The concept of finality is, in and of itself, one of the many reasons to tune in and watch the Jets and Eagles tangle (6:35 p.m., 6abc). It's been a strong preseason for the 3-0 Eagles in a lot of ways as they've learned a lot about some of the young players on this roster and have come to understand that, yeah, this is a pretty darn good group here.
With the roster at 75 players, to be whittled to 53 by Friday at 9 p.m., there is a clear sense of urgency. Roster spots are on the line tonight. While the coaches have had months to evaluate and break down players and scenarios, last impressions do count. So here are some things to look for tonight as the Eagles play the final game in this 2012 preseason ...
QUARTERBACK: MORE FOLES AND A SHOT FOR EDWARDS
Who isn't excited to see Nick Foles start tonight? He's thrown 6 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions. He has looked poised and prepared and outstanding under center. There are going to be some valleys here, people, but everyone has been impressed with Foles to date. He has the right stuff to be outstanding, it appears.
Foles starts and plays the first quarter. Then it's Trent Edwards' time to play and, yeah, it's an extremely important audition for him. What if Edwards goes out and tears it up and plays brlliant football operating with, largely, players who won't be on the 53-man roster after 9 o'clock on Friday night? A strong performance has to have an impact on the coaching staff and on general manager Howie Roseman, who has to decide whether Edwards or Mike Kafka is the best choice for the No. 3 quarterback job.
The Eagles aren't going to hand off, hand off, hand off all night just to get this thing done. They're going to run the offense. Repetitions are very important for Foles, who starts his second straight game, his first at Lincoln Financial Field. The play calling may not be remarkably sophisticated, but the Eagles are going to throw it around some. Quite a bit, I'm sure. Let's see Foles take another step forward.
As for Edwards, he has done everything asked to win a job. The questions are these: Is his arm strength adequate after the shoulder injury? Do the Eagles prefer the developmental aspect over the he-is-what-he-is reality of the veteran Edwards? How important is it to have a veteran teaming with Foles behind Michael Vick?
We shall see. Tonight is huge for Edwards.
RUNNING BACK: CAN THE EAGLES KEEP FOUR?
The perfect scenario is that both Bryce Brown and Chris Polk make it, because both have played very well this summer. Brown and Polk are likely to get a lot of carries tonight, so the coaches will get a long, final look at both. Brown is in, no doubt. He has a blend of power and speed and size and he has a chance to be an upper-echelon back in this league. That's the feeling from the team, anyway.
Polk is a bruiser who has done a very good job between the tackles, in pass protection and in the passing game in the summer. For the first time in a long time, the Eagles have four roster-worthy halfbacks here. It's a great situation right now.
But is there is any way the Eagles can keep all four? Brown has been a standout in kick coverage and Polk has played well there, too. Maybe that's a way of justifying keeping all four and going light at another spot on the roster.
WHO ARE THE BACKUP OFFENSIVE LINEMEN?
There has been quite a bit of moving and shuffling behind the starters, and that's going to continue until Howard Mudd has what he likes. Rookie Dennis Kelly is in, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him pushing for playing time. Dallas Reynolds is likely in as a backup at guard and center. Demetress Bell makes it, although he hasn't performed up to expectations. That's eight linemen. How many do the Eagles keep?
Julian Vandervelde, Steve Vallos and D.J. Jones are pushing. One or two of them may land on the practice squad. The Eagles will keep their eyes open looking at the waiver wire.
The line is not nearly as set as we thought it would be exiting last season. There is still work to do.
THE SAFETY NET: WHO MAKES IT?
It really comes down to this: Can either Jaiquawn Jarrett, Oshiomogho Atogwe or Phillip Thomas do enough tonight to earn a roster spot? The Eagles know they have Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman as the starting safeties. What else do they know?
Jarrett struggled early in the preseason but has since seemed to stabilize. Atogwe has been bothered by a hamstring injury and hasn't played much at all. Thomas showed up last week with some plays and could gain more notice with a big effort tonight.
Are there any quality safeties on the streets?
HOW DOES THE D LINE LOGJAM WORK OUT?
There are a lot of quality defensive linemen here, and everyone agrees with that. It's also hard to figure that the Eagles would be able to keep 11 defensive linemen on a 53-man roster. Can the Eagles keep six defensive ends, including veteran Darryl Tapp, who has played so well this summer? Does Antonio Dixon or Cedric Thornton or both make the cut?
It's a huge wait and see now for the Eagles as they race closer to the Friday deadline. The coaches wanted competition and that's what they are getting from a defensive line that has been nothing short of outstanding in the 3-0 preseason.
MISCELLANEOUS ISSUES ...
You can go up and down the roster and look for answers. Who makes the grade at linebacker? Does Keenan Clayton beat out Casey Matthews? Who sticks at cornerback, and do the Eagles keep five or six corners? Is Stanley Havili absolutely, no doubt about it in at fullback?
The starters aren't going to play in this game, but there are plenty of stories and players to follow. Game four of the preseason is upon us, and with it comes the roster cutdown and then it's clear sailing to the opener in Cleveland.