While none of the Eagles starters played in Thursday night's preseason finale against the New York Jets, many role players had a chance to prove their worth one last time prior to Saturday's 53-man roster deadline. According to head coach Chip Kelly, many players were able to do so in the Eagles' 37-7 win, but that won't make the cut process any easier on him or his coaching staff.
"It's tough to make any decision when you're cutting anybody," Kelly said after the game. "That's the one thing; they're still human beings on that side of the ball. I look at it as tomorrow's not a real good day and Saturday's not a good day. You have 22 guys that are not going to make the team.
"The one thing I think with all those guys and we were talking about it on the head set at the end of the game, there were a lot of guys that really made plays today. I think they made some decisions that we're going to have to make are going to be difficult. But ultimately we have to get to 53 on Saturday by 4 PM."
The competition for the starting placekicking job has been a hot topic around the team throughout Training Camp, and the battle was once again on display on Thursday. Cody Parkey, the recently acquired rookie out of Auburn, put his best foot forward by hitting three field goals on the night, two of which came from over 50 yards out. Alex Henery did not attempt a field goal on the night, and Kelly explained afterwards that he wasn't sure how the kicking reps would play out during the game.
"You may never get the ball over the 50 and may never have an opportunity to kick a field goal," said Kelly. "So we just let the game play itself out and just kind of talked. Both of them were ready to go. I just kept going back and forth with (special teams coordinator) Dave (Fipp) in terms of who he's going to put in the game."
Another player who took advantage of significant playing time on Thursday night was second-year quarterback Matt Barkley. Playing into the fourth quarter, Barkley completed 21 of 33 passes for 253 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Kelly praised his young quarterback after his strong performance.
"He's not a rookie anymore," Kelly said. "He's been here for a year. He had a really good offseason program for us. You know, you saw a lot of maturation with a lot of those guys that are in year two that all of a sudden the game has slowed down for him a little bit. He makes some really good decisions in terms of putting the football on people, so he's way ahead of where he was last year at this time. But I think hopefully that's expected. If someone was where they were a year ago and he had only been here since just preseason camp you'd be disappointed. But I'm happy with the direction Matt's headed in."
As Kelly heads into his second regular season with the Eagles, trimming the roster down to 53-players is the next item on the to-do list. As Kelly has said throughout Training Camp, it's not an easy process, but it's a necessary step on the road to building a championship team.
"You really don't have to do it in college," Kelly said. "You can carry 105 guys on your team. When people walk on, you don't have to make cuts. You make decisions of who is going to play in the game. But it's everybody's goal to play in this league. We told them on the first day and I said it before, you've got 90 days and you've got to cut to 53. There is math that goes on there. If you don't make our team, we hope you make another team. Sometimes you sit there and you see some guys and it's difficult."