The Philadelphia Eagles will travel to Jacksonville, Florida to play the Jaguars in the third and most vital game of the pre-season. Unlike the other pre-season games, it’s a crucial game for the starters. It’s their last chance to face combative competition before Monday night’s regular season opener against the Washington Redskins. It’s also their final opportunity to find their rhythm as an offense in game action.
But Saturday night’s game in the surly heat of northern Florida will be of more emphasis to bottom-of-the-roster players. NFL teams must cut their rosters to 75 players by Tuesday, August 27 at 4PM ET. Many young players working their tails off to accomplish their dream of making an NFL team may play the final football game of their lives.
Before these young players get their shot in the second half, Michael Vick will jog onto the field for the first time as the Eagles starting quarterback under head coach Chip Kelly. After being named the team’s starter earlier this week, Vick will face demanding pressure. He’s now the starting QB; he’s no longer in a quarterback battle with Nick Foles. Mike is the leader of this team and he’ll want to prove to the coaching staff and Eagles fans that he is deserving of the starting spot. Vick will have the entire first half to get in sync with the offense and prove that he should be the starter.
While Vick mans the first-team offense for the first time as starting QB, we’ll also see Chip Kelly reveal more of his offense. We saw some fascinating plays in the first pre-season game against the Patriots, including packaged plays with an option for the quarterback to hand the ball off or fake it and throw it out wide on a bubble screen. In the second game, we saw Chip Kelly utilize all four tight ends on the field at once. In this third game, Chip Kelly will be sure to concede a little more of the offense with the regular season opener less than three weeks away.
Not only will we see more of Chip’s eccentric offense, but we’ll also see the return of left tackle Jason Peters. The All-Pro hasn’t played since the final game of the 2011 season. Peters missed the entire 2012 campaign with a torn Achilles injury and withheld from action in this season’s first two exhibition games with an injured hamstring. The offensive line has been excellent this pre-season. Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans have been impressive in their returns from injuries last season. Rookie right tackle Lane Johnson has had a nearly impeccable pre-season. With the return of Jason Peters, the offensive line will get its first work with all five starters in place.
Although the five starters along the offensive line are in cement, the same cannot be said be said for other positions. Chris Polk and Bryce Brown are competing for the back-up running back position – a position of heightened importance under Chip Kelly. Clay Harbor is trying to fight off second year tight end Derek Carrier. The remaining top picks from the 2011 draft, guard Danny Watkins and cornerback Curtis Marsh, are vying for roster spots. Marsh may not play because of a broken hand suffered last week vs. the Panthers. Watkins and Marsh are at a higher risk than ever of being cut. With so much change around the Eagles this year, it may be the perfect time for Howie Roseman to pull the plug on the remaining faults from the perplexing 2011 draft class. The defensive line will settle who the best three players are. Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga, and Cedric Thornton will start Saturday night’s game, but Bennie Logan, Damien Square, Vinny Curry, and Clifton Geathers will continue to contend for more playing time. Who will rise to the top of the safety candidacy?
While veterans strive for starting positions, the young players will be playing for their careers. These young players won’t have much playing time, so they’ll have to make each snap count.