The Philadelphia Eagles will take on the New England Patriots tonight in what will serve as their "dress rehearsal" for the 2012 season. Typically, teams will wait until the 3rd preseason game to give the starters extended time, but the Eagles face a quick turnover this week with Cleveland coming to Philadelphia on Thursday. With 11 days to prepare for tonight, the Eagles have opted to focus on this game as their primary regular season prep.
There will be a few notable position battles to watch tonight.
Weakside linebacker - This one is really wide open at this point. Brian Rolle will start, but after a rough outing against Pittsburgh, Jamar Chaney is likely to see some snaps with the first team as well. Keenan Clayton should also be in the mix here a well. A strong showing from any of those guys could be cause a shuffle on the depth chart later this week.
Punter - Matt McBriar was decent last week while Chas Henry was inconsistent. These two should get equal opportunities tonight for round two of their battle. It will also be worth watching who takes snaps at holder. Henry got them all last week, but if McBriar gets a few tonight, it could be a sign that his grip on a roster spot is tightening.
Left Tackle - King Dunlap will get his first start at LT this preseason and is expected to take all the first team snaps. A solid performance from him tonight could all but ensure that he starts week one at LT. Dunlap has really played well at almost every opportunity over the past couple years, so it could be a real story if he grabs this starting job. On the same token, it will be worth watching Demetress Bell with the second team. He wasn't very good in his debut, but it was just 6 snaps. Expect the Eagles to run one of their stretch plays with him early to see if he's more active than he was last week.
Here are a few players not locked in a position battle that will be worth keeping any eye on anyway.
Mychal Kendricks - It will be a baptism by fire tonight for the rookie as he arguably faces a tougher test than any he'll face in the regular season. the Patriots' TE duo of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski should serve as a great barometer for where Kendricks is right now as far as coverage. He doesn't need to shut them down, but if he can stay competitive there, we should take that as a really good sign.
Nate Allen - Nate will make his preseason debut tonight and should have progressed to the point where he's a leader and a difference maker in the secondary. He's heading into year 3 now, so the flashes he's shown in previous season need to evolve into consistency. More than anything though, I think we're all interested to see how the defense looks sans Jaiquwan Jarrett at safety. If Allen just manages to avoid taking out his own guys, he should be a notable upgrade.
Jaiquawn Jarrett - Speak of the devil... Jai Jar's preseason debut couldn't have gone worse. But tonight is another opportunity. Up until that Pittsburgh game we'd heard a lot of good stuff about Jarrett and he'd had a good summer. It was a disastrous game for sure, but his problems were mental mistakes. Physically, speed-wise... He seems to be NFL caliber. Without the mental aspect though, it won't matter. It will certainly be worth watching him tonight to see if he's learned from his mistakes.
Michael Vick - He really never even got started against the Steelers, with just 6 snaps before the starters were done for the night. So really, tonight will be our first real extended look at Vick this season. It's preseason with a vanilla offense so I'm not expecting fireworks, but we do want to see him looking comfortable in the pocket and making good decisions.