Tonight’s final preseason matchup against the Jets will be one for the hardcore fans. The game, which begins at 8 at the Linc, will be devoid of all of the familiar faces. While you won’t be able to get your fix of Celek, Kolb, or DeSean, there will be plenty of important things to keep an eye on that will have an effect on the team as they head into their season opener on September 12 at home against Green Bay.
With 10 days to go until the season begins, the final 53-man roster is all but wrapped up, but we could see guys slide up and down the depth charts, or if there’s a really remarkable performance, one or two guys sneak on to the team.
These are the things that I looking at tonight:
1. Michael Vick: The backup quarterback has actually looked worse this year. Although his speed seems to be back, lost are his throwing accuracy (not that he was ever the best passer) and his ability to hold onto the ball. There are some people who have it in the back of their mind that Kolb’s success isn’t assured, so the Birds need to have a guy at backup ready to step in. The jury is still out on Vick, and he needs to show tonight that he can make the right decisions under pressure.
2. Macho Harris: While his action has been limited due to a severe hamstring injury, the second-year player needs to make a case for himself at the crowded safety position. He will be competing with Quintin Demps and the so far impressive rookie Kurt Coleman. Admittedly, I’ve never been high on Harris, but this is a position of need for the Birds, so having some extra push and pull could motivate all of these guys to go above and beyond.
3. Wide receivers: In my mind, the guys that are a lock are DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, and Riley Cooper. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess and the last 1 or 2 guys will come down to three guys – familiar face Hank Baskett, Kelley Washington, and Chad Hall. We all know the story with Baskett, and Hall started out training camp by pulling down everything in his sight, but Washington could usurp them both by showing that he is strong enough to play in the NFL.
4. Rookies: Plenty of rookies have really made a name for themselves during the preseason, and none are more obvious than first round pick Brandon Graham and free safety Nate Allen (the Donovan McNabb pick), but how the roles of a few other guys play out will be very interesting. One guy I particularly like is tight end Clay Harbor, especially with the constant confusion surrounding Cornelius Ingram. Harbor has proven that he can catch the ball, but more importantly, he looks to be the blocking complement to breakout
star Brent Celek. Fourth-round cornerback Trevard Lindley will likely hit the field with the starters tonight, and he could continue making his case to the team.
After tonight, the countdown to the 2010 season will be officially underway. While many casual fans will choose to tune out of this contest, this matchup is just as important for the team as the three previous games. The way things shake out with Vick and the rookies will be particularly important for the Birds going into this season.