The Eagles are just two day out from their first preseason game of the year. They’ll face the Pittsburgh Steelers under the Lincoln Financial Field lights Thursday night.
We’ve heard a lot of interesting tidbits about the team through the first few weeks of training camp, and this will be our first opportunity to see a glimpse of what this team may look like come Week 1.
We’ll take a look at some notable defensive players to keep an eye on during Thursday’s game tomorrow, but today we’re going to focus on the offensive side of the ball. Here are five offensive players to watch during the team’s first preseason contest.
First and foremost, quarterback Jalen Hurts will be the No. 1 attraction Thursday night. We’ve heard mixed reviews about his play during camp. His accuracy and decision making still seem to be lacking. But he has practices where everything appears fluid and natural.
For a quarterback like Hurts, practice isn’t always the best barometer for his talents. He’s a mobile quarterback who thrives when he’s able to utilize that athleticism to make plays. Practices are more scripted and limit how much Hurts can improvise, live game action is a different story.
I’m anxious to see what kind of things Nick Sirianni has Hurts doing under center. We’ll likely get an early dose of all the things Hurts is comfortable with. I doubt we’ll see many designed runs for the quarterback, but I’m sure there will be plenty of play action and passes out of the backfield to running backs.
The biggest question mark facing this team is the quarterback position, and we’ll finally see what the starter looks like on Thursday.
Don’t look now, but second-year wideout Quez Watkins is slowly starting to cement himself as a weapon in Nick Sirianni’s offense. Watkins has had a wonderful camp thus far. Some Eagles beat writers have reported that Watkins is having the best camp of any wideout on the team.
Granted, DeVonta Smith was off to a great start until he got injured. But hearing the glowing reviews about Watkins should be music to all Eagles fans’ ears.
It’ll be interesting to see when Watkins sees the field on Thursday. Will he get reps with the starters, will he be the No.1 wideout with the second team? Personally, I’m hoping to see him get on the field right out of the gate.
If his performance during camp has been as good as many have reported it to be, there’s no reason to keep the training wheels on him. Don’t be shocked if Watkins is the talk of the town following this preseason game. He could be in for a big outing.
I almost included Jordan Mailata here too, but the truth is we’ve seen the kind of potential he has. We haven’t seen Andre Dillard play in over a year and reports out of camp indicate that he’s still struggling immensely.
He’s still having trouble with power rushers, his strength just doesn’t seem up to par at this point. Read any report out of camp up to this point, and almost every writer has written off Dillard already. It seems like everyone has Mailata as the starting left tackle.
At this point, Dillard is just fighting for a roster spot. He needs to have a solid outing Thursday to even stay in the conversation for starting time with this offensive line. If he continues to struggle against a formidable Steelers defensive line, his chances of earning a starting spot may sink to 0.
One of the unforeseen breakouts of camp this year, running back Jason Huntley should get a lot of playing time on Thursday. The second-year back has speed to kill and has been turning a lot of heads during camp so far.
It’ll be interesting to see when he gets on the field with the offense. My guess is we won’t see him until the end of the first half, leading to a lot of touches in the second. But, I do think he’ll be the starting kick/punt returner, so we should see him fairly early in this contest.
Bold prediction for Huntley: He scores on a punt return touchdown and also reaches the end zone late in the second half to secure a 1-0 start to the Eagles preseason. I have a feeling this guy is going to be the preseason MVP for the Eagles and I’m excited to see it get underway.
Like Huntley, Tyree Jackson as been an unexpected breakout star in training camp this year. The 6-foot-7, 249 pounds converted tight end is a freak of nature.
He’s routinely made spectacular catches during camp and he figures to be fighting for a roster spot during these preseason outings. I imagine he won’t get on the field until the latter portions of the game, but I’m anxious to see just how far his development has come.
While I’m excited to see his receiving ability on full display, what I’m most interested to watch is his blocking. If he’s at least passable in that area, that’ll be a huge step towards ensuring a roster spot.
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