Breakouts on the bubble: Five things to watch in Eagles preseason finale

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The Eagles preseason finale is here, which of course means that the regular season is just over one week away. Before the Eagles touch down in Washington there is plenty left to be decided. The team has to cut their roster down to 53 by 4PM on Saturday. The clash with New York is the last chance for many of those on the bubble to really stake their claim to a roster spot. Here are five things to watch when the two teams meet to round out their preseason campaigns tonight.

 

Cornerback competition:
The signing of Ronald Darby did more than just add some starting talent to the Eagles secondary, it intensified the competition over those all important depth spots. With every corner bumped down a spot and some even pushed to a new position (Patrick Robinson), there’s still a lot to play for. It’s likely that Darby sees minimal time if he does take to the field tonight, meaning it’s down to the likes of Rasul Douglas, C.J Smith and Jomal Wiltz to battle it out on the outside.

In the nickel spot, the Eagles made a big decision in cutting Ron Brooks. The two major moving parts behind the move were Robinson’s bump inside, allowing him to play in a position of strength, while former Jets CB Dexter McDougle gives the team some upside and potential to develop at the position without the weight of having to start. Keep an eye on how the newest Eagle takes flight tonight, but he will be competing directly with Aaron Grymes…a battle which in itself is going to be very fun to watch.

 

The Dane Evans show:
In the absence of Nick Foles it would have been easy to assume that former Tulsa QB Dane Evans would see sufficient playing time. So far, that has not been the case. Matt McGloin has dominated the snap percentage but has struggled to show anything extraordinary. I mean, that is to be expected…he is a third string quarterback. The numbers are consistent and he’s able to sustain drives, but the plays become boring, risks water down and the offense stagnates to some extent.

With Wentz and Foles likely sidelined all game, the Eagles may finally get an extended look at the strong arm of Evans. Whenever he has entered a game, Evans has turned heads with his courage and confidence but results haven’t always followed. Tonight is one last audition for Dane Evans to earn a spot on the Eagles practice squad as a developmental arm.

 

 

Undrafted wideouts take center stage:
The Eagles have their starting wide receivers, that much we know. But beyond the trio of Jeffery, Smith and Agholor lies a world of uncertainty. Mack Hollins should have wrapped up his roster spot after a strong camp, but even Shelton Gibson’s future is teetering as the team enter the preseason finale.

From Marcus Johnson and Greg Ward Jr. to Paul Turner and Bryce Treggs, the Eagles have an abundance of undrafted talent that are scrapping over roster spots that are anything but plentiful. Of the undrafted group, Treggs is the only receiver to hit 100 yards this preseason and after such a strong training camp from the likes of Greg Ward, there is undoubtedly a lot of fire in that locker room.

The Eagles receiving corps is budding with explosiveness, but it’s likely they will lose several of their wideouts through the waiving process. Can Treggs secure a spot on the final 53 as a backup to Agholor? Does Ward Jr. have one big breakout to push himself up the depth chart? Or will it be Louisiana Tech standout and last year’s preseason darling, Paul Turner who catches eyes one last time?

 

Special teams need to step up:
We all know how imperative the special teams unit is to the success of the Eagles. But so far the group has been anything but special in preseason. The team has struggled with discipline and with return coverages all preseason long and with those last few spots likely being decided by contributions on Fipp’s prestigious unit, expect to see even more heart from the Eagles special teams group tonight. Not to mention, there’s a new starting long-snapper with some very large boots to fill.

 

Linebacker mayhem:
There have been plenty of questions surrounding the Eagles linebacker group this offseason. In fact, it was this time one year ago where the future of Kendricks became crystal clear as he was sent out against the Jets in the preseason finale. After an explosive preseason 12 months later, will he see the same fate? If he doesn’t, the Eagles still have a plethora of ponders.

With Jordan Hicks sidelined last week, it was Najee Goode who filled in the starting MLB role. An injury may mean he misses tonight’s game, leaving even more to think about. Will it be special teams ace Kamu Grugier-Hill who steps up to the plate, or former Oregon Duck Joe Walker who can continue to show his prowess as a sideline-to-sideline linebacker? If Mychal Kendricks is now safe in terms of making the roster, it means someone is going to lose out. To add even more fuel to the fire, the Eagles made some interesting roster moves this week.

After parting ways with cornerbacks Ron Brooks and Mitchell White, the team signed two more linebackers to their roster.

They firstly bought in inside linebacker Carlos Fields. The 26-year old had appeared in six games during his first two season’s NFL after going undrafted back in 2014. The 6’1, 248 lbs, linebacker has spent time with the Raiders and posted four tackles for the Redskins during the next season. After most recently spending time with the chargers, Fields will attempt to showcase the production he once did for Winston-Salem.

Secondly, the Eagles signed Christian Tago. The 6’1, 242 lbs linebacker was an undrafted rookie out of San Jose State who amassed 72 tackles during his final year for the team. Tago landed with the Falcons but was recently waived in place of an offensive

It’s not yet known just how much action the new guys will see, but if they can show enough potential to force themselves into the practice squad conversation, those snaps taken from “KGH” or Walker could have some big consequences higher up the depth chart.

 

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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