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5 things to watch in Patriots-Eagles preseason game

Ryan Hannable
August 16, 2018 - 11:56 am

Thursday night will be a Super Bowl LII rematch at Gillette Stadium when the Patriots host the Eagles, but it certainly won’t have the same intensity and meaning as last February when the Eagles came away with a 41-33 win.

Tom Brady and a few other regulars who didn’t play against the Redskins last week are expected to see their first preseason action.

Even though the starters shouldn’t see too much action, there is still a lot to look for.

Here are five things to watch for in the contest.

1. How does Tom Brady look?

Brady didn’t play in the first preseason game, but he’s said this week he expects to play Thursday against the Eagles. ESPN’s Mike Reiss reports he potentially could play deep into the first half. If he does, there will be a number of things to monitor. First off, how he connects with his receivers. After missing all of the voluntary offseason workout program, the first time Brady saw extensive time with his receivers was just a few weeks ago at the beginning of training camp. This will be the first real chance to see the chemistry he has with not only the new receivers, but ones he didn’t have extensive time with last year. Another thing to watch is his interactions on the sidelines. Does he need to spend extensive time with some wide outs explaining things? That could be a hint things aren’t where they need to be at this point in time. Besides the chemistry, it’s how Brady himself looks. We haven’t seen him on the field since the Super Bowl and he’s now 41 years old. We all expect him to look the same, but nothing is certain given his age.

2. Players making season debuts

There were a few players who didn’t play last week for various reasons and Thursday could be a chance to see some players for the first time. Jason McCourty and rookie Isaiah Wynn are two of the big ones, as it seemed they were healthy enough to play last week, but just didn’t. McCourty saw more time with the first-team this week in practice and Wynn got right tackle added to his mix. Two players who started the year on PUP — Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones — also didn’t play last week, but saw more time on the field this week and should play in the game. Jonathan Jones figures to be in the mix as the third cornerback and in addition to reps at cornerback, Cyrus Jones should get some punt return opportunities. For Cyrus Jones especially, if he plays, it is a very big night for him considering his previous two seasons.

3. Wide receiver situation

This is an interesting situation as it went from being one of the deepest positions on the roster this summer to now being one of the thinnest. Julian Edelman figures to get extensive playing time, but he will be out for the first four games of the regular season. Phillip Dorsett is a player to watch after leaving practice early on Tuesday with what looked like a serious injury, but he’s now said to be fine. Eric Decker didn’t play much last week, and has had his ups and downs in practice. It will be interesting to see if he can bounce back, and also if he’s with Brady and the first-team offense. Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios have been OK thus far, but haven’t done enough to say they deserve a spot on the roster. This needs to change if they have any chance of making it. Thursday will be a good indication of whether or not the wide receiver position really should be a major concern. 

4. Running back battle

Last week, Jeremy Hill and Ralph Webb were the stars, but who will be the star this week? Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel will not play again, which gives the chance for Hill, Webb, Brandon Bolden and Mike Gillislee to shine. It is also worth noting Hill got banged up this week, so his availability may be in question. It feels like a big night for Gillislee, as he needs a strong performance to prove he’s deserving a roster spot.

5. Any Super Bowl LII carry over?

It’s hard to discuss the game and not bring up Lane Johnson as he said last week he’s looked forward to this game since beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Since it is just the preseason, it doesn’t seem like this will have any impact, but with Johnson you never know. It will be a good test for both teams to see where they are at since both teams likely will be at the top of its respective conferences.

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