The New England Patriots will be hosting the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football at 8:00 PM eastern in Gillette Stadium with an estimated crowd of nearly 69,000. Both the Eagles and Patriots won their first preseason match-ups, and both teams will have different approaches to this Week 2 battle.
As always, ESPN will be televising this MNF game with Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden in the booth. ESPN is electing to drop out former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski and will instead roll with a two-man booth. Channel 5 WCB-TV will be broadcasting this game locally. You can also tune in to 98.5 The Fan for radio coverage, provided by 36-year veteran Gil Santos and newcomer and former Pats QB Scott Zolak.
This game starts a grueling stretch of three games in ten days for the New England Patriots. Tirico himself had something to say about the schedule the Pats face while on Dennis and Callahan, “This schedule stinks. I think the whole preseason structure is bad. I think it’s time the league changed it. We need to go to two preseason games, and do more of what the Patriots did two weeks ago against New Orleans [with joint practices before a preseason game] or they’re going to do against Tampa [this week].”
You can click on the link for more great quotes on the Patriots from Tirico, and there is also a link in that ESPN Boston piece to listen to Dennis and Callahan yourself (if you haven’t already).
These players are unlikely to suit up for the New England Patriots on offense: RB Stevan Ridley, RB Jeff Demps, WR Jabar Gaffney, G Brian Waters, T Sebastian Vollmer, TE Daniel Fells, FB Spencer Larsen, TE Jake Ballard, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, T Markus Zusevics, T Kyle Hix, and T Matt Kopa,
You probably won’t be seeing DT Jonathan Fanene, CB Alfonzo Dennard, DT Gerard Warren, LB Tracy White, S Tavon Wilson, DT Myron Pryor, and S James Ihedigbo playing for New England.
Stars Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Brandon Lloyd will be limited or not playing at all in this game, and most of the Patriots starters will play less due to the rigorous schedule. Besides, it’s best to watch the unproven guys play.
For the Eagles QB Mike Kafka, DE Jason Babin, LB Casey Matthews, and WR Riley Cooper are out.
Andy Reid has stated his intention to play the Philadelphia Eagles starters into the third quarter, and most teams play their starters significantly in the second week of the preseason. Michael Vick will likely play at least one half, and rookie Nick Foles has a big chance to impress in the place of the injured Kafka (broken hand).
The Patriots are in a much different situation than the Eagles, and they will be limiting their starters and, perhaps, resting their key players. In fact, I would be a little bit surprised to see Hernandez play, considering he has missed a few practices recently.
Rookie Chandler Jones had two knocks on him coming out of the first-round in the NFL Draft, and those were that he is “too raw” and “not strong enough”. He dispelled those doubts against Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod (he’s solid, but the Pro Bowl title does flatter him a bit in all honesty) by consistently beating the veteran and getting pressure on the New Orleans Saints quarterbacks in the first preseason game. Expect some more from him, and I think he will eat Eagles left tackle King Dunlap alive. I don’t quite understand why Dunlap is ahead of Demetress Bell on the depth chart, but I do know that the Eagles will miss Jason Peters even more as the season wears on.
Nnamdi Asomugha will be playing for the Philadelphia Eagles after colliding with fellow defensive back Nate Allen in practice. He was medically cleared to play and didn’t obtain a concussion, and he says all that hurts now is his mouth. His neck is better, and he’s going to be playing, although I highly doubt he’ll play into the second-half.
There’s no point in projecting preseason games, because it’s more of a time for younger players and guys on the bubble to prove themselves. Players like Ron Brace.
A second-round pick out of Boston College, Brace has been a perennial disappointment for the Patriots despite his physical tools. He has looked powerful so far in training camp and is trying to turn a new leaf and avoid the dreaded “bust” tag. If he can perform well in this game and keep it up, then Brace could beat out Brandon Deaderick for a roster spot at defensive tackle.
Nate Ebner has a big game ahead of him with solid rookie Tavon Wilson and James Ihedigbo out with injuries. He has been impressive in training camp, and the sixth-round pick and rugby player has been picking off passes in practice at a surprising rate. Sparingly used at Ohio State, Ebner is more of a special teams ace than anything but has impressed the Patriots faithful and could nab a roster spot with some good in-game performances. The coaching staff is rewarding him with a chance to play at safety, and this is a big moment for Ebner to try and grasp a roster spot. I’m rooting for him.
With Jeff Demps unable to play due to NFL rules and Stevan Ridley out with an injury, the focus turns to undrafted Ole Miss rookie running back Brandon Bolden. The signing of Demps means that his roster spot is no longer guaranteed, but it’s still a high probability. He has run well thus far, and Bolden will have a lot of carries coming his way in this game.
For the Eagles, watch out for rookie wide receiver Marvin McNutt. The former Iowa star is a big, physical weapon who doesn’t have a guaranteed roster spot due to the play of the other receivers on the roster; most notably Damaris Johnson. With a big game today against the Pats, he can help his cause big time.
Rookie Chris Polk and Bryce Brown are locked in a battle for the No. 3 spot, and it’s dead even. Polk has made up some ground and is a better pass blocker and pass-catcher than Brown, although Brown is a better rusher. The Eagles have been discussing moving Polk to fullback due to his impressive and uncanny ability in pass protection that is difficult to find in rookie backs. Former Pittsburgh stars LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis are firmly locked in as the No. 1 and 2 backs respectively.
This game is a bigger test for the New England Patriots backups, because they will be getting some looks against the Eagles starters throughout the game. It will help give us a better scope on how to evaluate these guys, so this game holds a huge amount of importance to players on the roster bubble.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.