After 10 training camp practices and a few walkthroughs, the Philadelphia Eagles will have their first opportunity this offseason to work out the kinks in front of a wider audience when they take on the New York Jets in their first preseason game. Here are five things to watch.
1) How does Jalen Hurts look throwing to A.J. Brown?
Nick Sirianni said on Wednesday that Hurts and the starters will only play a series or two. If the first series goes well, my guess is that the first-stringers will quickly be done for the night. If they go three-and-out, they’ll probably get a second drive.
Remember back in 2004 when the Eagles traded for Terrell Owens, and on the first play of the preseason he caught an 81-yard TD pass from Donovan McNabb?
Terrell Owens catches a missile from Donovan McNabb and dashes into the end zone for an 81-yard touchdown on his first play in Philadelphia as a member of the Eagles. pic.twitter.com/OUOjdKfRBN
— PhilaSportsVids (@PhilaSportsVids) February 17, 2019
That moment was about as exciting as it gets for a preseason game, and would be a preview of what was to come that season. It will be interesting to see if Sirianni dials up a shot play right off the bat to A.J. Brown, who Hurts has been building rapport with over the last two-plus weeks of training camp.
2) The new guys
Duh. Friday night will be the first look that most fans will get of veterans like Haason Reddick, James Bradberry, Kyzir White, Zach Pascal, and (maybe) Jaquiski Tartt, in addition to Brown, who we already singled out above. In case you missed our evaluations of the most notable new guys throughout camp so far, please go check that out.
It will also mark the professional debuts of DT Jordan Davis, C Cam Jurgens, LB Nakobe Dean, LB Kyron Johnson, and (maybe) Grant Calcaterra. Some notable undrafted rookies like Britain Covey (more on him in a minute), Reed Blankenship, and Josh Jobe will also have an opportunity to continue building on strong camps so far.
The new player I’m most interested in watching is Dean, who has not yet stood out in practices. Maybe he’s just a gamer, and his instincts will kick in when the lights go on?
3) Can some players improve their trade value?
The Eagles would absolutely consider trade offers for backup LT Andre Dillard and WR Jalen Reagor.
Dillard was having by far the best camp of his career before he suffered a concussion. He should be good to go in time for this game, and there will no doubt be some OT-needy teams checking in on him. The Eagles might need Dillard this season, so they’re certainly not going to give him away, but it would be hard to turn down a genuinely good offer for a player in the final year of his rookie contract.
Meanwhile, as we mentioned in our practice notes on Wednesday, Reagor hasn’t had any highlight reel catches this summer, but he has had the most consistent camp of his career. It wouldn’t take as much to pry Reagor away as it would Dillard, but there are a number of teams around the league that have suffered injuries at wide receiver.
4) The returners
There’s only so much you can simulate during practices on kick and punt returns, but Friday night will offer a chance for some of the team’s returners to stand out. Jason Huntley, for example, is trying to make the team as the fourth running back, and a strong showing as a kick returner can only help. Covey is also a strong candidate to crack the initial 53, and he can help his cause with positive returns either as a kick returner or punt returner. Those are the two guys we need to see. There’s no reason for literally anyone else to be getting return opportunities.
5) The punter
If you’re watching a preseason game, and you’re thinking, “Can’t go to the bathroom yet — gotta evaluate this punt,” you should probably pick up an additional hobby or two to add more balance to your life.
Having said that, we haven’t seen many punting sessions from Arryn Siposs throughout camp so far this year, which is a little curious given his struggles at the end of the 2021 season. He could use a good showing in the preseason games to secure his spot and keep the team from adding an outside punter.
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