The Eagles are headed to Boston to face a team that will understandably have a sore taste in their mouth after the Eagles snatched Super Bowl 52 from their grasp, completing one of the NFL’s most incredible underdog stories. A preseason clash doesn’t quite have the same intensity as a Super Bowl, but for the following five players, it may as well do.
Smallwood didn’t exactly make the most of his opportunities against Pittsburgh, averaging a mere 3.5 yards per carry. He’s been given the Lion’s share of carries throughout camp due to injuries suffocating the likes of Josh Adams and Donnell Pumphrey, giving Smallwood the perfect window to prove he can bring much more to the table. That window has been extended through week 2 of preseason, with Adams and Pumphrey unlikely to see heavy action because of those concerns. If Smallwood can have a big run or two and show that he has taken another step forward, it may just be enough to cement his place on the roster. After all, the best kind of ability is availability…
A topsy turvy preseason opener saw Douglas experience the highs of a highly intelligent interception in which he broke on the ball like a Safety, and the lowest of lows giving up some plays and touchdowns he would rather forget. The cornerback competition is rampant and despite a solid rookie outing, inconsistencies could be the difference if the underdogs begin biting. Douglas has to bounce back in a big way if he is to retain his roster spot security.
The Eagles are in a strange situation when it comes to defensive tackle. Timmy Jernigan’s injury put a huge spanner in the works of the unrelenting defensive front and with Beau Allen moving on to Tampa Bay, it left the unit a little light. Sure, Ngata’s presence will help to restore that dominance against the run, but with injuries plaguing the elite veteran, rotation may be more of a focus than ever. If that’s the case, the Eagles need this sophomore to prove he’s ready to step up and play anywhere up to 30-40% of defensive snaps, as Allen and Vaeao did before him. Qualls showed signs of promise against the Steelers, but was relatively quiet. A big showing in Foxboro could give him a marginal edge over the likes of Bruce Hector, who had a much better game.
Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry have been battling intensely over the starting OLB role, leaving Nelson, a previous favorite to snatch that up, out in the cold. Luckily for the former Bronco, he tapped into his special teams prowess that he showed during his time with Denver and played more special teams snaps than any player on the team last week. That doesn’t mean he’s safe. A ‘prove-it’ deal and two leading candidates dueling away leave Nelson with a tall Mountain to climb to really put the padlock on that locker. If he can have a more impactful showing against the Patriots, it will definitely help his chances.
The former Ravens wide receiver was one of the last additions to the roster making his journey to the final-53 even harder. However, the once heralded deep-threat is intent to prove he’s more than just a ‘one season wonder’. After not tallying a catch during the first preseason game while players like Shelton Gibson started to surge, the pressure meter flew through the roof. Markus Wheaton is looking increasingly likely to make the roster behind Mike Wallace and that door is slowly beginning to swing shut. If Aiken has any chance of causing a late upset or at least making a case for other teams to take a look, it has to be this week.
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