The NFL preseason is coming to a close this week. The Philadelphia Eagles are set to face the New York Jets in their third exhibition contest of the year. According to reports, Nick Sirianni isn’t expected to play many of his starters.
The focus of the third preseason game now shifts to the fringe players fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster. There are several players who could make or break their candidacy for the 53 with their performance Friday night.
Here are seven players on the roster bubble to keep an eye on in the Eagles preseason finale.
We wrote about Patrick Johnson as someone to keep an eye on in this final preseason game on Thursday. To read that full story, click here.
In short, Johnson has a real opportunity to earn a roster spot as the team’s SAM linebacker. Genard Avery, the presumed starter at that spot all throughout the summer, is injured again. Joe Ostman was waived earlier this week, leaving Johnson as the next man up.
Johnson has all the athletic tools to play this hybrid linebacker/pass rusher position. With a solid outing against the Jets, not only will he earn a roster spot, he could earn himself a starting role.
Ah yes, Andre Dillard. The most disappointing story line of Eagles training camp this year. He entered camp in a 50/50 battle for the starting left tackle position, and by most accounts, he lost it within a few days. Not only has Jordan Mailata played much better than Dillard, but the former first round pick has been outright awful in camp this year. Leading some beat writers to speculate whether he even deserves a roster spot.
Dillard practiced throughout the week, and since he’s obviously not going to be a starter, I’d be surprised if Sirianni didn’t play him. Unless the team is trying to keep him healthy for a potential trade in the near future, expect Dillard out there Friday night.
If he fails to impress even in the slightest against New York’s backups, moving on from Dillard may be the best course of action. We’ll have to see how it plays out Friday night.
Jason Huntley missed some time over the past few weeks with a rib injury, but he did return for joint practices against the Jets. It’s unclear whether he’ll play in the third preseason game, but for his sake, it’s certainly in his best interest to suit up.
Throughout camp, Huntley was stealing headlines with his game breaking speed and play making ability that he showcased during practice. It didn’t materialize in the first preseason game of the year, and Huntley missed the second preseason game with injury. It’s been quiet on the Huntley front as of late, but that can change with a solid performance Friday night.
With Kerryon Johnson’s injury, the door is open for Huntley to secure a roster spot. Not only as the fifth running back, but possibly as the team’s kick/punt returner.
Last year’s fifth round selection, John Hightower may legitimately be fighting for a roster spot in this third preseason game. The top three wideouts are set in DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, and Quez Watkins, followed by Travis Fulgham, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and Hightower. On the of those final three names will likely be cut, and the favorite at this point seems to be Hightower.
Hightower has done little to nothing during camp this year. He’s been banged up, which obviously doesn’t help his case. But even when he’s been on the field, he’s been unspectacular. He’s fast as all hell, but his hands have been inconsistent and his route running hasn’t improved.
Hightower, more so than any receiver playing Friday night, needs to have a big performance. His status with the Eagles depends on it.
With the injury to Tyree Jackson, the tight end room got a bit more interesting. Of course, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert are the top two on the depth chart. After that, it’s a guessing game.
The favorite to win the third spot in Jackson’s absence is veteran Richard Rodgers, who did some nice things last year for the Eagles. But, he’s 29 years old and presents little upside at the position. The Eagles may want to go with a younger, more developmental piece at the third tight end spot. Jack Stoll, and UDFA out of Nebraska, could be that guy.
Since Jackson has been sidelined, Stoll has gotten more work. He made a few nice plays during joint practices this week in New York and he should see extended playing time in the preseason finale. His performance could determine the direction the Eagles go in with that final tight end spot.
Out of all the draft picks this year for the Eagles, Marlon Tuipulotu has arguably been the most disappointing. He’s done very little in each of the preseason outings and needs a truly outstanding performance against the Jets to even have a shot at a roster spot.
At the very least, he could find himself on the practice squad. He should see a lot of playing time in this final preseason game — he may even get the start depending on who suits up.
Another late round defensive lineman, Tarron Jackson has had some nice moments during the preseason thus far. The great depth along the Eagles defensive line has been well documented, so Jackson will have an uphill battle to earn a roster spot. A great performance in New York could do the trick, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. The numbers just aren’t in Jackson’s favor. Nevertheless, he’s someone to pay close attention to in this final preseason contest.
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