Eagles, Browns Tune Up Together Before Their Regular Season Opener: A Fan's Preview

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The Philadelphia Eagles are clearly looking forward to the season opener with the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 9. Eagles fans like myself certainly want to speed ahead to that day, since it would end this preseason full of injuries. Michael Vick is being saved for that opener and the other starters will likely not play much for the rest of the exhibition schedule - which means the Browns likely won't get many hints from their first battle with the Birds on Aug. 24 .

Before the Eagles and Browns square off in just 16 days for the first real game of the year, they will meet in a warm-up battle at Cleveland. Of course, it likely won't be an omen of things to come in the rematch, especially with Vick sitting out and avoiding a third or fourth preseason injury.

Cleveland will see him soon enough when he returns on opening day - and aims to survive 60 full minutes of action. Since Vick couldn't even get through two abbreviated starts this month without getting injured, the Browns have to be more confident that they can get to him. Yet they can practice on Nick Foles first and really put the Eagles in a tight spot.

The big and only reason to see this game is to see if Foles can continue his hot exhibition performance - and make the Eagles confident that he can fill in for Vick when it really counts. But if Cleveland brings him back to earth and roughs him up, the bubble could burst rather badly for Philadelphia. In that case, it would be more obvious that if Vick goes down, the entire season could be lost - and the Browns will get the first crack at ruining it.

Yet perhaps Cleveland doesn't want to give away its entire bag of tricks as well. The Browns have their own big question mark at quarterback in 28-year-old rookie Brandon Weeden, who makes his home debut. He will make his official professional debut against the Eagles in more than two weeks, and since Philadelphia needs to show that its defense is championship-worthy again, it will want to give Weeden a rough welcome to the NFL.

The Eagles and Browns have a lot of issues and concerns to work out before they meet again in September. Of course, with Cleveland being a last-place team and Philadelphia entertaining Super Bowl hopes, they may not have the exact same problems.

Yet they will each start their quests to take big steps forward this season against each other - but first, they have to get through this little preview without any further missteps. The Eagles and Browns aim to be at fuller strength the next time they play each other, so at this late stage of August, staying that strong is the major goal instead of sending a message.

Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.

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