Between now and then, a ton is going to happen. There are 76 players on the roster, a number that must be reduced to 75 by Tuesday at 4 PM and to 53 players by 4 PM on Saturday. There is a lot of tension as those on the borderline prepare for the final chance to impress on Thursday night against the Jets in the preseason finale.
The feeling here is a tremendously positive one with the progress the Eagles have made since the 2013 season ended with the playoff loss to New Orleans. There is still work to be done, growth to be made and moves to be implemented to improve the roster. Some thoughts on where the Eagles stand in this final week of the preseason ...
- I thnk back to 1999 when the Eagles drafted Donovan McNabb and the quarterback situation enjoyed a period of stability that is not common in the NFL. Even in the post-McNabb years, the Eagles have had solutions at the position. This year's 1-2-3 grouping of
Nick Foles, Mark Sanchezand Matt Barkleyis very strong. Foles is in line to have a superb season. Sanchez looks perfect for this offense and his career is clearly rejuvenated. Barkley really has played well since the up-and-down game in Chicago. He gets the start on Thursday and is going to benefit from the experience of preparing as a starter, getting the reps in this week of practice and the time he will have on Thursday night.
- There are a lot of tough decisions to be made -- linebacker, defensive line, maybe even wide receiver -- but the Eagles have a true logjam of talent at running back. Who stays? We know that
LeSean McCoyand Darren Sprolesare going to be on the roster. Chris Polkis trying to get healthy to play on Thursday night. Matthew Tuckerhas been productive in the preseason. Henry Joseycontinues to improve. Kenjon Barnerput up good numbers against Pittsburgh after practicing for all of one day following the trade that brought him here. Do the Eagles keep three backs? Do they keep four? Who could land on the practice squad? Thursday night will likely be a huge one for the running backs.
- So, not that it matters, but the Eagles are averaging 31.3 points and 418 yards per game in the preseason, averaging 6.3 yards per play. Impressive progress.
- This is an example of what I saw, and what the coaching staff saw after reviewing film: I saw
Malcolm Jenkinsmake an outstanding pass breakup on a throw intended on Thusday night for wide receiver Antonio Brown. It illustrated to me the importance of Jenkins' coverage skills. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis saw a whole lot more on that particular play. "The pass rush was very good on that play, and we moved the quarterback off the spot, so then it was kind of a backyard football play and everybody was scrambling to stay attached," said Davis. "Malcolm did a great job of staying attached to his coverage and making a play underneath, and really the thing that impressed me more than that is if he had missed that, it could have been a big play. But Bradley Fletcherwas coming over the top. One of his concepts that (Fletcher) understands now if he had been there to make that play had Malcolm not. I love the growth of the defense. I love the understanding of the players and Malcolm's a great addition in that area."
- Who wins the job as the fourth inside linebacker along with
DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricksand Najee Goode? Sounds like, at this point, Travis Long, Casey Matthews, Josh Kadduand Emmanuel Achoare the ones fighting for the roster position, if the Eagles keep four there. It's all about numbers at this point. Don't take anything for granted in terms of keeping a certain number of players at a position just because it's been done that way in the past. Jordan Matthewshas a team-high 15 receptions in three preseason games. Talk about a perfect lead-in to the regular season. I'm not saying he's going to catch five passes a game in the regular season, but having the chance to do so in the summer is fantastic prep for September. Donnie Joneshas nine punts in the preseason. Four of them have been inside the 20-yard line and he's still averaging 45.7 yards per kick.
- It's an open competition at placekicker with
Alex Heneryand Cody Parkey. I'm thinking the Eagles really want to see Parkey in a game situation on Thursday. It will be interesting to see how the kicking duties are handled in the preseason finale.
- There have been some serious injuries around the league, and certainly within the NFC East. Given all of that, and the unrest in various spots around the division, you've got to like what the Eagles have heading into the final week of the preseason. Keep in mind that the Eagles play four of their six division games in the final five weeks of the regular season, so it's not only about what the team has now, but what they will have ready to go in November and December.
- And finally, this; How good do you feel about the second-team offensive line after the performance against Pittsburgh's starters on Thursday night? It was a concern early in the summer, but the depth seems to have really improved within that group. Players like
Matt Tobin, Dennis Kellyand David Molkhave opened some eyes.