Why Eagles should play their starters against the Jets in preseason finale

Eagles quez watkins
PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 12: Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins (16) celebrates his touchdown with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) during the preseason game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 12, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The final week of the preseason is upon us. As the Eagles set to gear for their usual final game against the New York Jets, one question has been up for debate since last week – Should the starters play in the final week of the preseason?

To note, it’s been reported that Eagles Head Coach, Nick Sirianni, has not made a decision yet on if his starters are playing.

It was a surprise last week when the starters were benched after Jalen Hurts was pulled from game before it started due to a stomach virus.

In reality, the Eagles starters have gotten good reps in joint practices between the Patriots and now the Jets. That should not take away from the fact that Siranni should play his starters on Friday at MetLife.

The New Format

If the NFL was following their past format, this would be the final of four preseason games for the Eagles, preparation for a 10 day turnaround for the season opener. That no longer applies.

With the creation of a 17 game schedule, the NFL only plays three preseason games, so game reps are few and hard to come by for players trying to make the roster.

It also means there is a larger wait-time from final preseason game, to the opener against Atlanta on September 12th. The usual 10 day waiting period has ballooned up to 16 days from Friday’s game to being down in Atlanta. That’s a huge difference for a team clearly in transition.

If this were the Chiefs, Buccaneers, or even the Bills, the talent on the roster has stayed pact, and playing deep into January means the necessity to have the starters play this weekend isn’t there.

That’s not the case for the Eagles.

The team has gotten rid of a lot of their older players and brought in a new coaching staff to help a second-year quarterback progress. All of this is evidence that the Eagles coaches, and players need as many game reps as possible to prepare for the season opener.

This isn’t like in the past where NFL teams would use Week 3 of the preseason as a dress rehearsal of sorts, and let the players on the roster bubble play only in the final week. There’s too large a layoff to keep Jalen Hurts, and the young core the Eagles are trying to build, on the sideline in any game.

Health was the reason for the starters being benched against New England. That isn’t the case against the Jets.

Past Evidence Shows Starters Need to Play

The last time the starters got legitimate work in the preseason for the Eagles was 2017. The team, of course, got off to a hot start en route to a Lombardi trophy. Since then, there have been a myriad of reasons why the starters have not participated in any preseason games the last three years.

And every single year since, the Eagles have gotten off to slow starts.

In 2018, the team started 3-4. 2019, the team again started 3-4. And last year? Yuck. In each offseason from the last three years, the team has conducted a more passive training camp with a lot more veterans and injury-prone players.

As Ike Reese of 94.1 WIP said “You cannot hold players out because they might get hurt. That’s how they get hurt.”

The Eagles have been one of the most injury-riddled team over the last four years. There’s a legitimate case to be made that all the care the Eagles have given their vets in NOT participating in preseason games, has been one of the many reasons the team has come out abysmally to start the season since 2017.

If the Nick Sirianni era is to preach “competitiveness” and “rent being due” then the team must come out sharp to start the season. That means the starters should absolutely get playing time on Friday.

The Message

As mentioned before, and throughout training camp, Sirianni and Hurts have both been preaching “competition” and that “rent is due every day”. It’s a great slogan for a team needing a new identity after the Pederson/Wentz era ended. That also means the actions of the team must speak louder than words.

There aren’t many returning players from the 2017 Super Bowl squad. Most that have remained are well into their 30’s. There is a fine balance between making sure some of the veterans get off-days, while also competing for their position.

Nobody denies that Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox, Jason Kelce or Brandon Graham are going to have their starting positions in tact. But what about the other 90% of the roster?

The team went 4-11-1 last year. They weren’t close to .500. They weren’t competing for a playoff berth. They were the worst team in the worst division in football history.

Everyone’s job should be on the line. And every veteran needs to earn a spot in the new era of Eagles football. That means playing in the preseason games is something the vets all need to deal with, if they want to make the roster and be apart of the next era of winning football in Philadelphia.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire