PHILADELPHIA — Football is finally back in Philadelphia on Friday night when the Eagles host the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field in the preseason opener.
Nothing counts, of course, but a live environment still means something when evaluating players even if the controlled confines of practice is the preferred method of preparation in a modern NFL system built on the foundation of sports science.
The Jets will have plenty of familiar faces traveling down the New Jersey Turnpike, including GM Joe Douglas, backup quarterback Joe Flacco, reserve offensive lineman Nate Herbig, and veteran defensive end Vinny Curry, who is attempting to make a comeback from a rare blood disorder that required the removal of his spleen last year.
Curry, a key member of the Eagles Super Bowl LII championship team, has not been practicing with a hamstring issue so he’s very unlikely to play.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. on NBC10.
Both Philadelphia coach Nick Sirianni and Jets mentor Robert Saleh are members of the 2021 NFL coaching class entering their second seasons and each has claimed their starters will play one or two series with the lineup card always subject to change.
Cameos aren’t that telling, however, so most of the interest will be focused on backups and younger players.
After taking in 10 training camp practices, here’s the SI Eagles Today top-10 list of players you should be keeping an eye on:
OC - Cam Jurgens - The rookie second-round pick is the Eagles’ starting center for now with the hope that Jason Kelce returns from “routine” elbow cleanout surgery on Sept. 11 in Detroit.
Routine is a description used by those who aren’t undergoing a procedure but the smart money has Kelce being ready for the Lions and his 123rd consecutive start.
Jurgens, though, will get all the valuable first-team reps in between and it will be interesting to see how Sirianni and Jeff Stoutland handle him.
Will the 22-year-old Nebraska product be treated like the rest of the starters now and get the cameo treatment or does Philadelphia speed up the start-up costs with valuable live reps as a contingency just in case Kelce isn’t ready for the regular season?
OL - Jack Driscoll (No. 63) - A perceived competition between Driscoll and Isaac Seumalo at right guard never materialized. Seunalo was cleared for the start of training camp after missing most of last season with a Lisfranc foot injury and the veteran, a Jeff Stoutland favorite, quickly locked things down.
Driscoll, meanwhile, has spent camp backing up All-Pro Lane Johnson at right tackle and has had a difficult time on the outside, especially when trying to deal with Brandon Graham.
What’s interesting about Driscoll is he played RT at Auburn and that’s thought to be his natural position but, when forced to move inside to RG due to injuries last season, he performed very well. Right now Driscoll seems better suited inside than outside on the offensive line.
QB - Reid Sinnett (No. 13) - The betting line was on undrafted rookie Carson Strong taking the baton of developmental quarterback from Sinnett before camp started but the University of San Diego product, who was acquired off waivers from Miami in late October last season, has been lapping Strong in practice.
In fact, Sinnett has been so impressive the Eagles have given him a few second-team reps in place of Gardner Minshew as a reward. Minshew, meanwhile, has not had a great camp but the Eagles know what they have with the veteran backup and are comfortable with it.
The Jets have one of the better QB3s in football in Mike White so it should be interesting to measure Sinnett against him.
RB - Jason Huntley (No. 32) - The Eagles only had five backs on the 90-man roster through practice No. 10 before signing North Texas State product DeAndre Torrey on Thursday morning. Meanwhile, Boston Scott has been out of practice in the concussion protocol and Kenny Gainwell recently joined him with a hip injury.
With both backups to Miles Sanders likely out and Torrey not ready to go yet, Huntley and undrafted rookie Kennedy Brooks will be the bell cows against the Jets and Huntley is also expected to be the No. 1 kick returner on top of that.
One of the fastest players on the team, Huntley is coming off the open practice at Lincoln Financial Field in which he has about a 60-yard run and this is another opportunity for the bubble player to open up some eyes.
WR/KR - Britain Covey (No. 41) - The camp darling will get plenty of looks at slot receiver and as the Eagles’ primary punt returner and the kick-returning option behind Huntley. At 5-foot-8 and a generously labeled 173 pounds, Covey had been surprising people for years dating back to his high school days before becoming a star in college at Utah.
It will be interesting to see how Covey handles the physicality of his first completely live reps at the NFL level.
DT - Jordan Davis (No. 90) - On the opposite end of the spectrum of Covey is the king-sized Eagles’ first-round pick, who looks every bit of what he was hyped to be as a potential difference-maker on the defensive interior.
Davis’ presence is supposed to make things easier for others around him. No one is game-planning just yet but his size alone commands double teams so pay attention to the blocking schemes against him.
LB - Nakobe Dean (No. 17) - Dean is off to a much slower start than his former college teammate, stuck behind T.J. Edwards, Kyzir White, and Davion Taylor in the Eagles’ LB room. All of those players have had terrific summers though and Dean is still learning the terminology of a new defense while cross-training at both off-ball LB positions.
Those expecting the splashy plays from Day 1 from Dean, who was a superstar at Georgia, might be disappointed but the Eagles are fine with the slower timetable and expect the football IQ and instincts to ultimately shine through. That starts vs. the Jets.
CB - Mac McCain (No. 37) - McCain started camp taking second-team reps opposite Zech McPhearson on the second-team defense and then missed a bit of time with a knee injury and fellow second-year CB Kary Vincent, typically s slot player, started to gain some ground on the outside.
Now Vincent is dealing with a groin issue and McCain is healthy so there is seemingly an opportunity there.
As a side note also keep an eye on the undrafted Josh Jobe out of Alabama, who has started making some plays at OC, and Tay Gowan, who hasn’t been standing out.
DB - Josiah Scott (No. 33)- Scott is the team’s primary backup to Avonte Maddox in the slot, who has also started to cross-train at safety, often taking second-team reps there as veteran Jaquiski Tartt has been out for personal reasons.
That certainly seems like the defensive coaching staff’s idea to increase Scott’s value as it prepares to pound the table to Howie Roseman and Sirianni come cutdown time.
DB - Andre Chachere (No. 21) - In that same vein, Chachere has started to get some reps in the slot in a big nickel role. Furthermore, when Anthony Harris was out Wednesday with a dental issue, Chachere got some first-team reps opposite Marcus Epps ahead of K’Von Wallace.
Add in Chachere's special teams acumen and he might be on the verge of shiting himself from a bubble player to a relatively safe one when it comes to the initial 53.
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's Eagles Today and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Sports. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talker Jody McDonald, every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on YouTube.com and JAKIBSports.com. You can reach John at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen