With one preseason game to go, and with one week ahead to dot the I's and cross the T's on the roster, the Eagles have plenty of work to do. They have to find out about some young players vying to make the roster and they have to get some positions sorted out and, yeah, they have to keep working, working, working and ironing out the many wrinkles throughout. So let's take a look at the team's to-do list for the week to come ...
ROSTER CUTS ARE COMINGThe Eagles have to be down to 75 players on Tuesday and those cuts could very well come before. The final preseason game is on Thursday and it wouldn't seem so difficult to get down to the mandatory number. The Eagles are heavy at a few positions, including tight end (Brent Celek, Matt Schobel, Rob Myers, Eugene Bright and Tony Curtis). It should be noted that Bright made some huge plays in the win over Jacksonville and is showing really good progress. Is it enough to win a job? Maybe not, but Bright is a prospect who has developed a great deal in the preseason.
The team has three fullbacks in Leonard Weaver, Kyle Eckel and Marcus Mailei. Weaver won't play against the Jets, but do the Eagles need two fullbacks in that game?
Really, the cuts are to make sure the Eagles comply with the rules and that they line up with an on-field team that is able to compete against the Jets. Some of the players cut in this wave could be back on the practice squad in a couple of weeks.
IMPROVING THE OFFENSIVE LINE
Shawn Andrews could get on the practice field this weekend and that would give him two weeks to prepare for Carolina. Keep your fingers crossed. Andrews at his best gives the Eagles a great chance of winning the battle on the edge. Without Andrews, it is Winston Justice's job against Julius Peppers in Week 1. So, clearly, it is important that Andrews takes advantage of these two weeks.
Stacy Andrews emerged from his first live action in good shape. He played well and is ready for the regular season. Jason Peters also came through a three-quarter effort and is ready for the regular season.
Who starts against Carolina? Peters at left tackle, Nick Cole at left guard, Jamaal Jackson at center, Stacy Andrews at right guard and either Justice or Shawn Andrews at right tackle. Who starts against the Jets? Well, King Dunlap at left tackle, Max Jean-Gilles at right guard, Mike McGlynn at center and then we'll see how the Eagles arrange things with cuts and some depth-chart juggling this week.
The line must be better than it's been through three preseason games. This is very important week of practice for the guys up front.
SHORING UP THE DEFENSE
A couple of big plays hurt the Eagles against Jacksonville. Otherwise, the defense was very solid with good pressure up front and excellent play in the secondary from Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs leading the way. Where does the defense stand right now? It's hard to say. The tackles are playing great football. Trent Cole and Victor Abiamiri and Juqua Parker have gotten good, consistent pressure.
But the defense is working on its identity. Joe Mays is coming along in the middle, but Moises Fokou took some reps there on Thursday night and Matt Wilhelm played very well in the second half. Quintin Demps and Macho Harris split reps at free safety until Harris left the game with an ankle injury.
This is a work in progress, like every phase of every team in the NFL. There are a lot of good things going on here, and there are also areas that need to be improved upon. So even thought the starters aren't playing against the Jets, the Eagles will work on the defense in a big way this week.
MONITORING VICK AND HIS CONTRIBUTION
The Eagles are right where they want to be with Vick. The plan going in against the Jaguars was to have Vick play between 5-10 plays and see where he was. Turns out that Vick's time on the field went well, and the Eagles moved the ball OK, but the drives bogged down on foolish turnovers and a lack of execution in scoring position.
There are many steps in the offensive process concerning Vick. The Eagles have to discuss how the process went in every phase, including the impact on Donovan McNabb and the offense's flow, and they need to find out what the next steps are. Vick is very pleased with his place here. He knows he is here to help the Eagles win and to get back into the game and re-establish himself. Andy Reid knows that Vick is here to do his part, whatever that may be.
But there is also the question of when Vick can play in the regular season and how much time the Eagles devote to his role in, for example the game plan for Carolina.
Vick looks like he is in great shape and is coming along well in the offense. The offense needs to go along well with him, and that is an immediate next step in the big-picture process.
EVALUATING THE COMPETITION
Where are there good battles for roster spots? Many places, including the third halfback spot between Eldra Buckley and Lorenzo Booker. Buckley has played well in his time in the preseason, as has Booker. Buckley seems to have the upper hand at this point, and both are likely to see a lot of time against the Jets.
There are also battles on the offensive line, at defensive tackle (has Dan Klecko played well enough to secure a spot?), at defensive end -- no question Bryan Smith is on the rise after an outstanding game against the Jags -- and at cornerback where Dimitri Patterson heads a group of players looking for the fifth spot.
REHABBING THE INJURED PLAYERSAnd away from the field, there is something extremely important going on. The Eagles have players who now have their eyes on Carolina. Linebacker Omar Gaither and fullback Leonard Weaver have knee injuries that have to be right for September 13. Tracy White has a rib injury that kept him out of the Jacksonville game. Todd Herremans had surgery on his stress fracture and is out for the early games of the season.
And Shawn Andrews is a daily rehab job until he shows he can get on the field and stay there. Andrews is one of the many important stories of a week that is so vitally important to the end of the Eagles' preseason, and the start of the games that mean everything.