With the fourth and final preseason game in the books, a demonstrative 37-7 win over the visiting New York Jets, now comes the hardest part – the waiting.
At some point between now and Saturday afternoon at 4 PM EST, the Eagles will whittle the roster from the current 75 players to the 53 who will enter Week 1 on the active roster. For those players considered on the roster "bubble," these will be an anxious few hours.
"You know, the uncertainty does cause a little bit of stress, just because I might not be working here anymore," said offensive lineman Dennis Kelly, who played nearly the entire game at right guard Thursday night. "Hopefully that's not the case and hopefully I played pretty well this offseason. Hopefully the coaches think so too and I make the cut."
Kelly faced a transition this offseason as he was transitioned from tackle to guard. After not playing a snap during the regular season last year, Kelly says he was able to acclimate to the new position, especially with the amount of reps he received.
"The first game I was obviously a little nervous just because I hadn't been in a game for over a year," said Kelly. "I was afraid that I lost a step or something like that. I felt like I played pretty well. It's exciting being able to play the whole game because you do get into that rhythm. So I think it went pretty well … The more you can do the better. Playing guard as a rookie obviously helped, just because it wasn't totally new to me. But I think I picked it up and ran with it. I think I picked up a lot of the techniques pretty well."
As far as position switches go, Damaris Johnson's wasn't exactly planned. The wide receiver ended up playing running back two weeks ago when much of the Eagles backfield was on the sideline. The same unexpectedly happened again Thursday night, when Matthew Tucker and Kenjon Barner both left the game with injuries. This time, Johnson burst through with an impressive, zig-zagging 46-yard touchdown run to excite the crowd and, perhaps, make his best case for a roster spot.
"When I go in there, I'm just going out there and trying to make plays. I'm not thinking, 'Oh, I'm going in there fighting for a spot at running back.' I'm just going out there trying to help out this team in any way possible," said Johnson, who also had two catches for 19 yards and a 32-yard punt return on the night. "I've been here the last two years playing receiver. I think I went out and showed that I could make some plays playing receivers and I think they kind of just threw me in there this week and a couple weeks ago and I think I handled the job pretty well."
Johnson, though, says he won't be overcome with stress this weekend.
"It's going to be fine for me," he said. "I'm going to go home tonight, go home to my wife and my son. That's my haven right there. When I leave here, I don't really think about it, I go home, see my son, go play around with him. Whatever happens, that happens, but I feel comfortable with what I did this camp, last year's camp."
The same goes, apparently, for wide receiver Arrelious Benn, who opened the night's scoring with a 43-yard touchdown catch.
"It's not stressful at all," said Benn. "Like I've said before, you can't control what they're thinking. I don't care anything about that. I just go out there, have fun. It's a blessing to be here, especially the things that I've been through throughout my career, being injured and stuff. I'm just playing football. I'm just happy playing football. Whatever decision they're going to make, they're going to make. I'm just happy to be here, happy to be a great teammate."
Perhaps, ,then, the most stress falls on the shoulders of head coach Chip Kelly and the personnel department as they're tasked with cutting the roster down.
"It's everybody's goal to play in this league," Kelly said after Thursday night's game. "We told them on the first day and I said it before, you've got 90 guys and you've got to cut to 53. There is math that goes on there. If you don't make our team, we hope you make another team. Sometimes you sit there and you see some guys and it's difficult. You wish, I'll tell you one thing, I wish I could buy stock in people, because there are some people – Alejandro Villanueva, I'd but stock in him as a human being. He's going to be successful. He told me when I talked about the reasons we were cutting him loose. He said, 'Coach, successful people have to make difficult decisions. You don't have to explain anything to me.'
"You get close to these guys. We're with them for a heavy chunk of time."
Indeed, it seems that after a full offseason in Kelly's program, the players in the Eagles locker room have a healthy understanding of the potentially gut-wrenching process that awaits.
"Every guy in here busts their butt," said Benn. "It sucks that the business is the way that it is, but it is what it is. All you can do is just go out and play football, have fun with it and then just be thankful for the opportunity.
"What is enough? Enough is never enough. Football is every day, every year, you have to prove yourself. I don't look at it like that. I just go out there and make plays. I know what kind of player I am when I'm healthy, and just have fun with football."
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The Eagles close out the preseason with a fourth and final game against the New York Jets ...