Finally, 221 days after we last watched the Eagles play actual football, the boys are back in pads and uniforms this Thursday night in Green Bay. Chances are you’re counting down the hours.
NFL pre-season games are largely meaningless, however, and invariably a letdown. Play is sloppy, coaches save their imaginative schemes for the regular season and few of your favorites make more than a cameo. You’ll see a lot more of Matt McGloin than Carson Wentz.
Still, we’ll watch. You can consider yourself a devoted fan if you stick around into the fourth quarter as analyst Mike Mayock numbs you with insider football lingo over some third-string linebacker who’s likely just serving as training camp fodder.
So what does actually matter in Game 1? I’m planning to key an eye on these three guys:
All through training camp we’ve heard about the former first-round pick’s increased confidence, sure hands and improved attitude. That’s dandy until you remember that, A) he’s running patterns against his own team’s inferior cornerbacks, and, B) he’s under no threat of getting whomped by a defender.
Agholor has many weaknesses, and among them is hearing footsteps. It’s one thing to dance your way through practice in the bubble; it’s another to make that tough grab as a safety aims to drive through your solar plexus.
This, Agholor’s third season, is his last chance – just ask Marcus Smith. The addition of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith take some pressure off. But he’s got to show over the next few weeks that he belongs with this franchise.
The first-rounder is listed as a third-stringer on the depth chart, which means he should see substantial late-game playing time against slovenly offensive linemen whose future lies in the Arena League.
But watch closely anyway. All the pre-draft reports glowed over Barnett’s craftiness, fluidity and terrific hand-to-hand combat moves at the line of scrimmage. Now we get to see for ourselves (this is where Mayock’s football lingo should be on full throttle).
My hunch is that Barnett will quickly push his way up the depth chart, stealing time from Vinnie Curry and Chris Long. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz might even crack a smile. Prediction: By December, Barnett makes a run at Corey Simon’s franchise rookie record of 9.5 sacks.
Every report out of training camp is that the free-agent cornerback has been dreadful, dusted even by wide receivers bound for the practice squad.
This is problematic. Hideous as the Eagles corners were last year, it’s conceivable they’ll be worse. Maybe one of the youngsters (Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Aaron Grymes) steps up – but Robinson, a 29-year-old former 1st-round pick, was signed to be that stopgap for now.
If he gets toasted in the first quarter Thursday by Jordy Nelson or Davante Adams, you can figure that Howie Roseman is firing up his cell phone and calling other GMs to shake out a trade for another corner.