I know preseason games don’t count but you need to make sure you see the first half of next Monday night’s game against the New England Patriots because it will let you know how prepared the Birds are for the upcoming regular season.
Usually the third game of the preseason is the key contest for NFL coaches to play their starters, but that won’t be the case this preseason for the Eagles. In their third game, they will be playing the Cleveland Browns, who also happen to be their opponent in the first regular season game in less than a month.
It wouldn’t make sense for the Eagles and the Browns to play their starters against each other for a long time, or to utilize any of the strategies they plan on using in that first regular season game. It will likely be a battle between each team’s backups. You and I both know that NFL coaches don’t play their starters in the final game of the preseason because they don’t want to run the risk of injuries with the season a week away.
What this does is enhance the importance of this Monday night’s game against New England. Reid is going to have Michael Vick and the starters play the entire first half. This will be their only substantial dress rehearsal prior to the season, therefore Vick and the other first-striingers need to play well against the Patriots.
“We’re going to play our guys quite a little bit here this coming game against New England, which is Monday night, and then … they probably won’t play quite as much against the Browns,” Reid said. “It will be at least be a half [for the starters]. We’ll see where it goes from there.”
Vick and the offense need to put together a touchdown scoring drive. Normally, the Birds don’t game plan for preseason games, but I expect Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg to game plan a bit for this game because they know how important it is that the starters establish some confidence. A couple of touchdown drives would do it.
The same is true for the defense, but maybe even moreso. They need to get off the field on third down and not let Tom Brady and the Patriots drive down the field for long TD drives. Their job won’t be very easy if Brady plays the entire first half. If Bill Belichick snatches him out of the game after a series or two, it will make Juan Castillo and the defense’s job much easier.
The Birds can say what they want, but if the defense doesn’t play well, you know there’s going to be a lot of uneasiness as they prepare for the season.