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August 22, 2015

Ten things to watch in the Eagles' second preseason game against the Ravens

Eagles NFL
082215SamBradford Matt Rourke/AP

Will Sam Bradford play tonight, and if so how much?

For the second time this preseason, the Eagles will put on the shiny pants and play against other living, breathing players on another team. Here are ten things I'll be watching tonight against the Ravens.

1) How will Sam Bradford handle opposing players trying to do him harm?

As I've consistently noted throughout training camp, while Sam Bradford has looked great at times throwing the football, he has not moved much at all. Of course, he has not needed to move all that much as he's untouchable at the friendly confines of the NovaCare Complex in his bright red jersey. Can Bradford escape pressure from a live NFL pass rush? That remains to be seen, but I've seen nothing in the way of a quarterback with the ability to escape pass rushers like Terrell Suggs or Elvis Dumervil.

Chip Kelly knows by now if he's going to let Bradford play, but he has not yet made that public. The alarms sounded to a small degree when Bradford sat out against the Colts. They will be blaring if he sits against the Ravens.

I expect Bradford to play, and I expect the Eagles to protect him by running the ball a lot, and calling plays where Bradford can get the ball out quickly.

2) Will DeMarco Murray play?

Kelly has also not said whether Murray will play. This is less of an issue than Bradford. The Eagles already know who Murray is as a player, and if he's not 100% then there's little reason to push him. But obviously, if he's a go tonight, that would be the first opportunity for the fan base to see one of their new Christmas presents in action.

3) Vinny Curry at OLB

As we noted a week ago, Vinny Curry is going to play some 3-4 OLB this season. There is no question Curry can get after the passer, but can he set the edge in the run game and drop into coverage? I expect to see Curry in his 3-4 OLB role at some point against the Ravens. Additionally, with Marcus Smith out, you can expect more snaps for Bryan Braman at OLB. A week ago, he was extremely disruptive against the Colts, albeit against the third and fourth team offenses. Braman could get some work playing better competition against Baltimore.

4) The ILBs

Kiko Alonso, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks all sat out the first preseason game. If all three play, we'll get our first real glimpse as to how the Eagles plan on deploying their talented ILB threesome this season.

5) Bennie Logan's dominance

Bennie Logan was a beast Week 1 against the Colts, and he was very disruptive in the joint practices against the Ravens. Could Logan make a big jump this season? From what we've seen so far, he's on his way. It would be good to see Logan build on his stellar effort against Indy last week.

6) Nelson Agholor's progression

Agholor showed his raw talent last week when he caught a poorly thrown ball from Mark Sanchez, made a Colts defender miss, and out-raced the defense to the end zone. However, he also had two drops. Agholor unquestionably has the ability to make big plays, but it would be good to see him settle down and limit the mistakes.

7) OL depth

The Eagles' offensive line starters showed well in the first preseason game, but the backups often had a rough go of it trying to protect Tim Tebow. They need to have a better showing Week 2.

8) Showcase opportunity #2 for Matt Barkley

As we noted last week, the Eagles have been trying to trade Matt Barkley for something for well over a year. In his first preseason game, Barkley looked good at times. In terms of trade bait, forget teams like the Jets or the Bills, who need a starting quarterback. They won't view Barkley that way. Barkley's not in the same class as backups like Mike Glennon or Zach Mettenberger. But if there's a team out there who thinks Barkley can be an OK #2, maybe the Eagles can get a conditional late round pick in return, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

On a side note, if there were one team I could see having interest in Barkley, it'd be the Cowboys, for the following reasons:

• Their backup (Brandon Weeden) sucks.

• They haven't drafted a QB in ages, and their top two QBs are old. Tony Romo is 35, and Weeden turns 32 in October.

• The Cowboys apparently had Barkley as the 31st ranked player on their draft board in 2013.

Then again, Barkley had the following stat line against the Cowboys in 2013: 11 of 20, 129 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT, 35.2 QB Rating.

9) Secondary depth

Byron Maxwell, Nolan Carroll, Eric Rowe, Malcolm Jenkins, Walter Thurmond, and Chris Maragos have roster spots locked up, with Chris Prosinski not all that far behind. That leaves a whole slew of players (E.J. Biggers, Jaylen Watkins, Denzel Rice, Randall Evans, Ed Reynolds, and Jerome Couplin) vying for the final 2-4 roster spots in the defensive secondary.  

10) Can Mark Sanchez bounce back?

Sanchez was simply not good in the first preseason game against the Colts. The Eagles are probably going to need Sanchez to play at some point this season, so it would be good to see him bounce back from his poor performance a week ago.

Side note: Bye, Sheil.

My friend Sheil Kapadia is moving to the Pacific Northwest to cover the Seahawks for ESPN. 

I took over for Sheil at back in July of 2013. Well, sort of. Sheil had moved on to Philly Mag the year before, and did not fill his position until I was hired. But the success Sheil had there helped pave the way for me to get an opportunity to do this for a living full time. So thanks, buddy.

The best praise that I can give Sheil is that I just didn't even bother doing complex "All-22" posts, because they simply wouldn't be as good as his. On occasion, I'll point something out on film that I see, like my post earlier this week on Bryan Braman's excellent work on the punt block team. Those can be good posts, but Sheil's work on film breakdowns were far more ambitious, and on another level. He broke down complex concepts and organized them in print in a way that the common fan could understand them. His innovative approach combined his knowledge of the game with access to the players and coaching staff, which is something that nobody had done previously, or at least nobody had done nearly as well. Best of luck in Seattle, Sheil.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski