By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
The Eagles travel south to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars for their second preseason contest. Thursday night's contest is not lacking in the storyline department, despite the game not meaning anything in the standings. The birds will see a familiar face at TIAA Bank Field in former teammate, Super Bowl MVP and fan favorite Nick Foles.
Fortunately for Eagles fans like myself, we will not be forced to root against Nick quite yet. Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone announced Tuesday night that Foles, along with many other Jacksonville starters, will not be seeing the field Thursday night.
Nick Foles will not be playing in Thursday nights game against the eagles— Derrick Gunn (@RealDGunnNBCS) August 13, 2019
There are plenty of other reasons to tune into the game Thursday night. While this team does look good on paper, there are some areas of the team that need answers. According to John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia, we should not expect many starters, including quarterback Carson Wentz, to play much, if at all, against Jacksonville. Therefore, this will be another game that the team will be doing a lot of evaluating the depth of the roster.
Young Eagles on the Offensive Line
The Eagles have already announced that Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks will be out for all of the preseason. Couple that with the strong possibility that the Eagles will not play any starters on the offensive line on Thursday night, and that will lead to another chance for evaluation of some young Eagles.
First-round pick Andre Dillard really impressed in last week's game against the Titans, dominating in both the the run and the pass game. He looked good in every facet of the game and did not seem like a rookie at all. The most encouraging thing about Dillard's performance last week is that at no point during the game did the Washington State product look lost.
Don't be surprised if Dillard turns in a similar performance this week, as he will likely be playing against Jacksonville's reserves. While Dillard did make some headlines this week after getting into scuffles with teammates two days in a row, Doug Pederson diffused the situation.
Doug Pederson on Andre Dillard gettin into it with Derek Barnett— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) August 13, 2019
“He’s so passionate about what he does and how he plays, he wants to be perfect. He doesn't want to make mistakes. I just reassured him after practice, he's been doing an excellent job and playing really well” pic.twitter.com/uChXQ3jJ5n
A lineman that I will be watching like a hawk this week is Matt Pryor. Pryor struggled in multiple ways last Thursday, as he had both a false start and a hold, while also having issues in pass protection. If the 2018 sixth-round pick does not improve this week or throughout the rest of the preseason, it will be tough to imagine him making the team.
Another guy to watch closely this week is rugby-turned-football player Jordan Mailata. The 2018 seventh-round pick had his best performance as a professional football player last week. While he had some good moments, there were some plays where he struggled with pass protection. Keeping in mind that Mailata is a project, having never played football in his life before last season, growing pains are expected. Hopefully, Mailata will continue to trend in the right direction with the abundance in playing time he'll be getting this preseason.
Defensive Line Depth
With six defensive line positions seemingly locked up (Cox, Graham, Barnett, Jackson, Jernigan, Curry), that leaves three, possibly four spots for the 53-man roster on the d-line. I expect Josh Sweat to occupy one of those spots, along with Hassan Ridgeway, who had a strong performance last week.
I think one of the final spots will come down to third-year vet Daeshon Hall and 2019 fourth-round pick Shareef Miller. Both players had up-and-down moments in last week's game.
Hall contributed a sack and a forced fumble last Thursday night. However, many of his opportunities in the backfield came due to poor offensive line play by the young Titans. While there is something to be said about taking advantage of an opportunity, which Hall did, I'd still like to see if he can make some plays that aren't due to the inability of the other team.
As for Miller, he made some nice plays in the run game last week, but seemed to struggle in pass rush situations. This is consistent with his play at Penn State, as he was known as more of a run stopper than a pass rusher. Still, if Miller wants to make the team and see the field, he will have to get more out of rushing the passer.
What Will the Eagles Get Out of Their Quarterback Play?
With Carson Wentz unlikely to play Thursday night, prepare to watch a whole lot of Cody Kessler and Clayton Thorson. Unfortunately for the team and for those of us who have to watch, Nate Sudfeld suffered a broken wrist last week. The injury will sideline him for at least six weeks, which will go through the beginning of the regular season. It's a tough break for Sudfeld, as he played well in his first chance to be the front-runner for the back-up quarterback position.
So, someone is going to have to step up at quarterback. To put it mildly, neither Kessler nor Thorson impressed at all last week. It may be due to this offense being new to both guys, but then again there is a reason that they were the third and fourth string quarterbacks coming into training camp. Hopefully, at the very least, they improve this week. It would be ideal for at least one of them to have a good performance.
If one of them is able to turn in a good game, then that will take the pressure off the front office. With Sudfeld primed to miss the beginning of the regular season but coming back in October at the latest, the front office will obviously want to avoid needing to go out and get a new option at back-up quarterback. With that being said, if neither Kessler or Thorson show a pulse throughout the rest of the preseason, that may force Howie Roseman's hand to go find a rental until Sudfeld returns.
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: 94.1 FM WIP
Online: NFL Gamepass