Feels like 2004 in this joint.
That's the last time I can remember there being any serious excitement for a preseason opener. The Eagles were coming off of a huge off-season, not so very different from this summer in fact. They signed the most coveted free agent on the market (Jevon Kearse), brought back a former member of the team (Jeremiah Trotter), sought additional defensive help (Dhani Jones), upgraded their offensive line through the draft (Shawn Andrews), and pulled off one major trade (Terrell Owens).
And that team certainly delivered, at least on its promise to finally get off the NFC Championship doorstep, and bust through the front door of the Super Bowl. We all know how that story ends, but this year we are once again reminded how August feels when it's full of promise.
The promise of a legit contender that's jam packed with all star talent.
However tempting as it may be to get super-duper excited about tonight's action, I'm not about to do that, and advise you don't either. Once the game kicks off, you'll more than likely be treated to vanilla offensive schemes that make everybody look bad, and defensive mix-ups that show just how far this is from the final product we will see in September.
Then after 15 minutes of lousy football--and probably lousier than usual given these guys will be shaking the rust off from their vacations/the lockout--it will be time for the reserves to get theirs. By the fourth quarter, you won't recognize a soul.
Hey, at least it's football. Am I right? On to who we'll be watching tonight.
The Offensive Line
Particularly, we want to see what the Eagles are working with from center to right. Jamaal Jackson has returned from last season's triceps tear, but camp reports have sixth round rookie Jason Kelce getting more than his share of snaps with the first team. Of course, first round pick Danny Watkins will be making his debut at guard, while free agent signee Ryan Harris will make the start at tackle.
The Ravens are very stout up front, with Pro Bowlers Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs among the loads that will be bringing the heat, so this will be a good test for the revamped O-line.
Lewis could be in line for a decent number of carries tonight, as the coaches try to guage what he can bring to the table this season. The rookie out of Pitt appeared to be in line for a backup role, but the Eagles signed Ronnie Brown, which puts Lewis's role in question. The veteran Brown probably doesn't need a ton of work, so hopefully they give the fifth rounder a chance to shine.
One of the least discussed, but biggest free agent acquisitions this off-season, it will be interesting to see in exactly what capacity he is utilized. He is currently listed as a second stringer on the depth chart, which could indicate he'll primarily see action on passing downs, or it could mean they are simply working him into the system as well. The Eagles aren't likely to tip their hand too much in this first contest, but maybe we'll get a taste of what his role will be in Juan Castillo's defense.
The time for talk is already over. Can a rookie handle the middle linebacker job? Is Casey Matthews strong enough to shed blocks and wade through the traffic around the line of scrimmage? Of course, even if he has a solid outing tonight, that doesn't mean he won't be another Joe Mays, the original Kulp/700Level camp darling.
We just want to see if a quarterback can complete a pass against this group.
In all seriousness, don't get your expectations too high for tonight, but this unit is going to be fun to watch. Also, let's not forget this year's second and third round picks, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Curtis Marsh. Our own Nick Menta is attending the game tonight, and will more than likely provide some kind of write-up on his self-proclaimed man-crush of Jarrett afterwards.
Because we're all very, very curious. You've got some big shoes to fill, kid, and if you miss a field goal tonight, you seriously might not ever hear the end of it. Unless you kick a game winner in February. Then it's all good.