Eagles-Bills preseason game: 10 players to watch

Eagles-Bills preseason game: 10 players to watch

The 2017 Eagles will be at home for the first time this preseason.

And the home crowd will get a chance to see some new additions to the team.

Here are 10 players to watch in Eagles-Bills on Thursday night at the Linc (7 p.m./NBC):

Alshon Jeffery 
Doug Pederson said he was leaning toward playing Jeffery in this game after taking it really easy on him throughout training camp. So if Jeffery plays, it'll be his first game with the Eagles. During training camp, he's looked good when he practices. But he missed some time with a shoulder injury and then Pederson put him in bubble wrap for another week or so. Carson Wentz is looking forward to getting on the field with his new weapon. Expect the starters to play just a series or two. 

Ronald Darby 
Darby didn't become an Eagle until Friday, the day after the first preseason game. His counterpart in the trade, Jordan Matthews, won't play for the Bills on Thursday. Matthews suffered a cracked sternum in his first practice in Buffalo. Meanwhile, Darby was thrown in with the first team in his first practice with the Eagles. Based on that, expect him to take the left cornerback spot when the defense first takes the field. 

Marcus Johnson
A hamstring injury kept the young receiver out of the first preseason game and Bryce Treggs performed extremely well in his absence. Johnson has done a lot to earn a roster spot during training camp, but nothing is written in stone, even with the departure of Matthews. Johnson needs to have a good preseason to seal a roster spot. 

Derek Barnett
Barnett's debut was very impressive. He had two sacks and caused problems for the Packers' offensive line. The most impressive thing was the inside move he used to get his first sack against Green Bay. He's been working on that all camp. Let's see if Barnett can keep it going. He's not fighting for a roster spot, but he is fighting for playing time and eventually a starting gig. 

Patrick Robinson
With the addition of Darby and with Ron Brooks out with a hamstring injury, the veteran cornerback has been working in the slot. Expect to see Jalen Mills and Darby start outside and Robinson as the Eagles' nickel cornerback. There's a chance Robinson won't make the 53-man roster; his best chance to stick is to prove he can be good for the team in his new role

Shelton Gibson
Gibson has really turned it around after his terrible start to training camp. He was just awful early on, dropping more passes than he caught. Since then, he's looked like a viable option. But in the first preseason game, he had an egregious drop and that can't happen again. He's a fifth-round pick but is fighting for a spot on the team. 

Donnel Pumphrey 
The fourth-round running back out of San Diego State didn't have a great debut. He looked shaky as a punt returner and couldn't find an inch on offense. The Eagles are hoping those first-game jitters are out of his way. They eventually want to make him Darren Sproles' replacement as a punt returner, but there's a lot of work still to do. 

LeGarrette Blount 
The entire run game never got going against the Packers' blitzing front, so this game is a chance to show the Eagles can be a good run team in 2017. Let's see if Blount really can be more than a short-yardage specialist this season. It's unclear if Wendell Smallwood (hamstring) will play. 

Chance Warmack
Brandon Brooks (ankle) will be a game-time decision, so Warmack might need to start for the second straight game at right guard. His first attempt didn't go well. Remember all that interior O-line depth? Well, Allen Barbre is gone and Warmack doesn't look promising. 

Alex McCalister 
A seventh-round pick last season, McCalister picked up a sack late in the first preseason game but still has a lot of work to do. He's the sixth defensive end on the depth chart and might be fighting Steven Means for a roster spot. He needs to string together a few good games to give himself a good chance.

Roob's 10 mid-March Eagles observations

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Roob's 10 mid-March Eagles observations

We're deep into free agency, the draft is rapidly approaching and the 2017 Super Bowl champion Eagles are being reshaped into a new team.

Which means it's a perfect time for a Roob's 10 Observations.

1. As the Eagles move on from LeGarrette Blount and reshape the running back position, it’s intriguing to ponder just how good Corey Clement can be. From what I saw last year? I think the kid can be a stud. His touches were limited until late in the season, but how many rookies have had 300 rushing yards, 200 receiving yards and averaged at least 4.4 yards per carry and 13 yards per catch? Would you believe three in the last 40 years? A guy named Jesse Clark with the Packers in 1983, a guy named Adrian Peterson with the Vikings in 2007 and a guy named Corey Clement. It’s tough to project, but he can run, he can block, he can catch, he’s got a real flair for making big plays and a terrific knack in the red zone. Can’t wait to see him in an expanded role.

