Three things to watch in Monday night’s Eagles at Patriots preseason game:
1. The Eagles’ defense on third down
A couple of series’ worth of the starters in the preseason opener against the Steelers included such lowlights as giving up a 1-yard fourth-down conversion after allowing 8 yards on third-and-9, 17 yards allowed on third and 11, and a third-and-16 conversion when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was called for unnecessary roughness on backup quarterback Byron Leftwich, the hit for which DRC was fined $21,000. This time, tackle, get off the field. The two concepts just might be related.
2. The King’s Reign
Eagles starters will play as much as three quarters, and one guy to watch is left tackle King Dunlap, elevated after Demetress Bell struggled in camp with Howard Mudd’s blocking concepts. I still think the idea was to motivate Bell, not to seriously entertain the King as a seasonlong replacement, but this begins Dunlap’s chance to change that perception.
3. The quarterback
Because the Eagles have gone 11 days between preseason games, you’ve seen a lot of examination of minutiae by all of us covering the team lately, including explorations of the state of Mike Kafka, Nick Foles and Trent Edwards. The only guy taking snaps who really matters remains Michael Vick. We came into camp hoping, with a full offseason of work behind him, to see the Vick of 2010 and not the Vick of 2011. In two series of work against the Steelers, it was the Vick of 2011, not recognizing pressure, holding the ball, not throwing in rhythm. The Patriots should give us a good indication of where Vick is right now.