The Eagles finished 2-2 in the preseason after falling to the Jets 16-10 on Thursday night. This marked the reserves' final opportunity to prove to the coaching staff that they deserve to make the 53-man roster. Head coach Doug Pederson will have the next few days to evaluate his players' performances from the start of spring workouts all through the preseason.
"The message here in the locker room tonight was I appreciate all their efforts throughout camp and really through OTAs. There were some great efforts. The effort tonight was there," Pederson said. "I wanted them to make decisions tough on us and these battles that you guys are talking about we wanted to make it tough. Make these decisions hard. These next two days will be very important obviously for our football team and really the lives of some young men that we're eventually going to have to let go."
The final decision at running back will be the one to keep an eye on heading into the weekend. When asked about whether he would consider keeping five running backs Pederson said it's not out of the question.
"It's always difficult when you're getting down to the last couple players on your roster and you know these guys battled hard tonight," he said. "They put some good tape out there, so again it's a matter of just going back and under calmer situations in the office looking at the tape. Going back and having conversations with position coaches and personnel staff and making the final decision but these guys did a lot of nice things. So again the evaluation here in the next couple hours and next couple days will be very important."
Glassboro, New Jersey native Corey Clement may have made a strong enough push to fill in as one of the backup running backs on the roster. The undrafted rookie did not return to the game after a solid output in the first quarter. Fourth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey received the majority of reps in the backfield and made frequent appearances at receiver and returner throughout the night.
"It goes back to how we used him in the spring. One thing about Donnel and this is one thing I've noticed when we first got him, he's a smart football player. He gets it. He understands. He can pick up the offense," Pederson said. "That's why I'm comfortable with him in multiple roles. Again, it's going to be one of those decisions where we take in a lot of information. We've got to go back and watch all his touches from OTAs through this game tonight and do that with a lot of positions and make that final judgment."
The reps at quarterback were divided between backups Matt McGloin and Dane Evans with Nick Foles held out of the Thursday's contest for cautionary reasons. However, his absence hasn't swayed Pederson's confidence as Foles remains listed as Carson Wentz's backup for the season opener.
"I'm not concerned. Based on what I'm getting from the medical staff and based on Nick's feeling and the way he worked out again today. Really through this week in practice a little bit and kind of building himself up. There's no concern," Pederson said.
Cornerback Dexter McDougle made his Eagles debut against his former team after just having two days of practice since coming over in Sunday's trade. The coaching staff is hoping the learning curve shouldn't be too steep for the fourth-year corner once he experiences more reps in the defense.
"We have to keep doing our research on him and keep studying his knowing of the tape this week, but in the past for him you know he'll continue to grow in our system," Pederson said. "Grow with Schwartz's defense and as we move forward as we begin to really game plan and finalize some things. I think that things will kind of simplify just a little bit and feel comfortable with where he's at and where he's going."
The current receiver group is a significant upgrade from last year's unit. Marcus Johnson likely solidified his spot on the team as the fifth receiver, after recording his second touchdown of the preseason on a 41-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the fourth quarter. Bryce Treggs is also in the mix, as Pederson acknowledged his performance after the game.
"Bryce bounced back and had a pretty good game. Greg Ward I think is another one that's been working and it was good really to get them all some touches you know some opportunities in this game. But I really think that Bryce did a nice job again with the game and with the game plan really," Pederson said.
The coaching staff will certainly have a lot to review before Saturday's roster cutdown.
"We've got some time in front of us," the head coach said. "This was some good film for these guys, some good opportunities and we have to take a look at the whole thing."