The finale is nearly here, and beyond the obvious implications of Sunday night's game against Washington at Lincoln Financial Field as the Eagles are hopeful to deny the Football Team a win and, thus, a chance to celebrate the NFC East title in South Philadelphia, there are important developmental players to watch for the coaching staff and the personnel department.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts is the obvious one, making his fourth consecutive start. He's 1-2 and the offense is looking for more consistent production with Hurts on the field – the Eagles have scored 54 first-half points with Hurts as the starter and only 13 in the three second halves. So, there's that.
With an injury list that is, to be generous, extensive, the Eagles will be looking at some younger players on Sunday night. Safety K'Von Wallace is going to play a ton with Rodney McLeod on Injured Reserve and with Jalen Mills on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Maybe linebacker Joe Bachie, signed off the Saints practice squad only a few weeks ago and a veteran of 18 snaps in this defense, will play a bunch with Duke Riley on IR and with the linebacker group looking for a few healthy bodies.
Here are three other players to watch as the Eagles wrap up the 2020 season against Washington.
TRAVIS FULGHAM, WR
That four-game stretch when Travis Fulgham had 27 receptions for 378 yards and three touchdowns – leading the NFL in receiving in that period of time – seems forever ago. Fulgham has had eight catches in the six games since.
"I just need to stay the course, keep getting better every day, keep working on my craft, and whenever the team calls my number, I need to answer. I just need to make the play for them," Fulgham said earlier in the week when asked that question. "In regards to the drop-off, there is only one ball to go around, so I'm not worried about that, but when my time comes again, I'll be ready. Of course it's disappointing. You want to do everything you can to help your team and I wish I was able to do that."
Fulgham really didn't have an answer for why his playing time and his targets have significantly decreased.
"Some guys got healthy and that's just kind of the way it goes. If they need me out there, I'll be out there. It's kind of just how the business goes," he said.
Fulgham defended his practice habits and his in-game performance, keeping his focus on what he can control.
"I think they're pretty good. For me, I don't change," he said. "I stay myself at all times. I'm always working as hard as I can, staying after practice trying to get better."
Maybe Fulgham will be a primary target against Washington. We shall see. After the season, he will take a look back and review his 2020 performance and try to take steps forward.
"I'll go back to the drawing board and try and get better, figure out what stuff didn't work and what did," he said.
MICHAEL JACQUET, CB
After a rough outing last Sunday at Dallas, cornerback Michael Jacquet will likely start against Washington opposite Darius Slay. And Jacquet won't be thinking about the Cowboys game, not even a little bit. Instead, he will grow from it.
"I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about the things I need to work on. It's not a bad thing. It's only a bad loss if you learn nothing from the experience, so that's how I took it," he said. "I took it as a learning experience, a way for me to better my craft for the following years and following games that are coming up."
What are some of the things Jacquet learned after Dallas repeatedly targeted him – seven completions for 182 yards on nine targets – in the passing game last Sunday?
"More film study, for sure. Have to get in film, learn the different route trees and different schemes that the opposing teams are putting together and what they are trying to attack," he said. "Just football IQ in general, things that they are showing you, have to learn how to read those things instead of just trying to play out every play as a different play, you should read your keys better. That's what I learned from watching that film and then watching their previous game and I was like, 'OK, they're doing the same things and I just wasn't realizing it.'"
Regardless, Jacquet has not lost an ounce of faith in his game.
"I'm a confident person, either way it goes. I wasn't really dwelling on it. It happens to the best," he said. "Everyone has a bad game or it doesn't go how they want."
BRETT TOTH, OT
The last time Brett Toth started a football game, he was playing for Army, against Navy, at Lincoln Financial Field. It was 2017 and it was snowing at The Linc. He's set to start on Sunday night against Washington's very good front four as the Eagles are down to their fourth options at both tackle positions.
For Toth, who joined the NFL with the Eagles in 2019 and then was claimed off waivers that September by Arizona, only to return to Philadelphia this October after he was waived/injured by the Cardinals, the entire season has been about being ready. Toth played 17 reps against Baltimore, one against the Giants in the teams' first meeting, and then 10 last week finishing up the Dallas game after Jordan Mailata was injured. Toth played right tackle as Matt Pryor moved to left tackle late last Sunday.
"The entire process has been the same as it's been all year – the next-guy-up mentality. Same thing – take every rep serious, every day is an opportunity to get better, and going into the game is the same, exact thing," he said. "I was excited to come back and get with the offensive line here and get with some great guys to learn behind, whether it be (Brandon) Brooks, Lane (Johnson), (Jason) Kelce, get back in the room with Stout (Jeff Stoutland, offensive line coach/run game coordinator). You understand what the standard is here as well. The biggest thing is they hold you accountable for every decision you make."
Toth has made his greatest gains building his body. He weighed 275 pounds when he joined the Eagles after his Army commitment. He's now 315. He has taken practice reps at both guard and tackle and both on the left side and the right side of the offensive line. And now Toth, who is described by Stoutland, per Toth's words, as a "moldable guy" who is "intense" and "crazy," is going to start his first NFL game.
"I've had to be ready all season. You've seen the kind of season it's been," he said. "Everyone is getting kind of banged up and Stout always talks about how it's the next man up and you've got to be ready for your time to come. I've gotten a few reps, whether it be against the Ravens or last week as well. I always do like the special teams reps as well because you get that feel of getting on the field and taking contact and making that hit and knowing that you belong out there. I'm ready for the opportunity. It's going to be exciting."
For Toth, in addition to building his strength, the idea of pass blocking after an Army career of nearly exclusive run blocking is the biggest challenge.
"It's learning a whole new thing. It's a whole different style," he said. "That's the most important part. You can't take any days offs whether it be one-on-ones, during games, team reps. You got to take everything serious, and luckily we have a bunch of guys here that go 100 percent in practice as well. You know how crucial every rep is. You take everything serious. You go to meetings and you got to be a harsh critic of yourself and the next day you go out there it's all over again."