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Philadelphia Eagles vs New England Patriots: Eagles Players to Keep an Eye on

Randy JobstSenior Analyst IAugust 7, 2013

Philadelphia Eagles vs New England Patriots: Eagles Players to Keep an Eye on

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    The Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots face off on Friday night in both teams' preseason opener.

    For the Eagles, this is the most anticipated preseason game I can ever remember. What is Chip Kelly's offense going to look like, who steps up at quarterback and how does the defense hold up? There are lots of questions and several roster spots up for grabs.

    This game is going to be about as big as any preseason game can get.

    It's important to note that Kelly won't be playing his starters for the majority of the game. Typically, in the first preseason game, coaches will play their projected starters for a series or two.

    I believe they might see the field a little more than that, but the focus should be on rookies and players battling for a key role.

    Here are the players on the Eagles' roster that fans should keep on eye on more than most.

1. The Quarterbacks

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    Of course, the quarterbacks take center stage. Don't they always?

    This is especially true for the Eagles. They need a smart, accurate quarterback who has this offense down. You can't run an uptempo style without total control of the offense, accuracy and the ability to know when to dump the ball off short rather than hold the ball too long and take a sack. 

    Michael Vick, Nick Foles and even Matt Barkley are in the running.

    Barkley has the most to prove, but I wouldn't rule him out. He already acts the part in training camp. He just needs a stronger arm and better footwork in the pocket. 

    Vick is the favorite despite it all. He has the strongest arm and his speed really adds to the offense. He will probably start Friday night's game, but he is no lock to win the starting job. 

    Foles is the guy that most people toss aside because he has less experience, but his skill set might make him a better fit. He is more accurate than Vick and has the pocket presence of a 10-year veteran. 

    Keep an eye on this quarterback battle during the month. No one has gained much of an advantage through camp and it will come down to who performs better in preseason. 

2. Lane Johnson, RT

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    Lane Johnson is going to have his work cut out for him in preseason. He missed time during OTAs because of his contract dispute and had some catching up to do once training camp started.

    Now he is penciled in as the starting right tackle.

    Johnson is potentially the second coming of Jason Peters if he adds enough bulk. Right now, he is a super-athlete at right tackle. The Eagles could have the best tackle duo in the league, depending on how quickly Johnson adapts to the pro level.

    How he performs against the Patriots will be worth watching. Will he be a solid starting right tackle in his first year or will he be a work in progress?

3. Ifeanyi Momah, WR

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    Ifeanyi Momah was going to be a project this summer and Chip Kelly knew that coming in. The former star wideout from Boston College was expected to have a big senior year until he tore his ACL in the season opener back in 2011.

    Fast-forward two years later and he is attempting to crack an NFL roster. 

    Momah is a beast at 6'7", 230-plus pounds, but he doesn't always show it at camp. Now he has a chance to shine in the actual games, especially with Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn lost for the season.

    The Eagles are thin at wide receiver and could really use some size to go along with the likes of 5'10" DeSean Jackson and 5'8" Damaris Johnson. 

    Momah has a perfect opportunity to get his football career back on track, but he has to play big in preseason. 

4. Brandon Graham, OLB

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    Brandon Graham has already proven to the Eagles that he can be a solid pass-rusher. He proved it during his rookie campaign in 2010 before he tore his ACL and proved it again last season when he was 100 percent healthy.

    Now he has to show that he can handle the 3-4 outside linebacker spot. 

    Graham is currently listed on the Eagles' depth chart as a backup outside linebacker behind Trent Cole. Neither Cole nor Graham has much experience dropping back in coverage, but both players can be elite pass-rushers. How they handle the coverage duties as a 3-4 edge rusher will be vital. 

    Graham could actually see the field more than Cole on Friday because he will be a backup. Keep an eye on how he handles himself in both zone and man coverage. 

5. Earl Wolff, S

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    Earl Wolff is a promising rookie out of North Carolina State who was taken in the fifth round of April's draft. He is a big hitter with the range to cover the length of the field. He is exactly the type of safety that Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis want.

    The problem for Wolff right now is that he is a fourth-string safety heading into the first preseason game. That has to change for him in a hurry. 

    Because starters rarely play more than a series or two in the first preseason game, we could see Wolff play more with the second- and third-string defenses Friday night. He has to impress on the field, because he obviously hasn't impressed in practice just yet.

    He's a rookie and it's still early, but you want to see more from him at this stage. 

     

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