If you still haven’t turned off Super Bowl 52 highlights, (we haven’t) then tonight is a special one. The Eagles will be back deep into enemy territory for a preseason showdown with the team who fell short of the mark in the greatest underdog story ever told. Here are five random thoughts ahead of tonight’s matchup.
The Brady Bunch:
The Eagles will march into Foxboro as Super Bowl champions and no matter what anyone says, it’s going to leave a very sour taste in the mouths of Brady and Belichick. It’s been made clear that Brady could play anywhere up to an entire half on Thursday evening, meaning that the Eagles are going to face a very stiff task defensively. The starters played no more than a few blinks of an eye last week before the rotations began to set in and if that is the case tonight, it could be be the perfect scenario for a Birds’ team trying to find solutions to positional answers.
Can Sidney Jones or De’Vante Bausby hold their own against the likes of Eric Decker and Kenny Britt. Would Rasul Douglas be able to rebound and go toe-to-toe with the deep speed of the inconsistent Cordarrelle Patterson? Will former Eagles wideout Paul Turner challenge Avonte Maddox in the slot in a matchup that favors the corner due to size being negated? This game is HUGE for the cornerback corps, especially if Belichick insists on keeping his starters out for a little longer than expected, just to try and establish a firm tone…and that’s exactly what is needed to separate from the men from the boys.
Big night for the wideouts:
The Eagles offense rolls into tonight’s fixture with Alshon Jeffery and likely no Nelson Agholor due to injuries. Mike Wallace could also be limited after missing last week. This leaves a gaping opportunity to players such as Shelton Gibson who exploded just seven days ago. Not only that, but the Patriots gave up 233 receiving yards to the Redskins last week. Names like DeAndre Carter, Bryce Treggs and Kaman Aiken will be raring to go and make their mark and there may not be a better opportunity than against a relatively thin secondary.
It’s been six months since Doug Pederson unleashed his offensive confidence and creativity on the Patriots, creating one of the most memorable sporting moments of this generation. Frank Reich may have left for bluer waters, but Mike Groh proved last week that the offense is going to be just as unpredictable, with a lethal Corey Clement run and some very clever play-design, the Eagles offense showed a glimpse of what could well be the league’s most high-octane offense in 2018. Picking up from where he left off in February, watch for some sneaky play-calls and big-time highlights from the offense.
An eye on Special teams:
I wrote an article earlier this week detailing the importance of special teams, given how much firepower the Eagles offense lost this offseason on that front. What really stood out against the Steelers was that Corey Nelson played more special teams snaps than anyone. He’s been out of a starting picture for quite some time, but a heavy presence on Fipp’s unit may just earn him a roster spot. Here’s the special teams snapcount from last week:
If you’re rooting for an underdog to make the roster, this could well be the path they’ll need to take. So keep an eye out on Fipp’s unit this evening, you may just be looking at a hidden gem. After all, Kamu Grugier-Hill led the team in special teams tackles last season.
A test of depth:
The Patriots don’t exactly have a stunning quarterback room outside of Tom Brady. Hoyer ‘The destroyer’ and Danny Etling complete the outfit and unsurprisingly, they passed just 28 times in comparison to 40 rushing attempts against Washington. The Pats have a much stronger rushing attack which lends itself to even more strong positioning in terms of finding out the answers to those pesky positional battles.
Without Jernigan, which defensive tackles are going to step up and stuff the run? Bruce Hector had a sterling outing against Pittsburgh and if he can replicate that 3-tackle outing, could be poised to sneak onto the roster. At linebacker, it’s been a silent offseason for Joe Walker and Corey Nelson, who both need to outperform names like LaRoy Reynolds, Kyle Wilson and Asantay Brown, who all flashed last week.
Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill are still threats and without Sony Michel, they’re bound to see a heavy workload once again. The defensive line and linebacking corps are going to be put through their paces in Boston and that’s exactly what Jim Schwartz needs.
What are you watching out for this evening? leave a comment below and let us know!