Thursday's visit with the Cleveland Browns will be the Eagles' third preseason game, which is generally the most important every year because it's the game in which the starters play the most.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz turned that significance up a notch Monday, indicating that performances in Cleveland will go a long way toward deciding his two big remaining position battles – nickel corner and weakside linebacker.
"We're still a work in progress," Schwartz said about the nickel, where Sidney Jones and De'Vante Bausby competed for much of training camp, with fourth-round draft pick Avonte Maddox making a late bid. "Nothing has been settled there. Each guy brings a little different skill set, a little bit different strengths and weaknesses to the position. I think the competition is good. This game will go a long way to deciding who is going to be out there in the opener."
At weakside linebacker, the Eagles signed Corey Nelson, a free agent from Denver, with the implication that he would replace the released Mychal Kendricks (who presumably will face the Eagles on Thursday). But, Nelson hasn't done much. Both 2017 fifth-round pick Nate Gerry and special-teams' star Kamu Grugier-Hill seem to be ahead of him on the depth chart. None of the, looked sharp last week against New England.
"Yeah, I put that same as the nickel," Schwartz said. "We got different guys with different skill sets, different strengths. This week, maybe next [the preseason finale against the Jets], but this week will go a long way to determine how we line up."
The weakside role isn't a large one, given that the Eagles play nickel or dime much of the time, in which Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks are the only linebackers. Schwartz said his linebacking calculations are complicated by Bradham's league-imposed suspension for the season opener.
"It's not just trying to figure out one [spot], but trying to figure out your best combinations," Schwartz said. "We have a lot of different personnel packages. What skill set fits best in short yardage, what skill set fits best in third down, what one fits best in all these different things.
"I think that will continue. Again, it's not just one spot. We're going to have two spots there."
Eagles coach Doug Pederson invited 31 Eagles alumni to practice. Jason Peters, the oldest Eagle at 36, kept interrupting his elaborate stretching routine to greet former teammates, including Jamaal Jackson and Trent Cole.