Eagles-Patriots: 5 things to focus on Friday night

Eagles-Patriots: 5 things to focus on Friday night
August 15, 2014, 11:00 am
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The second preseason game is slightly more important than the fourth preseason game (which is not at all important, unless you have a friend or family member trying to make the practice squad, at which point congrats) and slightly less important that the third preseason game (which is kinda/sorta important, but only in a relative way). It’s all a rough approximation of actual regular season football, which can’t get here soon enough.

But since we’re junkies, we will watch and get our Eagles/NFL fix. (It’s Friday night. What, you have a social life?) Some storylines to focus on during the evening’s riveting Eagles-Patriots extravaganza:

5. Nick Foles
Now that we’re done writing it was only one game over and over on the chalkboard, we’ll see how Foles follows up on last week’s inauspicious preseason debut. Foles went 6 for 9 for 44 yards in Chicago. (He completed two extra passes if you count the ones caught by the Bears.) He wasn’t happy about it. (Back to the chalkboard, it was only one game.)

A year ago, Foles started the season by throwing 19 touchdowns before his first interception. He also had the third-best QB rating (119.2) in NFL history. Safe to predict some regression on both fronts. Which doesn’t mean he can’t still have an excellent season. He generally makes good decisions, and he completed 64 percent of his passes last year. Maybe that’s why Bill Belichick likes him so much. Foles doesn’t have to be in midseason form Friday, but it would be nice to see him play better than he did a week ago, if only to put down the chalk and step away from the board. 

4. The offensive line
Jason Peters got called for a holding penalty. Evan Mathis got called for two. Allen Barbre — who will fill in at right tackle while Lane Johnson is serving a four-game suspension to start the season — copped to making “a few mistakes.” It wasn’t a good outing for the offensive line against the Bears last week.

“It’s the first game, never really got into a rhythm,” Mathis told CSNPhilly.com Eagles insider Geoff Mosher. “We’ve always been the type to get better with time. So this is a starting point, gives us some things we put on tape that show what we need to work on. I don’t think it’s any cause for panic.”

True enough. No reason to worry (yet). But, as with Foles, it would be nice to see the O-line acquit itself in New England. The unit was healthy and consistent last year, which helped LeSean McCoy lead the league in rushing, Foles emerge as a top-tier NFL passer and the Eagles finish with the fourth-best scoring offense. 

3. Vinny Curry
Foles didn’t look good against Chicago. The offensive line didn’t look good against Chicago. You know who looked good against Chicago? Vinny Curry. It felt like he was in the Chicago backfield as much as the Bears' running backs. He was disruptive.

The Eagles’ coaching staff doesn’t seem sold, though. This week, defensive coordinator Bill Davis talked about what Curry does well (rush the passer) and what he doesn’t do as well (shed blockers during running plays). Curry is 278 pounds, which is gigantic for real-life humans but not-so-gigantic when playing against dump-truck sized NFL linemen. Davis made it sound like Curry will continue to be a part-timer while he’s employed by the Eagles. He has so much talent. It's hard to reconcile what they say about him and what your eyes sometimes see.

2. Matt Barkley vs. G.J. Kinne
Yeah, yeah — Kinne has "zero shot" of beating out Barkley for the third quarterback spot. While Barkley certainly has the clearer path to winning the gig, it’s not like he’s been so much better than Kinne that it would be unthinkable for Kinne to overtake him. Barkley is still the heavy favorite, but it’s nice to think about the competition.

Since the Eagles drafted Barkley, he’s appeared only on the practice field and in limited regular-season duty. It’s not quite fair to judge him from any of that, but he hasn’t exactly impressed. There haven’t been many plays where he wowed. And if his name wasn’t Matt Barkley, would it really be so crazy to imagine the Eagles going with Kinne, a guy who’s more athletic and has a better arm?

1. The wideouts
If there’s any cause for genuine concern at the moment, it’s because of the uncertainty with this group. Riley Cooper and Jeff Maehl returned to practice Sunday after missing a chunk of training camp because of ankle injuries. Both were in walking boots for a time. While they're out of walking boots and back at practice, Cooper still won't play Friday night. He's aiming to return next week in the regular season dress rehearsal against the Steelers.

Jeremy Maclin, who was coming off an ACL injury, had some issues with his legs earlier in camp. Then, this week, he left practice with a hamstring problem. Maclin said it wasn’t a big deal.

Everyone raved about Jordan Matthews, especially McCoy. Then Matthews was served “a little humble pie” in the preseason opener in Chicago.

Ifeanyi Momah is just a guy. Damaris Johnson hasn’t played very well as a receiver in two seasons with the Eagles and might not make the team. Brad Smith is more of a special teams contributor than an offensive weapon. Arrelious Benn has already missed 27 games in his career because of an array of injuries. The Eagles have depth issues at wide receiver. It would be good to see the unit assuage some of those concerns.

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