The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will probably take Week Two of preseason a lot more seriously than they took Week One. Both teams figure to play their starters for at least the first half today, and both are looking to test their defenses against full-strength, potent offenses that are very similar to what they’ll encounter over the course of the regular season.
Here are three things to keep an eye on from each team heading into tonight’s showdown:
New England Patriots
1. How will Tom Brady look? Everyone knows that the Patriots’ offensive line will be weak this year, but nobody knows exactly how weak it will be. Last week, versus the Saints, Tom Brady completed four-of-seven passes for no touchdowns and just 30 yards. Oh, and he fumbled the ball away, too.
Philadelphia has a fierce pass rush and a strong secondary so, unless Brady’s line gives him some time to surgically dismantle the defense, it may prove to be a long night for all involved. New England has weapons for Brady once he releases the ball, but having the time to release it may end up being a problem this year.
Update: Well, so much for that. Tom Brady isn’t playing in this one, apparently.
2. Can the defense keep up with Philly’s speedsters? Drew Brees knows how to spread the ball around and utilize his weapons, but New Orleans doesn’t have the sort of effective speed on its roster that the Eagles have. That’s part of the reason that New England had so much success against the Saints defensively last week.
Between Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, though, there is a lot of effective speed on Philly’s roster. And if the Patriots feel like they can’t keep up with those guys, will they be willing to give Vick additional time to work the field just to ensure they don't get burned by the Eagles' athleticism?
3. How will the Patriots replace Dane Fletcher? Fletcher sustained a torn ACL in last week’s showdown versus the Saints. I honestly have no idea how New England will patch up the hole he left behind. I don’t doubt that they’ll find a way, I just can’t see what it is yet.
1. How will Nick Foles look? Michael Vick is a fantastic player, but his propensity for getting hurt is a matter of public record. In Philly’s first game against Pittsburgh, he smashed his hand against his center’s helmet and wound up bruising his thumb. The injury apparently won’t hinder him tonight, but, it does speak to his fragile nature.
With backup Mike Kafka out, Foles is now the team’s No. 2 quarterback. Last week he connected on six-of-10 passes for two touchdowns and 144 yards. The Eagles are going to need for him to be at the top of his game all year long in the event that tragedy strikes and they’re left without their $100 million man for an extended stretch.
2. Is Nnamdi Asomugha ready to return to form? This guy was supposed to be Philly’s big offseason acquisition last year but, for whatever reason, Asomugha never really clicked with the Eagles defense. He just never seemed comfortable.
Everyone was expecting for this to be Asomugha's bounce back year, seeing as he’s had a full season to get acclimated to his new surroundings and all, but then he went and nearly gave himself a concussion at practice last week. By all accounts he is ready to roll tonight, however, we’ll have to wait and see which version of him we’ll see in 2012.
3. Can Michael Vick stay healthy? According to Andy Reid, Philly’s starters will play anywhere from two to three quarters today. That’s a lot of time for something bad to happen. Can Vick avoid jamming his thumb into his own guys’ helmets this week? We’ll find out soon enough.