Eagles-Jaguars: Chip Kelly’s Dress Rehearsal Is Here, Battles on D

Eagles-Jaguars: Chip Kelly’s Dress Rehearsal Is Here, Battles on D

This has been the most exciting Eagles preseason in recent memory, probably since at least 2004, but it doesn’t take very long to grow weary of games that don’t count toward the standings. I think I speak for everybody – fans, players, even the coaching staff – when I say I’m ready to get to September 9, ready for Washington.

Unfortunately that’s just not the way things work, and we still have a couple exhibitions to go. The good news is tonight’s is the big one. Week three is traditionally the “dress rehearsal” so to speak. The starters will play for the entirety of the first half, likely into the third quarter, which means among other things that we’ll get out first extended look at newly-named starting quarterback Michael Vick, not to mention more Chip ball in general.

Plus, the perception that these games don’t mean anything is false. It will be good for Vick to get the reps for sure. Jason Peters will be in action for the first time since rupturing his Achilles as well. Mainly this stacks up as a big game for Philly’s defense though. There are still jobs to be won or lost all over the field, and the night-and-day performances versus the Patriots and Panthers has everybody wondering which tape is closer to the truth.

Chances are we won’t really find out how good or bad the Birds’ defense is on Saturday night, as the Jaguars simply don’t provide much in the way of a test. Still, if they can take care of business again – this time against a Blaine Gabbert/Chad Henne-led Jaguar offense – that would be a lot more reassuring than the inverse.

Here’s a quick look at some of the individual battles taking place on D:

Vinny Curry and Bennie Logan to start?

The two guys who have probably made the most surprising impacts thus far. Curry is widely presumed to be playing out of position as a defensive end in a 3-4, but he’s been more than offensive linemen could handle through the first two games. Logan has been moving all over the line, doing a fantastic job at disrupting plays in the backfield and getting his hands up to bat down passes.

Fletcher Cox obviously has one spot on the defensive line locked down, but Curry and Logan are making bids for playing time at the others. Cedric Thornton is doing all he can to stave off both of them at the other end, and he’s been fantastic in doing so, so he’ll definitely be in the rotation. Isaac Sopoaga has been invisible at nose tackle however, and he’s considered a two-down player anyway, so we’ll see if Logan begins to get more looks there than on third down, although they like the third rounder at end as well.

Brandon Graham vs. … the trade block?

It’s out there, so I’ll address it, but I simply don’t agree with Geoff Mosher’s line of thinking on CSNPhilly today that this might be Graham’s “last chance.” Actually, aside from one mental lapse where he failed to contain the backside and allowed a huge cutback run, he’s been one of their most disruptive defenders at the point of attack. According to metrics by Pro Football Focus, Graham has been the best against the run, and only Curry grades higher overall. I'd say he's passed the eye test, too.

When you also consider the Eagles are thin at outside linebacker, I don’t see any way they are trading him as some have suggested, even if he's not the smoothest in coverage. Never say never, but Graham has shown me enough that he can be useful to the Eagles this season.

Who’s at safety?

Despite a very bad outing in Week 1, Nate Allen has managed to remain in the hunt for the second safety spot opposite of Patrick Chung. Earl Wolff made some noise last week when he was taking first-team reps at practice, but defensive coordinator Billy Davis seems hesitant to go with the rookie. Kenny Phillips didn’t play in the last game and has hardly practiced, so he might have trouble making the roster. And we haven’t seen anything from Kurt Coleman or David Sims that screams they are in line for the job.

We’ll be watching whether or not anyone gets in there with the starters besides Nate, but he might be in the lineup come September by default. Big night for this group.

Nerlens Noel on Sixers' frontcourt logjam: 'I don't see a way it can work'

Nerlens Noel on Sixers' frontcourt logjam: 'I don't see a way it can work'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Nerlens Noel is standing his ground.

After saying that the Sixers' entering the season with three starting-caliber centers (himself, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid) "doesn't make sense," Noel didn't back down from his stance during the team's annual media day.  

"I don't see a way it can work," Noel said Monday. "It's just a logjam. You have three young, talented centers that can play 30-plus minutes a night." 

The Sixers attempted to play with two bigs in Noel and Okafor last season but had little success. Now that Embiid is finally healthy, the fit to the puzzle doesn't figure to get any better.

Reports swirled during the offseason that the Sixers were looking to trade either Noel or Okafor to add backcourt help to the woeful franchise, but nothing came to fruition.

"Things need to get situated," Noel said. "I think things obviously need to be moved around, someone needs to be moved around. It's just a tough situation. I can't really say too much because I have no say in the matter, so obviously that's for who can handle the situation in the right manner.

"I've gone through a whole lot. Probably the most, arguably, that any player has gone through in the NBA in losing. It's a tough situation to still be in. Year by year, to see things get more difficult to show your value. Year by year, it's always been something. It's really at a point where it's just a lot."

Bryan Colangelo said he understands Noel's viewpoint. However, the Sixers' president said he is in no rush to trade any of the centers and will wait the situation out.

"It’s not disappointing. It’s understandable," Colangelo said. "I think Nerlens actually did a pretty good job sizing up what we have, which is a lot of depth and a lot of talent at that position."

Despite each of the three centers being early in their career, Noel, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, doesn't want to hold off to see if the trio can actually mesh on the floor.

"I can't say I do really understand that (wait-and-see approach)," Noel said. "If you have a group of players, I just don't think it makes too much sense to just still come into the season with such a heavy lineup at the center position. I don't know what there is to wait and see."

Noel made sure to express that he has no issues with Okafor and Embiid and said they are some of his closest friends on the team. But when asked whether he was happy to be a Sixer, Noel deflected.

"I feel good," he said. "I'm all right, I'm in a good place right now."

Sure sounds like it.

Darren Sproles' TD from Wentz set to Sonic the Hedgehog music

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Darren Sproles' TD from Wentz set to Sonic the Hedgehog music

You may fondly remember the time Darren Sproles took a punt return to the house last season and a wonderful Twitter user set the video to the Super Mario Bros.' star music, yes?

It was great.

Now that Sproles' put on the jets again yesterday in the Eagles win over the Steelers, the same @pacdude on Twitter has done it again.

This time it's the theme music from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Please enjoy.