Lawlor: Roster puzzle starting to come together

The Eagles went into the preseason game against the Jaguars hoping to get a better handle on the backup quarterback situation. They wanted to see a good first half from Cody Kessler and a good second half from Clayton Thorson.

That's not exactly how things played out.

Kessler suffered a concussion on the opening series and Thorson had to play the rest of the game. Instead of answers, the Eagles got more questions. That led them to making a move on Saturday, signing veteran quarterback Josh McCown to a one-year deal.

Quarterback isn't a position where you can cross your fingers and hope. You need players you can trust. McCown has a ton of NFL experience. Head coach Doug Pederson joked that McCown is almost as old as him.

McCown gives the Eagles stability at quarterback. Nate Sudfeld doesn't have to rush back from his injury. There isn't pressure on Thorson to play like a seasoned veteran.

McCown can come off the bench in a game, start a game here or there, or take over for an extended period. Just two seasons ago, McCown started 13 games for the Jets.

This move doesn't change the way the team thinks about Sudfeld. They remain very high on him. This doesn't change the way the team looks at Thorson. They see him as a player worth developing. Signing McCown is all about the here and now. He can step in and play right away. Put simply, the Eagles are a better team now.

Thorson responded well to adversity on Thursday night. He was thrown into the fire and easily could have panicked. That didn't happen. Thorson played much better than he did in the preseason opener. He was much more accurate. He made better decisions. Thorson mixed in short throws and downfield shots. He finished 16-of-26 for 175 yards. He threw an impressive touchdown.

The talent he showed in that game is what made the Eagles want to draft him. They saw a player with good mobility and a live arm. Thorson can throw on the move and make plays when he needed. He needs coaching and time to develop, but the raw talent is there.

Rookie running back Miles Sanders showed the world what he can do. There has been a real buzz about him coming out of Training Camp. You saw that talent in Jacksonville. Sanders showed good vision and the ability to make quick cuts. He had good burst and ran hard. Sanders broke tackles rather than going down on first contact. I think he's going to be a big boost to the offense.

Sanders wasn't the only runner to shine. Josh Adams had a catch-and-run for 19 yards. He looked smooth on that play. Boston Scott ran for 43 yards on seven carries. He was tough and fast. Donnel Pumphrey had the best game of his career, running for 29 yards. He looked good.

Greg Ward was the one wide receiver who stood out. He got behind a defender on fourth down. Thorson underthrew the ball a bit, but got it close enough. Ward went up and snatched it up high. He came down and out-ran a couple of defensive backs for a 38-yard touchdown. That's the kind of big play you want to see from the guys trying to make the team. Ward helped his cause for a roster spot.

The offensive line had a strong showing, helping the team run for 139 yards and only giving up one sack. They controlled the line of scrimmage.

Rookie Andre Dillard hand another good game at left tackle. Halapoulivaati Vaitai played right guard with Jordan Mailata at right tackle. They had some dominant double-team blocks in the run game. Vaitai has been impressive in his move to guard. Mailata shows tremendous potential, but continues to be a work in progress.

The Eagles' defensive line was fantastic. Brandon Graham played and just dominated. Jacksonville tried a variety of measures, but had no answers for Graham. Vinny Curry started at right end and was also disruptive.

Things didn't get any better for the Jaguars when the Eagles' backups came into the game. Daeshon Hall spent so much time in the backfield, he should be paying rent. He beat the right tackle, the left tackle, and any tight ends they tried to block him with. Hall had two sacks, a tackle for loss, and a forced fumble. He also drew a holding call.

It can be dangerous to make too much out of anything that happens in the preseason. The schemes are vanilla. Teams don't do much preparation for opponents. You're playing against second and third stringers most of the time.

I try to focus on traits and skills rather than just results. Hall has ideal length for a pass rusher. He is 6-5 and has 35-inch arms. He has shown a good burst off the ball. He has really worked on his dip, so that he can stay under the pads of the blocker and get by him. The low man wins in the NFL.

Hall also mixes in power moves. He'll extend one of those long arms right into the chest of the offensive tackle. Hall then uses his strength to drive the tackle backward. Hall used inside moves effectively a couple of times in Jacksonville. He looks like a young player who is finally coming into his own. He is only 24 years old.

Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller did their part to harass Jags quarterbacks. Miller had a sack and a couple of hits. Sweat got pressure on multiple plays. The Jaguars' offensive line was overwhelmed all night long.

I thought Nathan Gerry settled down and played better this week. He was out of control on some plays in the opener, but seemed more comfortable and fluid in this game. L.J. Fort once again had a good showing.

Corners Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones, and Rasul Douglas played well. Of course, it helped that the Eagles' front was overwhelming the Jaguars. Malcolm Jenkins played a bit in the first half and stuffed a couple of runs. He looked ready for the regular season. Safety Deiondre' Hall made some solid tackles, both in the box and out in space.

The one constant at this time of the year is change. That can be players coming and going from the roster. That can be players moving up and down the depth chart. Nothing is set in stone. That's what makes August so fun and yet challenging to follow at the same time.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Eagles Message Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. You can also find his work at IgglesBlitz.com where he is the site's editor.

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