3 things to watch for when Eagles host Bills Thursday night

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Preseason football is exciting because, well, it’s actual football.

Both the fans and the players themselves are antsy to hit someone — and go against opponents not on their own teams. Thursday’s second preseason game against the Bills offers that, but also offers another long look at a bevy of players destined to get cut.

After an up-and-down loss to the Packers last Thursday, what do the Birds expect in their second tune up?

“I want to see us execute better,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “I want to see us take care of the football better. I felt like we were a little sloppy and loose in the second half with some of the turnovers. I thought our first units, to start the game the way they did, came out ready to go. We played a lot of people in that game and sometimes the game can be a little fast for guys that aren’t used to that.”

Here are three other things to be looking for when things kick off Thursday at 7 p.m., on NBC 10:

1. “It’s awkward”

Less than a week after a shocking trade with Buffalo, the Bills come to Philly to play at the Linc. Jordan Matthews injured his sternum in his first practice after being traded up north and may or may not make the trip to see his old teammates. His Philly trade counterpart, cornerback Ronald Darby, will be right back where he was last weekend, lining up opposite the Bills’ offense.

“It’s awkward of course because just a few days ago I was there eating lunch in the cafeteria.” Darby said. “It’s going to be weird but a good feeling at the end of the day.”

2. Remember to run

The Eagles threw the ball 57 times against Green Bay, a high number for a preseason game. Their run game accounted for just 47 yards. The second preseason game will look different, offensive coordinator Frank Reich said.

“We want to be balanced in the preseason,” the coach said. “We want to be balanced in the regular season. But at the end of the day, each game is its own unit. Sometimes you’re going to have to throw it 60 times. I’d like us to have a couple games where we run for over 200 yards and throw it for 150. I’m hoping we have a few of those. So, yeah, I’d like us to run the ball better than we did last week.”

3. Eagles debuts

Expected in the first preseason game are the debuts of cornerback Ronald Darby and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, each of whom will play a series, maybe two with the first units Thursday.

“I am leaning towards him playing, yes,” Pederson said of Jeffery. “He feels comfortable, we’ve talked about it, so I’m comfortable with him going.”

“[It will] be exciting to watch him in live action,” Pederson said of Darby.

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