The regular season is just around the corner but before the Eagles clash with the Browns in week one, they have one last preseason game ahead of them. A showdown with the Jets acts as the last chance for the guys on the edge of the roster to show the Coaches why the deserve a spot on the final 53-man team. With that in mind, here are ten players to watch in tonight’s finale.
The undrafted rookie cornerback has done more than turn a few heads during preseason. A crucial endzone interception, some big pass deflections and a game against the Colts in which he led the team in tackles, the former NDSU star has soared into contention for a spot on the final 53-man roster.
With Aaron Grymes being waived due to injury, the window of opportunity has become even greater and with just one game left to play, Smith is going to see a lot of playing time. Can the former teammate of Carson Wentz end an impressive preseason in the same way he started it?
Johnson had a strong Training camp before suffering an injury setback that cost him dearly in terms of preseason reps. However, the former Texas wideout was able to survive the opening wave of roster cuts that saw both Reuben Randle and Chris Givens waived.
Johnson could see a bulk of playing time tonight as he aims to explode onto the scene and join an Eagles receiver corps that’s being built on youth and potential. With catches in 42 games at Texas for a total of 793 yards, Johnson is an impact player..but can he show that potential when he needs to most?
Means has had a stellar preseason and flourished in the absence of Marcus Smith early on. The result became a head-to-head battle at Defensive end for a supporting role..a battle that’s yet to reach its climax.
Smith has stepped up his game since returning to the field after a concussion, showing that he is a fit under Jim Schwartz, but journeyman Steven Means isn’t going down without a fight and will need a dominant showing if he is to beat out the former first round pick of the Eagles to a rotational role.
There has been some mild controversy surrounding Kendricks recently. After missing the first two preseason games with a nagging hamstring injury, the coaching staff made sure he made up the reps in the team’s third preseason game that had Kendricks playing well into the 4th quarter.
Kendricks is scheduled to start and play a portion of the team’s last preseason game, which comes as a surprise given the fact roster bubble players partake in the preseason finale.
The starting linebacker appears to be frustrated with the situation and it will be extremely interesting to see how heavily Kendricks is used in a meaningless preseason game. Will he use the frustration to rain havoc down on the Jets Offense, or fail to show Jim Schwartz any signs of encouragement..potentially opening up a whole new can of worms.
Despite being drafted by the Eagles last year, Shepherd will technically be making his preseason debut tonight if he plays. Injuries have plagued the early stages of Shepherd’s career and a fairly quiet Training camp while others shone only intensified the situation. There is an abundance of raw talent at cornerback and this could be Shepherd’s last opportunity to steal a spotlight..and if he is to make the final 53-man roster, he needs to do just that.
Mychal Kendricks may be seeing a heavy workload tonight, but there’s one man who’s looking to claw his way to a roster spot. Undrafted rookie Quentin Gause has excelled in Training camp and with Joe Walker tearing his ACL, there is room for Gause to make a stern impact tonight.
The arrival of Stephen Tulloch may have hampered his chances of making the final roster slightly, but that should only add fuel to the fire for the efficient linebacker who amassed 223 tackles in 51 games at College. If Kendricks lacks in coverage, an area equally as important as the pass-rush in Schwartz’s system, a big performance here could see Gause sneak onto the final 53-man roster as a backup in a position that is still light on depth.
Having backed a Burton breakout for months in countless articles and podcasts, a stunning Training camp was brilliant to see. In preseason however, Burton didn’t seem to get many pass-catching looks, instead being used as a blocking Tight end. That changed last week as Burton caught five passes for 35 yards.
The starters aren’t going to see a lot of action tonight, giving the green light for Trey Burton to be utilized heavily in the passing attack. Burton proved to be one of the most reliable pairs of hands in Training camp, a big game tonight would only bode well for his involvement in the Offense during the regular season.
Turner has rapidly emerged as an undrafted fan favorite, leading the Eagles in receiving yards in two of their three preseason games. Turner also survived the opening wave of roster cuts and although he may not be the tallest or fastest receiver on the roster, he’s been able to turn heads throughout Training camp and deep into preseason.
There’s still heavy competition at the WR position, especially over the depth roles. This is Turner’s last chance to put the icing on the cake and have another strong performance with the starters out of the equation. If he does, he may just be rewarded with a spot on the final 53-man roster.
After moving over to the Safety position, Countess has been uncharacteristically quiet. Instead, Jaylen Watkins has been the player stealing the spotlight. The Eagles sixth round pick has slid down the depth chart and the chances of the birds retaining five safeties (including Chris Maragos) could be minimal.
Countess simply has to come out swinging tonight if he is to ensure that he earns a spot on the final 53-man roster..and with a heavy snap count incoming, he has the perfect opportunity to do so.
Mills stunned consistently throughout Training camp, outshining most cornerbacks on the roster..but when it came to preseason, he struggled almightily against the Bucs before missing out valuable time with an injury.
He returned against the Colts and appeared far more relaxed and patient in his play, making methodical tackles as opposed to the reckless and sometimes erratic play showed in the preseason opener.
The seventh round pick entered the preseason sat ahead of Eric Rowe on the depth chart, but hasn’t done much to retain such a high standing. C.J Smith has been the cornerback turning heads during preseason while Rowe has been the most consistent corner, albeit under the radar.
If the former LSU defensive leader can come into tonight with a confident and relaxed attitude, the sky is the limit. Doug Pederson has already alluded to how much attention will be placed on the Secondary tonight..and it’s up to Mills to make the most of that to secure his spot on the final 53-man roster and show Jim Schwartz that he can perform just as impressively in a game situation as he has in Camp.
Mandatory Photo credit: AP/Darron Cummings