Ravens vs. Eagles: 5 Things to Watch During NFL Preseason Week 1 Matchup

Jason KarlAnalyst IIIAugust 10, 2011

Ravens vs. Eagles: 5 Things to Watch During NFL Preseason Week 1 Matchup

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    With the Eagles first preseason game almost here, there are many players to watch who could play a monumental part in the Eagles quest for their first Super Bowl ring.

    The Eagles on a whole have looked like a great team in practice, but of course that was without any tackling and hitting. A week one matchup with the Ravens will be a perfect test for the first teamers and could foreshadow a Super Bowl matchup.

    Here are five things to watch during the Eagles-Ravens preseason matchup.

Casey Matthews at Middle Linebacker

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    I recently posted an article on why Casey Matthews had to be upgraded at middle linebacker, but it seems the Eagles will give him a shot, before looking at free agent options.

    Matthews will be tested well, especially going against an elite running attack led by star Ray Rice.

    Though Matthews looks to be an instinctive player in coverage and has improved since I wrote that article, he still was sometimes eaten up by the offensive lineman in supporting the run. Matthews will have to display his great read and react skills to stuff the run and prove to the coaches why he is a legitimate option in the middle.

    His coverage skills are what is keeping him as a starter and he will have a tough cover with one of the best pass catching backs with Rice.

Right Side of Offensive Line

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    Arguably the achilles heel on offense last season, the right side of the offensive line will have to perform well against a complex defense.

    Recently signed tackle Ryan Harris and rookie guard Danny Watkins are immense upgrades over Winston Justice and Max Jean-Gillies.

    Harris struggled with inconsistencies and injuries last season, but prior to that season, he was quickly rising as one of the better right tackles in the league. In his short time in training camp, Harris has looked very solid and hopefully he can protect Michael Vick's blindside better than Justice has this past year.

    Watkins on the other hand has struggled in training camp and has been Cullen Jenkins' toy in practice. He still has high potential, but his transition from left tackle in college to right guard has been rough. Watkins will only get better with more practice playing guard.

Juan Castillo's Defensive Scheme

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    Juan Castillo has not openly come out about what his defensive plans are, but one can only assume he will try to keep all three stud cornerbacks on the field. Would the Eagles play a 4-2-3 defense with only two lienbackers on the field?

    Castillo wants the defense to be an aggressive, but responsibility falls on him on where to line them up. Jaiquawn Jarrett is an in-the-box type of player, but is that where Castillo will play him? Another question Eagle fans want to know is how much blitzing will be involved on defense.?

    A lot of question will be answered come Thursday on how the Castillo will utilize his defensive pieces.

How the Big 3 Play Together

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    When news broke of the Eagles stealing Nnamdi Asomugha from the Cowboys and Jets, speculation immediately began about whether Asante Samuel's days were numbered in Philadelphia.

    It looks like the Eagles will keep Samuel though and run pair him with Asomugha to form the league's best cornerback tandem.

    Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is expected to play in the slot, but could move outside when the Eagles allow Asomugha to play the Charles Woodson of the defense, letting him roam around to make plays.

    The trio at corner is the strength of the defense and will allow the Eagles to blitz or let the front four get up field.

Michael Vick's Progression

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    Unlike last season, Michael Vick entered training camp knowing he was the guy at quarterback.

    The pressure is on Vick to lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl considering the amount of upgrades the team signed. As fellow Eagle columnist Wes pointed out, its Super Bowl win or bust this season for the Eagles, and Vick will be in the middle of all the hype and coverage.

    In training camp, Vick certainly looks to be headed toward being considered an elite quarterback. Without his main weapons like DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, Vick has impressed with his accuracy and decision making. He is hitting no-name receivers in tight coverage against great corners and looks to now know when to tuck the ball and run.

    The Ravens are as complex as they come in terms of scheming and Vick will have to show his ability to read the defense and make pre-snap adjustments, something he failed to do last season.