By Lance Epstein
The Philadelphia Eagles travel to Arrowhead Stadium tonight to take on the Chiefs in their third and most meaningful preseason game. Tonight's game is the last dress rehearsal for the starting defense and offense before they take the field against the Green Bay Packers in Week One.
For the Eagles, there are plenty of position battles that are unanswered and roster spots yet to be determined. Additionally, Head Coach Andy Reid expects his starters to go deep into the game and play the first three quarters. This means that the players who are battling just to make the squad will have limited time to make their mark. This is a night where special teams will determine whether a player finds himself on the 53-man roster or looking for another job.
Ultimately, tonight's game in Kansas City will give fans a little insight into the players that Reid is liking and whom may not be wearing midnight green this season.
Here is a touchdown worth of things to observe tonight:
1. Offensive line, Kevin Kolb vs. Crowd Noise: Tonight's game is going to be played in one of the loudest venues, if not the loudest in the entire league. Last week, the Eagles continued to struggle in the red zone, where the noise is intensified. In addition, the Eagles must deal with the crowd noise at the line of scrimmage. It is going to be nearly impossible for the tackles (and perhaps the guards as well) to hear the snap. Expect the Eagles to uses a silent snap count. It should be interesting to see how many times the offensive line is called for false start penalties tonight due to the crowd. The Eagles need a game like this since they have to travel to Washington, Dallas and New York. All those teams have stadiums, where the crowd noise should be as loud or louder than Kansas City.
2. Ernie Sims vs. Jamaal Charles/Thomas Jones: Last week, Sims played did play against the Bengals even though you wouldn't have known. He recorded zero tackles, was beat multiple times by Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham and was caught out of position numerous times as well. However, the Eagles coaching staff raved about his play. While the stats did not show Sims making an impact, Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott said the game tape showed him contributing on the team's two turnovers. Still, Sims is undersized linebacker and was getting engulfed by the bigger linemen. Also he was caught out of position too much in that game, which lead to a couple of costly first down runs. For Sims, the coaching staff will not be able to protect him that much longer if he doesn't at least get into the statbook. Sims must utilize his athleticism in coverage, shutdown two very good receiving backs and get off blockers. Otherwise Keenan Clayton, who played very well last week, might eventually take over.
3. Starting defensive line vs. Chiefs O-line: One of the reasons the Eagles decided to bump rookie defensive end Brandon Graham into the starter's role this week was because of the lack of pressure the starting front four was getting with Juqua Parker. If Graham can be that significant upgrade as a pass rusher alongside Trent Cole, then the Eagles might transform back into a top 10 defense. Additionally, if the front four can get pressure without blitzing, it should make life easier in the secondary as well as help disguise some of the elaborate blitzes the Eagles have.
4. CB Joselio Hanson vs. CB Dimitri Patterson: Since his four-game suspension last season, Joselio Hanson has not been earning his money. Hanson has had an average training camp and the past two-preseason games saw him get burned deep. As for Dimitri Patterson, he has had one of the better camps. He is always around the ball and making plays. In fact, he had an interception last week and helped created another. While the Eagles are saying Hanson is the No. 3 corner right now, it wouldn't be shocking if Patterson has a huge game and overtakes him.
5. G Todd Herremans vs. Chiefs defensive tackles: This might be the fifth thing to watch on here, but the most important thing to come out of the game for the Eagles. Last week, the Bengals manhandled the interior line of the Eagles and saw QB Kevin Kolb got hit far too many times for their liking. With him in the lineup, he gives the Eagles solid play and toughness along the line, which was sorely missed. Additionally, Herremans needs the live game action since he has missed most of training camp and all of the preseason games with a sore foot. If Herremans can play at the level he is accustom to and have his foot not be sore the next day then the Eagles are offensive line is sitting much prettier than last week.
6. Kickoff/punt coverage vs. Chiefs return game: Over the last two weeks, the Eagles were a single juke move away from giving up touchdowns on special teams. Bobby April is one of the best coaches in the business, but the young players have been getting out of their lines and missing easy tackles. The Eagles cannot afford to have team's starting with excellent field position because their defense is not great enough (yet) to overcome a short field. Furthermore, players who are on the cusp need to have huge games on special teams tonight because their jobs are on the line. If they do not start making tackles and limiting opponent’s yards in the return game, then they will not be receiving a paycheck.
7. Red Zone Offense vs. Chiefs defense: The biggest quagmire of the entire Eagles training camp has been the red zone offense. Unfortunately, the Eagles first-string offense has failed to score a touchdown in two preseason games and also struggled on the practice field as well. Since the starters are not likely to play in the fourth and final preseason game, it would be nice to see Kevin Kolb hand the ball off or hit a wide receiver to score inside the red zone. On the surface, the confidence level of the Eagles offense appears to be fine. From an outsider's perspective, frustration must be starting to set since they cannot score more than field goals inside the 20s. The Eagles do not need that frustration carrying over into the regular season.
Out for tonight’s game: CB David Pender, OG Nick Cole, C Jamaal Jackson, DE Juqua Parker, TE Cornelius Ingram and DE Victor Abiamiri.
Instead of game thread today, we will analyze the plays on tape after the game and break them down.