Dec 22, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) returns an interception for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Bears 54-11. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Things the Philadelphia Eagles Should Try in Preseason

The preseason is used by NFL teams to determine final rosters and depth charts.  Each game generally features the teams’ 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squads seeing the field, all competing for coveted roster spots.  This year, the Philadelphia Eagles have the majority of the 1st string on both sides of the ball figured out.  The offense and defense each only lost one starter from last year: now-Patriots safety Patrick Chung on defense and now-Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson on offense.  With that 1st string mostly figured out, there are some other things the Philadelphia Eagles should try in preseason games.

1. Try Brandon Boykin on the outside.

Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin emerged as one of the best defensive playmakers in the league last year to the tune of six interceptions in about 50% of the defensive snaps.  That’s impressive.  However, Boykin wants to play on the outside.  After all, it doesn’t make sense to leave your best defensive player on the sideline for half the plays.  Also, Boykin’s rookie contract will expire after the 2015 season.  If the Eagles don’t at least give him a shot at playing corner on the outside, he may decide to take his talents to a place where he will get that opportunity.

2.  See if Nolan Carroll deserves a starting job.

The Eagles acquired former-Dolphin Nolan Carroll in free agency this offseason.  While he was largely overshadowed by cornerback Brent Grimes, Carroll was a darn good cornerback in his own right.  The news coming out of minicamps and training camps so far have been promising.  While it is generally hard for defensive backs to “wow” coaches in when there are no pads and no pass rush, Carroll has done just that by consistently being around the ball and breaking up passes.  If he can translate that into a good preseason, he should definitely be starting.

3.  Test Marcus Smith against good talent.

While the Eagles may decide to put first-round outside linebacker Marcus Smith in with the 2nd or even the 3rd defense this preseason, it may be worthwhile to try him with the 1st string a few times.  Smith was the Eagles pick that many people think didn’t make much sense.  He is rather raw as a player, but has elite athleticism and showed some good pass rushing skills last season at Louisville.  Even though he is, as I said above, rather raw, I’d be interested in seeing if he really has the athleticism to stack up against 1st string tackles.

4.  Find a new return man.

The Eagles’ special teams unit was really nothing special last season.  The Eagles used a multitude of options in the return game, though none seemed to perform especially well.  Wide receiver Damaris Johnson, who many thought would be the answer in the return game, didn’t seem to be the answer.  The news coming out of camp is that he isn’t doing himself any favors.  Luckily, the Eagles have a few new options in the return game in running back Darren Sproles, wide receiver Brad Smith, and rookie wide receiver Josh Huff.  Sproles and Smith have both been successful return men in their careers, but Huff is really the unknown here.  He was a good special teams player at Oregon, but we will have to wait and see if that translates to the pro game.


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