Well, this is it. The preseason comes to a close tonight at Lincoln Financial Field when the Eagles welcome in the *Hard Knock *New York Jets for a game that will be short on stars but long on intriguing storylines and position battles. With the roster whittling-down on the horizon (53-man rosters must be decided by 6 PM on Saturday), a number of positions will be under the microscope as veterans and rookies alike try to make their cases for inclusion. Here, in no particular order, are some of the things to look for in tonight's preseason finale.
1. The SecondaryThe Eagles could keep up to 10 players in the secondary. Macho Harris was moved back to free safety, largely because of the play of the first five cornerbacks - Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hanson, Trevard Lindley and Dimitri Patterson. Newcomer Jorrick Calvin will have a chance to impress as a return man, and he'll have to excel in order to make a serious bid for the 53-man roster. At safety, the big question is can the team keep five safeties? It's not that farfetched when you consider the special teams' value that Quintin Demps, Harris and Kurt Coleman could bring. Still, each of the three will need to showcase their skills Thursday night.
2. LinebackerIn what is perhaps the biggest unknown position group in terms of depth, all eight of the linebackers currently on the roster have a chance to make the team. After the starting threesome of Ernie Sims, Stewart Bradley and Akeem Jordan, rookie fourth-round pick Keenan Clayton appears likely for the roster considering his performance in the preseason games so far.
Omar Gaither could be the top backup at all three linebacker positions and, after a season in which so much went wrong injury-wise at the position, seems to be a valuable commodity. Moise Fokou, a starter last year as a seventh-round rookie, has bounced between defensive end and strongside linebacker this summer, but he's said he thinks that's just a good showcase for his versatility. This year's seventh-round linebacker, Jamar Chaney, has looked solid on special teams and his play at middle linebacker allowed the team to feel comfortable enough to deal Joe Mays to the Denver Broncos. Andy Reid has said that he likes to save a couple roster spots for players who will excel on special teams, and Tracy White is coming off a season in which he led the team in special teams production points, so he can't be discounted. In all, the talent at linebacker could facilitate keeping up to seven players, though six is the norm.
3. Fifth ReceiverChronicled earlier in the week by Chris McPherson, the battle for the fifth wide reciever slot between Hank Baskett and Kelley Washington appears as close as roster battles can get. Both players are reliable receivers and special teams' studs, so it's ostensibly a head-to-head matchup. However, there's no guarantee that the Eagles won't keep both players. After all, they opened the season with seven wide receivers on the roster last year.
4. Michael Vick's Chance To StartVick will be making his first start at quarterback -- he technically started last year against the San Francisco 49ers, but only because he was on the field for a wildcat snap to begin the game -- since 2006 on Thursday night, and coach Reid said Vick will play for the entire first half. Now, Kevin Kolb is the man under center for the Eagles in 2010 and beyond, but it's always important to have a backup you can trust if the starting quarterback has to miss any time. Just look at how important it was last season to have Kolb as the backup to Donovan McNabb. So Vick, who has looked both explosive and turnover-prone this preseason, will need to show he can be trustworthy if he's to prove worthy of a recent article naming him the top backup quarterback in the league.
5. Who Will Step Up?For a number of players, this will be their final chance to make an impression on not only the Eagles, but the rest of the league. Everyone who gets on the field tonight will have a chance to put something on film that will catch the eye of a personnel guy somewhere, if not in Philadelphia. It's make-it-or-break-it time for players on the bubble like Cornelius Ingram, Chad Hall, Fenuki Tupou, Dallas Reynolds, Jordan Norwood, Eric Moncur, Jeff Owens and Boo Robinson, among many others. How will they respond?
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 4:55 p.m., September 2