You’re on the edge of your seat, I know. The Eagles open the preseason schedule on Thursday night (7 o’clock, NBC10) when the Tennessee Titans come to town and you can’t wait to see quarterback Carson Wentz back on the field – don’t blink or you might miss it – as the world gets back on its axis. It’s football season once again. We’re happy.
And while the Eagles aren’t going to play Wentz and wide receiver DeSean Jackson and Co. much in this preseason, there are some reasons to understand that this preseason does, indeed, matter for the Eagles. It may not require four preseason games to gain the answers, but there are certainly questions the talent-laden Eagles have heading into the games. We take a look …
• Who is the team’s middle linebacker?
Jordan Hicks signed as a free agent with Arizona, in case you missed it. The Eagles didn’t draft a linebacker. They’ve been using Nathan Gerry in the middle with the starters in training camp, and he’s made some progress. But the Eagles have had “live” periods in exactly two practices, so the preseason setting is the perfect one to determine the progress Gerry has made. The Eagles hoped that Paul Worrilow, a veteran who signed last year but missed 2018 with a knee injury and then re-signed in this offseason, would contribute but he’s been sidelined, as that knee hasn’t yet come all the way back. The eventual middle man could be Nigel Bradham, a starter on the strong side previously who is working his way back from a toe injury and has yet to practice at full speed. So, right now it’s Gerry. We’ll see how the third-year man does for a linebacker group that’s had some changes and was dealt a blow in practice last week when Kamu Grugier-Hill suffered a knee injury that could sideline him for several weeks.
• How is the cornerback position going to shake out?
Jalen Mills (foot) is on the Physically Unable to Perform List. Ronald Darby (knee) is coming back and not yet 100 percent. Cre’Von LeBlanc has a foot injury that reportedly could keep him off the field for months. Who’s playing cornerback for this team? At the moment, the Eagles are going to have Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas as the top three cornerbacks, and they’ve signed veteran Orlando Scandrick to compete at the nickel cornerback position. Is that enough? Darby expects to be ready to go for the regular season when it begins on Sept. 8 against Washington.
• Are the Eagles OK behind Wentz?
Nick Foles signed in Jacksonville. Nate Sudfeld is the new No. 2 quarterback. He hasn’t played a meaningful snap in the regular season. The veteran security blanket is gone. The Eagles have rookie Clayton Thorson and journeyman veteran Cody Kessler behind Sudfeld. Yeah, Wentz has to stay healthy, but what if he doesn’t?
• Which rookies can make an impact this season?
Left tackle Andre Dillard is making progress but could be a season away from truly being ready. Running back Miles Sanders shows flashes of his enormous talent and is going to get some preseason touches. He’s got a chance to be dynamic. Wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside catches everything and has a huge upside, but can he crack through in a talented group? Defensive end Shareef Miller is going to get a lot of snaps to show what he can do. The Eagles need a young defensive end – Miller, Josh Sweat and Daeshon Hall are the candidates – to step up as a fourth player in the rotation.
Bottom line: This preseason matters for the Eagles. There are questions that need some answers. ••