The Philadelphia Eagles are getting ready to play their third preseason game this week versus the Cleveland Browns. Although preseason games are “ho-hum” to the fans for the most part, they have significant meaning to coaches and many players.
There are several specific reasons the upcoming game is important, such as how players like Casey Matthews, Jason Kelce and King Dunlap perform, but those things have been well covered recently by several other media outlets.
I have three main reasons why the Browns game is important but in more of a broader sense. Will I be analyzing the offensive line, Casey Matthews and Michael Vick? Of course! But let’s not forget about a few generalities…
1. The starters need redeem themselves after a terrible performance against Pittsburgh last week. Football players only survive in the NFL when they have confidence in their abilities. Teams perform better when the morale and team confidence is high.
Andy Reid always plays the first string the longest in the third preseason game and this year is no different. The starters will play into the third quarter and depending on how the game is going, they’ll either play the entire quarter or just the first series or so.
This is their last true dress-rehearsal before the games begin to count. So it’s their last chance to build up some team confidence and get a little momentum started prior to the regular-season.
On a team with this many changes, that will be important in order to avoid a slow and awkward start to the year.
2. Since we’re talking about confidence, how about giving the fans something to feel good about? After their recent historic whirlwind of free agent signings, fan euphoria reached 2004-type levels when the Eagles signed Jevon Kearse and landed Terrell Owens.
Remember that feeling back in 2004? Everyone knew going into that offseason that wide receiver was the Eagles’ biggest need with defensive end as a secondary need. The announcement of Kearse, a premier DE at the time, got the fans pumped.
Then when they announced the Owens trade, everyone just kind of “knew” that the Eagles were going to the Super Bowl that year. The fan confidence was at an all-time high.
This year the fan confidence seems generally high because of the free agent signings but there is some cautiousness around. The debacle in Pittsburgh tempered the excitement a little bit.
The casual Eagles fan is probably a little more excited than the die-hards. That’s because the die-hards know that there are still some key issues to fix before planning the parade down Broad Street.
However, if the Eagles first-teamers perform well against Cleveland, it will go a long way towards restoring some of the lost enthusiasm by casual and die-hard fans alike.
3. The first round of roster cuts will happen between this game and the final preseason game. This game then becomes the final opportunity for certain players to show something…anything…that catches a coach’s eye and allows them to survive the first cuts.
Sometimes players on football teams are viewed as merely objects without thoughts, feelings and personal lives. Stop and think for a minute what this game would mean to YOU if you were fighting for your dream.
What if you really wanted to get ahead at your job and needed to make yourself standout to your boss in some manner. Then you had an opportunity to do a PowerPoint presentation in front of management.
Wow, this is your chance, right?
Then you walk into the room full of upper-level personnel and proceed to trip over your shoelaces. As you try to grab onto anything to stop you from falling, you inadvertently knock the wig off of the senior partner’s head and grab hold of a busty female executive’s blouse which rips open and exposes her miracle bra.
All while the laptop you were carrying goes flying up in the air and comes down on your boss’s piping hot cup of coffee which then spills on his lap causing second degree burns to his nether regions.
Think you’ll get that promotion?
Okay, maybe that was a little dramatic but you get the point.
The more “realistic” scenario would be that your boss decided to give the
presentation to someone else therefore not giving you the opportunity to
showcase your talent.
That’s what undrafted rookies like Graig Cooper, Brandon Peguese, Cedric
Thornton, Martell Webb, Gerald Jones, Spencer Johnson and Derrick Locke all
They are all trying to realize what may be a life-long dream to play in the
NFL. But the boss may not even give them much of a chance to show what they can
Then there are other players such as Dallas Reynolds, A.Q. Shipley, Marlon Favorite, Derek Landri, Anthony Hargrove, and Chris Wilson who are just trying to find a way to hang on.
All of those players are just hoping for a chance to make a good impression during a live game. You can do your best in practice and sometimes that can be enough to help you stick around a little longer than the next guy but standing out in a game is what lands you on rosters.
The Cleveland game marks the beginning of the end for some players. Those who survive will have one final shot the following week against the Jets.
That’s when the men will be separated from the boys and someone’s dream gets a hard dose of reality.