There is one reason and one reason only to set aside time to watch the Philadelphia Eagles in another exhibition game on a Friday night. Can breakthrough sensation Nick Foles out-duel three-time Super Bowl champion and future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady?
Foles’ preseason did not get off to an auspicious start last week in Chicago, where the third-year signal-caller tossed two interceptions in three series of action. However, there’s little reason to suspect that performance was evidence of the 25-year-old coming back down to earth since authoring one of the historic quarterbacking seasons in NFL lore.
If anything, Foles should bounce back against the New England Patriots, an opponent he’s practiced against for the second year in a row leading up to their game.
In addition to the familiarity factor, the offensive line should have their sea legs in under them by now. Pressure and penalties up front directly contributed to Foles’ inability to mount a scoring drive against the Bears, but we’re talking about established veterans such as Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans. The expectation is they’ll bounce back.
The bigger question is who will be playing wide receiver for the Birds. Riley Cooper was ruled out with a foot injury, and Jeremy Maclin sounds like a game-time decision again, this time with a hamstring—it won’t be a surprise if he sits.
If he can’t go, we’ll find out just how important Maclin is to the offense. Even if Cooper were healthy, the Eagles appear to lack a bona fide No. 1 receiver in the event Maclin is unable to go. That seems like a big deal to me.
At least Foles still has LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Brent Celek and Zach Ertz to throw to, but who works the perimeters of the field—and to what degree of success—is a situation to monitor. Brad Smith, Ifeanyi Momah, Arrelious Benn and rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff are all names to watch.
On the other side of the ball, Philadelphia is in much better shape to take of Brady than they were this time one year ago. The two-time league MVP barely so much as attempted a pass that hit the ground in practice or on gameday, completing seven of eight for 65 yards and a touchdown while leading two touchdown drives.
Of course, the Eagles were only a few months into their transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 alignment at the time, and hadn’t had a chance to trot it out during a game yet. Reports from joint practices up in Foxboro, Massachusetts are the unit fared much better against Brady during scrimmages this time around.
Then again, defensive coordinator Bill Davis was hesitant to mix up his personnel against the Bears last week in the name of player evaluation. It would be somewhat surprising if we saw Davis throw his fastball at the Patriots.
Foles has his work cut out for him with some of the injuries to his receiving corps and facing a quality defense. Now that the Birds got some real work in, both at practice and in a game, it’s time for the young field general to start putting the skepticism to rest.
Topping Brady tonight would go a long way toward accomplishing just that, even if it is only preseason.