|Date:||August 27th, 2009
|Time:||7:00 pm EST
|SBN Coverage:||Bleeding Green Nation||Coverage Map
It is almost here. The Jaguars travel to face the Eagles Thursday night in what is going to be the most hyped preseason game for a long time. Michael Vick makes his return to the NFL and the Jaguars get to be the "lucky" opposing team for this occasion. If nothing else, this will give the Jaguars some national attention as the game will be a main feature on ESPN Thursday and Friday morning.
The third preseason game is the closest teams come to playing as if it were a regular game. Expect the starters to stay well into the second half, with some starters staying into the 4th quarter. This game will serve as an excellent litmus test for the team. The Jags go to a hostile enviornment against one of the elite franchises in the NFL.
What to Watch For: Jacksonville Jaguars
1. Defensive toughness: The unit has had a below average preseason. The unit gave up too many easy plays to an average Buccaneers offense, and now has to go up against one of the top units in football. However, the Eagles are a finesse team that will rattle if punched in the mouth. That is what the Jags defensive front has to do. It has to get to McNabb early to set the tone.
2. MoJo to regain his mojo: Let's face it, MoJo has had a horrible preseason. Granted, he hasn't seen much action, but even when he's been in he hasn't been much of a force. Jones-Drew needs to begin to show signs of life before the regular season. Look for him to get between 15-20 touches Thursday night.
3. Special Teams: Another unit that has been having a bad preseason. The less of Josh Scobee tackling the returner, the better. Also, it would appear that Podlesh is seeing his last days in a teal jersey.
4. Wide Receivers: Who is going to be left when the musical chairs is over? Torry Holt, Troy Williamson, and Nate Hughes are the safest bets for roster spots at this point. That still leaves Dillard, Thomas, Walker, and Underwood competing for two spots. Who is going to step up to claim those roster spots?
5. Ernest Wilford: I'll take my crow medium rare Collin. Wilford makes his return to the Jaguars as a tight end Thursday night. Is he going to be the sure handed possession receiver he was in his previous stint with the Jags or the underachieving player he was as a Dolphin?
What to Watch For: Philadelphia Eagles
1. Michael Vick: What else is there to say? Vick will make his return, and Andy Reid has confirmed he will play with the starters. Regardless of whether or not he does anything to remind us of why he was a human highlight reel, it will be an electric moment when he steps on the field.
2. Jeremy Maclin: Maclin was a favorite of mine in this year's draft. He was eventually taken in the mid first round by the Eagles. Maclin has been struggling in the preseason, though he will surely see some balls come his way. I still think he'll be Westbrook 2.0 for the Eagles and one of the big stars of this draft class.
3. How the team reacts to Vick: This team has been dealing with all of the media circus since the organization signed Vick. I'm sure the team just wants to get it over with and see how things go from there. Will they fall flat or will it be an uplift for them?
4. Offensive Line: Tra Thomas may have been the biggest departure for the Eagles O-line, but he wasn't the only one. The Eagles have struggled with pass protection and running the ball consistently during the preseason. The Jaguars D-line hasn't been reminding anyone of the 85 Bears so far, and this may be their chance to gel as a unit.
Player on the Hot Seat
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville
MJD needs to make his presence known in this game. He has been nonexistent thus far in the preseason, and that needs to change for the Jaguars to walk out of Philly with a win. In addition, a consistent running game will help take out a surely hostile Philly crowd that is reportedly going to be in playoff form Thursday night.