Eagles/Patriots: What to Watch for
Tonight, the focus is mainly on the defensive side of the ball, given the deep offensive firepower Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have. But, as with all things, you need to start with the King. Without further ado, my 5 things to watch for tonight:
1. Left Tackle: Offensively, this is the only position with any sort of true competition for the starting job. Demetress Bell was demoted to the second team in favor of King Dunlap after a very rough outing in his Eagles debut. Dunlap, who is entering his 5th season with the Eagles, is now getting his chance to prove his worth in what will undoubtedly be the Eagles’ most important pre-season game.
2. Mychal Kendricks vs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez: The biggest problem defensively tonight for the Birds will be how they cover this fantastic duo of athletic tight ends. Consider it a trio if you want to count Visanthe Shiancoe, who I think could be involved in a somewhat regular three, yes, three tight end set during the upcoming season. For Kendricks, this is about as tough of a match-up as you can ask for, so it will be a good opportunity to see where he’s at. The same can be said for…
3. Brandon Boykin vs Wes Welker: This tough match-up will be critical to the 53-man roster. Boykin has already shown flashes of big-play ability on special teams, but if he has a good night tonight against one of the toughest slot players to defend in the league then the Eagles will feel much more confident about moving on from Joselio Hanson.
4. Second team center: During Jason Kelce’s rookie campaign, Michael Vick had to make adjustments at the line while the rookie learned on the job. With Kelce now confident in directing the line, Vick will have less responsibility before the snap. However, were Kelce to go down, his replacement will either be practice squad player Dallas Reynolds or second-year man Julian Vandervelde. Can either of those two make the calls or will the responsibility fall back on Vick?
5. Tackling: It was a major problem for the defense last year and it was an issue in the first pre-season game against Pittsburgh. That’s a big red flag considering, you know, you have to tackle every play.
And for the extra point:
Field goal holder: Yeah. I said it. In fact, this might be one of the most important factors into the season given that these duties are placed squarely on the shoulders of the punter. Therefore, whoever is holding on field goals likely has a leg up (yes, awful pun intended) in the competition. Can Mat McBriar overtake Chaz Henry or will Henry prove to be a Koy Detmer-esque legendary kick-holding champion of the world/above average punter? We’ll have to see.