If the Philadelphia Eagles‘ offseason serves as any indication, their first preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday will be far from dull (at least by preseason standards). Yesterday, the team released its first unofficial depth chart and head coach Chip Kelly addressed the media for the last time until Sunday’s game. As expected, Sam Bradford is, for all intents and purposes, the team’s starting quarterback.
However, Kelly announced yesterday that Bradford won’t play until next week’s game against the Ravens. All this to say that Sunday’s game will be a mixed bag of quarterback Mark Sanchez, Tim “Knuckleball” Tebow and Matt “BB Gun” Barkley at quarterback. Realistically, Sanchez will have likely retained the backup spot when all is said and done, but the Eagles still have plenty of other business to tend to including these following story-lines to watch for during Sunday’s match-up:
How will Walter Thurmond fare at safety?
Chip Kelly told the press that his starters won’t play more than 8 to 10 snaps on Sunday. Nevertheless, it should be interesting watching Walter Thurmond‘s transition to safety in real time. Reports from training camp have been unanimously positive, but the career corner will play a daunting dozen of reps against a loaded Colts offense. It’s far from unheard of for a cornerback to make the switch to safety (Ronnie Lott, Rod Woodson and, more recently, Charles Woodson come to mind) and remember, Thurmond’s partner, Malcolm Jenkins, didn’t play safety until he turned pro with the Saints in 2009.
Who will emerge as the front-runner for the nickel cornerback position?
After the Brandon Boykin trade, rookie JaCorey Shepherd became the heir apparent to the nickel spot, that is until he tore his right ACL. With Shepherd’s season lost, the battle for starting nickel duties has been unofficially narrowed down to rookie Eric Rowe and second-year man Jaylen Watkins. Watkins played sparingly last season and did not impress, but Rowe, at 6-foot-1, will have a size advantage over most slot receivers, should he win the job. With the Eagles’ depth at corner suddenly compromised and several starting spots already settled, this figures to be the team’s paramount position battle.
What to do at backup inside linebacker?
It would be foolish to think that the two starting inside ‘backer spots won’t be somehow divvied up between Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans and promising newcomer Kiko Alonso. The second-team spots won’t be decided nearly as easily. All three starters have missed time at camp, meaning rookie Jordan Hicks, former Packer Brad Jones and the returning Najee Goode should get plenty of snaps on Sunday. Goode was solid when filling in for Kendricks last season and got first-team reps with Hicks on Thursday (according to NJ Advance Media’s Matt Lombardo).
Rookie Watch: Nelson Agholor
On Friday’s unofficial depth chart, Nelson Agholor wasn’t listed as a starter, which means he’ll get a healthy dose of playing time on Sunday. With Chip Kelly mixing and matching his receivers in practice, the first-round draft pick will be lined up in different spots on offense and will surely see some time as a return man. The USC alum has impressed both receivers and cornerback Byron Maxwell with his speed in training camp.
Sorting out the carousel at right guard
According to the depth chart, the offensive line is mostly decided: Allen Barbre is slated to fill the void left by the release of Evan Mathis at left guard, and Jason Kelce, Jason Peters and Lane Johnson retain the center, left tackle and right tackle spots, respectively. Right guard is not quite as cut and dry. Andrew Gardner has had the lion’s share of first-team reps, with Matt Tobin, John Moffitt and Julian Vandervelde also in the mix. The snap distribution against the Colts should bring some order to the race.
The Eagles’ tilt against the Colts begins at 1:00pm at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. Check back here at Inside The Iggles for all of your Eagles’ news, analysis and more!
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