Seven Things To Watch For Tonight Vs. The Jets
By Lance Epstein
Tonight concludes the snoozefest called the preseason, but there is a lot riding on this game for a bunch of players. With head coach Andy Reid giving the starters the night off (includes FS Nate Allen and DE Brandon Graham), the young players and rookies have chance to make an impact in the spotlight.
Certainly the game versus the New York Jets, which bares no impact on the regular season schedule, will still have a huge impact on shaping the final 53-man roster and practice squad.
For the Reid and the coaching staff, this might be the most difficult cutdown they have had in Reid's tenure in Philadelphia. There are more young talented players on this squad than ever before and most will not make it through waivers to be placed on the practice squad.
As the preseason concludes tonight, the Eagles' job of formulating a 53-man unit begins.
Here is a touchdown worth of things to watch for against the Jets:
1. TE Cornelius Ingram vs. Jets Linebackers:One of the more disappointing players in Eagles training camp and throughout the preseason has been TE Cornelius Ingram. Yes, his knee has prevented him from being the player or taking the field like the Eagles envisioned, but like they say, "you can't make the club in the tub." Tonight is a once in a lifetime chance for him. Ingram must show that he is fully recovered and that he belongs on this team. He has the soft hands, speed and size to be a major factor in the Eagles offense. If he can show up the Jets linebackers and have a huge game, it will be difficult for the Eagles not to carry three tight ends. Currently, it appears like rookie TE Clayton Harbor will be the only other tight end to make the roster with TE Brent Celek.
2. Tackle Fenuki Tupou vs. Tackle King Dunlap:
Neither Tupou nor Dunlap have been very impressive in camp. In fact, rookie LT Austin Howard has blown both out of the water and he was signed as an undrafted free agent. Nevertheless, one of these two guys has to make the squad for depth. As it stands right now, Dunlap is edging out Tupou, but that could change in a heartbeat. Dunlap has not stepped up his game or improved over the past two seasons. Tupou is in his second-year and has demonstrated some strides in his game. Additionally, Tupou can play tackle and guard, which is something the Eagles like in their offensive linemen. Both are fighting it out for one spot and whoever can keep QBs Michael Vick/Mike Kafka on their feet better will probably win the job.
3. FS Quintin Demps vs. CB/FS Macho Harris:
Most believe that Harris and Demps will be Philadelphia Eagles in 2010. However, not so fast my friends. Harris was recently moved back to safety because of the overflow of cornerbacks on the Eagles roster. Unlike Demps, Harris can play multiple positions on the football field. He can play both safety positions and cornerback if need be. A long, long, long time ago Demps was penciled in to be the starting free safety for the Eagles after they left Brian Dawkins walk away via free agency. Since then he has found his way into Reid's doghouse or has been injured. His return abilities, one of the things that still made him useful to the Eagles even when his performance at safety slipped, have been replaced by Ellis Hobbs (possibly Jorrick Calvin). The Eagles could keep five safeties, but it would not shock anyone if they decided to use the extra roster spot somewhere else and cut either Harris or Demps.
4. No. 3 cornerback battle between Trevard Lindley vs. Joselio Hanson:
With CBs Ellis Hobbs and Asante Samuel being given the night off, Lindley and Hanson will likely start. The two men have had entirely different preseason. For Lindley, he has quickly picked up the defensive scheme and has even made plays on the field with the first-team defense. Hanson has been a major bugaboo for the Eagles. Ever since his four-game suspension last year, he has not been the same player. His confidence looks shaky and he continuously being attacked (picked on) down-the-field for huge yardage. Tonight is a huge night for both players and even the team. If Lindley can prove that he is worthy of being the No. 3 cornerback then Hanson time with the Eagles could be coming to an end sooner rather than later. Hanson is owed a ton of money and if the team has a cheaper option who can outperform him then why keep him at his current salary especially in a non-cap year.
5. The return abilities of CB Jorrick Calvin:
As much as head coach Andy Reid says he is comfortable with starting CB Ellis Hobbs returning kicks, he has to be scared half-to-death about losing him to a special teams injury. A big portion of NFL injuries come on special teams because players are flying around at 100 mph to make a tackle or a big hit since they have nothing to lose. In college, Calvin was a premiere kickoff and punt returner in the Sun Belt Conference (played at Troy for one year). His only shot at making the roster is if he excels in special teams and can also make plays in coverage. While Calvin probably does not make the final cuts, it would not be surprising if he is invited onto the Eagles practice squad or even finds his way onto another team.
6. LB Jamar Chaney and LB Tracy White vs. Jets Running backs and Tight ends:
Both players are special teams standouts, but does that mean they are worthy of a roster spot? Probably not. Chaney is a seventh-round rookie that the Eagles were very high on in the draft. They expected him to come in and possibly compete for the backup middle linebacker position. Unfortunately, he is not ready yet to take on those responsibilities. As for White, he was one of the best Eagles’ special teams players from a season ago. Additionally, at the end of last year (due to all the injuries) he began making plays as a linebacker. Still with six linebackers being guaranteed spots on the roster, only one will be kept. As of right now, Chaney would probably be that guy since he has more upside and there is a small chance that he makes it through waivers. Nevertheless, White is a fierce competitor and has been an underdog many times in his career, so he will make it hard for Reid to release him.
7. RBs Martell Mallett vs. J.J. Arrington vs. Eldra Buckley:
This might be the toughest decision of all of them. Mallett is a better all-around running back than Buckley. He can take one to the house, catch the ball out of the backfield or run in between the tackles for the tough yards. However, a third-string halfback must be able to play on special teams and make an impact. This is an area that Buckley is light years ahead of Mallett. As for Arrington, his time as an Eagle is probably coming to an end. Since being dealt to the Eagles, he has not been bad, but he has not been overly impressive either. Arrington will be cut, but he can rest assure that someone will take a chance on him since he can return kicks and be a nice third down back. So the real question becomes whether the Eagles believe Mallett will make it through waivers to be placed on the practice squad or if they should keep him around since he could eventually replace Mike Bell as the team's number two back. Also they must answer the question of whether Buckley’ special teams skills are more than Mallett’s running back skills. Remember Bell has been banged up a lot over his career (and this training camp) so people might be surprised to see Mallett making the club over Buckley.