2. As for Blount, you can’t understate his value to the Eagles last year, both as a running back and a leader. For a guy with his resume to come into that locker room and not once complain about his workload – even when he had no carries against the Chiefs – was remarkable. His selfless attitude really resonated with the young guys in the locker room. And I know a lot of fans were upset to see him go, but as incredible as his Super Bowl performance was, you can’t forget that in the seven games leading up to the Super Bowl he averaged 2.9 yards per carry. And he’s 31 years old. If the reported numbers are correct, Blount’s $4.5 million 2018 salary makes him the 12th-highest-paid running back in the league. Good for him. I wish him well. He was a huge part of that 2017 team. But it made no sense for the Eagles to bring him back.

3. It’s amazing how much money teams keep throwing at Sam Bradford. He’s got 34 wins in eight seasons, he’s never had a winning record, he’s never made a postseason, and on the rare occasions when he’s been healthy, he’s won only 43 percent of his starts. Oh, and he’s missed 42 games since 2013. “He’s our guy!”

4. Speaks volumes that both Blount and Torrey Smith singled out Duce Staley in their tweets or Instagram posts saying goodbye to Philly after joining new teams. Staley wasn’t even Smith’s position coach, and he still singled him out. Blount wrote: “To my main man Coach Duce Staley – You have impacted my life on and off the field and pushed me to be the best version of me I can be and for that I thank you!” Staley is such a natural leader and such a big part of what the Eagles accomplished in 2017. He’s going to be a head coach one day.

5. The Eagles lost Vinny Curry, but they have Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Michael Bennett and Chris Long. They lost Trey Burton and Brent Celek, but they have Zach Ertz. They lost Smith, but they have Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins. They lost Blount, but they have Jay Ajayi and Clement. They lost Patrick Robinson, but they have Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Ronald Darby and Daryl Worley. They’ve lost a lot, but they’re still stocked at every position where they lost someone. Pretty darn good roster planning.

6. I feel like in the wake of Nick Foles’ brilliant postseason, people are forgetting exactly how good Carson Wentz was before he got hurt. So here’s a list of every quarterback in NFL history with 33 or more touchdown passes and seven or fewer interceptions in a season before his 30th birthday: Carson Wentz.

7. I wonder how much Haloti Ngata has left. He’s 34, he’s coming off a torn biceps, and he’s five years removed from his last Pro Bowl. Beau Allen was quietly a solid backup defensive tackle and played a big role in that D-line rotation the second half of the season after Tim Jernigan hurt his ankle. I don’t mind the signing. Ngata comes cheap and there’s really nothing to lose. But it’s been a while since he’s been a dominant player, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fits in.

8. If you’ve never been to Canton, Ohio, plan your trip now. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a great place to visit any time. But the weekend of Brian Dawkins’ induction is going to be unforgettable. Dawk’s speech is going to be epic.

9. The Philly Special may be the greatest play in Eagles history, but where does the fourth-quarter fourth-down conversion rank? The Eagles trailed with 5½ minutes left and faced a 4th-and-1 inside midfield when Foles converted a short completion to Ertz. If they don’t convert, they lose. That’s gotta be a top-10 all-time play. Maybe top-five.

10. Tight ends with more catches than Ertz in their first five NFL seasons: Kellen Winslow Sr., Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates.

Torrey Smith says Carson Wentz is going to get PAID

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Torrey Smith says Carson Wentz is going to get PAID

We all know just how good Carson Wentz is. Heck, the entire NFL knows just how good Wentz is after the Eagles' QB put together a remarkable season with 3,296 passing yards and 33 TD tosses … in just 13 games.

But we and the entire league also know what that means: Wentz is going to get a lot more zeros added to his paycheck soon.

Wideout Torrey Smith, recently traded by the Eagles to the Panthers, knows full well what Wentz's worth is and isn't shy to talk about it, as he did at his charity basketball event in Maryland Saturday evening.

"When Carson's time comes, they're going to need a Brinks truck the size of this arena," Smith, who caught 33 balls for 692 yards and two TDs from Wentz last season, told ESPN's Jamison Hensley while noting the Eagles are taking full advantage of Wentz's discounted rookie deal right now.

Wentz is in the middle of a four-year, $26.6 million deal signed after he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2016. The deal expires after the 2019 season, but obviously, Howie Roseman and crew know this all is looming. And they also know recent QB contract numbers have continued to skyrocket.

San Francisco recently made Jimmy Garrapollo, he of seven career starts but also of five straight wins to end last season after his trade from New England, the richest QB in league history with a five-year, $137.5 million deal. Detroit gave Matthew Stafford a five-year, $135 million deal prior to last season, a few months after Oakland gave Derek Carr a five-year, $125 million extension. Those three are the top-paid QBs in the league.

Long story short: With the way Wentz has performed with 7,049 passing yards and 49 TDs in 29 career starts, he's going to get paid.

And Roseman's acts of salary cap magic are going to have to continue because Wentz is going to get paid sooner than later, and the whole league knows it.