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Eagles-Packers preview: Corners on hot seat

Posted by Eric Fisher On August 8

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson stirred up a mild firestorm last month when he said the Eagles are probably more talented than the Packers’ Super Bowl teams in the 1990s.

Put aside the ludicrous comparison of a team that finished in last place in the NFC East last season with a losing record to a Super Bowl winning team. A more relevant comparison is the Eagles to the current Packers, who won the NFC North Division last season.

We get an opportunity to compare the current Eagles and Packers – sort of – on Thursday (8 p.m.) in their preseason opener at Lambeau Field. We won’t see all the starters, and those who do play may not be on the field for very long. But the game isn’t entirely meaningless. There are some questions we may find answers to during Thursday night’s preseason opener.

Who will win the cornerback battle?

The starters right now are veteran Patrick Robinson and second-year cornerback Jalen Mills. Veteran Ron Brooks, coming back from an injury, is slated to be the slot cornerback. Robinson hasn’t been impressive during training camp. Hopefully, we get a look at how these cornerbacks match up against the Packers’ receivers. It would be best, although maybe not for the starting cornerbacks, if the matchup occurred with Aaron Rodgers playing quarterback, but that doesn’t seem likely. C.J. Smith and third-round pick Rasul Douglas will be among the cornerbacks hoping to make a positive impression in case the starters falter.

How will the Eagles use Corey Graham?

The Eagles signed the veteran safety, which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense because the Eagles seem stocked at safety. What does make sense about the signing is that Graham, who played for the Bills when Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was the Bills’ defensive coordinator, started his career as a cornerback. It will be interesting to see if Graham lines up at cornerback against the Packers. Ditto for safety Jaylen Watkins, who also has played cornerback.

Will Matt McGloin make the most of his opportunity?

With Carson Wentz likely to see limited time and Nick Foles sitting out practices due to a sore throwing elbow that also limited him during mini-camps, McGloin has an opportunity to earn a lot of trust from the coaching staff. The former Penn State product, who has received mixed reviews from media attending training camp, should receive extensive playing time against the Packers. If he performs well, he could make himself a viable option at backup quarterback if Foles’ elbow problems persist.

How will Carson Wentz look at the start of his second year?

This is the obligatory Wentz question. We’ll have one before every Eagles game. We shouldn’t make too much of Wentz’s performance, but it will be reassuring to see him take positive strides from last season.

Will first-round draft pick Derek Barnett be effective?

Sometimes it takes rookies time to adjust to the NFL game. That seems particularly true with defensive ends. Barnett has seemed to be physically overmatched at times in training camp. How he fares against the Packers may provide an indication of whether it’s realistic to expect him to make much of an impact this season.

How good are the starting guards?

The Eagles traded Allen Barbre to make room in the starting lineup for Isaac Seumalo, a third-round draft pick in 2016. This will be Seumalo’s first test as the chosen starter. Brandon Brooks may not play after leaving Monday’s practice with an ankle injury. It appears that Chance Warmack, who worked with the starters on Tuesday, will be the choice to start over Stefen Wisniewski. Keep an eye on both starting guards Thursday.

How will LeGarrette Blount be used?

More specifically, the question is how Blount will be used as a receiver. He is expected to be the first option in short-yardage situations. But will he be used as a receiver as well?

How will the young running backs be used?

Rookie Donnel Pumphrey is the opposite of LeGarrette Blount. He should be fine catching the ball out of the backfield, but how much will the Eagles use him in the running game? Second-year running back Wendell Smallwood is trying to earn more playing time. Complicating matters is that Smallwood missed Monday’s practice with a hamstring injury and Pumphrey missed some practices last week with a hamstring injury, so there’s a question about how much either one of them will play against the Packers.

Will Nelson Agholor hold on to the football?

Too much can be made of preseason performances, but Nelson Agholor’s performance matters. By all reports, Agholor has had a strong training camp until the past few days, when he’s dropped a few passes. But catches in training camp don’t matter if you can’t hang on to passes in games – even preseason games.

Will Alshon Jeffery play?

The veteran receiver signed as a free agent missed four practices last week with a shoulder injury before returning Sunday and Monday, when he was limited to drills without chance for contact. The Eagles will likely be cautious with Jeffery rather than risk an injury against the Packers. If Jeffery and Marcus Johnson, who sat out Monday’s practice with a hamstring injury, don’t play against the Packers, there will be an opportunity for rookie Shelton Gibson to overcome a poor training camp with a terrific game.


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