By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the second preseason game for the Pats. With both teams facing playing three games in just ten days, it puts a lot of pressure on both the players and coaches.
Philly coach Andy Reid has stated that his starters could play into the second half, treating this like the normal 3rd game tuneup. It makes sense; the Eagles play at Cleveland on Friday and will face the Browns again in Ohio for their regular season opener. Reid doesn’t want to show the Browns much before their meeting in a few weeks when the games count for real.
For Bill Belichick and the Patriots, they seemed to have taken a different approach. On Friday’s practice, QB Tom Brady, WR Brandon Lloyd and TE Rob Gronkowski practiced together off to the side while backup QB Brian Hoyer received much of the first-team work. So it seems that those players will play little now, if at all.
It will however, be a great time for some of the depth players on the roster as well as some of the younger ones to get some good quality playing time against a very solid Philadelphia team. Some of the things to look for in Monday’s game include:
Chandler Jones- Jones has had a very impressive camp, and he has steadily improved from practice to practice. He had an impressive first outing against the Saints and is now facing Philly’s King Dunlap in this matchup. Dunlap has supplanted Demetress Bell and it will be interesting to see how Jones does in his second game. He’ll be trying to pressure Michael Vick, who has the ability to scramble and throw on the move. This will be a great test for the rookie.
Nate Ebner- Ebner is a physical player who was projected to be strictly as a STs player, but last week in practice he flashed some ball hawking skills and saw some good quality reps. With fellow rookie Tavon Wilson out with an injury, Ebner may get a good chance to show that he can play. The Eagles have a potent offense and this may be a chance for Ebner to shine.
Offensive Line- Overall, the OL had a game they’d like to forget against New Orleans. But with Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer as well as third tight end Daniel Fells returning to health, help is on the way. While it is not known how much Mankins will play if at all, his presence will help shore up the line. Coach Dante Scarnecchia is one of the best in the business and it will be interesting to see how well this group can bounce back.
Philly will present a tough challenge, they are very deep at the defensive line position and they like to use their “Wide 9” scheme, where they bring pressure from the edge. The Patriots saw this last fall and it will be worth watching. Look for rookie 1st round pick DL Fletcher Cox to get a lot of quality reps in this one for Philly.
Patriots’ Defense – With a solid camp and a good first showing against the Saints, the Pats defense has had a good showing thus far in preseason. With a potent Philadelphia offense that has a lot of weapons, this will be a great test for the defense to see how it stacks up.
The defensive line, especially at DE did a great job last week. Now, they’ll be trying to set the edge and bring pressure on Michael Vick. The secondary play has been improved and will have their hands full with the Eagles speedy WRs.
Be interesting to watch LB Brandon Spikes in his first action of the year between Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower. Spikes is a downhill player and brings a presence to the defense that has been lacking. He and Hightower should feed off each other.
Mayo had a very solid game last week and was moving around making plays, one of the knocks against him in his time here in New England. With all three starting LBs on the field, it will be his time to turn it loose.
Shane Vereen- With Stevan Ridley probably not playing because of injury, it will be up to Vereen to improve upon a nice performance against the Saints. He and Danny Woodhead will be getting a lot reps, it will be interesting to see how many Vereen gets against the Philly starting lineup.
Vereen has looked good in the running game but especially the passing game during camp. And that is an area where he’ll be looking to carve a niche out for himself this year.
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