Can Foles deliver against Cleveland's starters?

CB Joselio Hanson is fighting to remain the Birds' nickel back.
CB Joselio Hanson is fighting to remain the Birds' nickel back.
Posted: August 25, 2012

The Eagles will become familiar with Cleveland Browns Stadium during the next two weeks. They play the Browns on Friday and again on Sept. 9 to begin the season. Because of the return trip, don't expect the Eagles to reveal much in the third preseason game. Still, there is reason to watch. Here are five story lines to observe:

1 Foles vs. starters. Nick Foles has been a virtuoso throughout the preseason, but the production mostly came against reserves. Even when Foles entered Monday's game after Michael Vick suffered a ribs injury, the Patriots fielded many backups. Foles will have the opportunity to play against a starting defense in Cleveland. If he handles the Browns the way he has the Steelers and Patriots reserves, the Eagles will have reason to believe Foles could ably be Vick's backup.

2 Kelly time. Todd Herremans, the Eagles' starting right tackle, will not play Friday because he must attend a funeral. That opens a spot for Dennis Kelly, a 6-foot-8, 321-pound fifth-round pick. Kelly is an intriguing prospect who the Eagles think can play guard and tackle, and he has improved since camp opened in July. Kelly often plays against the Eagles' first-team defense in practice, so he has experienced trying to block elite pass rushers. A good outing Friday would further strengthen a rookie class that is already in line to contribute this season.

3 Penalty kill. The first subject Andy Reid broached after Monday's game was penalties. The Eagles committed 16 penalties on Monday and have 22 this preseason. Reid said the Eagles will not get away with such sloppiness in the regular season. On reviewing Monday's game, Reid concluded that the Eagles suffered from "effort penalties," which he deemed rectifiable. "They were going all out, but there's a time where you've got to put the brakes on a little bit and pull back, and we understand that," Reid said. "We can learn from that part."

4 Nickel competition. Veteran Joselio Hanson does not plan on yielding his spot as the starting nickel cornerback. Brandon Boykin, the talented third-round pick, is playing well enough to prompt a legitimate competition. This is a crucial role in the Eagles' defense because so many teams play three-receiver sets and utilize the slot position. Hanson has experience and knows the system, but Boykin was drafted for a reason. Pay attention to the way both play because it could be an indication of what the Eagles plan to do on Sundays this season.

5 Bottom of the roster. The fourth quarter will include many players on the bottom of the Eagles' roster that fans neither know nor care about. But it's worth watching because it will likely be the final time to see 15 of those players. The Eagles need to trim the roster from 90 to 75 by Monday, four days before their final preseason game. The way the deep reserves play - or even if they play at all - might reveal who is still on the team for Thursday's game.


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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