When the Eagles take on the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, it’ll mark the first time the Eagles will take the field since last December. And after an offseason that saw the franchise’s all-time leading rusher traded to the signing of big-name free agents, Sunday afternoon will be the first glimpse into how Chip Kelly plans on moving the Eagles forward in Year Three.
Here are just a few of the storylines we’ll be watching this Sunday:
How will the secondary perform?
The Eagles are looking for two new starters in the secondary (three if you count the slot corner position), and Sunday will be the first look at the revamped group. The only starter remaining from last year is safety Malcolm Jenkins, who will likely line up next to former Seahawk and Giant Walter Thurmond III.
At cornerback, newly signed Byron Maxwell will look to continue his impressive summer in his first action in Philadelphia. All signs point to Nolan Carroll II starting opposite Maxwell at corner, though it will be worth watching to see if rookie Eric Rowe will get snaps with the first team. Carroll and Rowe have split time with the ones over the past few practices.
What will the rookies do?
Nelson Agholor, the Eagles’ first round pick, has had an up-and-down camp. Second round pick Rowe has been solid. And the team’s third round pick Jordan Hicks hasn’t done much to distinguish himself. But they can all make a case for playing time against the Colts on Sunday. None of the Eagles’ top picks figure to see much time with the starting units, but don’t be surprised to see plenty of Rowe and Agholor throughout the second and third quarters.
What will we see from the run game?
This applies to more than just the trio of running backs. There remain some real questions along the offensive line, as both starting guard spots are up for grabs. It will be especially interesting to see who gets playing time at right guard, with free agent John Moffitt battling with Matt Tobin and other players for the starting gig.
Meanwhile at running back, DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews will see their first game action as members of the Eagles. While the preseason isn’t generally a time for gameplanning, it will nevertheless be interesting to see what kind of workload these backs get. Given the tread on Murray’s tires it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll play much more than the first series, meaning the first preseason game could very well be the Ryan Mathews Show.
Will Sam Bradford continue his strong summer?
The former Ram has turned some heads with his strong play thus far in training camp, but this weekend’s preseason game will be his first live game action since the third preseason game of the 2014 season, when he went down with his second ACL injury in as many seasons.
Bradford hasn’t missed a practice during training camp, and has shown some mobility to boot. But more than that, Bradford has shown flashes of the ability that got him drafted first overall in 2010. His arm is the strongest of any quarterback the Eagles have seen since Michael Vick, and his touch and decision making have been positives during camp. A solid performance Sunday afternoon would go a long way towards easing the fears of those Eagles fans who aren’t sure what to expect from Bradford.
While the first preseason game is hard to get a true glimpse of how a team will perform in the regular season, it’s still a measuring stick to see where they are at compared to other teams. If the Eagles come out looking sloppy and turn the ball over like they did last season, I’m sure people won’t be too happy about that. But we’ll have to remind ourselves – it’s just the first preseason game, and that’ll ultimately calm everyone down. And if they look great, we’ll have to ground our high expectations because why? Yup, it’s the first preseason game.