Football is upon us!
After six long months, the NFL has returned, and with a plethora of exciting games to watch in the first week of the preseason.
One of the first on the docket for the NFC East—the Philadelphia Eagles take on the cross-state “rival” Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers pounded the Eagles in preseason last year, jumping out to a quick 21-0 lead before going on to win the game 24-14.
The Eagles have looked strong in camp with a number of players standing out while vying for their spot on the roster. This matchup with the Steelers will be their first opportunity to prove themselves this season and a confident, competitive team like the black and gold makes a fantastic first test.
Don’t expect the starters to get too much work in this one for the sake of saving them from injury and overusing them too early in essentially meaningless games, but there are a handful of players we should get a lot of looks at tonight.
Here’s a look at four players to keep an eye on in the Eagles’ preseason opener:
The rookie from Kansas State has made waves in training camp, displaying a punishing, physical running style. He has knack for battling for that extra yard and never quits churning those legs. Coming into the NFL on questionable terms from a collegiate career full of drama, Brown has pushed that all aside and has fought hard in camp to prove he belongs.
The seventh-rounder is in the thick of the race for a backup role behind LeSean McCoy, though he will likely be beat out by second-year back Dion Lewis. Brown is earning his spot on the roster in camp, however, standing out above fellow back Chris Polk.
Brown has been outshined in pass protection by Polk, but has proven to be a much better option for the Eagles otherwise. The rookie back will have his chance to show himself against the Steelers and will almost certainly see some time in pass-blocking situations.
Brandon Boykin is another rookie who has had a lot of eyes on him in training camp.
The fourth-rounder is a stellar cover man and fits well as a slot cornerback, a role currently up for grabs in Philadelphia. He has shown flashes of brilliance and disappointment throughout camp, but will have his opportunity to show he can step it up on gameday against the Steelers.
Boykin had nine interceptions in his collegiate career at Georgia. He was awarded the Paul Hornung Award last season for his versatility on the gridiron. “Bam” was utilized as a cornerback, returner, running back, “Wildcat” quarterback, cover man on special teams and holder, according to the Eagles website.
Such versatility should be fun to watch, but all eyes will be on his play in pass coverage against the Steelers.
Mike Kafka/Trent Edwards
The Eagles know who their starting quarterback is—Michael Vick, of course—but the backup role may be just as significant.
Vick has played in all 16 regular season games just once in his career which can only mean one thing—the backup is going to see some time behind center.
Enter Mike Kafka and Trent Edwards.
Kafka was the Eagles’ third-stringer behind Vince Young. The second-year gunslinger out of Northwestern played sparingly, but did well when his number was called.
Edwards, meanwhile, has played in just four NFL games since 2010. The former third-round pick from Stanford never amounted to much as a starter, boasting substantially inconsistent play and poor decision making. His presence on the Eagles roster is likely for nothing more than veteran presence and competition for Kafka on the depth chart.
Thus far, Kafka has looked like the stronger candidate to be the No. 2 behind Vick. He’s spent training camp slinging crisp, accurate passes with authority and his athleticism makes him a much better fit in the Eagles offense than Edwards.
It is only the first preseason game, but Kafka could have a chance to solidify his spot behind Vick with a quality performance against the Steelers.