Nick Foles is set to start at quarterback for the Eagles on Thursday night at New England (7:30 p.m., NBC10 in Philadelphia) and is probably going to play in the neighborhood of a quarter (just a guess) to get his feet wet in game action, work off any game-action rust, and then head to the sidelines for the night. While all eyes will be on Foles and backup Nate Sudfeld, Thursday represents an opportunity for some Eagles wide receivers to make a mark.
The final roster availability isn't yet official, but it's safe to say the Eagles will be missing some of their firepower at wide receiver. Alshon Jeffrey remains on the PUP list. Nelson Agholor is out with a lower-body injury as the Eagles turn their attention to making sure he's ready for the regular-season opener against Atlanta. Mack Hollins hasn't practiced in the last few days as he's been out with an undisclosed injury (it doesn't appear to be anything serious).
So who does that leave as targets for Foles and Sudfeld and then Joe Callahan if he gets some time later in the game? It's an interesting list of players who are vying for a roster spot here and who still have some time to open some eyes and snag a job.
The veteran wide receiver has done his job professionally in this preseason, showing that he still has great speed that can challenge any secondary. Mike Wallace seems to have had no problems learning the offense or developing chemistry with the quarterbacks – he's seen a lot of time with Carson Wentz in 7-on-7 drills dating back to the spring, even – and he's been a hit in the locker room. The Eagles aren't going to specifically gameplan for the Patriots, but it sure wouldn't hurt if Foles/Sudfeld and Wallace could get a little something going.
Maybe the Eagles can feature Wallace early in the game just to put the football in his hands as an appetizer for the regular season. Wallace's role in the offense will be similar to what Torrey Smith did last year, and it was a valuable part: Take the top off the defense and open things up underneath for crossing routes from other receivers and tight ends, and attack matchups that favor the Eagles if cornerbacks line up in off coverage.
He's come a long way since last summer. Shelton Gibson is totally different than the rookie who was, he even admits it, a bit overwhelmed by the NFL and everything that went with it. Gibson's 63-yard touchdown catch from Sudfeld last week was an example of what he can do – he's got the speed to run past defenders, he's good with the ball in his hands and he can find the end zone. He just needs to have confidence in his hands and he's far more advanced this year than last.
The best way for Gibson to continue that big step forward is to keep stacking solid days on top of one another. Gibson should play quite a bit at New England and that will enable him to get into a rhythm, keep building confidence, and show the coaching staff that he can provide quality play when needed.
Here is a player who is thisclose to making it in the NFL. Maybe it's because he's been nicked up from time to time that Bryce Treggs hasn't been on solid roster footing. When he's on the field, Treggs catches the football and makes things happen. He's got speed and toughness. Treggs has bounced around in his career – San Francisco, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Philadelphia again – and he keeps plugging away. A big preseason game would do wonders for his chances.
Signed late in the player-acquisition timeline this summer, Kamar Aiken has done a really nice job making himself noticed. He's a bigger, thicker-bodied receiver who has strong hands and he's tenacious fighting for the football. Aiken knows how it works in these preseason games. You must take advantage of every opportunity knowing that 31 other teams are looking at the tape, too. Will Aiken make this 53-man roster? That's up for debate. That's why this preseason game is so important. Aiken should get some throws his way and he's got to maximize the chances he gets.
A quick, in-and-out-of-his-breaks receiver, Rashard Davis could see some time in the slot for the offense and might very well have the opportunity to make some plays. He's done a good job in the summer after learning the offense last year on the practice squad. The Eagles have used Davis as a return man as well, and he knows that any versatility he can show is important.
Check out how the pass catchers are looking during 2018 training camp.
The veteran receiver really came on in the spring but hasn't had a lot of eye-opening moments in the summer. Markus Wheaton needs to make sure he's healthy and stays healthy. For a time there in the spring, Wheaton made a push and looked like a very strong contender to make the 53-man roster. He's been hampered by injury since early in Training Camp.
Greg Ward is a good football player. He's quick and he runs well and he catches the ball consistently. He could see some time in the slot as well, along with Davis. Ward spent last season on the practice squad as he made the transition from collegiate quarterback to NFL receiver. It's time to take the next step and make some big plays in a preseason game and show these coaches and the entire NFL that Ward is ready to play and contribute at this level.
Signed after Training Camp opened, DeAndre Carter flashes. He'll make some catches in tiny windows. He's shows you some burst and quickness. It's just a matter of putting it all together on a consistent basis for Carter, another smaller receiver with return skills.
Signed after winning a job as a tryout player in the spring's Rookie Camp, Tim Wilson has been getting his work in this summer. He hasn't had a lot of footballs thrown his way, but he's been solid when he's had the chances. The challenge is winning some playing time in a talented group here.
The Purdue product, born in France, is a big-bodied receiver at 6-3, 210 pounds. He is in a numbers crunch here, but that doesn't mean he is forgotten. He's here for a reason. A play or two in the preseason would help Mahoungou open some eyes here, and around the league.