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August 27, 2016

Eagles-Colts preseason game: Five players to watch

Eagles NFL
082516IsaacSeumaloStefenWisniewski Chris Szagola/AP

Stefen Wisniewski (61) is behind Isaac Seumalo (73) on the depth chart at LG. In the above picture, Wisniewski is waking behind Seumalo, which gives us a visual of that sentiment. Please send all Pulitzers to PhillyVoice's offices. Thanks in advance.

In Week 3 of the preseason, the Philadelphia Eagles will head to Indianapolis to face the Colts. The third preseason contest is often referred to as the "dress rehearsal" game, as it is typically the final opportunity for the starters to gear up for the regular season.

Here are five players to watch:

RB Wendell Smallwood

Smallwood had a strong spring, when he showed off his ability as a receiver out of the backfield in OTAs and minicamp. Unfortunately, Smallwood suffered a quad injury and missed a significant portion of training camp as well as the first two preseason games. 

One of the big concerns surrounding Smallwood heading into the regular season, as we noted in a film breakdown of his college games, is his pass protection. If you can't pass protect, you're probably not going to play very much.

"I can't emphasize that enough," said offensive coordinator Frank Reich. "I've said it before over the last couple weeks, but it's just so important in any offense that the backs fully understand all the protection calls, what's going on, because it all starts in the passing game with protecting the passer, and the backs are a big part of that."

Saturday night will be Smallwood's first crack at showing he can pass protect in live action.

WR Dorial Green-Beckham

DGB will have a limited number of plays that he'll run, but he'll get playing time with the first-team offense. 

"We put a couple plays in for him this week, expanded his role from a week ago," said Pederson. "Full week of practice. He's comfortable with what we're doing with him. Can't tell you how many [or] the number of snaps he'll get, but he'll definitely play and play with the first group."

The Eagles desperately need a receiver to step up and play well, and this will be Green-Beckham's first chance to play with a week of practices under his belt with his new team.

The Colts will be without arguably their top five corners -- Vontae Davis, Patrick Robinson, Antonio Cromartie, Jalil Brown, and D'Joun Smith. Can somebody make a play? 

LG Stefen Wisniewski

Wisniewski started off training camp on fire, playing really well with the first team offense at RG  in place of an injured Brandon Brooks. He has since cooled off some, and was not Doug Pederson's first choice to fill in at LG when the Eagles had to shift Allen Barbre out to RT to account for Lane Johnson's impending suspension. Instead, rookie Isaac Seumalo got the first chance to run with the starters in the second preseason game against the Steelers.

Now with Seumalo nursing a pectoral injury, Wisniewski will have a chance to impress for a half-plus of football and make a case that he should be starting.

The defense as a whole

OK, well that's more than just one guy, I suppose. Against the Buccaneers, the Eagles' first-team offense only saw Jameis Winston and the Bucs' first-team offense for a few series. Against the Steelers, they did not see Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, or Le'Veon Bell, among others.

This week, they'll see a heavy dose of Andrew Luck and the Colts' full offensive starting lineup, with the exception of RG Hugh Thornton.

In the first two preseason games, the defense has produced nine turnovers and held opponents to 4.5 points per game. They cannot control who they play, and have played very well, but this will be the first really good test they'll see this preseason.

On an individual level, this will be our first glimpse at how the Eagles intend on using newly acquired linebacker Stephen Tulloch.

K Caleb Sturgis

Since the beginning of training camp, Caleb Sturgis is 44/48 (91.7 percent) in practice (the ones open to the media, anyway), while Cody Parkey is 37/48 (77.1 percent). Both Sturgis and Parkey are 1/1 on field goal attempts this preseason, with Sturgis hitting from 42 and Parkey hitting from 40.

If Sturgis puts together one more outing without anything egregiously bad (like another punted ball to the cranium), he should have the kicker competition on lock.

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