Eagles vs. Panthers Preseason Game 2: Six Things to Watch | Eagles Addict
Cam Newton

Photo: Associated Press

The Philadelphia Eagles are set to take on the Carolina Panthers in Game 2 of preseason action.  The starters, at least on offense, are scheduled to play the entire first half so we should get a better look at how this unit performs with Michael Vick under center as compared to Nick Foles.

Obviously, watching the QBs will be first and foremost on everyone’s mind.  However, here are some other things to pay attention to as well…

1. QB competition

Both quarterbacks looked good last week and led the offense on touchdown drives.  However, Foles’ scoring drive was against the Pats’ second team defense.  Foles also had the one fumble as he was hit while trying to pass the ball.

Besides all the typical stuff to watch for tonight — how each QB leads the offense, turnovers, accuracy, decision-making, etc. — it will be interesting to see if Chip has each guy run the offense the same way.

Last week, Foles ran the up-tempo version while Vick did not.  I’m relying solely on memory here, but I believe Vick ran a no-huddle, but it wasn’t up-tempo the way Foles did it.

I wonder if that’s going to be a trend or not.  And if so, why?

2. Running Backs

Tonight we will get our first look at LeSean McCoy in the new offense.  It’s unknown how much he’ll actually play, but it will be good to see him in action.  He will likely be the centerpiece of the offense this season.

Chris Polk got the start last week over Bryce Brown but Brown was the decidedly better player.  Polk may look better in practice so far, but Brown simply keeps producing in the games where it counts.

With that said, I still want to see Brown run inside more often because he still likes to bounce it outside.

Felix Jones looked bad last week.  When he was first signed, many presumed he would make the roster as the No. 3 RB.  However, another showing like last week and his time here could be done.

3. WR competition

Hello Greg Salas!  He was the surprise star of last week’s game as he had a nice 12-yard TD off a screen pass and made an attention-grabbing one-handed snag of a 35 yard pass at the end of the game.

He certainly caught the coaches’ attention as he garnered some time with the starters in practice this week as a result.  However, can he do it again?  Will he get the opportunities?  Will Russell Shepard and/or Ifeanyi Momah step up?

On several occasions last week, Matt Barkley appeared to try and force the ball to Shepard too often.  Shepard was targeted six times but only came away with one catch for four yards.  Momah didn’t catch a single pass.

The Eagles acquired former Duck WR Jeff Maehl this week.  It remains to be seen how much of a role he’ll actually play and whether or not he will legitimately enter the competition at wide receiver.

The only reason Maehl could be of interest is his familiarity with Kelly’s offense and the fact he was Kelly’s best receiver during his time at Oregon.  However, Salas is in the driver’s seat now for what could be the fifth and final WR roster spot.

4. Defensive line

Vinny Curry and Damion Square will be the ones to watch this week to see if they build off of last week.  They were the line’s best players last week and should garner some time with the starters this week.

The only lock as a starter is Fletcher Cox.  The DE spot opposite him is up for grabs as well as the nose tackle position.  The presumed starting NT was free agent acquisition Isaac Sopoaga.  However, he may get out-played by rookie Bennie Logan to earn the right to be labeled as a starter.

5. Secondary

We will finally see Cary Williams in action on the field instead of only getting action from his mouth.  Let’s see if he backs up his words with his play.

Bradley Fletcher had decent coverage last week but it wasn’t good enough to prevent several passes from being caught on him.  Brandon Boykin has been arguably the Eagles’ best corner this summer and the coaches may prefer him more in the slot, but let’s see if he gets time on the outside this week.

For the love of God, will any safety step up and make themselves noticed for something good?  Bill Davis continues to tinker with his mix of safeties and fifth round pick Earl Wolff may be the most promising of the group.

However, it’s not a good sign if your fifth-round draft pick looks like the best safety on the roster.

If last week was any indication, we could be in store for another year of horrific play from this group.  Someone needs to step up and start making some plays.  The question is, is there anyone in the secondary capable of demanding some respect by opposing offenses?

6. Tackling

Self explanatory.  If you watched last week’s game, then you had the displeasure of watching the Patriots ram the ball down the throat of the defense on the opening drive.  Then later, slow-as-molasses LeGarrett Blount zigged and zagged his way through the defense for the longest 51-yard touchdown I’ve ever seen.

You could watch that play with Benny Hill theme music in the background to put it in better perspective.

Lack of tackling on defense was one of the worst things about watching last year’s unit and last week’s game it looked like the same results, just different players.

Ultimately, we can’t rush to judgment about teams in the preseason.  We’ve seen teams look like world-beaters in preseason but go on to look like garbage when the games start to count (vice-versa as well).

This is the only time that the phrase “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” applies.

For several players, their fates will be determined by how they play the game.

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