Another solid game, was able to lead the team in tackles for the third straight week! Appreciate it God! — Emmanuel Acho (@thEMANacho) August 30, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Emmanuel Acho entered Thursday night's preseason finale against the New York Jets knowing he needed one final push, one final impactful performance to cement his case to make the Eagles' 53-man roster following a strong Training Camp. After leading the team in tackles with 11 (seven solo) and adding a sack and forced fumble (in which he targeted and hit the football with his helmet), it is safe to say that Acho did everything he could to earn a spot.
"You try to leave it all out there. (It's) your fourth preseason game, I think I got better with each one," Acho said. "Statistically, I've gotten better each one and so it's just a matter of leaving it all out on the field and hopefully the coaches, general manager and scouts take note of it."
Statistically, Acho did indeed get better with each game. In fact, he ended the preseason tied for second in the NFL in total tackles with 22 and solo tackles with 17. The sack and forced fumble against the Jets were the cherry on top. Earlier in the week, Acho said his goal for the game was to get at least 10 tackles and lead the team, both of which he accomplished.
"I wanted to get 12 to 15 (tackles)," Acho said. "I came up short, but I'm definitely satisfied with the overall performance with the sack, forced fumble. The team needs big plays. That's what they're looking for out of the defense. Those are the big plays that need to be had."
Acho shared post-game what happened on both the sack and forced fumble.
"Sack, great call by the coach," Acho said. "I ran in there. I was unblocked, then it was just a matter of putting a lick that the quarterback would feel for the rest of the game, tried to body-slam him well. Forced fumble, the team needed a big play and thank God I was able to make it."
Acho said his goal for the game was to "leave a lasting impression," "prove I belong in the NFL" and "prove I can start in this league." If nothing else, he proved he can make plays when given the opportunity, and that he can fill the playmaker role on defense. For an Eagles defense that had only registered one takeaway in three preseason games entering the finale against the Jets, Acho's forced fumble stood out as a major positive.
"(Acho's a) smart player, a really, really smart player," head coach Chip Kelly said. "He listens to the coaching very well. He understands the game very, very well. He seems to always be around the ball. For some reason, if he's fooled once, it doesn't really seem like it happens again. If he sees the play a second time, he can diagnose it really well."
"On the inside of my notebook I wrote a bunch of goals, not only for Training Camp, but for the season, and one of them is never make the same mistake twice," Acho said. "And so if I pride myself on being the most intelligent player on the defense and eventually on the team, I have to act that way. I can't get fooled twice. I can't be out of position."
The Eagles consummated the trade with the Cleveland Browns for Acho back in April. After sitting out all of 2012 while rehabbing from a torn meniscus, Acho saw the trade as a fresh start and embraced the chance to reward another organization for believing in him.
"When I was traded here, I was kind of adopted, in the sense of they chose me," Acho said. "That was my mindset – not that the Browns were trading me, just that the Eagles wanted me enough to trade for me. There were six other rookie linebackers they could've traded for (on the Browns), and it was me."
Acho has been a pleasant surprise who slowly, but surely, made himself a standout player over the course of Training Camp, culminating in a dominant performance against the Jets. It was the perfect exclamation point, the perfect way for him to show coaches that he belongs on an NFL roster.
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider