Pre-Season has officially gotten underway and we are now just days from seeing the Eagles run out into Lincoln Financial Field to face the Indianapolis Colts for their first of four games. There are so many potential stories surrounding the birds and it took us a while to narrow it down to just five. So whilst we will be previewing the game in FULL on Saturday, here are five things to watch out for at 1PM on Sunday.
5: Who starts at Linebacker
What would be an obvious choice has been shrouded in doubt this past week.Kiko Alonso suffered a concussion early on and has missed valuable time at camp. Depending on how severe the concussion was, we may not see Alonso start or even suit up come gameday. It’s a big blow as Alonso was lighting up the NovaCare complex this training camp and will continue to do so once full service is resumed. The real problem however comes in the form of depth below Alonso. Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans have also missed time at Camp this week, leaving Jordan Hicks and Najee Goode to pick up the majority of reps. It may not be a case of who’s played the best when it comes to deciding who lines up at linebacker this weekend, but a case of simply who’s available! If rookie Jordan Hicks gets the start then it could be an amazing opportunity for him to shine under the lights and draw some attention to himself.
4: Receiver Combo’s
The Eagles are perhaps the most stacked at Wide Receiver they have ever been. With so many potential lineups, Chip may as well bring a slot machine out and spin it three times before each play! It will definitely be interesting to see how many plays Nelson Agholor plays in in comparison to that of someone like Josh Huff. Perhaps the more telling story would be the numbers of Riley Cooper. If the birds lean towards formations without the blocking receiver, it would imply that they’re perhaps looking to experiment with a lineup of extremely fast and versatile route runners as opposed to relying on a physical wideout if the seams are covered. Expect some interesting formations and some rotational lineups to be experimented with in game one of pre-season, there’s a whole bucket load of receivers itching for a chance to shine.
(BONUS) Five Receivers, five Notes:
Jordan Matthews- Will receive the most targets and pick up the most touchdowns as a result
Nelson Agholor- Speed. Watch out for his sheer pace down the sidelines to pick up huge games, but expect a few rookie errors.
Josh Huff- Whilst still on special teams, he’s been giving Byron Maxwell the toughest camp possible. Expect a few big yard plays.
Riley Cooper- Has been quiet all camp and may feature far less than previously expected. His involvement will be indicative.
Miles Austin- Still very much a wildcard but has had a solid camp so far, could be Coopers biggest threat for a roster spot
3:Running the game
With DeMarco Murray missing a huge chunk of training camp, there is wide speculation that the leagues leading rusher last season has more problems than just “dehydration” or “sickness”. It’s unconfirmed on whether Murray will start as the Eagles number one back in the game against the Colts but it’s going to put an end to the rumours one way or another. If he comes in, it’s a sign of conditioning. He doesn’t NEED to be at every practice when he’s so established. But if he does miss the game..it could be a more worrying sign for the Eagles. Luckily, they have a very spirited 28 year old by the name of Ryan Matthews who has looked electric when picking up Murray’s slack in Camp who will stand in. The rushing core (or Legion of Zoom) is arguably one of the most dangerous in the NFL. With three vastly different types of running back in such a diverse options, the Colts are going to have a real headache on Sunday. Expect a lot of rotation, a lot of running plays and Darren Sproles to feature as a receiver occasionally.
2: Impact players
All eyes are going to be on Sam Bradford on Sunday afternoon, but many of those eyes will be veering towards two players. Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. Two players who have had monster camps and are projected huge seasons. Matthews has been the most consistent and impressive player in all of training camp so far without a shadow of a doubt. I can’t wait to see what he does against the Colts, just to see how much he has improved this off-season. Can he constantly break coverage? Will he have a similar game to one he played in 2014? Is he going to show signs of evident improvement or look like the same weapon from his rookie season? The Tight End situation will be a little more interesting, to see how the targets are divided between Brent Celek and Zach Ertz. Celek remains an unknown in terms of how long he’s going to remain an Eagle..it could be one season it could be five, but with Ertz itching to ignite the field, there’s definitely some pressure on Celek. Will Ertz take more reps? Has Ertz become more physical in the off-season? Only time will tell, but keep a wide eye on both players.
1: Bradford’s bullets
Beside Jordan Matthews, it’s Sam Bradford who has been lighting up camp. Since his brace has been removed he has looked nothing short of fantastic. His teammates have compared his arm strength to that of Aaron Rodgers whilst others are saying he looks to be in the best shape of his career. It was still debated if he would be playing on Sunday until the former Ram shut the media up by stating that if it reduces talk about his knee then he will play. Bradford has already sparked a great partnership with Jordan Matthews and #Ertzford has its own hashtag for a reason. Expect some big drives from Bradford early on. The question is, will the other three quarterbacks get enough game time to stake their claim to Chip Kelly’s Offensive throne?