By Ray Boyd
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Football is back on Friday night at 8:oo p.m. Yes, it’s just preseason, but it is football nonetheless and Eagles fans are ready to get a glimpse of their team as the second season under Chip Kelly gets underway.
There are plenty of players to keep an eye on on Friday night, but some stand out more than others.
Here are the five players that I will be keeping the closest eye on when the Eagles take on the Bears in their preseason opener.
5. QB Mark Sanchez: Of course everyone will be watching to see how Nick Foles looks, myself included. However, you can expect to see a lot of fluidity out of Foles who should be familiar with the system and the majority of the weapons he’ll be working with.
Sanchez will get ample snaps on Friday night and the bottom line is that in the NFL you are extremely lucky if your second string quarterback doesn’t have to start a least a few games for you.
Sanchez has not played since he got injured last preseason and it’s time to find out if the Eagles got a steal in snagging him to backup Foles. Reports on him out of camp have been good so it’s time to see what he’s got.
4. LB Marcus Smith: Anytime you watch the first game of the preseason, the player taken with your team’s first pick is pretty much an automatic lock for a list like this. Smith is currently listed as a second string outside linebacker, so he will not be in the game when the Bears first team offense is in, but for Smith it is all about the fit.
I’ll be keeping my eye on how comfortable Smith looks in Davis’ 3-4 scheme. The Eagles have touted his athleticism so I expect for him to be able to drop back in coverage against tight ends while also rushing the passer.
Rushing the passer is the aspect that the Eagles most needed to add to their team this off-season and Smith was pretty much their lone attempt at it. Davis said that the team has added to their blitz package from last season and it will be interesting to see how Smith is integrated.
3. LB Mychal Kendricks: This is the player who’s development could lead to the most success for the Eagles’ defense. Kendricks showed flashes last season of being a good overall linebacker who could cover tight ends and get after the quarterback. However, he was somewhat inconsistent.
Kendricks shined against some tight ends, but was completely schooled by more elite tight ends. He is going to have to make sure that he is a presence everyday when it comes to covering underneath.
He possesses the athleticism to be a factor in the backfield as well and with the lack of pass rushing additions this off-season, expect to see him utilized more when going after the quarterback. Kendricks will also be tasked with taking some of the load off of DeMeco Ryans who played the most defensive snaps in the league last season.
LISTEN: KYW’s Matt Leon spoke with Ray Didinger about what players he will be watching on Friday night:
2. RT Allen Barbre: The Eagles will be without Lane Johnson for the first four weeks of the season and the Eagles are going with Barbre at right tackle to replace him. Kelly’s offense is predicated around a strong offensive line. The number of screen plays and run plays makes it paramount for the lineman to all be on the same page and for them to cover their assignments.
Barbre may only get out there for four games, but when the offense is centered around LeSean McCoy, every game for an offensive lineman is vital. Friday night will be the first sign of just how well Barbre is doing assimilating to the first unit.
1. WR Jeremy Maclin: This is obvious for a lot of reasons. The most apparent reason is the fact that he is the new number one receiver. Maclin’s Achilles injury meant that Kelly did not get a chance to utilize him in game action at all last season. Maclin is the direct replacement to DeSean Jackson, but they are very different players.
Maclin will only be on the field for a drive or two, but those plays will be a glimpse into how Kelly plans to integrate Maclin’s skill set into his offense. Maclin seemed to be an integral part of the offense until his injury last season so now Kelly will finally get to pull out some of the stuff he had drawn up for Maclin.
Honorable Mention: WR Jordan Matthews, RB Darren Sproles, CB Nolan Carroll, S Malcolm Jenkins, WR Arrelious Benn, NT Bennie Logan
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