Top 5 Philadelphia Eagles to Watch in the Preseason Opener

Randy JobstSenior Analyst IAugust 10, 2011

Top 5 Philadelphia Eagles to Watch in the Preseason Opener

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    Football is back. It may just be preseason, but we finally have football to watch.

    The Philadelphia Eagles have gone through several changes since we last saw them. A new defensive coordinator along with a new offensive and defensive line coach, who will both bring a more aggressive scheme.

    The Eagles have brought in several new players through free agency along with the eleven players they drafted. Andy Reid and the rest of the coaching staff is trying to build chemistry with the starters, along with seeing which young players can fill out the rest of the roster and which players should just be cut loose.

Vince Young

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    Just because the Eagles signed a very well known quarterback with a 30-18 career record doesn't mean that Vince Young is already penciled in as the backup quarterback in Week 1.

    Coming in and learning the West Coast Offense in a short period of time is a very difficult thing. Young will have to prove he has a handle on his new offense during preseason. The Eagles' other backup quarterback Mike Kafka spent all of 2010 getting comfortable in the offense as a third stringer learning from a plethora of great offensive minds. Young clearly has more talent, but Kafka knows the players and the offense. A couple inefficient drives and a lack of chemistry with his new teammates and coaches and Young could be backing up the backup quarterback.

    More than likely Young will impress but as Andy Reid put it, learning the West Coast Offense is like learning the French language in a couple weeks.

Riley Cooper

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    Riley Cooper is a big, athletic receiver capable of being the legitimate red zone threat the Eagles so desperately need. Last season Cooper had 7 catches for 116 yards and one touchdown. 2011 should be a much more productive season for Cooper.

    With DeSean Jackson out due to a lack of practice and Jeremy Maclin also out for Thursday's preseason game due to an unnamed illness, Riley Cooper has a great opportunity to shine. He gets the start as an outside receiver going up against Baltimore's best corners.

    With more time on the outside, we will get a glimpse of what the 2011 season may have in store for Riley Cooper.

Ryan Harris

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    No position outside of quarterback is more to the Eagles offense than right tackle. Winston Justice struggled in 2010 coming off a solid campaign in 2009. Justice was pulled at the end of the season in the playoffs and is still not healthy enough to play.

    In comes Ryan Harris. Ryan Harris was the Broncos offensive tackle since 2007, but was not resigned by the Broncos. The Eagles signed him to a one year deal for 2011. Harris has made 34 starts in his career and only injury problems have kept him from getting a long term deal.

    Harris has looked very impressive in training camp and has become the favorite, not Justice, to win the starting right tackle job. A good preseason would more than likely lock up the position for Harris and push Justice to a backup role for the first time since 2008.

Jamaal Jackson

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    Jamaal Jackson was once thought of as one of the top centers in the NFL. He is a big but very athletic linemen that communicates extremely well with the rest of his line. He always makes sure everyone is on the same page and everyone showing blitz is picked up. Losing Jackson late in 2009 to a torn ACL killed there season. Losing him again to a torn triceps in Week 1 in 2010 was also a huge blow.

    Jackson doesn't have to beat out anyone else for the position but his own health. If Jackson is healthy, he easily wins the job, if not the Eagles will go in a different direction. The Eagles can't win the Superbowl without a great center in 2011, so Jackson proving he is 100 percent healthy is very important for the Eagles title hopes.

Casey Matthews

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    Casey Matthews has probably had a more productive training camp than any other Eagle. He has gone from a player projected to backup Jamar Chaney at middle linebacker and contribute on special teams to the starting middle linebacker that made it easy for the Eagles to move Jamar Chaney to the outside.

    Matthews isn't as big or fast as other starting middle linebackers, but his coverage skills and football instincts are off the charts. Doing it in practice is one thing. Doing it in an actual game is on a totally different level.

    The Eagles don't have a proven middle linebacker on the roster as of right now so a good preseason for Matthews is crucial to their future success in 2011.

Daniel Te'o-Nesheim

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    Daniel Te'o-Nesheim was supposed to be another Andy Reid draft steal in 2010. He was taken in the third round to compete for time at defensive end. He finished the 2010 season with just two total tackles in six games.

    Te'o-Nesheim has been ferociously coaches up by defensive line coach Jim Washburn in camp. He appears to have improved his technique and is ready to contribute for a very loaded defensive line.

    If he is as non impressive in preseason as he was last season, he may be on the chopping block just a little over one year removed from being taken in the third round.

Alex Henery/Chas Henry

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    If a big game comes down to a big kick for the Eagles, they can no longer depend on the player who has played the most games in franchise history. David Akers was not resigned, as the Eagles decided to go a younger route with rookie kicker Alex Henery taken in the fourth round. Henery has a monster leg with proven accuracy at the college level. Until he starts making field goals in games, it will be hard to feel great about the kicking situation.

    The Eagles also signed another Henry, Chas Henry, punter from Florida. He finished his career at Florida with an average just under 43 yards per punt.

    Having a rookie kicker and punter is something worth watching in preseason. You don't want to lose a pivotal game due to a kicker.