Philadelphia Eagles

Ten players to watch during Eagles preseason showdown with Colts

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The Eagles are set to face the Indianapolis Colts in their third game of the preseason tonight and it could well be the most important of the preseason schedule. What is essentially a dress rehearsal for week one means that the pressure is well and truly on for the players on the edge of the roster or those looking to cement starting roles. There are plenty of players worth keeping tabs on tonight, but here are the ten players you need to watch in tonight’s showdown with the Colts:

JaCorey Shepherd:
Despite being drafted by the Eagles last year, this is the first time we are going to see the former Jayhawk in a live game scenario. A torn ACL in 2015 and some injury setbacks in Training Camp have stunted the growth of the elusive cornerback and with such intense competition at the position, it will not only be interesting to see where he slots in the rotation..but how well he performs in his preseason debut. Shepherd has two games to show the coaching staff that he has what it takes to make the final 53-man roster and will no doubt go out there with a chip on his shoulder, making him one of the most exciting players to watch tonight.

Dorial Green-Beckham:
The newest Eagles receiver saw a few snaps against the Steelers, including a predictable fade route in the endzone. But the 6’5, 237 pound receiver will no doubt see plenty of action as Doug Pederson looks to both get him up to speed with the playbook and see what he brings to the hybrid West-Coast Offense. DGB has caused a lot of buzz in Philadelphia and with the starters seeing at least one half of play, expect the former second round pick to be implemented heavily into Pederson’s plans.

Stephen Tulloch:
Tulloch was signed to add depth to a depleted Eagles linebacker corps, following the torn ACL of seventh round pick Joe Walker. His knowledge of the system, affiliation with Jim Schwartz and sheer efficiency make him an enticing pickup regardless of his veteran status. Doug Pederson has mentioned that he wants to see Tulloch contribute on Special Teams and while as the 31-year old himself put it, “he’s not here to tread on anyone’s toes”, it will be of interest to see how much action he does see in pre-season, where he lines up and just how impactful he is when on the field.

Wendell Smallwood:
The Eagles fifth-round pick is also set to make his preseason debut tonight, following a strong Training camp hindered by injury problems. The starters are going to be the stars of the show tonight, but the birds will want to see how Smallwood performs in a live-game situation and try and get him plenty of looks in order to prepare him for week one. The Eagles have an abundance of running backs on the roster and up until this point, it’s been Kenjon Barner leading the committee in preseason in order to keep Mathews and Sproles fresh. Could Smallwood resume that kind of role tonight or will he simply filter into the running back rotations?

Sam Bradford:
The Eagles passing attack has been underwhelming to say the least and Sam Bradford is likely going to see more action tonight than the opening two preseason games combined. It’s easy to look back at 2015 and remember how Bradford lit up the Packers this time a year ago..but for a team that is yet to score a passing touchdown in preseason, that kind of form will be welcomed with open arms. The score may not matter and it may just simply be a dress rehearsal, but Sam Bradford needs to be just as strong tonight as he would be in the regular season if the Eagles passing attack is to finally establish itself and put concerns to rest.

Zach Ertz:
The Eagles TE signed a huge contract in the offseason but has been somewhat quiet in preseason so far. Pederson seems to have been utilizing Brent Celek more than the 25 year old which has raised a few questions to say the least. Will that change against a depleted Colts Defense, considering that the starters will be leading the charge? Or does Doug Pederson have a slightly different plan for his Tight Ends than what we originally thought?

Steven Means:
Locked in a roster battle with Marcus Smith, Steven Means needs another big showing if he is to keep the momentum on his side and prove that he is worthy of the former first round pick’s roster spot. The journeyman has had a strong preseason so far, building on an equally strong Training camp, but Smith answered the call with some big plays last week. The ball is in the court of Steven Means, but will he serve up an ace when he needs it the most?

Jalen Mills:
The Green Goblin was sidelined in last week’s dominant win over the Steelers..and it may have slightly hurt his stock. After a worrying showing against the Bucs, the seventh round pick was unable to make an impact in the second game due to an injury..a game in which the Secondary simply dominated. Eric Rowe had another solid outing, Aaron Grymes earned himself a spot on highlight reels (while picking up a shoulder injury) and now JaCorey Shepherd is back from injury. Mills needs a big game in order to re-assert himself in the race for a backup spot on the final 53-man roster and more importantly, show that he can play to the level he has demonstrated throughout the summer, in a live game.

Blake Countess:
Jaylen Watkins has been the Safety turning the most heads after a very impressive opening two games..but it’s Blake Countess who needs to step up tonight. With the backup spots potentially being limited and the presence of Chris Maragos on Special Teams still just as important as it was last year, Countess has to show up against the Colts to avoid slipping down the depth chart after a quiet start.

Nelson Agholor:
With the arrival of DGB in the back of his mind, Nelson Agholor went on the attack against the Steelers, you could see in the way he went up for balls and the aggressiveness of his routes that he looked to want it that extra bit more. Now, with DGB on the field and pressure surrounding the likes of him and Josh Huff as the roster battles intensify, Agholor needs to explode onto the scene in Indianapolis if he is to secure his starting role that might just be slipping away.

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Liam is a 25-year old sports journalist from the UK and founder of the Philly Sports Network. In just five years he turned a hobby into one of the fastest-growing Philadelphia sports sites in the world, amassing 7,000,000 views and writing over 3,000 articles. Drawing attention from the likes of CSN, NJ.Com and Bleacher Report in the process, Liam is set on changing the way Philadelphia sports teams are reported on forever.

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