What to Watch for in the Philadelphia Eagles' Preseason Debut

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistAugust 8, 2013

Jul 26, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) and wide receiver DeSean Jackson (10) walk off the field together at the end of practice during training camp at the Eagles NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

With all that has gone on in Philadelphia this offseason, the answer to the question posed in the headline (it's not technically a question, but you get the point) is, um, everything. 

Seriously, what won't there be to watch when the Philadelphia Eagles host the New England Patriots Friday night at Lincoln Financial Field? 

Here are the things I want to know.

1. Can Michael Vick Claim the Starting Quarterback Role? 

I know we continue to hear that it's a dead heat, or something like that. Vick will start Friday's game, but Foles will start next next Thursday against the Carolina Panthers.

My feeling is that a tie probably goes to the veteran, and thus Vick has a small edge at this point in time. He'll have the first chance to make an in-game impression on Chip Kelly and, judging from an interview with PhillyMag.com's Tim McManus, it appears Vick fully grasps the immensity of the moment.

I’ve never been in this situation before in my life. I’ve been in positions where I’ve had to compete for a job coming out of college, but it’s never been this severe. But I’m just taking it in stride, man. I can’t control the future, I can’t predict the future. I can just control what I can control. I can’t do it all. I can’t to everything. But the one thing I’m gonna do is have fun.

I'm not making any predictionssimply because Vick has been too unpredictable and I don't have a feel for Kelly just yetbut I'd imagine the entire football world will have an eye on Vick's performance during the first quarter on Friday.

2. Is Brandon Boykin the Best Cornerback on the Roster?

The Eagles signed Super Bowl champion Cary Williams, who has been in and out of practice all offseason, as well as Bradley Fletcher, who has failed to stand out thus far despite a solid resume.

Instead, CBS Philly's Joseph Santoliquito has been impressed in training camp by second-year Georgia product Brandon Boykin.

Not surprising. Boykin was actually pretty solid in coverage as a rookie. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he allowed completions on just 54 percent of the passes thrown his way.

However, corners can disappear a lot faster than they emerge, so Boykin has to keep building momentum in these preseason games. 

3. What Will the Pass-Rushing Hierarchy Look Like?

Brandon Graham was the Eagles' best pass-rusher last year, but they're transitioning to a 3-4-based defense and they've brought in Connor Barwin, who has experience in the system defensive coordinator Bill Davis is slowly implementing.

Trent Cole has seniority and a big paycheck, and thus there's some confusion regarding how many snaps Graham and his cohorts will get. 

I'm sure the Eagles will find ways to get all three talented defenders on the field, but youngsters like Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry need to get their share of opportunities as well. 

This is probably the most important preseason of Cole's career. He has to lift himself back up after having the opposite of a career year in 2012. Same for Barwin, whose sack total plummeted from from 11.5 to three in his final year with the Texans.

And then there's poor Graham, who is having to adapt to something completely new right when he was getting his NFL sea legs.

4. Can Riley Cooper Redeem Himself?

In this business, what Cooper does on the field could help him regain favor off it. Plus, a big preseason from Cooper could make it almost impossible for the Eagles to release him.

With Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn down, he's fighting with Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson, Greg Salas and Ifeanyi Momah for a starting spot opposite DeSean Jackson.

Don't Get Too Amped for Chip

I won't spend a lot of time analyzing what I see from a schematic standpoint, mainly because I don't expect Kelly or Davis to tip their hands this early. I think we'll see a lot of vanilla Friday and throughout the preseason.

They're still feeling things out on both sides of the ballespecially on defense. 

So this will be a fascinating debut from a personnel standpoint, but we won't start to get a feel for Kelly and his staff until September. 


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