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August 24, 2017

Eagles vs. Dolphins: Five things to watch

Eagles NFL

The Philadelphia Eagles will play in their "dress rehearsal" game Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins, and it is expected, though not a certainty, that the first team offense and defense will get at least the entire first half.

Here are five things we'll be watching:

1) The offensive line

The Eagles' offensive line is thought to be one of the team's biggest strengths heading into the regular season, both in terms of their starting five and their depth.

In the first two preseason games, the offensive line hasn't blocked well at all. Ideally, they'll show up in the dress rehearsal game, because it hasn't happened yet.

2) The running backs

While the offensive line hasn't opened up many holes for the Eagles' running backs, the backs themselves haven't exactly lit it up either. Wendell Smallwood will be playing in his first preseason game this year after sitting out the first two weeks. Smallwood was, in my view, easily the best non-Sproles running back on the team during training camp. Will he carry over his quality play into the preseason? 

And then there's LeGarrette Blount and Donnel Pumphrey, who are both facing adversity. Recent speculation suggested that Blount and/or Pumphrey may not make the final 53-man roster. Can they respond to that adversity with strong showings? 

3) Mychal Kendricks

Kendricks has racked up a number "impact" plays this preseason, though many of them have come to him. Are the Eagles purposely trying to put Kendricks in a position to succeed to boost his draft stock? There could be some wisdom to that, as Kendricks has been allowed to showcase his positive traits by attacking the football. 

It will be interesting to see if the Eagles allow Kendricks to continue to attack, or if Jim Schwartz has Kendricks play the typical coverage linebacker role within the scheme that will likely be in place during the regular season.

4) Alshon, Alshon, Alshon

Earlier this week, wide receivers coach Mike Groh stated that Jeffery is "behind." In the game against Buffalo last week, Jeffery ran a wrong route and admitted to "mistakes," as in plural. 

Jeffery was a far more active participant in practice this week, and he and Carson Wentz still have a couple more weeks before the start of the regular season. Is that enough time to get on the same page? We'll see. Preseason game No. 3 will give Wentz and Jeffery extended time together in a game setting to knock off some of the rust.

5) Vinny Curry vs. Derek Barnett

After excellent production in the first two preseason game, Derek Barnett will look to continue to put pressure on Vinny Curry for the starting RDE spot. It's only a matter of time before that starting job belongs to Barnett, but how quickly can he speed up that transition?

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