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A Preseason Finale With Real Intrigue

Posted Aug 31, 2017

The preseason comes to a close against the New York Jets, a game that is fascinating in so many ways. Tune in? How can you not? Pay attention? Of course. You’re committed to this football team. As the Eagles prepare for the finale, here are the subplots to the main plot – and that is getting down to 53 players by 4 p.m. on Saturday ...

The preseason comes to a close against the New York Jets, a game that is fascinating in so many ways. Tune in? How can you not? Pay attention? Of course. You’re committed to this football team. As the Eagles prepare for the finale, here are the subplots to the main plot – and that is getting down to 53 players by 4 p.m. on Saturday.

RUNNING BACK PICTURE

We’re going to see a lot of Donnel Pumphrey as a running back and return man in this game, and Corey Clement will get touches and Byron Marshall will play a lot and then on Saturday the Eagles will announce how they feel about the running back position.

LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, and Wendell Smallwood are in. Clement has been impressive all spring and summer. Does he make it? Will the Eagles keep Clement and another back? Pumphrey needs a big game against New York’s deep reserves.

HOW DOES IT SHAKE OUT AT CORNERBACK?

This game is going to feature a lot of cornerback Dexter McDougle, acquired in a trade on Sunday from the Jets. He’s quick and he’s an athlete, and McDougle has to show the Eagles a lot of somethin’ somethin’ to make this roster as a nickel cornerback who can also play outside.

The Eagles acquired McDougle for a reason. They want to see what he’s got. In a division filled with smaller, quicker slot receivers, the Eagles don’t necessarily have a great matchup. Maybe Patrick Robinson is that guy, but he’s still relatively new to the nickel game. Maybe McDougle has a shot. Maybe Malcolm Jenkins has a role in the nickel at cornerback once again.

Watch McDougle. A strong game could very well earn him a roster spot.

THE NUMBERS GAME WITH THE LINEBACKERS

Not a ton to say here, but who is the backup middle linebacker? The Eagles have actually used Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks in practice personnel groupings in the nickel with Jordan Hicks sidelined, so that’s something the team will consider in the regular season. Najee Goode, Joe Walker, and Don Cherry are the current candidates at the moment to back up Hicks.

So the Eagles are continuing to keep their eyes open.

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WIDE RECEIVER AND THE NAMES TO WATCH

How many receivers will the Eagles keep? Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, and Mack Hollins are going to make the team. Marcus Johnson has stated his case loud and clear, but the Eagles probably want to see more in the preseason finale.

Bryce Treggs is pushing. Greg Ward will play a lot. Do the Eagles keep five or six receivers? That’s really the question here.

AND ALL THE SIGNIFICANT, AND CRAZY, REST

In case you missed it, the Eagles had a crazy day on Wednesday. They extended the contract of defensive end Steven Means, and congratulations to him. If there is a better fifth defensive end in the league, do tell who it is. The Eagles also released cornerback Ron Brooks, who couldn’t stay on the field for a consistent period of time during his tenure here. He played well for the first part of last season and then ruptured a quad muscle. Brooks came back early in Training Camp and then was on and off and, ultimately, out. The Eagles also released cornerback Mitchell White on Wednesday.

And then there was the flurry of signings of players who are absolutely going to play against the Jets. Remember Jake Metz? He's the former Philadelphia Soul defensive end who played in the final preseason game last year after helping the Soul win the Arena League title. This year, Metz played in all three preseason games with Buffalo and was released. He was claimed on Wednesday by the Eagles.

So will linebackers Carlos Fields and Christian Tago, who arrived at the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday and had a crash course on the defense, and, well, they’re playing in the preseason finale.

The Eagles are taking very few chances in this game. You may see Hollins in coverage on special teams so the Eagles can get a sense of what he can do, so keep your fingers crossed. And there are legitimate roster battles, as noted above.

But …

The regular season is a week from Sunday. It’s time to get excited. But we can wait another day or two to go totally crazy, right?

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