June 7, 2023

What to watch as Eagles face Patriots in preseason game No. 2, DeVonta Smith makes debut


Photo by Tim Hawk/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Eagles will continue their preseason tonight against the New England Patriots.

This is the second of three preseason games in 2021.

This game comes after the Eagles hosted the Patriots for two days of joint practices at the NovaCare Complex. Now, the two teams will meet again at Lincoln Financial Field.

Here’s what to watch.

10th pick to make debut

Here’s a really good reason to watch the game Thursday night: the Eagles’ first-round pick — DeVonta Smith — is playing.

Smith, who returned from a knee injury this week, is expected to make his NFL debut at the Linc Thursday night, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark reported.

Smith will play “if all goes (as) expected,” Clark tweeted Thursday afternoon.

Smith suffered a sprained knee at practice on July 31, the fourth day of training camp. He returned for individual drills on Monday and then participated in limited team drills on Tuesday after missing eight full practices, three walkthroughs and the preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Thursday.

Smith said Tuesday he felt it was important for him to play in the preseason.

“Most definitely,” he said. “You need every rep you can get, so every rep I can get I’m going to take. You can never take too many reps.”

Smith said Tuesday he wasn’t quite 100% but was “getting there.”

The Eagles are counting on Smith to deliver star power to Nick Sirianni’s offense and give Jalen Hurts the type of big-time outside threat the franchise hasn’t had since Jeremy Maclin in 2014.

Smith caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns for Alabama last year.

Keeping it crisp

Nick Sirianni’s major takeaway from the Eagles’ first preseason game was that they looked very crisp on both sides of the ball.

Coming into last week’s game it seemed that wouldn’t be the case because they have new offensive and defensive schemes and they’ve been having short practices all summer. But the communication on both sides of the ball was solid, there weren’t a ton of bad penalty calls and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s section even tackled well on defense.

The Eagles didn’t win their preseason opener but it felt like a win because all those things went well. They should want to see that continue in this game.

Projected time for starters

Jalen Hurts and the first-team offense played just 10 snaps last week. Hurts looked good but it was just a small sample size. It’ll be interesting to see how much the starters play in this game.

Because the Eagles are having two rounds of joint practices, and because Sirianni values them so much, it would actually make sense to continue to limit starters’ reps during the preseason. It doesn’t make for a great product for fans in the stands, but it might be the best thing for the team.

And, after all, preseason games are more about the lesser-known players, the guys clawing to stick around in the league.

Game information

When: 7:30pm ET
Where: Lincoln Financial Field
Broadcast: NBC10
Radio: 94.1 WIP

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