Out of sheer hunger for the authentic games, Eagles fans like so many others, are leaping headlong into preseason drama like a bunch of screeching teen girls at a One Direction concert. They don their team jerseys, head to the stadium hours in advance and begin breaking down quarters and fretting over scrambling plays. Football-starved fans eager to break their eight-month game fast have started to behave as if these scrimmage-style games really matter. But famished ones, it is not the real season yet. So, until the first snap is taken on September 9, Eagles fans, relax. The full banquet is just ahead. And may the odds be ever in the Eagles favor.
If there is anything to be gained during the preseason games — and many sports pundits argue there is little — Philadelphians are hoping that the Eagles gather in a bounty of pointers from this month. Some critical things have understandably commanded our attention either by their presence or their absence. Here are just a few.
Yes, the entire city, NFL and world have heard the cries this week: Rookie quarterback Nick Foles can singlehandedly save the season. He’s a phenom, a sensation, a tribute. The third round draft choice that left the Patriots game on his own two feet had Philadelphia fans cheering like they’ve never seen anything like it. Never mind that he played against a second or third line defense. Or that the actual season — you know the one where all of the NFL premier players take the field? That season has not begun.
With starting QB Michael Vick being sidelined in two of the three preseason games, fans may get a chance to have their Foles craving fed. Word has it that the Arizona QB will play a good portion of Friday’s game against the Cleveland Browns. But expect Vick to once again lead the offense in the first regular season game, September 9. Still, no one denies that Foles’ performance added a new element to the pressure-filled mix of the four Eagles trained to do this job.
In Yogi Berra-ism speech, injuries are no trouble for the Eagles as long as they don’t get hurt. And therein lies the problem. With Vick recovering from a blow to the ribs taken in the Patriots game, defensive tackle Mike Patterson still not cleared from a previous surgery, and backup QB Mike Kafka healing from a fractured hand, the team is always just one play away from going deeper into their roster. Easier said than done but players need to stay well for the team to have a chance at performing to expectations this year.
These hot final days leading up to regular season afford the Eagles an opportunity to test the depth of the bench, with some success and some failure. Looking for success? QB chatter aside, rookie Brandon Boykin outgunned opponents to make several key plays, including producing a fumble against the Patriots, demonstrating a fierce tenacity the Eagles will need to maximize the talent the team is heralded to possess. Failure? Offensive lineman Evan Mathis’ missed block against the New England defense that resulted in Vick taking a serious gut shot. Coverage gaps like that can impact an entire team for an entire season. These Birds know that song all too well.