We’re just over 24-hours away from the Eagles second preseason game of the 2019 season and it will see Birds take flight to visit an old friend in Nick Foles. Here are eight things to watch in the contest.
Don’t forget we’ll be hosting a LIVE watchalong stream of the matchup over at our YouTube channel, with coverage starting at 6:30 PM EST.
Running back battle
The Eagles running backs accounted for 37 yards on 17 carries last week, which is even dismal by preseason standards…especially when Tennessee combined for 125 yards on the ground. Beyond Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, and Darren Sproles, the RB depth chart can be described as ‘sketchy’ at best and the next three weeks will be pivotal in establishing how many backs remain on the roster.
Of course, there’s a chance we get an extended look at Miles Sanders, but for guys like Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, Josh Adams, and Boston Scott, this string of games could well be their last chance to prove themselves deserving of a spot on the final-53.
Scott will be playing in his first preseason game as an Eagle after missing last week due to injury, while Smallwood and Adams were underwhelming last week. Corey Clement may well make his return to action and one big play is likely all it will take to cement his spot on the final-53…but stranger things have happened. Keep a close eye on the ball-carriers tomorrow night, who will all have to be sprinting like runaway trains to keep their hopes of sticking with the Eagles alive.
The case for a fourth TE
Dallas Goedert won’t see another preseason snap this year, Zach Ertz will see minimal action and Richard Rodgers is still being hampered by injury. It’ll be down to Joshua Perkins and recently-signed Alex Ellis to make a statement.
Perkins has enjoyed a quietly strong Summer, but convincing the Eagles to keep a fourth tight end when there are pressing needs for depth at other areas will take a little more than that.
Perkins and Ellis should both see a significant amount of action over the next few weeks, but tomorrow’s game against Jacksonville will be crucial in establishing a rough pecking order for the remainder of preseason.
Signs of life from Thorson
Going 2/9 in your preseason debut isn’t exactly the best way to kickoff your NFL career, but it’s, unfortunately, become par for the course. Thorson struggled all through the spring and the Summer hasn’t been much kinder to the fifth-round pick.
With Nate Sudfeld out of action and it looking unlikely that Wentz will play at all, Kessler and Thorson look poised to take huge chunks of playing time. This is both a blessing and a curse for Thorson.
We know Kessler will make the most of it as a game-manager and show few reasons to be concerned, but if Thorson remains inaccurate, it hurts everyone else trying to make an impact too, not just him. Another poor showing here and it’s hard to imagine the Eagles keeping him around. The pressure is well and truly on.
Defensive end dominance
Daeshon Hall blew UP last week and if you somehow missed the explosion, here’s a summary of the aftermath,
Josh Sweat appeared to hold his own against Taylor Lewan, but the Eagles need to find consistency from their depth edge-rushers. Beyond Graham, Curry, and Barnett, there still looks to be a steep drop-off.
If Sweat can turn in a solid performance, it will lift some pressure from the shoulders of rookie Shareef Miller and underdog Daeshon Hall. But all three men, along with Eli Harold, whom the team traded for a few days a go, will need to bring their A-game in Jacksonville.
Ronald Darby has worked his way back from injury and into team activities, but will he see any preseason action? If he doesn’t, expect to see a little more from Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, and Avonte Maddox. At least more than we saw last week.
Jim Schwartz still has some tricky CB related decisions to make and if any of the above and make a big-time play during a game, it may be enough to bump the depth chart enough to cause a shuffle. There’s also a chance we see Avonte Maddox taking reps at Safety.
Beyond them, Josh Hawkins and Jeremiah McKinnon both had topsy-turvy games, while NAIA star Jay Liggins enjoyed a much more consistent game. If he’s earned more playing time, look for the small-school sleeper to turn a few heads. At 6’2, he’s the tallest corner on the roster and may surprise some doubters if afforded the opportunity.
Special teams standouts
Alex Singleton graded out as the Eagles’ best player last week according to PFF, but he also played a huge role on special teams. At this point in the proceedings, special teams could be the difference between making the roster and receiving a heartbreaking piece of news when roster cuts arrive.
Look for big hits, punt returns, kick returns, blocked field goal attempts (shoutout Treyvon Hester) and anything that could give a player an edge over his positional rivals.
Nate Gerry was a little disappointing last Thursday, giving up a touchdown and a little too much space in coverage. Meanwhile, L.J Fort balled out and Alex Singleton really grew into the game as it went on. KGH is out for a while yet and Paul Worrilow could be set to play his first competitive snap since 2017.
The linebacker position is in a state of flux right now and if players like Fort, Singleton, or even T.J Edwards can make a firm impression this week, it’s going to play a massive role in shaping the depth chart heading into week 3.
All eyes on the line
Andre Dillard was exceptional in his first taste of NFL action, but the week following his debut has been…interesting. Two days, two scraps, and an emotional period for the first-round pick, who is besting some of the Eagles most prominent talent frequently, and tempers are naturally flaring. Can Dillard hold up against some of the Jags tenacious pass-rush? That will be his next challenge in the opening quarter or so.
Elsewhere, Jordan Mailata had a fairly solid return to action as his NFL resume continues to build, while Matt Pryor had a penalty-plagued nightmare that simply has to be rectified.
There has been some trade speculation surrounding Halapoulivaati Vaitai as of late and while I think it’s unlikely he goes anywhere until Brooks is healthy, it’ll be worth watching his transition inside and seeing the progress made.
Stefen Wisniewski should see some significant time at center, which is great. Wis has also struggled snapping the ball, like Seumalo before him, and will benefit from as much exposure as he can get before settling as Jason Kelce’s backup.
What will you be watching for tomorrow night? Let us know in the comments!
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports