It isn't a throwaway game by any means. It is a game that is going to determine one, maybe even two or three, roster spots. With so little time to evaluate the players, the Eagles have to be right on as they decide on whom to keep on the 53-man roster. That decision must be made by Saturday at 6 p.m. Time is precious, then.
The anticipation is great for tonight's game. It's going to be intense as the team's backups in training camp and through three preseason games get their chances against the Jets. Here are some of my thoughts -- pertaining to this game and otherwise -- as we wait for kickoff ...
- Strange move that might mean nothing in the big picture, but strange, nontheless, when the Eagles released cornerback Jorrick Calvin and re-signed cornerback Jamar Wall. This is unusual timing, to say the least. Calvin was a longshot to make the team, but why make the change on the day of a preseason game? Then again, why would I be surprised about anything in this preseason? It's been so much fun and so unpredictable. More to come, I'm sure. Howie Roseman is a man who makes moves.
- The Eagles certainly can point to free agency as a time when they really improved the roster. Most of the players signed are going to have a chance to make huge impacts here. But a couple still haven't made their mark, and this game could be a do-or-die for the roster chances of tight end Donald Lee and wide receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins. Lee has run with the third team at tight end for much of the time he has been here and Higgins has been a deep reserve at a crowded position, and Higgins has not made an impact in the return game.
- I am very much looking forward to seeing the Eagles' offense tonight. Vince Young is much improved and he is going to see an aggressive Jets defensive scheme. And I will watch rookie running back Dion Lewis all day long. That kid has really gained my attention. He has great quickness and moves, and he brings it in traffic. I hope Lewis gets a bunch of carries. I'd like to see him get in the open field a few times.
- Let's take a long look at defensive end Phillip Hunt tonight. He has played his way into the conversation as a smaller-sized end who has an excellent burst off the edge. Can he hold up that burst in a game-full of snaps, or will his lack of size prove to be too much to overcome? Hunt is in the mix for sure for a roster spot.
- Greg Lloyd hasn't distinguished himself in the short period of time he has been healthy this summer, so this game is his chance. He will play middle linebacker against a power running game, to Lloyd is going to get a chance to get a bit more comfortable coming downhill against the run.
- Nate Allen is going to see some time tonight at safety to continue his rehab from his patellar tendon injury of a year ago. He returns to the scene of the crime after suffering the injury last December in the comeback win against the Giants. Allen remains relentlessly upbeat and confident in his recovery. He is going to be a very, very fine player for the Eagles, but it is just so difficult to come back to 100 percent after a major injury.
- Speaking of major injuries, it's my thinking that defensive end Brandon Graham will spend the first six weeks of the season on PUP. If that's the case, Graham is going to be champing at the bit when the Eagles line up for Game 7. He could provide a great boost to the defense for the second half of the season with his energy and speed off the edge. Jim Washburn loved Graham coming out of college. It's going to be exciting to see those two working together.
- It is easy to respect Danny Watkins, who asked to play in this game. He wants more reps. He knows how much work he has ahead to get to the level he wants to reach in his rookie season and in his career. He's going to be a good one, a staple along this offensive line for many seasons.
- Do the Eagles come out throwing the football or do they hand it off to Lewis and Graig Cooper and even Eldra Buckley, who could see time as a halfback and a fullback?
- How many of the players the Eagles release on Saturday will find homes elsewhere in the league? My over/under is three players, and one or two of those players will start at some point during this season.
- Finally, there is no substantial word on trades or pending roster moves or signings. We're keeping an eye on all of it, of course. This is going to be an exciting 48 hours ahead.