Here are 10 things to watch for in Thursday night's Eagles vs. Jets game.
1) Matt Barkley
While it was a little surprising to see Chip Kelly give backup quarterback Mark Sanchez the entire game off against his former team, the decision makes sense. Sanchez has had a great summer and doesn't have much left to prove. Barkley, on the other hand, is in need of playing time.
I wouldn't say that Barkley has necessarily had a disappointing summer, but I think he could have been better to this point. His preseason stat line consists of 20 completions on 32 attempts (62.5%) for 242 yards (7.6 average), 2 TD, 2 INT, and a 80.5 rating.
A good performance for Barkley against the Jets should be expected. It would be very discouraging to see any kind of significant struggles.
The Eagles have done a good job of getting their rookies plenty of playing time in the preseason, especially their first round pick linebacker Marcus Smith II and second round wide receiver Jordan Matthews. Kelly seemed to indicate Matthews, who projects to be the team's starting slot receiver, may not be used too often. With that said, Smith II and the other rookies such as cornerback Jaylen Watkins, defensive end Taylor Hart, safety Ed Reynolds, and nose tackle Beau Allen should see the field. It's especially important for guys like Hart and Reynolds, who haven't flashed in the summer, to show they belong and deserve a roster spot.
3) Positional Depth
There are a number of jobs up for grabs when it comes to depth spots on the Eagles roster. One preseason game alone might not be the single make-or-break factor when it comes to keeping/cutting some of these players but it can sure factor in to the decision.
Positions on the Eagles roster with unsettled depth: running back, wide receiver, inside/outside linebacker, offensive line.
4) Special Teams
Chip Kelly says it all the time: the final roster spots come down to special teams play.
"Any backup spot is all the value of special teams," Kelly said. "If you're going to be a backup player here, you're going to be on teams." [...]
"It's about special teams," Kelly said. "There's three ways to make this football team: special teams, special teams, special teams. ...If you're going to be the fourth or fifth receiver, it's the value to Coach Fipp and our special teams."
5) Lane Johnson
Eagles second year offensive tackle Lane Johnson is really the only starter who will be playing in this game. Johnson's four-game PEDs suspension officially begins tomorrow on Friday, August 29th. Johnson won't be allowed to return to the team's facility until September 29th, 2014 (immediately after NFL Week 4 ends). Johnson will be training in Dallas while he waits to return back to Philadelphia.
Johnson needs to make the most out of his playing time against the Jets because it'll be the last time he gets to participate in a football game for a month's time.
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