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August 08, 2019

10 players to watch in the Eagles' first preseason game vs the Titans

The Philadelphia Eagles will put on the shiny pants for the first time this season on Thursday night, when they take on the Tennessee Titans at Lincoln Financial Field. Here are 10 players I'll be watching.

QB Nate Sudfeld

As of Thursday morning, we still don't know if Carson Wentz will play in the Eagles' first preseason game. I'd bet against it, which is a good thing for anyone who wants to get a long look at Wentz's new No. 2.

Sudfeld had a sluggish start to camp, but he turned it on over the last week or so. In 2018, he had a solid preseason performance, hitting on a number of big plays, but also making a few mistakes along the way. He threw for five TDs and three INTs.

In his third year in the system, Sudfeld should have a firm grasp of the offense. The Eagles would love to see him execute his reads, and spread the ball around.

RB Miles Sanders

I have very little doubt that Sanders will run well when the Eagles hand him the football. But can he catch? Can he pass protect? He was better than expected in those two areas in training camp. The Eagles should give him passing down opportunities.

WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

Is Arcega-Whiteside definitely the No. 4 wide receiver? He had a very good spring, but he cooled off in training camp. Ideally, he'll make plays in the preseason games and put any concerns to bed. Like Alshon Jeffery, in theory, his skill set should translate better to game settings, and the Eagles should try to get him some targets to gauge whether or not he is ready to participate in regular season games as a rookie.

OT Andre Dillard

Dillard is a super-athletic tackle who looked the part in training camp, especially in 11-on-11 sessions in pass protection. There are two concern areas with him:

  1. Does he have the play strength to anchor against bull rushing bullies at this level? Brandon Graham gave him a taste of that in 1-on-1's.
  2. Can he be an effective run blocker, coming from an offensive system in college that rarely ran it?

Dillard will likely play a lot of snaps, as Jason Peters won't be out there long, if at all. 

OT/OG Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Vaitai has gotten all the first-team RG reps both during the spring and summer. It's tough to evaluate the kind of camp he has had, because (a) non-padded practices are useless for that, and (b) when they are in pads, it's tough to see what's going on in the interior of the OL from sideline field level in practice. 

After Thursday night, when we get the end zone angle of the game, we'll get a better idea of how Vaitai is coming along in his new spot. The Eagles would love to be able to feel confident in Vaitai at RG, thus allowing Brandon Brooks to return to the field when he is ready, and not before.

OT Jordan Mailata

Mailata looked a lot like a guy who never played football in training camp last year, and then he suddenly looked like the second coming of Anthony Muñoz in the preseason games. It was expected that Mailata would look significantly more advanced in camp this year, but that has not happened. I don't think the Eagles are likely to give up on Mailata after the amount of time they have invested in him, but he would help himself with another promising preseason.

OT/OG Matt Pryor

Pryor was sort of the bizzarro Mailata last year, in that he had a great camp, but faltered in the preseason games. Once again in 2019, Pryor had a very good camp, working at OG and OT on both sides of the line. He cannot stink it up again in the preseason games this year.

DE Josh Sweat

Sweat has been hyped up during camp this year by teammates, coaches, and media, and if indeed he is going to be the Eagles' No. 4 DE in 2019, he'll have to produce when he gets snaps. He put on 20 pounds of good weight this offseason, and he says he feels more explosive. In the preseason last year, he played in all four games, but was unable to register any sacks. I'd like to see him against some first-team guys instead of Vinny Curry, personally.

DT Hassan Ridgeway

Ridgeway is sort of a forgotten guy, but the Eagles traded for him during the draft, and he has gotten some first-team reps in camp. The Eagles like the way he has played, as he has been able to get penetration and mess up plays in the backfield during team sessions. If he turns out to be a quality rotational guy, the Eagles will be absolutely stacked at DT. 

CB Sidney Jones

Entering camp as huge question mark in his third season, Jones has performed so far. In practices, his lack of strength isn't as likely to be exposed. Let's see how he holds up in a more physical environment.

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