Eagles underdogs shine in rollercoaster preseason finale

NFL: DEC 29 Eagles at Giants
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 29: Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (19) prior to the National Football League game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles on December 29, 2019 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

Well, that was eventful. Only the Philadelphia Eagles could find a way to tie a preseason matchup against the Jets, by conceding a hail-Mary TD and a 2-pt conversion at the last second, going 0-2-1 in the process. The score isn’t what matters here though, but more so the roster implications…and there were plenty. Here’s a brief look at the biggest performances of the night.

A rookie breakout in the making?

Kenny Gainwell absolutely stole the show tonight. He had 5 rushes for 32 yards to go with 5 catches for a further 27, single-handedly driving the Eagles upfield with some impressive burst and a desire to push through contact. The Memphis product looked just as comfortable between the tackles as he did outside of them, building on what was already an impressive preseason.

There’s no doubting that Gainwell has comfortably made the roster. The real question now is simply how high is the immediate ceiling?

He wasn’t the only rookie to stand out either. Both Patrick Johnson and Tarron Jackson had great nights, both notching a TFL and proving to be forces in the backfield throughout. It was really exciting to see rookies flash in such a big way throughout the game, likely securing their chances on the team’s 53-man roster.

Joe Flacco shows enough

Completing 13/16 passes for 188 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 INT, Joe Flacco did more than redeem what was a dismal performance against the Patriots. The veteran quarterback looked much better than he did in the preseason opener vs Pittsburgh too, and even that was a pretty solid outing. Showing that he can still drive an offense downfield and make a variety of NFL throws (and even use his legs too), Flacco removed any lingering doubts about his ability and entitlement to the QB2 spot. There’s no need to look for outside help after all, with the former Super Bowl MVP proving that he has more than enough in the tank to hold the fort for the Eagles in an emergency.

A late twist in the tale?

Until tonight, nobody really knew just how intense the showdown between J.J Arcega-Whtieside and Travis Fulgham was going to be. We’re they really competing for a roster spot, or was it overblown? It didn’t take long for the nature of the situation to unravel itself.

JJAW shockingly got the upper-hand, scoring a huge touchdown after making a leaping catch, shaking off a tackle, tip-toeing down the sideline and sprinting into the endzone. This seemingly came out of nowhere, with the former second-round pick poaching an underthrown ball out of harms way. The idea of seeing JJAW make these kinds of plays is so alien that watching a touchdown unfold felt euphoric. It dealt a cruel blow to Fulgham…but not for long.

Fulgham responded in a big way by catching a pass in the red zone and pushing to fall backwards as close to the goal-line as possible…that was until he fumbled the ball.

You genuinely couldn’t write it. Travis Fulgham, in the biggest moment of preseason, fumbled a ball after his main competition broke off for a touchdown, something very few Eagles fans would’ve predicted happening ever again.

It remains to be seen just how much momentum JJAW gained tonight, but there was an enormous swing in the favor of the Stanford product and it doesn’t exactly mean good news for Fulgham.

Grab your pants and Jacquet

Michael Jacquet’s tumultuous preseason campaign continued on Friday night, as he gave up a huge red zone touchdown, completely misreading where to high-point the ball and losing his man in the process. However, at the very end of the game, he was able to rip the ball from the gut of a falling Jets receiver and take it to the end zone for 6. Who saw that coming?

As far as who had the better night in the battle of the boundary, Kevon Seymour owned it from a consistency perspective. The former Carolina Panther picked off a pass in a big way, flashing the ballhawk tendencies that I’ve pounded the table for all offseason. It was great to see the taller CB have his way in a night where both he and Jacquet were likely fighting for what could be a phantom spot on the depth chart. If anyone’s getting it, it’s one of these two, but odds would favor Seymour due to the better performance from a positional perspective.

The overall offense

So, the Eagles may have tied with the Jets…but after being shut out to the tune of 35-0 last week, a 31-31 tie is huge. We saw a huge surge in offensive production this week, largely thanks to some slightly more creative play calling. There was a heavier emphasis on the RPO game, more complex rushing schemes, and more complicated route concepts that allowed the wideouts to create separation through how they run it.

It’s still probably some way off what we can expect the group to look like under Nick Sirianni, but the fact we actually saw a visible drive to implement some new concepts has to be seen as a plus.

With preseason in the books, the Eagles now turn their attention to the roster-cut deadline, which is 4PM on Tuesday. After that, there’s one final calm before the regular season storm begins.

Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

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