Five Things to Watch vs. Buffalo
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The narrative this week is as easy as it gets after the Eagles sent Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for cornerback Ronald Darby.
Matthews, one of the most popular players in Philadelphia's locker room, will not be able to go, however, after suffering a chip fracture in his sternum during his first practice session in Western New York.
Darby, on the other hand, was thrown into the deep end immediately by Jim Schwartz as the Eagles' starting left cornerback opposite Jalen Mills, who moves over to the right side.
Needless to say, Darby's first preseason reps will be scrutinized closely and expect a lot of press coverage, something which plays to his strength as a player and is the easiest way to be indoctrinated to a new defense.
Here are the other things to keep an eye out as well:
THE NICKEL SPOT
Darby's arrival creates a domino effect when it comes to the nickel. Ron Brooks is still involved but has been out of practice since tweaking his hamstring against Green Bay last week. With Darby's arrival, Patrick Robinson has seen some time inside with the first team as has Malcolm Jenkins in the so-called "Big Nickel" where veteran Corey Graham comes in opposite Rodney McLeod at safety once Malcolm slips down into the slot. Also don't sleep on the always competitive Aaron Grymes, who is a natural slot corner thanks to his short-area quickness.
Coach Doug Pederson said that he expects Carson Wentz to play very little again, akin to what happened in Green Bay when the second-year quarterback was in for only one successful series. If Wentz again leads the Eagles to a TD during the offense's first possession, he's likely going to be one-and-done again. If not, perhaps he gets two series and the jury is out on the kid-glove treatment for a young quarterback in need of live reps to continue developing.
"Situational football is important but it's hard to duplicate live reps," Wentz told 973espn.com earlier this week when discussing the difference between practice and a preseason game.
Pederson's main goal, however, seems to be getting Wentz to Week 1 as healthy as possible.
"We've got four of these games, obviously. If you can get all of our starters and the quarterbacks to kind of get them into game shape, game mode, again, the bullets really don't fly for real for another couple of weeks." the coach said. "You know, the other thing you guard against just a hit, something in the game that might take him out. So, I guard against that a little bit. But at the same time, I want to make sure that he's mentally in the right frame of mind to go in and start, and put another drive together and see if we can get some points."
THE WORLD OF A.J.
You're probably going to see Wentz's WR1 for the first time this preseason, albeit in a cameo appearance. Jeffery has been limited for the most part since he banged up his shoulder early in training camp and the Eagles have been very cautious with him, limiting Jeffery to individual and 7-on-7 work until finally getting him back into team drills this week.
"I'm still working through that," Pederson said when asked if Jeffery would play. "I am leaning towards him playing, yes. He feels comfortable, we've talked about it, so I'm comfortable with him going."
THE RUNNING GAME
It was non-existent in Green Bay and the imbalance of this offense continued against the Packers when Matt McGloin was asked to throw it 42 times. Wendell Smallwood has returned to practice but remains questionable so that could affect things again but Pederson will have plenty of bodies to utilize if he wants. Obviously, you don't need LeGarrette Blount or Darren Sproles to touch it much but rookies Donnel Pumphrey and Corey Clement, as well as second-year man Byron Marshall, need some reps to see what Philadelphia really has on the back end of the roster at RB.
"You try to go into every game trying to establish [the running game]," Pederson said. "You know, it was unfortunate the way the [Green Bay] game kind of took off. But, yeah, the plan would be to try to get that established a little bit this week and see where it goes. I really feel like we've got a good offensive line that can handle that with the backs that we have. It's something that we'll try to focus on hopefully Thursday.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen