Eagles vs. Patriots preseason: 10 players to watch

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10 Eagles to watch in preseason game vs. Patriots originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles held two joint practices against the Patriots this week leading into tonight’s preseason game at 7:30 p.m. on NBC10.

So they’ve already gotten a lot of work against the Pats and Nick Sirianni really emphasizes these joint practices.

But we’ll all get to watch the preseason games. And as much as these joint practices are valuable, preseason games still have their place.

Aside from watching Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith (it sounds like he will), here are 10 Eagles I’ll be keeping an eye on during the game:

S K’Von Wallace

The second-year safety missed the first preseason game with a groin injury. But after being given a week-to-week designation, Wallace returned very quickly to the practice field and said he’ll be a full-go for the game. Before his injury, Wallace was getting the bulk of first-team reps in place of Rodney McLeod, who is still on PUP as he comes back from an ACL tear. If McLeod isn’t ready for the season, Wallace could be the Week 1 starter. But even if he isn’t, he can earn some playing time this season.

LB Genard Avery

Avery is another player who missed the first preseason game with an injury, so I’m looking forward to seeing him in this one. Listed as a starter on the Eagles depth chart, Avery has gotten the most first-team reps as the Eagles’ SAM linebacker this summer. It seems like a role that Jonathan Gannon wants in his defense and Avery will have a chance to earn a roster spot because of it.

LB Patrick Johnson

While we’re talking about that SAM position, Johnson is another guy to keep in mind. The seventh-round pick from Tulane had a slower start to training camp but has been making more plays recently and got first-team reps with Avery out. Joe Ostman, the other SAM, has a concussion, so expect to see a lot of Johnson tonight.

WR John Hightower

Hightower missed some time in camp with a groin injury, but he returned to practice this week. The 2020 fifth-round pick is in a serious roster battle and is playing catch up. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside would be my pick if the Eagles keep six receivers, which means Hightower is going to have to show up over these next few weeks to stick on the 53-man roster.

WR Jalen Reagor

Reagor made one of the most spectacular training camp catches we’ve ever seen on Tuesday and he had a good couple days against the Patriots. But he still needs to improve his consistency. We all knew that Reagor is talented but it’s now about putting it all together and showing it in games. If he can, all of a sudden this Eagles’ receiving corps, full of young players, is pretty exciting.

DT Hassan Ridgeway

Javon Hargrave popped up on the injury report Tuesday, which means he likely won’t suit up against the Patriots. At practice, Ridgeway was the guy to fill in with the starters so I’d assume that’s the case going into this game. It’s been a pretty quiet summer for Ridgeway, who hasn’t flashed as much as fellow veteran defensive tackle T.Y. McGill. I don’t think Ridgeway’s job is safe.

RB Miles Sanders

Sanders didn’t play in the first preseason game and maybe there’s a chance the Eagles won’t play him at all in these three exhibition games. I get it. Keeping Sanders healthy heading into the season should be the top priority. But if he plays, let’s keep an eye on Sanders coming out of the backfield as a receiver. Drops were a problem for him in 2020 and they have been a problem in training camp too. For him to be fully utilized correctly in Sirianni’s offense, he needs to be able to catch the ball.

DT Marlon Tuipulotu

The sixth-round pick from USC has had a rough training camp and really got pushed around in the first preseason game. Right now, I’d tab him for the practice squad, but it would be good for him to at least look like he belongs against third-team offensive guards. He needs to have a better showing than last week.

CB Zech McPhearson

After a red-hot start to training camp, McPhearson had a few nice tackles against the Steelers but also committed a DPI in the end zone. And then he had an up-and-down couple days against the Patriots. McPhearson had some leaping PBUs but was also burnt several times, notably by Nelson Agholor. Being a cornerback in the NFL is all about responding to adversity. This is the first little bump in the road for the fourth-round pick. I’m curious to see how he handles it.

OL Jack Driscoll

Driscoll began training camp at tackle but for the last couple weeks has been cross-training at guard. He played exclusively at right guard in the first preseason game and didn’t look great. But Driscoll was touted for his versatility coming out of college and if he shows the ability to play tackle and guard, it might free up an important spot as the Eagles form their 53-man roster.

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