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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 26: Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles Introduce Chip Kelly Getty Images

Should we be skeptical or optimistic about the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles?

Both feelings seem appropriate. Not buying into the Eagles? We can’t blame you. No team has disappointed more in the last two seasons. The much-hyped 2011 squad finished .500, while last year’s club managed a mere four wins in a playoffs-or-bust year for coach Andy Reid.

With Reid gone, Chip Kelly inherits a roster that’s lately looked better on paper than on the field. But let’s look on the bright side. Can you imagine Kelly’s fast-paced offense with the Eagles’ skill-position players?

And let’s consider the Eagles’ division. The NFC East doesn’t  have one team that stands above the rest. Every one of the clubs seems capable of playing that role in a given week, but in recent years, this division has been contested all the way until the end.

Of course, if the Eagles are to be competitive down the stretch, they must improve on their surprisingly poor recent form.

Strengths.

The Eagles’ depth chart has some top-end skill players at running back (LeSean McCoy) and wide receiver (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin). Their offensive line could be very good if left tackle Jason Peters stays healthy and rookie right tackle Lane Johnson proves a quick study. The Eagles will be strong inside, with guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans an above-average tandem. This could be a dynamite running team; McCoy and Bryce Brown are a nice 1-2 punch, and Kelly oversaw impressive rushing attacks at Oregon.

Even in areas where the Eagles don’t have clarity, they at least have some viable options. Case-in-point: Michael Vick or Nick Foles each have the potential to be serviceable at quarterback — and perhaps more than that. Also, the Eagles should be able to get a solid pass rush from outside linebackers Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham, even with Cole and Graham transitioning from defensive end.

Weaknesses.

The Eagles have committed a combined 75 turnovers in the last two seasons. One positive: Eagles quarterbacks threw 10 fewer interceptions in 2012. Prudent passing and better ball security could give the Eagles — who outgained opponents last season despite finishing 4-12 — a bit of a lift.

The Eagles also need to get better in the red zone; they scored touchdowns on just 44 percent of their trips inside the opposition 20 a season ago, fifth-worst in the NFL.

From a personnel standpoint, quarterback is the greatest concern for Philadelphia, which enters training camp without a clear-cut starter. That’s never a particularly comforting feeling. Also, the Eagles’ pass defense could be vulnerable even after investing in the secondary in free agency.

Changes.

The Eagles’ changes aren’t just confined to offense. Their defense is different, too, with a new coordinator (Bill Davis) and a new base scheme (the 3-4). The scheme change necessitated a couple front seven additions in free agency, as the Eagles signed the ex-Texan Barwin and former 49ers nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga. However, the Eagles are trying to run the 3-4 primarily with the personnel brought in for various versions of the 4-3 the club employed under Reid and his defensive coordinators.

The Eagles are starting over in the secondary. Cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are gone after disappointing two-season stints, replaced by Cary Williams (ex-Baltimore) and Bradley Fletcher (ex-St. Louis). At safety, the Eagles signed Patrick Chung from the Patriots and Kenny Phillips from the Giants to push incumbents Nate Allen and Colt Anderson. Considering how lackluster the Eagles were against the pass in 2012, wiping the slate clean would be perfectly understandable, but with so many new faces comes the prospect of everyone needing time to get on the same page on the back end of the defense.

On offense, there’s great anticipation about what Kelly has planned. At the very least, the Eagles are likely to play at a quicker-than-average pace. They would also figure to employ some read-option concepts, too. That said, the Eagles’ new offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, is grounded in the West Coast scheme. Philadelphia would seem to have the schematic and personnel flexibility needed to show numerous looks on offense.

Camp battles.

Vick and Foles are the primary contenders for the starting quarterback job, with rookie Matt Barkley seeming likely to hold down one of the reserve roles. Vick, 33, has just one year left on his contract, and he took a big paycut earlier in the offseason. Miscues (15 turnovers in 10 starts in 2012) are the major concern with Vick.

Foles, who’s nine years younger than Vick, got some valuable experience late last season. While Foles did show some potential in a six-game starting stint, he too had some issues with turnovers, and he faltered against a very good Cincinnati defense late in the campaign.

Other positions where there could be competition are safety, cornerback, outside linebacker and defensive end. The Eagles need stability to develop at the secondary positions.

