Five things Eagles fans should watch in preseason clash with Patriots

Quez watkins eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 12: Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins (16) runs for a touchdown during the preseason game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 12, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Eagles are set to lock horns with the New England Patriots tonight at Lincoln Financial Field in what will be their second of three preseason games. This comes on the back of two high-octane joint practices. With roster cuts rapidly becoming a factor, here are five things Eagles fans should be keeping an eye on in tonight’s contest.

Before we get into it, we know that preseason games are hard to watch out of market. We’ll be hosting a LIVE watchalong on our YouTube channel here for Eagles fans to follow the action. We look forward to seeing you there!

Jalen Hurts building momentum

Jalen Hurts wasn’t exactly flashy against the Steelers last week, but he didn’t need to be. In fact, his performance was that much more impressive because of that fact. Hurts was smart with the ball in his hands, was happy to throw it out of bounds when in danger, and still found a way to flash his athleticism. This time though, things might be different.

The second-year QB has enjoyed a dominant week of practice that has heralded praise form Patriots beat writers as well as those a little more used to seeing him. We may see a slightly more aggressive Hurts tonight, riding the momentum from a strong week at the NovaCare Complex as he looks for his first career preseason score.

Quez Watkins vs JC Jackson

The star of the summer thus far has undoubtedly been Quez Watkins. With some new-found aggression at the line, he’s been able to overcome aspects of his game that have previously held him back, and heaven gave Pats CB JC Jackson a run for his money on several occasions – a corner who many perceive to be among the better defenders in the league.

The two will almost certainly square off again tonight, if only for a couple of plays. Watkins scored a 79-yard touchdown on a screen pass last week, but adding a true receiving touchdown to his accomplishments would be a huge sign of progress.

I’ll be paying close attention to how Watkins looks off the line tonight, with hopes of seeing some more violent moves with his first couple of jab-steps and active hands to push through contact if he’s being pressed.

Kenny Gainwell’s big opportunity

The Eagles are in a bit of a pickle at running back when it comes to depth tonight. Kerryon Johnson is injured while Jason Huntley might be questionable with an injury of his own, and Miles Sanders doesn’t look like he’ll get a lot of playing time with his place already cemented. This should open the door to some significant playing time for the Memphis product, who will be looking to build on his preseason debut that carried a few flashes.

For the DFS players among you, Gainwell is a great shout. For those just looking to see what the rookie can do, there may be no better opportunity than tonight.

A battle in the trenches

Hassan Ridgeway’s status as DT4 was already up in the air after the Eagles added a pair of interior rushers during the NFL Draft. T.Y McGill’s flash last week did anything but help matters. The two will likely now be battling for what is likely to be the final DT spot on the roster and will need a big outing tonight in order to swing things in their favor. Ridgeway should have the upper hand given his previous regular season experience, but he is only on a one-year deal. If McGill can upstage him once more tonight, then next’ week’s finale against New York will be critical for him.

Eagles still have a cornerback battle

Steven Nelson’s acquisition all but seals the CB picture for the time being, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t battles at the position deeper down the pecking order. Michael Jacquet looked lost last week and as a result, probably opened up a three way battle between himself, Craig James, and Kevon Seymour for what could be the final depth spot on the roster. The next two weeks will be really telling and all players should have plenty of opportunities to prove their worth.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire