New England Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett throws a pass at the practice field during Minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles What to Watch For

The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will face off at 7:30 p.m. ET today in front of what should be a packed house at Lincoln Financial as both teams will get their preseasons kicked off.  The Patriots and Eagles have already seen plenty of each other during joint practices, and the Patriots have been making quite the impression upon Chip Kelly and the Eagles. Bill Belichick and Kelly are both friends, and the joint practices were a good way for both teams to find more about themselves and their opponent. Tom Brady broke down the Eagles secondary with surgical precision, while his young targets made some big catches. On defense, the Patriots looked good despite getting beat up deep by Riley Cooper repeatedly.

Below are some notes on what we should watch for, and these notes go with both the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots.

1. Michael Vick is reportedly set to start for the Eagles today, and it’s always interesting to see how young players on defense in the front seven handle a running quarterback. The Patriots could experiment with a few things when Vick is on the field, and I want to see if Jamie Collins is part of some wrinkle. As for Vick, he and Nick Foles are still locked into a neck-and-neck battle for the QB position, and Vick is ultimately the more talented player. What helps Foles are his youth and financial flexibility, but I also wonder if the Eagles ideal scenario is to ride Vick, develop Matt Barkley, and then have Barkley replace Vick with Foles garnering  a draft pick in a trade.

2. Does Chris Polk have a legitimate chance of being the Eagles No. 2 back? I’ve always been a fan of Polk ever since I watched him with the Washington Huskies, and this is the second straight offseason in which he has been a standout for the Eagles. Over the past two years, the Eagles have had an embarrassment of riches at running back- so much so that they had to trade sleeper Dion Lewis to the Cleveland Browns. Fellow Pitt alumn LeSean McCoy is headed for a huge year in Chip Kelly’s run-first offense and talented No. 2 back Bryce Brown should put up some numbers as well, so where does that leave Polk? He reportedly has a shot at usurping Brown, but I doubt that since Brown has more raw talent. So what do the Eagles do with Polk? He can block and catch some, but that’s not enough to get a No. 3 back on the field more, especially when he is behind guys as talented as McCoy and Brown. I wonder if Polk could garner some trade value for the Eagles.

3. Now onto our quarterback situation, which holds some interest for the Patriots in the preseason when you look at the backups. Ryan Mallett usually looks just “pretty good” in training camp, and it’s time for him to take that step in his third year. I want to see Mallett put together an epic preseason and fetch a high pick next offseason, and it’s all about Mallett putting that vast arm talent together. The Pats are high on Mallett and have invested more than just at third-rounder in him; they have invested time. Mallett is somebody the Pats will keep if they don’t get at least a second-round pick, and I don’t think they will trade a talented backup if Tim Tebow can’t develop.

4. Speaking of Tebow, I want to see how he does in an actual game, even if it’s just an exhibition against fellow backups. Tebow has gotten better bit-by-bit working with Brian Daboll and the staff, and he is one of those guys who plays better in pads than in shells.

5. Duron Harmon and Tavon Wilson are the two controversial safety picks that the New England Patriots made in back-to-back years, with Wilson being last year’s second round surprise out of Illinois and Harmon picked this year in the third out of Rutgers. I have been a fan of Wilson and liked what he showed as a rookie (smart, solid tackler, can cover TEs), but he’s lost training camp reps seemingly every day and Harmon seems to be ahead of him on the depth chart. While Wilson has been mediocre at best lately, Harmon has been solid and can play both safety positions with solid deep coverage. Harmon is one to watch, and I want to see how he performs on Sunday covering the deep half of the field against three Eagles QBs looking to chomp at the bit.

6. Greg Salas was poached off of the New England Patriots practice squad last year by the Eagles, and the Josh McDaniels/St. Louis Rams product has been doing really well in training camp thus far. He’s going to make the Eagles roster, and that’s pretty much a guarantee following Arrelious Benn‘s unfortunate ACL tear. Salas is a solid WR, and I wish the Pats kept him on the 53-man last year. And yet, I don’t really care, because he probably wouldn’t have made the roster this year given how talented the rookie WRs are.

7. I want to see how Logan Ryan plays, because he seems like a clone of Kyle Arrington, which is both good and bad. Arrington is an ideal slot receiver who is solid there, but he is awful on the outside. It’s good that Ryan can be a solid CB like Arrington, but the Patriots already have  Arrington locked in to the slot for as many years as Ryan will be on the team during his four-year rookie deal. I want to see if Ryan can play on the outside and do a better job of sticking with receivers downfield. He has the run defense, physicality, “do your job” mentality, quickness, and ball skills of Arringotn, but he also lacks long speed, is burn prone, and is prone to pass interferences. Ryan has been solid in camp and looks like a solid player, but I want to see him play a role different from Arrington’s in the defense.



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Tags: Bryce Brown Chris Polk Duron Harmon Greg Salas Kyle Arrington Logan Ryan Matt Barkley Michael Vick New England Patriots NFL Offseason Nick Foles Philadelphia Eagles Ryan Mallett Tavon Wilson Tim Tebow

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