• Quarterback Carson Wentz wants the offense to look "sharp." That's the term he kept coming back to earlier this week when discussing the game.
"We've kind of been all over the place offensively in the first two preseason games, and now we've had the chance to actually game plan for these guys," Wentz said following joint practice with the Dolphins. "The plan is to just go out and execute and be sharp."
He and the first team are expected to be on the field for about a half. That will give them time to sync up after some uneven play during their limited snaps in the first two preseason games. The offensive line -- missing left tackle Jason Peters last week and guard Brandon Brooks in the Aug. 10 opener against the Green Bay Packers -- has been leaky, and the Eagles have failed to establish any rhythm in the ground game. The first unit scored a touchdown in its cameo against Green Bay but had three points last week against the Buffalo Bills, and that field goal was set up by a Mychal Kendricks interception deep in Buffalo territory.
Wentz pointed to third-down efficiency as one area in need of improvement. The Eagles were 2-for-12 on third down against Buffalo.
Wentz got his first taste of game action with receiver Alshon Jeffery last week. There were a couple hiccups to start, but they hooked up for a pair of receptions on their fourth and final series. The chemistry seemed to be improved during the joint practices with Miami. Thursday will be their last chance to build it up in a live setting before the Sept. 10 season opener at the Washington Redskins.
• Rookie defensive end Derek Barnett got some snaps with the first-team defense this week and could get in the mix Thursday night. His star is on the rise. The first-round pick out of Tennessee has three sacks and three tackles for loss through two preseason games. Projected starter Vinny Curry, meanwhile, has not yet shown up on the stat sheet. Defensive line coach Chris Wilson cautioned against reading into preseason numbers and said it's too early to talk about Barnett as a potential starter, but defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz seems bullish on Barnett.
"He's certainly playing well, and the greatest reward is the opportunity to do more," said Schwartz, noting that the official title of "starter" isn't terribly important in his system since the Eagles rotate so many D-line players in. "And we're really, really pleased with where he is right now and also where he's going. Yeah, we'll let it play out. We've still got a little bit of time, but he's certainly put himself in that conversation."
Thursday is not an insignificant moment for Barnett and those who are competing against him for playing time.
• There has been plenty of speculation this week surrounding running back LeGarrette Blount. Coach Doug Pederson pushed back against the notion Blount was on the roster bubble, saying he was going to be a "big part" of the offense. The 30-year-old veteran could calm some nerves with a strong performance against the Dolphins. He has 17 yards on nine carries to this point in the preseason and hasn't looked particularly explosive this summer. The regular season is what counts, but no one would complain if he kicked it up a gear Thursday.
Wendell Smallwood is a name to watch in the backfield competition. He has been dealing with a hamstring injury and has had some availability issues during his short time in the pros, but the second-year back out of West Virginia has looked powerful and quick during training camp when healthy and is in position to eat up some snaps, particularly if Blount is not producing at a good clip. Smallwood is set to make his preseason debut against Miami.
• Keep an eye on wide receivers Shelton Gibson, Greg Ward and Bryce Treggs as they fight for a spot on the roster. ... Donnel Pumphrey could use a strong showing to secure the fourth running-back slot, and the same could be said for fellow rookie Corey Clement. ... Two DEs are trying to make a push for the 53-man roster: Alex McCalister and Steven Means.