Prospects.

Every team could use 1) a good start to the season and 2) some injury luck. Well, the Eagles really could use these things. Half of the Eagles’ road games are in the first six weeks of the season, including three straight games away from Philadelphia, with trips to the Broncos (Sept. 29), Giants (Oct. 6) and Buccaneers (Oct. 13) in Weeks Four through Six.

The Eagles open the season at defending NFC East champion Washington on Sept.9 — the first of three games in 11 days for Philadelphia. Home tilts vs. San Diego (Sept. 15) and Reid-led Kansas City (Sept. 19) are games the Eagles have to believe they can win — and they may very well need to win them with that challenging road stretch thereafter.

The Eagles do not get their bye until Week 12 — hence the need for that run of good collective health — but they do have the benefit of having their week of rest sandwiched between three home games: Washington (Nov. 7), Detroit (Dec. 1), Arizona (Dec. 8).

By then, we’ll have a good idea of how Kelly’s offense looks. If Kelly’s personnel takes to his scheme and opposing defenses are caught a little off-guard, the Eagles could be a sleeper in the NFC East. However, if the Eagles sputter early, they could be left with too much work to do down the stretch.

The other major storyline to watch, of course, is whether a quarterback emerges as a solid starter. If not, the focus turns to how the Eagles address the position in 2014.

For now, though, there’s the matter of whether Kelly can get more out of a team that’s left us wanting more the last two seasons.

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Chargers confirm Branden Oliver suffered Achilles injury

San Diego Chargers running back Branden Oliver, left, is tackled by Arizona Cardinals defensive back Matthias Farley during the second half of a preseason NFL football game, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy) AP

After Chargers running back Branden Oliver was carted off the field during Sunday’s game against the Vikings, FOX Sports reported on the telecast that Oliver had suffered an injury to his Achilles tendon.

Chargers coach Mike McCoy confirmed that injury when he met with the media after the game. Oliver is expected to miss the rest of the regular season.

“For a guy who works so hard and does everything the right way… it’s a shame,” McCoy said.

Oliver also missed the final eight games of last season with a toe injury, so it will have been a long time since he’s seen regular season action by the time the 2017 season rolls around.

Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead top the depth chart at running back for the Chargers. There’s little experienced depth behind them, which could lead the Chargers to look for help from someone who shakes loose from another roster.

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Darrel Young among 10 Bears cuts

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 20:  Darrel Young #36 of the Washington Redskins celebrates after scoring a third quarter touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField on December 20, 2014 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Fullback Darrel Young’s time with the Bears didn’t last long.

The Bears signed the veteran to their 90-man roster on August 4, but announced Sunday that he is one of the first 10 cuts from the roster ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to drop to 75 players. Young, who played 90 games for the Redskins over the past six seasons, saw action in all three of the Bears’ preseason contests.

Chicago also waived running back Senorise Perry, who played all 16 games for the team in 2014 before missing all of last season with a foot injury. He was behind Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey, Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Jordan Howard on the depth chart.

The other players waived on Sunday were wide receivers Kieren Duncan, Derek Keaton and Darrin Peterson; tight end Gannon Sinclair; offensive linemen John Kling and Martin Wallace; defensive lineman Keith Browner and defensive back Joel Ross.

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Jason Garrett on Tony Romo: We’ll take the situation day by day

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is examined on the sideline after he left the game with an injury during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear) AP

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett wasn’t ruling quarterback Tony Romo out of the regular season opener on Saturday and Sunday didn’t find him delivering a different message.

Garrett said that Romo is “going to start getting into rehab” that will include wearing a back brace to support the compression fracture in his back. That injury will reportedly keep Romo out for the next 6-10 weeks, but Garrett said that no one in the organization is setting a date for Romo’s return at this point in the process.

“Yeah, again, like with every player on our team, we’ll take the situation day by day,” Garrett said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Tony has a broken bone in his back. It’s a fracture. We’ve gotten a lot of different timetables for when he can return. We also know he’s played with a broken bone in his back before, so there is no reason for me to stand up here and put a timetable on this. I think a lot of that is people outside of this building have suggested what the timetable is. That’s not the world we live in. We live in the world of day by day, do what you can to get yourself better and we’ll update you as we go.”

