Eagles, Patriots square off tonightBy HOWARD ULMAN
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | August 15,2014AP PHOTO
Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, right, scrambles after a handoff from quarterback Nick Foles during a training camp scrimmage of New England Patriots and Eagles in Foxborough, Mass., this week.FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Still wearing their uniforms, Tom Brady and LeSean McCoy smiled and chatted with each other after their teams’ joint practice.
Two of the busiest and best players at their positions won’t have such relaxing moments when they’re playing games.
Friday night’s preseason matchup between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will be the only meeting between the teams this season, unless they meet in a rematch of the 2005 Super Bowl.
After the Patriots made it to the AFC championship game last season and the Eagles reached the playoffs under new coach Chip Kelly for the first time in three years, that prospect isn’t so improbable.
“Last year we did so good to win our division, Chip’s first year,” McCoy said. “With this type of team, the sky’s the limit.”
Especially with that type of running back.
McCoy led the NFL with 1,607 yards rushing and 314 attempts. His 5.12 yards per carry were second among runners with more than 10 rushes per game.
But the Eagles also have Nick Foles, who led the NFL in passer rating, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, back after missing all last season with a torn ACL, and new running back Darren Sproles.
Maclin may sit out Friday night’s game after sustaining a hamstring injury Wednesday that kept him from practicing Thursday. He didn’t think it was serious.
“It’s hard to really focus on one player because we have so many different options,” McCoy said.
Brady also has plenty, especially if tight end Rob Gronkowski can stay healthy after being limited to seven games by back, forearm and knee injuries. Julian Edelman had a career-high 105 receptions and running back Stevan Ridley is a threat if he can solve his fumbling issues.
It all starts with Brady, who is likely to play Friday night after missing the Patriots’ 23-6 loss to the Washington Redskins in the opener.
He had the fifth-most pass attempts and fourth-most completions last season. It was one of the poorest of his 14 full seasons, but the absence of Gronkowski and a deep receiving threat limited his options.
The addition of wide receiver Brandon LaFell as a free agent gives him another.
“He’s added a lot,” Brady said. “He does a great job out there getting open. He just keeps making more plays. It’s really fun for a quarterback to see guys out there really working hard to make the improvements and then really do it, and, hopefully, it continues to carry over.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick is hoping for substantial improvement after the loss to Washington in which the Patriots were shut out until the final two minutes. Of course, most of his starters didn’t play.
“We played competitively, but we just didn’t overall play very well or play with the kind of awareness and concentration and execution that we need to,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job of just getting things right out on the football field and taking some of the drill work and applying it (in) real game conditions and situations.”
Those drills continued this week with two days of joint practices with the Eagles followed by walkthroughs by both teams Thursday.
Foles had an outstanding practice Tuesday after struggling in a 34-28 loss to the Chicago Bears last Friday night. His two interceptions matched his total for all of last season when he succeeded Michael Vick as the starter and played 13 games.
“I looked at it, made my corrections and I move forward,” Foles said.
His play in his third NFL season will be critical to the Eagles’ success. Just as Brady’s will be for the Patriots.
The joint practices presented the quarterbacks with greater challenges than they had when facing their own defensive players in most of training camp.
“It’s fun getting a chance to play against other players, see how other teams work,” McCoy said. “They’re veterans. They have some of the older guys. Brady’s 37 and Nick is a baby compared to that, so you learn from those type of things.”
But McCoy and Brady didn’t share any vital information when they spoke after Wednesday’s workout.
“It’s ‘good luck,’ stuff like that,” McCoy said. “We’re competing, man.”
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