First and foremost, every single young man who lined up in an Eagles uniform from the time the off-season conditioning program to this point needs to be congratulated. Everyone worked hard. Everyone had a great attitude. And each and every one of these players had the opportunity to realize a dream and make a 53-man roster in the NFL. Now, though, is the time to get down to business, and the next two days are going to be the most difficult of the year for NFL executives.
It is time now to pare down the rosters and say goodbye to some very talented and hopeful football players, and to say hello to the beginning of the 2010 regular season. The Eagles ended their preseason with a 21-17 loss to the Hard Knock Jets and then went into the night knowing that, by and large, they had accomplished what they wanted to accomplish since late July.
Who won a job in the preseason finale? Well, I'm sure anybody did. Kurt Coleman returned two fumbles for touchdowns and enjoyed a memorable evening, but he was already penciled in as a reserve safety and special teams player. Riley Cooper snatched a 27-yard pass on the team's first drive that led to a David Akers field goal, but you know Cooper was already safely within the 53-man roster.
Kelley Washington caught a pair of passes for 18 yards and downed a couple of Sav Rocca punts, but what does it mean that Washington played and Hank Baskett didn't play? If there was a competition, wouldn't both have seen a lot of action?
On defense, newly-acquired Pennel Egboh looked pretty good coming off the edge and could be someone the Eagles want to keep on the practice squad as a developmental defensive end. Second-year man Moise Fokou was a force as a linebacker and a defensive end and made a claim to earn a roster spot, as did Jamar Chaney. And the kid the Eagles traded for, cornerback/return man Jorrick Calvin, looked like he had a little something-something as a return man.
But the really big winner on Thursday night, and throughout the summer? The team's injury list, which was as short as any team's in the league. The Eagles avoided any major injuries throughout camp and throughout the preseason schedule and that is a huge, huge positive. It is, really, the biggest positive a team can hope to have in preseason games.
As for the game, well, the defense continued to take the football away. Twice Coleman came up with the bouncing ball as Jets running backs simply coughed it up and then Coleman did his thing and found the end zone. J.J. Arrington opened the game with a 40-yard kickoff return and Michael Vick and the offense went right to work. Vick threw a dart to Cooper for 27 yards, ran twice for 26 yards and the offense stalled as Akers opened the scoring with a 29-yard field goal.
For the most part, though, that was all the offense mustered against a blitzing, scheming Jets defense. It wasn't a particularly pretty game. This is how preseason games go. And in this preseason finale, as Mike Kafka tried to replicate the magic of a week earlier and went down in a cascade of New York blitzes, it was impossible not to look ahead.
There is important work to do between now and Saturday at 6 p.m., and then all sights are set on the Green Bay Packers and the September 12 opener at Lincoln Financial Field.
Thanks for a great preseason. Let the season begin!