Eagles vs. Patriots: 5 Things to Watch
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - If you're ever on an NFL practice field get used to hearing an expletive every now and again.
I've been around the NFL for over two decades now and one August day in 2013 still stands out. That's when good friends Bill Belichick and Chip Kelly set up a series of joint practices between their two teams and the then-Eagles defensive backs got an up-close look at just how good Tom Brady is.
Stationed on the sidelines as the receivers and defensive backs matched up, time after time, I heard Philadelphia defenders muttering unspeakable things under their breath during Brady reps as the long-time All-Pro showed off his awe-inspiring accuracy.
Rewind to February in Minneapolis and Brady was doing it again, this time against a far more accomplished Jim Schwartz defense which had been lights out in the playoffs to that point, all until Brandon Graham, despite ultimately needing surgery on his ankle and tweaking his hamstring while compensating for it, finally got to the G.O.A.T to secure the Eagles' first Lombardi Trophy.
Lost in the fog of celebration were the numbers, including 500 passing yards and allowing an alarming 8.5 yards every time the Pats offense ran a play.
Brady said he "absolutely" expects to play against the Eagles in preseason game No. 2 and while it will only be a cameo if that holds true, it will be nice if Philadelphia's first-team defense shows some fight.
JONES VS. SMALLWOOD
The fourth running back spot technically involves four names but with Donnel Pumphrey and Josh Adams dealing with lower-body injuries, it looks like Matt Jones and Wendell Smallwood will have to carry the load in Foxborough.
And that means opportunity for the two often forgotten names in the competition. First and foremost has to be ball security, something that ran Jones out of Washington once upon a time and had Doug Pederson grumbling at Smallwood last week after an unforced error was saved by an alert Bryce Treggs.
AVONTE MADDOX IN THE SLOT
For the majority of camp, it had been Sidney Jones and De'Vante Bausby taking turns inside with the first-team defense until Jim Schwartz shifted to rookie Avonte Maddox for the final three training-camp sessions.
Don't read too much into that just yet because Schwartz has insisted he remains in evaluation mode and likely just wants a better look at Maddox now that he's got his feet on the ground and understands the defense a little bit more.
Bausby insisted to 973espn.com that he still is penciled in for work inside against the Pats but he badly missed a big third-down tackle against Pittsburgh, which extended a drive that turned into a TD. Understanding run fits and being a sound tackler are imperative for slot CBs in the NFL.
CAMERON JOHNSTON'S DIRECTIONAL PUNTING
At this stage, Johnston is Aaron Judge. The home runs are going to be impressive -- like his 81-yard monster drive against the Steelers -- but ask him to shorten up the swing and things can get hairy. It's a work in progress and you want to see improvement but the Eagles think a lot of Johnston and will allow him to fight through the hiccups.
ISAAC SEUMALO'S SHOTGUN SNAPS
-The best explanative I have heard for the Christian Hackenberg signing is that the Eagles are putting together a super race of QBs so that they can easily corral Isaac Seumalo's shaky shotgun snaps.
Anyone under 6-foot-4 need not apply. Sorry, Joe Callahan.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen