The Eagles are in Foxborough, MA tonight to face the New England Patriots in the third preseason game. There are still some roster spots to be won, and with the starters playing into the third quarter, those fighting for jobs won’t have a lot of time on the field to prove themselves. The Eagles have to have their roster down to 75 by Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. That isn’t really a big deal, seeing as there are only 80 men on the roster. There is a good chance the coaches know who’s getting cut by now. However, that only leaves about two weeks before the roster is trimmed down to 53 men. Let’s take a look at the biggest roster battles, and who to watch tonight.
When the Eagles let Thomas Tapeh go in free agency, because of his lack of production on special teams, they probably thought Jason Davis, who has been on the practice squad for three years, would be able to step up and be the starter. Things haven’t worked out that way. The Eagles have started a new fullback in each of their preseason contests: Jason Davis against the Steelers, and Jed Collins against Carolina. That trend continues tonight, as the Eagles third round draft choice from last year, running back Tony Hunt, gets a turn at fullback. Hunt turned some heads in last weeks game, not only with his production on offense where he had a 51 yard touchdown run, and a one-handed catch on a screen play, but also on special teams, where he had two tackles in coverage. The Eagles want production on special teams from their fullback, and Hunt may be the answer. The question for tonight is, “Can Tony Hunt block?” We know he can run, but can he block for the running back, and can he pass-block? We’ll find out tonight. If he doesn’t work out, then we have to wonder where this team goes with the fullback position.
Gocong, Bradley, and Gaither are the starters, and Akeem Jordan has the fourth spot. Where do we go from there? Well, Joe Mays has ignited up the depth charts, and impressed everyone during training camp and his two preseason games. He was all over the field and led the team in tackles against Pittsburg in his first game, with six tackles. He has locked up the fifth LB spot, and the back-up to Stewart Bradley at middle linebacker. Who gets the sixth spot? Well, that is going to be a fight down to the wire. Rocky Boiman was brought in for his ability to play all the linebacker positions, his veteran leadership, and his special teams’ ability. He may be in a slight lead over the others, but the job is still up to anyone who grabs it. The team was pretty high on Pago Togafau earlier, but he looks like he is losing his footing to rookie Andy Studebaker. Studebaker has impressed during camp, and his play on the field last week against Carolina, couple of tackles and a forced fumble, only helped him. Justin Roland is also in the hunt. He played well last week, especially after picking off Carolina when rookie safety Quintin Demps tipped the pass on a blitz from the strong side, and running it back 71 yards for the game-sealing touchdown. We’ll see how this one shakes out. I think Studebaker can win this sixth spot, but he is going to have to play hard to keep Roland back, and beat Boiman.
Who gets that fifth cornerback spot? It’s going to be a hard call. Nick Graham is a solid corner, but Kyle Arrington has really impressed over the past couple of weeks, and had a strong showing against Carolina. It may be that neither of these guys makes the team. The Eagles have been putting safety Quintin Demps in at cornerback, and may decide to keep four corners and an extra safety with Demps having the ability to slide over to corner. We’ll see what the Eagles decide to do here.
There is only one question here in my mind. Can Jerome McDougle find a way to make this team? He has come back from injuries, including a gun-shot wound in 2005. He has been outstanding during the preseason, and Jim Johnson has had nothing but positive things to say about him. The Eagles better find a way to keep him, because he will definitely get picked up by someone else if they cut him. I think he can be what we all hoped he would be when the Eagles used a 1st round pick on him back in 2003.
This is perhaps the hardest battle on the roster. You can count on three, Brian Dawkins, Quintin Mikell, and rookie Quintin Demps. After that it’s a guessing game. Will the Eagles keep four or five safeties? Will they keep six? If they keep five, then I have to believe that Marcus Paschal is going to be the odd man out. I just don’t think he can beat veterans Sean Considine, who has just looked outstanding this offseason, and J.R. Reed, who really stepped up for us big last year when injuries decimated the secondary. If they only keep four, then it becomes tricky. Who wins the battle, Considine or Reed? So far, Considine has had the better camp and the better preseason than Reed, so I have no choice but to believe he is going to win that spot. We’ll see how it all works out with this group. It mainly comes down to how many safeties the Eagles keep.
This has become the biggest question mark on the roster since Andy Reid announced that Kevin Curtis will miss significant time this year with a sports hernia. We all saw how it affected McNabb in 2005 and L.J. Smith last season. The questions here aren’t who makes the roster. The question is who plays where? Is Desean Jackson good enough to start? Can Baskett and Avant come on big in their third season and step up and be playmakers? I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see.
Tonight we get to see how this offense works with its two starting wide receivers. We will most likely see a lot of Samuel, Sheppard, and Brown on the field at the same time. It will be nice to see how our nickel and dime defense is going to look and work throughout the course of an entire game, seeing how New England likes to run three and four WR sets. We also get to see if the special teams units have improved in their blocking schemes. Many are calling for the resignation of Rory Segrest, including myself.
Here’s hoping some of these players step up and solidify themselves as real players who can help this team win its first Championship since 1960.
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