Preview: Jaguars vs. Eagles 8/13

For Eagles fans, the start of the NFL season is finally upon us.

Now we can finally wash the stain that has been planted in our minds from the “debacle in Dallas” that occurred last January.

Here’s a few things to keep your eye on while watching tonight’s game:

Quarterback Kevin Kolb makes his debut tonight as the Eagles' franchise quarterback. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

Obviously the aspect of the game that Eagles fans will be watching the closest is the quarterback play and in particular Kevin Kolb. We’ve since moved on from Donovan McNabb and with that went

away with the consistency we had with him. Some may argue that the only thing consistent about McNabb’s game was his inconsistency, but let’s face it, more times than not we knew what we were getting with McNabb-which was both the good and the bad.

From what we’ve seen in a small sample of Kolb, we know he can make all the throws and is extremely accurate. Kolb will most likely only play a few series’ tonight so not many dramatic conclusions will come from this game. One thing to keep an eye on is how he reacts to pressure in his face. One good thing about McNabb’s game is he was a master of eluding pressure and being able to get out of the pocket and make plays through the air that way. Kolb isn’t blessed with McNabb’s athletic ability so it will be important for him to feel the blitz, react to the pressure quickly and make good decisions. If he can do that, and limit his turnovers then the Eagles will be a better team for it.

*Also keep an eye on the rookies, in particular defensive end Brandon Graham and safety Nate Allen. Both should see significant time tonight. Safety was a major problem last year as the Eagles never did find a replacement for Brian Dawkins. Certainly no one is expecting Allen to be Dawkins, but he is listed as the starter and if he can be adequate, limit his mental mistakes and get better as the season goes on then he will help to fill the void left by Dawkins.

*As for Graham, he’s not listed as a starter-yet. From all reports he has an incredibly high motor and his understanding of the position is far beyond his years. Watch for him tonight to see if he can consistently get pressure on the quarterback as well as be stout against the run. If all goes to plan Graham should be starting by the first few games and will be expected to be a major contributor to the Birds’ defense this year.

Arguably the biggest question so far this year for the Eagles, and justifiably so, is the offensive line. The line melted down last year in the playoffs so it’s hard to know what we can expect from the unit. Starters Todd Herremans and Jamaal Jackson will sit out this game due to injury so Mike McGlynn and Max Jean-Gilles will start in their place. Jean-Gilles has filled in for Herremans before and Herremans should be back for the season opener, but the real thing to take note of is the play of McGlynn. McGlynn is in his fourth year out of Pitt and has never seen the field. This is an opportunity for him to show the coaches he can play center in this league and be relied on to take the place of Jackson until he returns from injury, which should be sometime during the first month of the regular season.

*While the starters will only play at the most into the first quarter take not of the young guys and how they play, especially guys like: Riley Cooper, Trevard Lindley, Keenan Clayton, Trevor Laws, Cornelius Ingram, Clay Harbor, Mike Kafka,┬áDaniel Te’o-Nesheim and Kurt Coleman to name a few.

*Take note of new guys like Ernie Sims and Darryl Tapp.

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Three questions in Happy Valley

Questions surround this year’s version of the Nittany Lions more so than in year’s past.

Here’s a breakdown of the three burning questions for Penn State going into this years college football season:

Who will step up and win the quarterback job?

Head coach Joe Paterno looks on as Kevin Newsome throws a pass in summer practice. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

This is the first year I can remember where there is a true quarterback competition taking place under Joe Paterno. The two main candidates to win the job are sophomore Kevin Newsome and redshirt sophomore Matt McGloin. Newsome was a highly recruited high school player out of the Virginia Beach area and served as the backup to Daryll Clark last season while McGloin came to Penn State two years ago as a preferred walk-on from Scranton, PA and eventually was put on scholarship before last season.

Newsome is much better suited as an athlete than a quarterback with his legs being as viable of a weapon as his arm. He looks to be more comfortable scrambling out of the pocket and being able to manage the play when it breaks down. McGloin is the more traditional quarterback as his athleticism won’t wow anyone, but he is savvy nature and understanding of the playbook may make him the safer choice, but will his skills translate to running offensive coordinator Jay Paterno’s Spread HD offense?

*Also in the running are two highly touted incoming freshmen Paul Jones and Robert Bolden. Jones looked surprisingly poised for a true freshman in Penn State’s annual Blue and White game, however early word from summer camp is that Bolden has been very impressive and has even taken reps with the first team offense.

The real question here is will Joe Paterno have the patience to trust a freshman with running the offense?

Will the Nittany Lions be able to replace their linebacking corps?

We’ll see how well Penn State lives up to it’s moniker Linebacker-U because the Nittany Lions have the daunting task of replacing all three of their starting linebackers last season who were all taken in April’s NFL draft.

To open the season the linebacking positions should go as follows:

SLB: Nate Stupar

MLB: Chris Colsanti

WLB: Bani Gbadyu

*Stupar and Gbadyu should be solid and from all reports Colsanti has made strides after being pretty much a non-factor in his first three years. Expect competition at middle linebacker from junior Mike Yancich who is fully healthy and up to around 235 pounds.

*Competition at both outside spots will come from sophomores Mike Mauti who is fully recovered from tearing his ACL during last year’s training camp and Gerald Hodges who is a physical specimen. It will be tough to keep these guys off the field so expect to see a rotation develop at all three of the linebacker spots.

Will the schedule be too much to overcome?

For as much flack as the Nittany Lions have gotten for their scheduling in the past, this years schedule should more than make up for it. Three games immediately jump out when looking at the schedule:

9/11 @ #1 Alabama

10/2 @ #10 Iowa

11/13 @ #2 Ohio State

As you can see State’s three most difficult games come on the road. Factor in it will be breaking in a young, inexperienced quarterback and it will be difficult to be able to win any of those three games you’d think.

So you’re already behind the 8-ball so to speak and take into consideration other tough conference games against Michigan, Michigan State and an improved Northwestern team, this season should tell a lot about the young players and the future of the Nittany Lions.

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