Going into last week's game at Kansas City, we wondered if the Eagles offensive line could rebound from its previous dreadful performance. While there were some good signs, notably the play of left guard Todd Herremans, the o-line is still a major worry headed into the season.
However, tonight, when the Eagles take on Rex Ryan's brash and bold style of New York Jets, we won't really be able to judge the offensive line, or any other starting unit for that matter — because only second and third team players will be out on the field for this game. So the big question for this week:
Which Player is Going to Make Himself the Hardest to Cut?
Soon enough the Eagles will have to cut down their roster from 75 players to only 53. Many of these decisions have already been made, but this game provides one last chance for bubble guys to prove they belong. Let's see where there's still competition.
Safety will be perhaps the most interesting spot to watch tonight. Quintin Mikell and Nate Allen are the starters, but none of the backups have an absolute hold on their position. Quintin Demps hasn't impressed in regular playing time, but is a dynamic kick returner who could relieve Ellis Hobbs on occasion. Kurt Coleman was only a 7th-round pick, but has shown plenty of potential on the field. Would he make it to the practice squad? Finally there's Macho Harris, who started a number of games last year at safety before getting moved back to corner temporarily. I doubt the coaches want to lose a player like Harris, but he has to show them something tonight.
There's also a numbers crunch along the defensive front. Omar Gaither is the first linebacker off the bench and both Moise Fokou and Keenan Clayton would be tough to cut. If the Eagles keep 10 defensive backs, there might not be another spot here — and Jamar Chaney could be playing for the practice squad. Similarly, 7th-round pick Jeff Owens would have to beat out either Trevor Laws or Antonio Dixon for a roster spot to make the 53-man team.
On offense there are close battles at running back and wide receiver. Hank Baskett, with his experience in this offense, will probably beat out Kelley Washington, but he shouldn't get complacent. Same with Eldra Buckley over Martell Mallett. Neither Baskett nor Buckley are anything special, but can be serviceable backups and provide solid special teams play.
Finally, along the offensive line, the first eight spots seem set. Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Jamaal Jackson, Winston Justice, Nick Cole, and Stacy Andrews are all locks. Mike McGlynn and Max Jean-Gilles have gotten starting work at the interior positions, where they will likely beat out the rest of a motley crew. The question comes at tackle. Do you keep 10 offensive lineman? If so, Austin Howard and King Dunlap both make the team. If not, is Howard's potential more valuable than Dunlap's experience?
As you can see, there are only one or two spots open at each position, and many of the players who just make the cut won't make a huge impact. But tonight's game against the Jets gives the players on the bubble their last chance to make a case for themselves.
Time to leave it all out on the field.