It’s the final — and most boring — week of preseason football. The games will be filled with backup players whose storylines are quite compelling, but on-field play is not. For the 18th season in a row, the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets will meet for their annual end-of-preseason matchup. The Jets hold the advantage 12-5 in these games, with the total scores favoring New York (340) over Philadelphia (322).
In lieu of going in-depth for this ‘Battle of Backups’, we’ll do our best to get into the mind of Howie Roseman and take a look at how the roster is slowly piecing together. Several fringe players made huge strides during the offseason, OTAs, training camp and first three preseason games. Here’s how I see the final roster shaping out on offense:
Specialists (3): K Jake Elliott, P Cameron Johnston, LS Rick Lovato
The specialists are essentially etched in stone, so don’t expect any surprises here. I still want to see more consistency from Cameron Johnston, but he punts like he has a cannon attached to the bottom of his foot.
Quarterbacks (3): Carson Wentz (+), Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld
Depending on if Carson Wentz plays week one, Nate Sudfeld could see the practice squad once again. However, an injury like the one Wentz suffered merits an insurance policy. And that man could be Nate Sudfeld if Nick Foles continues to show he can only perform in the playoffs.
Running Backs (4): Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, Josh Adams
The running back position opened camp in absolute chaos. The Eagles had seven backs to evaluate for essentially one role in the backfield committee. Donnel Pumphrey has been MIA, and it’s safe to say goodbye. Matt Jones’ fumble on the brink of Cleveland’s redzone cemented his cut status. Wendell Smallwood flashed in last Thursday’s game, but there is a younger back primed to take his spot.
In two preseason games, Josh Adams carried the ball 10 times and racked up 63 yards. As most rookie backs do, Adams needs to work on his pass protection as well as compacting his running style. However, Adams is a monster at 6-2, 213 pounds, and his battering ram attack style always has him falling forward:
Been preaching his name since the draft but Josh Adams might have sealed his spot as RB4 Thursday (especially with the Matt Jones fumble). The ND back has great patience and vision, but also runs angry and is always falling forward #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/GMyvsWVhCh
— Matt Martellucci (@matthewlucci_) August 27, 2018
Wide Receivers (5): Alshon Jeffery (+), Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson,
Alshon Jeffery remains sidelined with shoulder rehab as the regular season approaches. Reports say he will likely miss the first two games and potentially more. As a result, some notable preseason standouts will have an extended audition period. I have raved about Shelton Gibson and feel he is all but a lock to be the fourth or fifth wide receiver.
Not to mention, @sheltongibson has been burning backup corners to the tune of 7 catches (9 targets) for 167 yards and 2 TDs. He ran an official 4.50 40-yard dash and his quickness is shown on the sluggo used to beat Jason McCourty #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/ftiJK2ZVkl
— Matt Martellucci (@matthewlucci_) August 20, 2018
DeAndre Carter, who went undrafted in 2015 and has bounced around to his now fifth team, is making the most of his reps. Carter is a stocky receiver and possesses explosive quickness while one-on-one in the slot. At 5-8, 188 pounds, most draft analysts wrote him off as too small for the NFL. However, Carter has made strides in his downfield blocking and tightened up his routes. He’s still on the fringe to make the roster, but will be an important practice squad addition.
Tight Ends (4): Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers (+), Billy Brown
This was another very simple unit to predict, except for the fact that Richard Rodgers is week-to-week battling a knee injury. Rodgers is not on the PUP list, so the Eagles must use a roster spot if they want to keep him. Billy Brown, an undrafted free agent out of Division-II Shepherd University, doesn’t have the vertical speed to stretch defenses, but will do a serviceable job if his number is called on.
Offensive Line (9 total): Jason Peters, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Matt Pryor, Chance Warmack, Jordan Mailata
The toughest aspect of making the decision to put a player on the practice squad is that they immediately become available to the rest of the league. Sometimes it may be worth it to use a roster spot on a player that isn’t game-ready, but could provide value for years to come. That seems to be the case with Australian rugby player turned NFL left tackle, Jordan Mailata. His game has improved drastically for someone who picked up a football for the first time over the offseason. At 6-8, 348 pounds with rugby athleticism, it’s almost impossible to let Mailata’s potential talent go.
t’s been discussed a lot but the evolution of Jordan Mailata (6-8, 348 lbs) is astounding. Improved footwork in pass protection and can manhandle d-linemen at times. #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/S79iaCvAE7
— Matt Martellucci (@matthewlucci_) August 27, 2018
You may notice one notable name (or not) excluded from the offensive line list. While Isaac Seumalo put the team first and transitioned to center, his progression has not warranted a roster position. Seumalo’s run blocking remains subpar, and with Stefen Wisniewski’s versatility to play both center and guard, he is a much better fill-in than Seumalo.
Offensive Players Practice Squad (4): OT Toby Weathersby, WR Greg Ward Jr, C Jon Toth, WR Rashard Davis
Stay tuned tomorrow to see my predictions of the final 53-man roster for the defensive unit.
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