It all happens slam-bang in the next 10 days: The final preseason game is on Thursday against the Jets (7 p.m. NBC Philadelphia). The cutdown from 90 players to 53 happens by Saturday. The practice squad is established over the weekend, along with any other roster transactions. And then the regular season begins on September 6 against visiting Atlanta.
Ten days from Monday. The blitz is on.
“It’s a different kind of week,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “We go from 90 players to 53. Just one cut this year, so that means 37 players are going to lose jobs. You can feel there is more tension in the locker room. It’s a big week for a lot of guys.”
Indeed, it is. There is a lot happening with the Eagles in this final week of the preseason and with the regular season looming, so let’s get you caught up with some items of note as the nitty and the gritty meet for one final time in the preseason.
Eagles Release LB Corey Nelson
Signed to a one-year contract as an unrestricted free agent, Corey Nelson had every opportunity to win playing time at the WILL linebacker spot. Expected to play with a lot of speed both on special teams and within the defense, Nelson just never flashed. Even when Paul Worrilow suffered his season-ending knee injury early in the spring, Nelson never separated. He was beaten out for playing time by Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nathan Gerry, both of whom are expected contribute at linebacker and on special teams. Nelson was a low-risk signing, anyway, and he just never did anything to make the Eagles stand up and take notice.
Carson Wentz Not Yet Cleared
Head coach Doug Pederson was visibly short with his answers on Sunday when asked, repeatedly, about Wentz and his progress. It’s just a waiting game, folks, and the Eagles – Pederson and the coaching staff and Wentz, specifically – have not much say in the matter. It’s all going to come down to the medical reports. When Wentz is cleared for contact, he will play. There is no deadline. There is no established timeline. Pederson has been extremely vague on details. In the meantime, he must prepare both Nick Foles and Wentz for Atlanta. Neither will play on Thursday night against the visiting Jets.
Health Of Other Eagles
It is not just about Wentz on the injury front, of course. It just seems that way. Defensive end Brandon Graham is all smiles (naturally) and on the practice field. He needs to get into game shape for the Falcons, which should not be a problem. Left tackle Jason Peters and running back Darren Sproles are expected to be full-go for Atlanta. Same with running backs Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement, along with wide receiver Nelson Agholor, all of whom have missed preseason game time.
The trickier situations involve wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, and safety Chris Maragos. There has been nary an update or a peep out of any of those three. Their recovery timetables aren’t known, but the Eagles don’t seem all that concerned. Maybe that’s just me reading into it with Midnight Green-tinted glasses, but I’ll take any positives now with those three so close to the regular season.
The Cuts Are Coming
Rosters go from 90 players to 53 players after Thursday’s preseason games, so you aren’t going to see many – if any – starters on any team in preseason finales. The Eagles have some intriguing roster battles still happening and there is always the possibility that wheeler/dealer Howie Roseman, who has been quiet this summer, is working the phones for later in the week. This current roster has some depth at key positions – offensive line, defensive line, cornerback, among others – and the rest of the league may have noticed. Roseman turned offensive linemen Matt Tobin and Allen Barbre into draft picks a couple of summers ago, so anything is possible on that front.
Preparing For The Jets
Pederson said on Sunday that he’s preparing for the Jets and the preseason finale as he always would, and that’s true. But there is also the understanding that Atlanta is closing in and any opportunity to jump in early on the game plan, or to focus in on the Falcons in scouting is much appreciated. The Eagles absolutely want to see the best from those who suit up and take the field on Thursday, so the practice sessions are specific to that. But the coaches also have a chance to get the players a sense of what the Falcons are all about and there is some of that direction in practice, too.
The summer comes down to the wire starting Thursday as the instant transformation from preseason to the regular season happens. It’s right in front of us – the crucial point in the preseason and the turn to focus on September 6 and Atlanta and the start of the regular campaign.