Philadelphia Eagles News

Big Night For Players Hoping To Make It Here

The schemes are not important for tonight's preseason finale against the Jets. Marty Mornhinweg and Sean McDermott are going to keep it simple, silly, and let the players play and move around and show what they have in their final audition to impress and make this 53-man roster. Yeah, maybe Michael Vick will be on the field at the same time that Kevin Kolb is a quarterback, and we'll all be on the edge of our seats if it happens, but what the coaches really want to see are all the pieces as individuals.

With that said, here is a list of players who need to step up in a big way tonight ...

TONY CURTIS, TEThe Eagles need to find out about this guy. He comes in with a scouting report as a good in-line blocking and as a reliable target in the red zone. Curtis had an ankle sprain when he signed with the Eagles and is probably gutting it out a bit to get on the field before his ankle is fully healed. Good for him. Now, it would be good for the Eagles to see Curtis help move the line of scrimmage

The real question, as the Eagles sort through their internal candidates to back up starter Brent Celek, is what are they looking for in that position? Do they want a player who is a pass-catching threat and who can get down the field? Or do they want a strong blocker to help in the running game? And how much will the Eagles even use two tight ends with all of the weapons they have in the receiver positions?

Big night for Curtis. Expect him to see a lot of action.

JOE MAYS, LBHe is going to make the team, and so tonight really represents just another chance to play and gain some experience and some comfort in the defense. Mays has had his ups and downs in the preseason. The Eagles are high on him as a prospect. They like his toughness and the scrappy nature of his play, and now they have to find out more. Can he cover in space? How has he improved against play-action passing? Mays is going to play a lot this year, whether or not he starts. He needs to continue to get comfortable in the defense and let his natural talents take over.

BRANDON GIBSON, WRWide receiver is a position that has been talked about throughout the preseason. The sixth-round draft pick is one of a number of rookies to step up and make a name for himself. Gibson is expected to play a lot, along with fellow draft pick Jeremy Maclin. You know the Eagles want to throw the football with Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick at quarterback. You know the coaches want to give the young receivers a game to get into a pattern against a set of defensive backs.

Gibson has done everything right to this point. He has caught just about everything thrown his way. He runs well and he uses his body nicely. This is a numbers situation at wide receiver. Gibson wants to continue to make it difficult on the coaching staff when it comes to the final cuts.

DAN KLECKO, DTKlecko gives you everything he has on every snap. Is everything he has enough? The Eagles went with three defensive tackles last year when Klecko moved to fullback and they could do the same this season if they think Kleckco is not the right fit. He certainly has played well in the preseason, giving a good push and great effort as the second-team defense has been outstanding for the most part.

QUINTIN DEMPS, FS

It is an open competition at free safety with Demps and another player to watch, Macho Harris, battling it out. The Eagles certainly have the option of moving Quintin Mikell to free safety and using Sean Jones at strong safety, but they want Demps and Harris to continue to battle it out and provide good athletic ability and play-making skills to the position.

Demps needs a big game against the Jets. He has to make an impact. During interviews this week, Demps sounded frustrated that the starting job had not been decided, but that's what happens when an impressive rookie comes along. It's called competition, and it is what every coach wants at every position.

The Jets have a balanced offense and they have some experience across the board there. They will take some deep shots. Demps and Harris and the entire secondary must be ready.

JASON BABIN, DEWell, it comes down to the final preseason game for the defensive end position. Babin was a surprising addition in training camp and he has played his way into roster consideration. So has Bryan Smith, the second-year end who has been terrific since recovering from his concussion. Can the Eagles keep both players and move one of their surplus ends to tackle?

No way Andy Reid lets go of an end that is young and promising. So both Babin and Smith are going to play a lot tonight and the coaches will have more game film from which to evaluate. Should be worth watching as both edge rushers look to tee off and win jobs.

ELDRA BUCKLEY, RBIn the battle for the third halfback job, Buckley has established himself as a strong possibility to win a roster job. He play as a running back, as a receiver out of the backfield and as a special-teams player has given Buckley the edge over Lorenzo Booker. So with a chance to play tonight behind LeSean McCoy -- I expect Buckley to play half the game -- the position could very well be decided and wrapped up based on these 60 minutes of action.

Booker has played well, too, but Buckley's performances on special teams are clearly making a difference.

KING DUNLAP, OTI'm not sure how it will all work out along the offensive line in terms of numbers and players, but I know that Dunlap is in the mix for a backup job at left tackle. Is playing left tackle only enough to win him a job on the 53-man roster? Or is Dunlap more of a long-range prospect, a practice-squad player for now?

Let's look at numbers here. The Eagles have seven linemen etched in stone, as I see it: Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Jamaal Jackson, Stacy Andrews, Shawn Andrews, Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles. They have Winston Justice, who has started every preseason game at right tackle. They have Mike McGlynn, who seems like he can fill in at any position along the line. That's a valuable player to have, if he can help the team on the field.

Who else stays? How many linemen do they keep? Dunlap is going to have a game's worth of film to show the coaching staff tonight.

MARCUS MAILEI, FBStrong, good body and a decent pass catcher, Mailei won't beat out Leonard Weaver for a job as the starting fullback. But what if he goes out and lights it up tonight? What then? He and Kyle Eckel have golden opportunities in this game to play for jobs on this team, and on any of the 31 other NFL rosters.

I could go up and down the roster and talk about every player and every position. The fifth cornerback spot is huge. An injury tonight can throw a lot of things out of whack. Of course, quarterbacks Kolb and Vick are the headline stories.

Game four of the preseason offers its usual last-night roster battles, and then some. Should be fun. Let's root for the Eagles to put on a good performance to end the preseason the right way.

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