NFL Preseason Preview - Philadelphia (2-0) at Cleveland (2-0)
By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Though the third game of the preseason is usually the one in which NFL teams are most apt to show their hand, expect the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns to remain rather poker-faced when they get together on Friday.
The two clubs will be squaring off just 16 days before they'll be facing one another again with a lot more on the line, with the Eagles also invading Cleveland Browns Stadium for the Sept. 9 regular-season opener. As a result, both figure to be very vanilla with the game plans and likely less inclined to have prominent players on the field for extended periods.
Philadelphia treated Monday's Week 2 matchup at New England as its primary warm-up for the real games, with the majority of the Eagles' starters working into the third quarter of their 27-17 win. That wasn't the case for Michael Vick, however, as the notoriously brittle quarterback saw action for only six plays before exiting with a rib contusion midway through the first quarter.
Vick, who was also forced into an early exit during Philadelphia's preseason lid-lifter against Pittsburgh because of a bruised throwing thumb, should be fine for the Week 1 matchup with the Browns but won't participate in Friday's tilt. With main backup Mike Kafka also on the shelf due to a broken left hand, impressive rookie Nick Foles will lead the Eagles' offense at the outset of this game.
Foles delivered a second straight strong performance after relieving Vick against the Patriots, with the 2012 third-round draft choice amassing 217 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-28 passing with one interception. He also came through with a pair of scoring throws in the Eagles' 24-23 decision over the Steelers on Aug. 9 and has registered a 118.4 quarterback rating through his first two outings, the best of any player thus far in this preseason.
The Browns received a good effort from their first-year signal-caller as well in their most recent go-around, with expected starter Brandon Weeden contributing to last week's 35-10 triumph at Green Bay by completing 12-of-20 passes for 118 yards while operating the entire first half.
Cleveland's defense did its part as well, limiting a sloppy Packers squad to 228 total yards and 10 first downs and forcing four turnovers on the night. Reserve safety David Sims had the most notable takeaway, intercepting Green Bay quarterback Graham Harrell and returning the pick 38 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter.
The Browns succeeded on that side of the ball despite the absence of several starters, with linebackers D'Qwell Jackson (shoulder), Scott Fujita (leg) and Chris Gocong (torn Achilles) and linemen Phil Taylor (torn pectoral), Ahtyba Rubin (pelvic surgery) and Frostee Rucker (knee) all not present. Nickel back Dimitri Patterson also missed the contest with a sprained right ankle.
Fujita, Taylor, Gocong and Patterson are among the Cleveland contingent expected to be held out once again this week, a group that will also include rookie running back Trent Richardson as the fifth overall pick in April's draft continues to recover from a recent knee scope.
Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (head) and tight ends Benjamin Watson (undisclosed) and Jordan Cameron (back), all of whom were inactive against the Packers, could be ready to return for Friday's test. Jackson and Rubin are possibilities as well if the coaching staff elects to give the two valued defenders the green light.
In addition to Vick and Kafka, other notable Eagles certain to sit out are defensive end Jason Babin (calf), offensive tackle Jason Peters (torn Achilles), defensive tackle Mike Patterson (brain surgery). Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who left the New England game with a shoulder injury, and linebacker Jamar Chaney (hamstring) are both questionable for Philadelphia.
Gocong, who's out for the entire 2012 season, and Patterson are one of four former Eagles on the current Cleveland defense, with veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown and end Juqua Parker also having previously played for Philadelphia. Several ties to the Eagles also exist on the sideline and in the front office, with head coach Pat Shurmur having served as Philly's quarterback coach under Andy Reid from 2002-08 and general manager Tom Heckert spending nine years with the Eagles organization before joining the Browns.
The Eagles have won the last two meetings, including a 24-14 verdict in Philadelphia last season, to take a 5-3 lead in their overall preseason series with the Browns.
08/22 10:10:17 ET