Heading into week two of the preseason, the Philadelphia Eagles made sure they stayed true to their plan thus far – If you have the ability to take precaution, then you take it, especially in the preseason. Pederson and the staff know what type of talent and depth is on this team, and therefore probably don’t need to see much from the starters at this point.
Nevertheless, every team has three main keys it wants to see when handling the pressures of preseason football: Health, Competition, and Tough Decision Making. Let’s see how the Eagles did in this department this past Thursday night in Jacksonville:
When it comes to keeping its core healthy, the Eagles have done a pretty good job (knock on wood) aside from one major position: Quarterback. Thankfully, Wentz, the most important part of this QB room is healthy and ready to go. The Eagles lost Nate Sudfeld to a wrist injury last week that could sideline him for the first quarter of the regular season, and then lost Cody Kessler in the first quarter last night to a concussion. Although he remained sidelined for the rest of the game, it does not seem to be a long-term issue.
Rookie QB Clayton Thorson, playing better on Thursday night, is not a lock to make the roster at this point. While the box score may show a much-improved outing, Thorson was late on several throws and also had the benefit of his receivers making excellent plays for him. He did sustain some nice drives but also looked lost at times where he could have completed routine passes. The Eagles will most likely be looking at veteran QB cuts from around the league to try and stabilize the unit behind Wentz while Sudfeld is out. Outside of depth at QB and preexisting injuries carrying over from the offseason, the Birds have remained relatively healthy thus far.
The competition has been excellent at several position groups, including the wide receiver group. The battle for the last WR spot should be a great one to watch. Marken Michel and Greg Ward Jr. have made plays in consecutive weeks and scored long touchdowns as a result. Mack Hollins is a favorite of the coaching staff and is coming off an injury-plagued year where he did not see the field.
The Eagles have the luxury of having their top-four WR’s as locks to make the team and contribute often this year. Will the birds keep five or six receivers this year? If the answer if five, then the spot may go to Hollins by default. If the answer is six, the Eagles will have a difficult decision to make as Ward and Michel are making plays each and every week that make you open your eyes.
Prediction: Eagles lean Ward over Michel due to Ward’s emergency QB background. The next step here would be to stash Michel on the practice squad and hope nobody claims him.
Tough Decision Making
If the Eagles stay healthy and there is great competition, the decision making for final roster spots should be very tough. Former third-round pick Daeshon Hall is a guy who is making these tough decisions a little easier. Hall was outstanding Thursday night and built off his strong performance the week prior. The defensive end currently leads the NFL Preseason in sacks, hurries, and tackles for loss. While some may say “its only preseason” this is still great to see for an Eagles team that could use depth after losing Michael Bennett and Chris Long this offseason. We mentioned above how tough the competition was for the final wide receiver spots, but the outstanding play of Hall is also one to monitor.
How many Defensive End’s do the Eagles keep? Is fourth-round pick Shareef Miller in danger of being released or the Howie Roseman special “IR designation?” Regardless of where these players were drafted, Hall is the leading candidate to gain the most from his play this preseason. He was a monster against the Jaguars on Thursday night and is showing he can be depended upon to be a playmaker and for depth on this defensive line.
The harder the roster the decisions are for this staff, the better this team will be. This much competition at key spots is a testament to how well Howie and Doug have built this team and where this team is headed.
More to come.