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And Now, The Race To 53 Is Real

It's been, largely, a very fine preseason, capped off by a 28-10 win over the Jets on Thursday night at a lively Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles showed a lot of depth to earn their first 4-0 preseason since the Ray Rhodes days of 1995. They avoided major injuries, a huge plus going into a rugged regular season. They established some hierarchy on the depth chart, one infused with youth and speed and talent, lots of it.

I'm taking the whole preseason and training camp collectively, and I've come up with these snippets. Reid and Roseman know a whole lot more than I do, of course, and they make the calls. I just play GM here …

  • Trent Edwards did everything possible to earn a roster spot ahead of Mike Kafka. This is no knock on Kafka, who has been sidelined with a broken left hand for three weeks. He's a talented quarterback with a very bright mind and I think he can play in this league. It's just that right here, right now, Edwards has accomplished far more in the four preseason games. His capping moment was his performance in the second quarter on Thursday night when he led the Eagles to a pair of touchdown drives of 84 yards and 54 yards and he capped off the latter with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Mardy Gilyard. Edwards had some serious pressure, but he handled it well, he got a bunch of young players in the right position and he put the ball in the end zone. The scoring pass to Gilyard was a throw-it-up-and-hope kind of pass, but those passes sometimes work. Besides, Edwards had two pass rushers in his gut on the play and he hung in the pocket and made it work.

I don't know who Reid and Roseman are going to keep. I'm sure they like Kafka for his smarts and his size and his youth and his promise. Kafka's injury kept him off the field. In the meantime, Edwards went out and won a job by playing tremendous football in trying circumstances.

  • It would not shock me if Bryce Brown challenges Dion Lewis for the No. 2 running back job. Brown has some power, but more than that he has speed to the outside and he can make tacklers miss. Brown is a hard-working guy on special teams, too. Brown has a chance to be a special running back, and he needs to continue to progress in his rookie campaign.
  • Speaking of running back, if there is any possible way to also keep Chris Polk, do it. He's another good, young running back who would benefit greatly from working with Ted Williams. The Eagles, suddenly, have a good-sized backfield with LeSean McCoy, Brown and, potentially, Polk.
  • A valuable young offensive lineman in the big picture here is rookie Dennis Kelly, the fifth-round draft pick from Purdue. He started at right tackle in Cleveland and again on Thursday night and played well both times. Then he moved to left tackle against the Jets and did well. He's huge, he's got great feet and a long reach. With Demetress Bell struggling, and he is, Kelly may well be an option – an early option – as a reserve at both tackle positions. Howard Mudd has some work to do with the offensive line. He has some pieces, for sure, but he has some work to do to get this group ready for the fierce pass rushes coming early in the season.
  • A huge concern from this perspective is the depth at safety. Who backs up Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman? Jaiquawn Jarrett stepped up against the Jets and was more active and fluid than he has been all summer. He looked like he just decided to go out and let 'er rip. Oshiomogho Atogwe suffered a hamstring injury, so how can the Eagles count on him after he has suffered so many injuries this summer? I'm sure Roseman and Reid are keeping their eyes on the waiver wire and maybe even are engaging in trade talks. Is there a reliable safety out there?
  • What are the Eagles going to do with all of these defensive linemen? Can the Eagles keep 11 on the 53-man roster? Will they use a player or two as trade bait? Is it simply a matter of whittling down the roster and letting some good players go? Whatever, the Eagles are loaded along the defensive line. It's a wonderful luxury to enjoy, but the Eagles also have assets and they can use them to improve the 53-man roster.
  • Mardy Gilyard stated his case loudly with a fabulous night against the Jets – he had 4 catches for 63 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown – and Chad Hall continued to catch everything thrown his way, so how many receivers do the Eagles keep? Figure on five from this standpoint – Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, plus Jason Avant, Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson. Is there any more room here?
  • Alex Henery has missed field goals in three straight games, with both Mat McBriar and Chas Henry holding. All three misses have been to the left. After the game, Reid said the punting decision was not yet official, even though reports indicated that the Eagles had cut McBriar, who was not at Thursday's game. Henry averaged 33 yards on four punts against the Jets.
  • Keenan Clayton showed up again and played well, so the competition between Clayton and Casey Matthews is one to watch. It would appear, on paper, that one of them will make the team and one won't. A sprained ankle has kept Matthews sidelined the last couple of weeks.
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