Sunday is the first full day of practice for the Cowboys since Romo’s injury and Garrett said his message to the team is to “focus on doing our jobs” because adversity is an unavoidable part of the game. The Cowboys haven’t done a good job facing adversity caused by previous Romo injuries, but the hope this time is that Dak Prescott can keep the offense from falling off track without Romo.

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Jim Irsay says no surgery, 2-4 week absence for Jack Mewhort

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 07: Offensive tackle Jack Mewhort #75 of the Indianapolis Colts against the New York Jets during a preseason game at MetLife Stadium on August 7, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

During Saturday’s game against the Eagles, Colts guard Jack Mewhort left with a knee injury and early reports were that he suffered a torn ACL that would end his 2016 season before August was out.

Colts owner Jim Irsay provided a more positive update to Mewhort’s condition on Sunday afternoon, however. Per Irsay, there’s no ACL tear and Mewhort’s return should come before the end of September.

That’s positive news for a Colts offensive line that hasn’t produced much of it in recent seasons and has struggled again this offseason, including a rough time in pass protection against the Eagles that led to an earlier than planned exit for Andrew Luck. Mewhort’s absence will still force some short-term shuffling while they try to fix the overall problems up front before Luck’s next exit comes by something other than coach Chuck Pagano’s choice.

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49ers cut Erik Pears, reportedly trade for Jeremy Kerley

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 01:  Jeremy Kerley #11 of the New York Jets makes a catch for 23-yards against the Oakland Raiders during their NFL game at O.co Coliseum on November 1, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 49ers made a trade on Saturday when they sent cornerback Kenneth Acker to the Chiefs and they’ve reportedly made another one on Sunday.

According to multiple reports, the Niners have traded guard Brandon Thomas to the Lions for wide receiver Jeremy Kerley pending physicals on both sides. Kerley spent the last five years with the Jets as a slot receiver and punt returner and the 49ers saw wideout Bruce Ellington go down with a hamstring injury on Friday night.

Thomas was a third-round pick in 2014 and likely would have gone higher if not for a torn ACL suffered in a pre-draft workout with the Saints. He missed all of that season and didn’t play any snaps last season.

Thomas isn’t the only offensive lineman departing the 49ers. The team announced that veteran Erik Pears was released after starting all 16 games at right tackle last year. Trent Brown appears to have won the job this year.

Tight end Busta Anderson, a seventh-round pick in 2015, has also been dropped from the roster.

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Some fans burn Kaepernick jerseys

Kaepernickjersey AP

From time to time, fans become sufficiently upset with a player to burn his jersey. Usually, it happens when the player exercises his right to leave his team via free agency.

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick exercised a different right on Friday night, and predictably some fans are reacting by setting his No. 7 jersey aflame.

The Daily Mail has a collection of the reactions from fans who have exercised their right to express disagreement with Kaepernick’s right to express disagreement with policies of the United States that he believes discriminate against African-Americans and people of color. Both sides have that right; the First Amendment allows Kaepernick to sit for the national anthem and to criticize the nation, and it allows others to criticize him for it, or to react however they want as long as their reaction violates no laws.

That’s the fundamental reality of a free society. If Kaepernick, knowing the business risk of taking a stand by sitting during the anthem, chooses to not participate — and chooses to explain that he refuses to show pride in the flag of a nation that oppresses a segment of his people, he’s doing nothing wrong. Others may think he’s wrong, but it’s still his right.

Beyond the right of fans to criticize him, businesses will have the right to no longer associate with him. The 49ers have been careful to say all the right things about Kaepernick, which could allow them to argue that any upcoming decision to cut or bench Kaepernick arises only from football reasons (even if it doesn’t). Still, the 49ers most likely would be violating no employment laws by declining to continue to employ Kaepernick for taking an unpopular position, and other teams would likely have the same ability to shun him.

Here’s the reality: If he’s perceived to be a good enough player, teams will find a way to make it work, regardless of how the fans may react. While Kaepernick is surely good enough to be one of the top two quarterbacks on a given NFL team, he’ll likely need to be better than good to persuade a team to embrace a player in an industry premised on persuading members of the public to part with their money and their time.

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Branden Oliver carted off with a lower leg injury

GEEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 18: Branden Oliver #43 of the San Diego Chargers runs against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 18, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Chargers 27-20. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chargers tackle Joe Barksdale apparently didn’t suffer a serious injury on Sunday. Chargers running back Branden Oliver apparently has.

Oliver was carted off late in the first half during Sunday’s game in Minnesota with a lower leg injury.

It’s unclear how he was injured or what the injury specifically is. It appeared to be a non-contact injury, prompting non-speculative speculation from the FOX broadcast booth that Oliver may have torn an Achilles tendon.

Oliver had a solid season as a rookie, but injuries limited him to eight appearances in 2015.

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Chargers tackle Joe Barksdale suffers an injury

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 27:  Joe Barksdale #72 of the San Diego Chargers pressures Brian Robison #96 of the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter at TCF Bank Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

Through most of the first half of the Chargers-Vikings game in Minnesota, no serious injuries occurred. The Chargers currently don’t know whether a serious injury has happened to tackle Joe Barksdale.

Barksdale suffered a leg injury when teammate Orlando Franklin fell into Barksdale from behind while pass blocking. He walked off the field, and he was being checked on the sideline.

A third-round pick of the Raiders in 2011, Barksdale joined the Chargers on a one-year deal in 2015. Earlier this year, he signed a new four-year contract after starting all 16 games last season.

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Steelers drop to 79 players

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dustin Vaughan (13) is sacked by Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Marcus Smith (90) during the second half of an NFL preseason football game in Pittsburgh, on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Don Wright) AP

The Steelers are among the teams that have started cutting down their roster ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to get to 75 players.

One of the moves the team announced on Sunday was that they have waived quarterback Dustin Vaughan with the injured designation. Vaughan fractured a bone in his thumb in the team’s second preseason game of the year, joining Bruce Gradkowski as an injured backup in Pittsburgh. The Steelers signed Bryn Renner last week to go with Ben Roethlisberger and Landry Jones.

The team also sent fourth-round pick Jerald Hawkins to injured reserve. The rookie tackle suffered a shoulder injury. The Steelers cut 2014 sixth-round pick Jordan Zumwalt, who has never played a regular season game for the team.

Linebacker Mike Reilly, wide receiver Issac Blakeney, wide receiver Levi Norwood, tight end Michael Cooper, defensive end Giorgio Newberry, defensive tackle Khaynin Mosley-Smith and cornerback Julian Whigman were also placed on waivers. The Steelers now have 79 players on their roster.

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Dez Bryant back to individual work

Dallas Cowboys' Dez Bryant smiles as he jogs back to the sideline after catching a pass for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) AP

It’s going to be a while before quarterback Tony Romo is able to practice for the Cowboys, but wide receiver Dez Bryant is on his way to a full return to action.

Bryant suffered a concussion in practice last week and wasn’t on the field when Romo broke a bone in his back during Thursday’s game in Seattle. Bryant probably won’t play in the fourth preseason game either, but chances are good that he’ll be in the lineup against the Giants in Week One after a Sunday return to practice.

Coach Jason Garrett said that neither Bryant nor defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford will do team drills, but that they’ll take part in individual work before “having a test of some sort later today or tomorrow morning” as part of the league’s concussion protocol.

Due to Romo’s injury, Bryant will be returning to a lineup that will likely be headed by rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott and Bryant hooked up for touchdowns in each of Dallas’ first two preseason games this season.

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Bucs cut 12, including Jacob Schum and Major Wright

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 01: Connor Barth #10 celebrates a field goal with  Jacob Schum #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on November 1, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

It looks like Bryan Anger is going to be the Buccaneers’ punter in 2016.

The Bucs announced 12 cuts from their roster on Sunday afternoon, including last year’s punter Jacob Schum. Schum had a net average of 38 yards on 56 punts for the Bucs last season, but Anger, who was picked in the third round of the 2012 draft by the Jaguars, got the nod after an offseason competition.

Veteran safety Major Wright was also let go by the Buccaneers on Sunday. Wright joined the team in 2014 and made seven starts in his first season in Tampa before starting twice in nine games for the team last year. He fell behind Chris Conte, Bradley McDougald, Keith Tandy and rookie Ryan Smith this year, leaving him on the outside looking in with the Bucs.

