The Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars both have a lot to prove going into their preseason opener on Friday, but for different reasons. The NFL odds makers have the Eagles as home favorites of -3 and begin the Kevin Kolb era at quarterback after he replaced Donovan McNabb in the offseason. Kolb became the only QB in NFL history to throw for more than 300 yards in his first two starts for Philly last year when he filled in for an injured McNabb, but this year he will be saddled with even higher expectations in trying to replace a legend.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars have a chip on their shoulder despite underachieving last season. Star RB Maurice Jones-Drew has claimed his team is “disrespected” because they only appear in other teams’ highlights on television and not their own. Jones-Drew will certainly need to get some more help from his teammates this season in order for Jacksonville to earn more wins. He did everything he could last year with a career-high 1,391 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns, but that still was not enough to keep the Jags from finishing in the league’s bottom 10 offensively.
The biggest question mark for Jacksonville is at wide receiver, where only Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas have solidified spots on the team. After losing former All-Pro Torry Holt to the New England Patriots, a slew of youngsters are pushing veteran Troy Williamson for playing time.
From a coaching perspective in the preseason, the Eagles and Jaguars could also not be more different. Jacksonville’s Jack Del Rio suffered the first losing preseason of his career last year at 1-3 after going 3-1 each of the previous three years. Del Rio is 18-10 overall in the preseason but just 3-4 in openers. Philly’s Andy Reid is even worse in openers at 4-8 and has never had a winning preseason, going 16-28 overall.
This would seem to give the Jags a slight edge, although you need to consider that McNabb has always been Reid’s top QB until now. Kolb should be very hungry to perform well in front of his home fans, and he has two outstanding young receivers in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. The dynamic duo reportedly got into an argument earlier in the week about who is the harder worker between the two, which is a dream come true for Reid at this point of the preseason.
Of course Reid still has to answer some questions about QB Michael Vick’s role in the offense, and he will get to show what he can do on Friday as well. Vick made his return to the NFL against the Jaguars last season and will likely see a lot of playing time in relief of Kolb. The bad news for Kolb, Vick and rest of the Eagles offense is that they are down to fourth-string center Mike McGlynn, who has never taken a snap in the NFL.
Philadelphia is waiting for starting center Jamaal Jackson to come back from knee surgery while backup Nick Cole is also dealing with a knee injury and third-stringer A.Q. Shipley is suffering from an ankle sprain. In addition, starting LG Todd Herremans is out with a foot injury, further complicating things on the offensive line.
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