By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
The Eagles will host the Baltimore Ravens for their third game of the preseason Thursday night. Through two games, we’ve seen some good play from younger players, some really ugly performances from other young players and next to nothing from the starters. After the injuries to both Nate Sudfeld and Cody Kessler, I’m starting to think that’s a good thing.
While the third game of the preseason is traditionally the game where the starters play the most during the preseason, I’m still not sure what to expect. Given the way that the coaching staff has handled playing starters this preseason, we probably won’t know the playing status of any starters until a couple hours prior to kickoff.
With the aforementioned injuries to Eagles quarterbacks, as well as the injuries concerning most of our offensive line (although all of them are aiming to start week one), I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see much, if anything, from the starting offense this week. In other words, don't expect to see number 11 jog out on the field with his pads on. It appears some guys are okay with that.
I asked Alshon Jeffery if he needs some work with Carson Wentz in preseason games?— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) August 19, 2019
“I’m ready for the regular season”
Are the joint practices beneficial?
“There’s no scoreboard. This s*** can’t get you in the playoffs”
Think Alshon cant wait til Sept 8#Eagles pic.twitter.com/kPooQc7ljN
In other news concerning the Eagles quarterback situation, Howie Rosseman decided to lure Josh McCown out of retirement to be the Eagles back-up quarterback this week. The 40-year old played for the Jets last season and last started a game in week 13 of last season (a loss to the Titans). Reportedly, McCown says that he is ready to play Thursday night. However, head coach Doug Pederson is undecided on whether he will play McCown at all. I wouldn’t like to see him rushed into playing this week, although I wouldn’t be surprised if he took the field in the preseason finale.
As for the defensive starters, I expect them to play at least the first quarter this week. Last week in Jacksonville, they played the first two series of the game and looked pretty darn good doing it. Malcolm Jenkins looked like he was in mid-season form, as he made multiple tackles behind the line of scrimmage and seemed to be everywhere the ball was. I expect him to start this week and be on the field for a few plays more than last week.
A starter I was not impressed with last week was cornerback Sidney Jones. On their second possession last week, Jones was beaten first on a deep ball that didn’t count because the receiver just missed getting his foot in bounds. On the very next play, Jones was beaten over the middle for a first down. While the talk around training camp is how impressive Jones has looked on the practice field, I think he needs to prove it on the game field if he is going to start. So far, I’m not convinced. He is going to have to play well Thursday night if he is going to put some confidence into the coaching staff as well as the fan base. As of right now, I’d be much more comfortable starting Rasul Douglas at corner if Jalen Mills or Ronald Darby is unavailable week one.
My guess is Darby/Douglas start Week 1 with Avonte Maddox in the nickel...Jalen Mills on PUP....Sidney Jones starts if Darby isn't ready. https://t.co/3RQHzsbDJ8— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) August 20, 2019
Through two weeks, the Eagles most impressive rookie has been first-round selection Andre Dillard. While some blamed him for Kessler’s concussion last week, I think that was actually Kessler’s fault. After watching the play a couple of times, it seemed like the play was designed to be a pass where Kessler got the ball out of his hands almost immediately, hence the reason the guy coming off the edge was left unblocked.
Other than that, we haven’t heard Dillard’s name much through two games. For an offensive lineman, that’s a good thing. If Dillard keeps playing the way he has through two weeks, it’s going to be hard to keep him on the bench. He will face a tough test this week as Baltimore consistently has a top-ranked defense.
A new issue has arisen for Eagles reserves: the third tight end. Richard Rodgers was carted off the field during Tuesday’s practice, and he is expected to miss an extended period of time. That leaves the battle between former Giant Will Tye, and third-year vet Joshua Perkins. The final two preseason games will be a deciding factor, with it being likely that Ertz won’t play in either game and Goedert already announced as out for the preseason. I think the favorite to secure the job will be Perkins, as he made the 53-man roster last season and is a good pass catcher.
Another player that is down low on the depth chart but has impressed so far has been receiver Greg Ward Jr. Ward had quite an impressive touchdown last week. He made a great play on a ball that was under-thrown, and juked out a few defenders on his way to pay-dirt (on fourth down no less). If he performs the way he has previously in the final two games, I could see him taking the final receiver spot.
The entire defensive staff played well last week. When a team only gives up ten points in the preseason with a bunch of different guys playing, I think that is a true reflection of the coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has already proven that he knows how to get the most out of his players, as he has had a top ten ranked defense the past two seasons.
Two guys that I focused on last week in saying they both needed to play well were defensive ends Daeshon Hall and Shareef Miller. Both responded, as they each put up solid performances with highlight plays.
Hall recorded two huge sacks last week, including a strip sack at the end of the first half that got the Eagles defense out of a sticky situation. Not to be outdone, Miller also recorded a sack on a key third down in the second quarter. Both of these guys are neck and neck right now, and I expect the next two games to be a deciding factor on which guy sticks around on the 53-man roster (assuming they don’t keep both guys).
While the defensive line has seen some good competition, the same cannot be said about the reserve linebacking core. Through two games, it seems like nobody wants to step up and announce themselves as “the guy”. The bad thing about it is that it is looking more and more likely that the Eagles are going to have to rely on at least one of L.J. Fort, Zack Brown or Nathan Gerry to play meaningful football in the beginning of the regular season.
The one reserve linebacker I have been impressed with has been former Wisconsin Badger T.J. Edwards. It seems like he has been everywhere the ball has been, filling holes and making a ton of plays.
It remains to be seen, however, if that has to do with who he is lining up against. I’d like to see him get some reps against at least some of the second string players Thursday night. If he were to perform well against those players, then I think Edwards would have a legitimate shot at making the Eagles 53-man roster.
Time: 7:30 p.m.
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