It’s not clear who will play or how watered down the playbook might be when the Eagles take on the Cleveland Browns in their third preseason game when the two teams meet for real 16 days later.
Nevertheless, there are some key things to watch, and we boil them down to a list of 5:
1. Will the team show more discipline and cut down on the penalties?
The Birds were whistled for a whopping 16 penalties Monday night in New England, prompting Andy Reid to scream at his first-team defense over two late hits, which then degenerated into a shouting match between Reid and Cullen Jenkins, spilling over to angry words from Reid toward defensive line coach Jim Washburn.
Penalties or not, TV cameras will no doubt be trained on Reid to see if he lays into someone else this week.
2. With two healthy quarterbacks, will Nick Foles and Trent Edwards play equal amounts, or will Edwards get a longer look as Reid may consider rostering him to start the season?
The Eagles have a problem. Mike Kafka will not be ready for the season opener. But if he’s place on injured reserve, he will miss more than half the season. If he’s not placed on injured reserve, Trent Edwards – one of only 2 healthy QB’s on the team – would either have to be cut or the team would have to carry 4 quarterbacks, at least until Kafka is ready to return.
Neither is an appealing option – but the decision might be influenced by how Edwards plays.
3. If Foles does play, will he light up the scoreboard again?
Nick Foles has been the Eagles’ best QB this preseason. He has thrown for 2 TDs in each of his 2 games.
In fairness, he has not played against top defenders.
Nevertheless, if he keeps playing like this, he will be the unquestioned #2 QB, and with only the brittle Michael Vick ahead of Foles on the depth chart, Foles could see as much or more action as a rookie as notables like Donovan McNabb (who played behind Doug Pedersen) and Randall Cunningham (who played behind Ron Jaworski).
4. Who will be the punter?
Incumbent Chas Henry is being challenged by former Pro Bowler Mat McBriar.
McBriar has shown a stronger leg, but Henry has acquitted himself well with directional kicking.
The decision may come down to whether Andy Reid thinks his punter needs to change field position after being stuck deep in their territory or press the field position advantage on stalled drives near or just over midfield.
5. Will the defense do a better job on third down?
The Eagles’ first-team defense gave up 7 of 11 third down conversions in the first half against the Patriots, including five on one New England TD drive alone. Many of those conversions were third and 7 or longer.
Clearly, that situation must improve if the Eagles intend to improve on their 8-8 record from 2011.