How the players have performed at training camp has given the coaching staff pause to set up the depth chart and assign duties for the Pittsburgh game. The pecking order is fairly established and if history holds true, the starters will play for maybe a quarter, the second team will play in quarters two and three and the third-team players will get at least the fourth quarter.
The idea is to get as many reps as possible for the players so the Eagles can accurately evaluate them and keep the strongest 53 players to open the season on September 9.
Several players have caught my eye in the last week. Here are the ones who are making plays and rising up the ladder ...
MARVIN McNUTT, wide receiver
He has turned Riley Cooper's injury into a chance to shine. Marvin McNutt has been outstanding in the last week, catching everything thrown his way, using his big body to create separation and simply playing far faster than he did in the spring and early summer. McNutt does not resemble the plodding receiver from the post-draft practices.
It isn't going to be easy to make the roster at wide receiver. The Eagles have a very talented group competing for four or five roster spots. McNutt has stated his case emphatically in the last several practices. A big game against Pittsburgh would really help his cause.
CEDRIC THORNTON, defensive tackle
Stronger and more proficient in his technique, Cedric Thornton has been a force in practice. He has the kind of get-off that Jim Washburn demands and is really playing a lot stronger. Thornton has a lot of traffic in front of him to make the roster -- figure that Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson, Antonio Dixon, Fletcher Cox and Derek Landri are in the mix at a talented position -- but he's coming on strong.
The Eagles love talented defensive linemen. A strong showing against Pittsburgh will give Thornton a nice boost.
TREVARD LINDLEY, cornerback
The Eagles are seeing Trevard Lindley come around in his second stint with the team. He has shown up in press coverage, using his long arms and strengths at the line of scrimmage. Lindley looks more comfortable in the scheme and appears more athletic, rather than stiff as he was the first time he was an Eagle.
Will Lindley make the team? Again, a good showing against the Steelers is a good thing. Lindley has size and he can run, and those kinds of players are tough to find at cornerback. The Eagles are likely to keep as many as five corners. Can Lindley work his way into the picture?
KURT COLEMAN, safety
Kurt Coleman is a starter and isn't in danger of missing the roster, but he has been great in this training camp. Coleman has been around the football a ton, has really worked in well within the Juan Castillo scheme and seems to be playing a lot faster. Coleman has covered well and taken a leading role in the defense.
Too often we take for granted the starters on a team in training camp. Coleman has stepped up his game in his third season. He looks great out there.
EMIL IGWENAGU, fullback
The non-drafted player from the University of Massachusetts has moved into the backup spot at fullback and is also getting reps at tight end. Emil Igwenagu has great strength, good hands and is a physical player. He's got a rock-solid body and loves to bring it to the defender.
I say Igwenagu is going to eventually push Stanley Havili for the starting fullback job. Havili is in the lead and he's playing well, but don't overlook Igwenagu and what he brings to the offense.
KEENAN CLAYTON, linebacker
It is now or never for former fourth-round draft pick Keenan Clayton, who seems to have developed the mental part of the game to complement the enormous athletic ability he has. Clayton seems to be picking up on his keys and playing with improved instincts.
Of course, Clayton has shown flashes before. He must put it all together, of course, and make a real push for a roster spot.
DAMARIS JOHNSON, wide receiver
The young receiver has been outstanding since the first practices after he signed as a non-drafted rookie. Damaris Johnson is quick in and out of his routes and he has very fine hands. Johnson doesn't have top-end speed, but he makes up for it with great quicks and a good feel as a "natural" receiver.
Johnson is also listed first on the depth chart at punt returner, so we'll see on Thursday night just how ready for the prime time he is.
BRYCE BROWN/CHRIS POLK, running backs
We have talked about them throughout training camp and the rookies continue to shine. Bryce Brown is a 4.3-40 glider with good size and tremendous talent. Chris Polk is a physical bruiser who has been super productive in college and in the camp.
Both have shown so far that they have enough ability to make it at this level. The next challenge is to do it in a preseason game against a physical defense that goes after the football. Both Brown and Polk figure to get a lot of touches. Let's see them bring it on Thursday night.
BRETT BRACKETT, tight end
Brett Brackett has done a solid job catching passes, getting open, running routes and stretching the defense as a vertical tight end. He needs to block better and gain strength and play physical football.
Clay Harbor has asserted himself in this camp and he is clearly ahead of Brackett and Chase Ford and will team very well with Brent Celek in two tight-end sets. Brackett is giving the coaches something to think about, though. He's playing good football.