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Semi-coherent Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots preview

One preseason game down, three to go. While I’m sure that these games do serve some use for the players and coaches (not to mention the owners who make a ton of money off of them!), it’s tough finding many positives for the fans.

Some fans claim to like them, because they want to “learn” things about the team. But in the first one, all we really learned was that the Eagles weren’t in mid-season form yet. Maybe the second game will be more enlightening. At the very least, the starters should play into the second quarter, so they’ll have a little more time to make an impression.

The Eagles will be in Foxboro to face the Patriots. With both teams expected to be contenders this season, this game could potentially serve as a preview of the Super Bowl. Assuming, of course, that in the Super Bowl, the starters would sit out the second half, and the game would be decided by second- and third-stringers.

(And would anyone really be opposed if they actually did that in the Super Bowl? What’s that? Everyone would? Okay then, forget I brought it up.)

The teams have been holding joint practices this week, so players should be rather familiar with each other by the time the game rolls around. Normally, I’d say that this would give the game a bit of a divisional matchup feel. But then I remembered that it is a preseason game and doesn’t actually mean anything.

A quick rundown of the Patriots

The Patriots can pretty much be summed up by two names: Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. I believe the entire roster has turned over since their last Super Bowl win, but the presence of those two means that the Patriots remain Super Bowl contenders ten years later.

Aug 5, 2014; Richmond, VA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) stands on the field during joint practice with the Washington Redskins on day eleven at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

If anyone doubted that the two most important positions on a football team are head coach and quarterback, there is your proof. If you have a great coach and a great quarterback, you’re almost guaranteed of being a playoff team.

The Pats lost their first preseason game by a score of 23-6 to the Washington Redskins. This reaction to this game illustrates just how unimportant preseason games are. You’d think that Redskins fans might have gotten a thrill out of their team beating the Patriots, but even their prone-to-hyperbole fans were rather “meh” about the whole thing.

Then again, you have to be pretty zealous to read much into a game where the leading passer was Jimmy Garoppolo and the leading rusher was Lache Seastrunk. (Am I the only one hoping that Seastrunk becomes a star? I’d be very excited if television analysts were forced to talk about “Lache Seastrunk” and pretend that it isn’t the most ridiculous name ever.)

Patriots player you’ve heard of, but might not have realized was on the Patriots now

After an up-and-down season in Tampa Bay, star cornerback Darrelle Revis has moved on to the Patriots. Once considered the best corner in the NFL, “Revis Island” may not quite be at that level anymore.

The Eagles faced him last year, and his primary responsibility was covering DeSean Jackson. While wide receiver vs. cornerback matchups are seldom simply one-on-one affairs, most observers declared Jackson as the victor.

As you may have heard, Jackson is now an ex-Eagle, so when the two squads practiced this week, Revis’ primary responsibility was Jeremy Maclin. It’s difficult to tell who had the advantage, since apparently neither man was trying all that hard.

Maclin got behind Revis for a long catch, but Revis implied that he wasn’t going all out. We couldn’t tell if he was just making an Nnamdi-like excuse, because not long after that, Maclin bowed out of the practice with a tight hamstring.

Since it’s preseason, let’s talk about the opponent’s backup quarterbacks!

The Patriots selected Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 draft which instantly caused speculation as to whether or not he was going to be Brady’s replacement in a few years. (Do a Yahoo! search for “Garoppolo Brady” and you’ll see what I mean.)

That kind of talk is likely premature. Brady is signed through 2017, and his salary cap hit means that he’ll almost assuredly remain with the team through at least 2016.

Aug 7, 2014; Landover, MD, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett (15) throws the ball against the Washington Redskins in the second quarter during a preseason game at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

For proof that high draft position doesn’t guarantee him anything, all Garoppolo needs to do is look at the man he’s competing with for the backup job. The Patriots drafted Ryan Mallett in the third round of the 2011 draft, and Mallett has thrown a grand total of four passes in the regular season.

Mallett got the start in the Patriots’ first preseason game – rumors were that the Patriots wanted to showcase him for a potential trade – but he didn’t play especially well. It seems strange that the Patriots would be ready to move on from a former high draft pick, when he has never really gotten a chance to prove himself. But teams rarely spend second round picks on quarterbacks if they’re 100% pleased with their situation at the position.

Foles-o-Meter

After his shaky performance in the first preseason game, I figured it was time to break out the Foles-o-Meter. This measures how confident Eagles fans are with quarterback Nick Foles.

By most reports, Foles hasn’t had a great camp, and he appeared to make poor decisions on his two interceptions last week. On the other hand – it’s preseason! Kinks are still being worked out. No reason to panic, although that won’t stop confidence from dropping.

FolesOMeter3

Jeremy Maclin: Better get used to holding your breath

Brian Westbrook was a great player. He was a dynamic playmaker who was a threat to score every time he touched the ball.

Or at least he was when he was healthy.

Westbrook was talented, but also extremely fragile. He couldn’t seem to get through a season without suffering an injury, and when he was out, the Eagles offense suffered greatly. There were very few weeks when he wasn’t listed on the team’s injury report, and after a while, it got to the point where fans had to hold their breath every time he took a big hit.

Once Westbrook moved on, Michael Vick became a bit of a spiritual replacement. After becoming the team’s starter in 2010, Vick gave the fans more than his share of “Crap, is he going to get up?” moments. We knew that it was only a matter of time before he was knocked out of the game and we’d have to watch Vince Young behind center.

Vick is now the New York Jets’ problem, but he’s been replaced by another talented but fragile player who will cause the fans a good deal of angst regarding his health.

Dec 23, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (18) catches a 27-yard touchdown pass against Washington Redskins defensive back D.J. Johnson (30) during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Maclin has a lengthy injury history. Between two torn ACLs, the mysterious disease of 2011, and a variety of other ailments, Maclin seems to always have something wrong with him. The season hasn’t even begun, and Maclin has already gone down grabbing his knee in practice. It turned out that he was okay, but combined with his “tight” hamstring from this week, I see his health being a season-long issue.

But that’s okay. It’s not like the team got rid of their top wide receiver from last year and are heavily depending on Maclin or anything.

Prediction

This will be Brady’s first action of 2014, so he might be a little rusty. Or maybe he just won’t care that much. Either way, I don’t expect him to look that good.

On the other hand, Foles had a chance to knock the rust off last week. I expect a much better showing out of him this game, and that should provide the margin of victory.

Eagles 20, Patriots 17 

Tags: Philadelphia Eagles

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