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Time Now To Build The Best 53

Posted Aug 29, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- They played four preseason games and practiced since April to reach this very point, the divide which gives the Eagles a critical 72 hours to build the very best 53-man roster possible for the 2013 season ...

It is "go" time for Howie Roseman and his personnel department and for head coach Chip Kelly as NFL rosters are pared to 75 players by 6 p.m. on Saturday and then waiver moves are considered and a practice squad is established in the 24 to 48 hours after Saturday.

The Eagles finished their preseason with a 27-20 loss to the New York Jets, a game in which the offense played poorly, particularly up front, and the defense racked up a safety, seven quarterback sacks and three takeaways, and still missed too many open-field tackles to nail down a victory.

All of the starters sat out the preseason finale as the Eagles gave the backups extended playing time and more of a sampling to use in the evaluation process.

What did we learn? Linebackers Emmanuel Acho (11 total tackles, quarterback sack and a forced fumble) and Chris McCoy (two quarterback sacks) filled up the stat sheets, Everette Brown continued to get to the quarterback (two more sacks, giving him four for the preseason) and injuries forced safety Kurt Coleman to pull cornerback duty, and he did OK in a pinch.

The offensive line struggled handling the Jets' blitz game and the Eagles were grounded offensively for the first time in the preseason. Kelly huddled with Nick Floes at quarterback and then he tried to increase the tempo. Nothing really worked as Floes managed all of 97 yards of total offense in the first half.

Matt Barkley took over in the second half and didn't have much more success, and his pass in the right flat intended for wide receiver Jeff Meal was picked off by Anthony Allen and returned 20 yards to give New York a 27-13 advantage late in the fourth quarter.

Russell Sheppard’s fumble recovery on a muffed punt and Matthew Tucker's 1-yard touchdown run one penalty and one play later wasn't enough to give the Eagles a win as the preseason ended and the focus turned to the regular season.

"It's going to be a lot of excitement and a lot of anxiety. I went through this last year and it's very nerve wracking," said Acho, who spent 2012 on Injured Reserve with Cleveland after suffering a preseason knee injury. "This time, I've just got to have faith. I'm just going to be free with it.

"I mean, I was freaking out last year. I tore my MCL (medial collateral ligament in his knee) and that was God being like, 'Now try to make the team without a ligament in your knee.' This year, I'm healthy and I feel like I played well and I will just see what happens."

Acho, like every veteran, knows that the numbers are what matters and that everything he's done is on film for all 32 teams to see. The Eagles are looking at every player in the league who might be available and every team is looking at this roster.

It's fair to expect just about anything from the Eagles in the next several days. Roseman has always been one to make moves, so he's going to be actively engaged in conversations with other teams. The Eagles have some obvious roster battles -- wide receiver, safety, offensive line, linebacker, as examples -- and they're going to do what they need to do to improve the roster.

Did anyone win a roster spot on Thursday night? A bunch, mostly on defense, helped their causes. The starters rested and the remainder of the roster fought for their Eagles lives at MetLife Stadium.

Really, the next few days are all about improving the roster and determining who the best 53 players are to represent the Eagles in 2013. There isn't a lot to be said about the preseason finale -- the schemes for both teams were extremely vanilla -- and there is only so much to take from the four-game preseason.

The Eagles lost four players to knee injuries for the season in Training Camp (wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, linebacker Jason Phillips, wide receiver Arrelious Benn and linebacker Phillip Hunt) but they emerged from the preseason games relatively unscathed. Tight end James Casey suffered a hamstring injury against the Jets and left the game and cornerbacks Curtis Marsh (hand), Brandon Hughes (hand) and Trevard Lindley (ankle) have injuries as they ride the roster bubble.

Washington is next, on Monday, September 9. We really, truly begin to learn then about these Eagles and about how ready this team is to compete in the NFC East. For the next two, three days, the focus is on the roster and 53 players plus an eight-man practice squad. The Eagles have a lot of work to do. Welcome to crunch time for Roseman and Co., one of the most hectic, challenging and potentially rewarding time for personnel departments across the NFL.

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