Linebacker Jeremiah George, who played 15 games for the team last year, and defensive tackle Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, who has played for several teams since 2012, were also among the cuts. The others dropped on Sunday are defensive tackle Travis Britz, cornerback Daniel Davie, wide receiver Andre Davis, tackle Taylor Fallin, defensive end Martin Ifedi, running back Storm Johnson, safety Kimario McFadden and tight end Tevin Westbrook.

The Bucs have two more moves to make by Tuesday’s deadline to drop to 75 players.

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Panthers first cuts include receiver Stephen Hill

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 13: Wide Receiver Stephen Hill #84 of the New York Jets catches a pass and is tackled by defensive back Ike Taylor #24 of the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 13, 2013 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers have commenced the process of cutting their roster from 90 players to 75 by collecting playbooks from 11 players.

The biggest name belongs to receiver Stephen Hill, a supposed can’t-miss size-and-speed receiving prospect who was picked in the second round by the Jets in 2012. He becomes a free agent immediately.

Hill tore an ACL last August and spent all of the year on injured reserve. He had two catches for 18 yards in three preseason appearances in 2016.

Also cut was recently-signed veteran tackle Willie Smith, who also becomes a free agent. The rest of the cuts will pass through waivers. They are: linebacker Jared Barber; receiver Avius Capers; tight end Braxton Deaver; center Dismukes Reese; defensive tackle Ray Drew; tackle David Foucault; defensive end Tom Lally; center Matt Masifilo; and receiver Miles Shuler.

All rosters must be at 75 by 4:00 p.m. ET Tuesday. Four days later, all teams must drop to 53.

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Colts sign Stevan Ridley

Stevan Ridley, Reggie Nelson AP

Veteran running back Stevan Ridley has his new team.

The Colts announced today that they have signed Ridley, who was cut by the Lions last week.

Ridley once looked like a budding star in the NFL, having gained 1,263 yards for the Patriots in 2012, his second year in the league. But since then his production has significantly declined: He gained 773 yards in 2013, 340 yards in 2014 and 90 yards in 2015. He spent just a few months with the Lions before they cut him.

In Indianapolis, Ridley joins a backfield that includes starter Frank Gore and backups Robert Turbin, Jordan Todman and Josh Ferguson.

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Was low hit on Chris Gragg “dirty”? Rex Ryan says, “I don’t know”

ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 20:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the Buffalo Bills speaks to players and coaches on the sideline during the second half against the New York Giants on August 20, 2016 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo defeats New York 21-0.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills have lost tight end Chris Gragg for the year with a torn ACL. Washington defensive back DeAngelo Hall has explained that he went low because of the rules limiting hits to the head.

“The good thing is you’re not targeting the shots to the head and all that,” Bills coach Rex Ryan told reporters on Sunday. “I think we’re getting that out of the game, which is a real positive. This was an unfortunate thing, there’s no question about it. Could’ve been avoided? Maybe, but that’s the tough thing that you’re seeing. The good thing is we are taking the hits to the head [out of the game], and I think that’s a great thing sometimes — this was an unfortunate thing. Was it dirty or whatever? I don’t know. I think you can probably tackle a guy above the waist or something but unfortunately, this game, it’s a physical game.”

Physical it is, and it’s another reason why the NFL should seriously consider reducing or eliminating the preseason. That will only happen, however, if the regular season also grows. Which will still result in 20 games being played (unless one regular-season game is traded  for two preseason games), but at least more of them will count.

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Subscribe now to the PFT Live podcast (well, not literally right now but soon)

PFTLive

Last week, PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio returned to NBCSN for a two-hour simulcast of the three-hour program. Every hour of every show is available as a podcast, too.

And you can (should) subscribe to the podcast, at iTunes or audioBoom. (It’s apparently on Google Play, too, but I’m too lazy busy to find a link.)

Last week’s shows included visits from Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, Chiefs coach Andy Reid, Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, Bengals cornerback Adam Jones, two-time Super Bowl champion Ray Lewis, and a lot more.

Subscribing means you’ll never have to go looking for any specific show, and that you’ll be able to listen to all 15 hours of content each week, whenever and wherever you want.

The next live show is coming Monday at 6:00 a.m. ET, with the final two simulcast on NBCSN. After everything that happened on Saturday, we’re gonna need a bigger show.

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