The Philadelphia Eagles will take the field tonight to face the New England Patriots for their second preseason game of the year. The starters should play a bit more in this contest, making this the most interesting preseason game thus far.
We got a little glimpse into what the 2021 Eagles will look like this season in their first preseason matchup. We should learn even more this time around.
Here are three thing to watch for in tonight’s game against the Pats.
The RB rotation
Last week, Miles Sanders didn’t suit up for the preseason game against Pittsburgh. And I expect that to be the case again tonight, there’s no need for Sanders to play in meaningless games.
Jordan Howard slotted in as the starter in Sanders’ absence and he did some nice things. Most notably his crushing block of a blitzing linebacker on the first drive of the game. Expect Howard to get the start again against the Patriots. The backs that fall in behind him and come off the bench first will be the interesting part here.
With Kerryon Johnson out with a knee injury, we should get a good look at the young backup RBs on the roster. Perhaps we’ll see a bit more Boston Scott in this one, but the ones to really keep an eye on are Kenny Gainwell and Jason Huntley. Gainwell did well in his first NFL outing, showcasing more running power than most ever gave him credit for.
Huntley played at the end of the first preseason game, but he never got an opportunity to showcase his world class speed. Look for Nick Sirianni to get the ball in Huntley’s hands in space. Now that Johnson is out indefinitely, Huntley could earn a roster spot if he performs well the rest of this preseason.
The Eagles backfield will be utilized in a number of different ways throughout the 2021 season. I’m anxious to get a larger sample size of who will be toting the rock throughout the year in tonight’s game.
Where Travis Fulgham fits in this WR group
Heading into camp, the trio of DeVonta Smith at the Z, Travis Fulgham at the X, with Jalen Reagor in the slot felt like a perfect marriage of skillsets at the wide receiver position. But things haven’t gone exactly to plan, due in large part to the emergence of Quez Watkins.
Watkins has played so well during camp and the preseason that it’s nearly impossible to justify keeping him off the field. And that leaves Fulgham as the odd man out there.
Fulgham can still do certain things that the aforementioned wideouts can’t do, in theory. He’s a big bodied guy who showcased his contested catch ability last season. There’s still a place for that type of receiver in today’s NFL, no matter how much emphasis is put on speed and quickness. His success this season could determine just how good this young wide receiving corps can be in 2021.
Keep an eye on Fulgham tonight. If he fails to make a serious impact, he’ll slowly become an after thought.
Marcus Epps Vs. K’Von Wallace
At this point, there’s been no indication that Rodney McLeod will be ready to go by Week 1. Therefore, either Marcus Epps or K’Von Wallace will need to fill that vacant safety spot for at least a few weeks into the regular season.
Epps got the start in last week’s preseason game and he didn’t disappoint. He led the team in tackles with 7. Now that Wallace is back healthy, it’ll be interesting to see which safety gets the start against New England. The team is more invested in Wallace, considering they spent a fourth round pick on him last year. He was also listed as the the starting strong safety in the Eagles initial depth chart released about a week ago.
There’s a lot riding on Wallace this season. He won’t start every game, but his success in the games that McLeod’s out, along with his time as the third safety, will go a long way in determining his future with the team. He could be the starting safety of the future if all goes according to plan.
But if Wallace fails to live up to expectations, Epps proved last year that he’s a viable option when need be. In a limited role, Epps can do some nice things for a defense.
Ultimately, Wallace has more upside that Epps, and he should be able to prove that in this upcoming preseason contest. Out of everyone on the Eagles defense, these two may be the most intriguing to watch on a play-by-play basis.
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