defense. Joe Mays and Omar Gaither may platoon in the middle. My money’s on safety Quintin Mikell.
- Will Donovan McNabb utilize his full array of “weapons”? Donovan McNabb asked for more weapons in the Eagles offense and it looks on paper like the Eagles are stacked. I’m curious to see if some serious mismatches develop tonight.
- How will effective will Leonard Weaver be in the offense? For the first time in the Andy Reid area there is a legitimate fullback in the fold. Weaver is a dual threat, who can also pass block – making life a little easier for Donovan McNabb.
- What can DeSean Jackson do for an encore? With Jeremy Maclin taking over special teams duties, it only means more time to focus on becoming an elite receiver. With a healthy Kevin Curtis this season, expect more one on one coverage on Jackson, allowing us to see his talent on full display.
- Can the Eagles secondary remain solid? Will Sheldon Brown become a distraction as the season goes on? More importantly will Reid play Brown or deactivate him as he did a healthy Lito Sheppard late last season.