As you've likely heard, Michael Vick will sit out tonight's exhibition game in Cleveland following Monday's scare, and there seems to be some dissent over whether he will be ready for the regular season opener. Andy Reid expects his quarterback to be ready for kickoff in two weeks, but according to Reuben Frank, Vick makes it sound less than certain. While Reid has been caught in fibs in the past, we're banking on a little gamesmanship on the quarterback's part.
Either way, it means Nick Foles has gained the opportunity to enhance his legend by making his first start against the Browns -- and this time we'll see how he fares against a first-string defense. Who knows, if Vick really is hurt worse than Reid is letting on, this could be the rookie's audition to get the ball in Week 1.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns plan to play their starters the entire first half. If Foles conducts himself well for a third-consecutive game, he just might jump Mike Kafka on the depth chart officially. It's still preseason, and these teams meet again to open the schedule, so he still won't see quite the wrinkles he would if it were September 9, but it's yet another test for the Canton-bound 23 year old (I kid, I kid).
Besides Vick, the Eagles starters should play about a quarter as well. That's good news for Foles, who must continue to prove himself out there, but it's also an opportunity for the defense to vindicate themselves somewhat. Juan Castillo and his unit have been knocked around by critics already this season, which is not all that unreasonable given the results thus far. If they get diced up by rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, there will be full-scale panic.
What we really need to see out of the defense are two things: fewer penalties and more stops on third down. The third down issue is more troubling, and harder to explain. As individuals, plenty of players have stood out with strong preseasons, but collectively, there always seems to be a breakdown when it's time to pin the offense to the mat. The issues seem to go hand-in-hand though, as penalties have already produced first downs for the opponent three times in very limited action.
Speaking of limited action, it's worth repeating that the starters should only play one quarter, this preseason winding down slightly earlier than normal. Of note, fifth-round pick Dennis Kelly will be at right tackle in place of Todd Herremans, who is out for personal reasons.
Otherwise there are some interesting position battles brewing. King Dunlap seems to have a choke hold on the left tackle spot for now, but may be walking a fine line there. Fourth rounder Brandon Boykin replaced Joselio Hanson at nickel corner last week. Bryce Brown is raising some eyebrows carrying the football. Does Jaiquawn Jarrett make this team? Is there a roster spot for Damaris Johnson at wide receiver?
But I think what everyone really wants to know is, limited or not, will we see a team that appears ready to play meaningful football?