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September 01, 2016

Eagles-Jets preseason game: Five players to watch

Eagles NFL
083116PaulTurner Darron Cummings/AP

One more game to try to impress, Paul Turner. An undrafted guy's work is never done.

In the Philadelphia Eagles' fourth and final preseason game, it was expected all along that Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz would get to play the entire game (or close to it). Unfortunately, his rib has not healed quickly enough to the Eagles' liking, so they have made the prudent decision to hold him out.

Still, there are a lot of players fighting for their jobs in the final preseason game. Here are five to watch Thursday night.

WR Paul Turner

If roster spots were chosen based on how well players actually, you know, play during training camp and the preseason, Turner would be a lock. However, Turner's work is not yet done. 

Turner led the team in receiving in each of the first two preseason games, making 6 catches for 34 yards on 7 targets against the Tampa Bay Buccaneeers, and 3 catches for 44 yards on 3 targets against the Pittsburgh Steelers. His performance against the Steelers included this one-handed catch.

In the third preseason game, Turner had 2 catches for 21 yards on 4 targets.

With the Eagles having cut Reuben Randle and Chris Givens, two of Turner's biggest competitors for a roster spot vanished. Now his competition will be in the form of other receivers around the league who are cut by their respective teams.

If the Eagles believe that they can safely stash Turner on the practice squad without other teams trying to poach him, that could be the route they take. Turner could make it more difficult on the team to take that approach with one final impressive showing.

CB C.J. Smith

In addition to the wide receivers, Doug Pederson said that the defensive backs will be among the positional groups he's watching this week.

"We've still got some young guys in the back end of the secondary that we're still taking a look at," said Pederson. "Receivers are the same way. I mean, really this is a great challenge for all the players in this football game to get one last substantial amount of reps and to really put themselves on tape. I've made it known to the team that it's not just our team that's watching, it's the rest of the National Football League that's also watching. And I want them to go out there and play carefree. Play fast and have fun doing it. At the end of the day, they can hold their head up and say they gave everything they had at that time."

Like Turner, Smith has had a strong preseason, and may be the beneficiary of an injury to Aaron Grymes, who was released with an injury settlement this week. If the Eagles opt to keep six corners, Smith could be a surprise player to crack the 53-man roster.

OT/TE/FB Dillon Gordon

The Eagles converted Gordon from a TE to a LT, where he has never played in his life, but has shown impressive raw athleticism and ability. While the Eagles likely would not want Gordon to have to play in a regular season game right now, they have to be worried about other teams around the league recognizing Gordon's talent and trying to poach him, should the Eagles try to sneak him onto their practice squad.

The fourth preseason game will provide Gordon with a chance to impress not just the Eagles, but other teams around the league.

DT Destiny Vaeao

A week or so ago, Pederson said that the Eagles were going to count on DT Mike Martin for about 15 snaps per game this season. And then they cut him.

"It's unfortunate with the situation that he was in," Pederson said of Martin. "The knee just never came back. It just never bounced back, and it is hard. It's tough for players and veteran players like that. You're making decisions that are kind of out of his control. We also felt like doing it early enough that if there's an interest out there from another team that could pick him up and try to give him that opportunity. And plus we had some young guys play well. So, all in all, it was the right thing to do for the team."

Was Pederson referring to Vaeao as "one of the young guys" who have played well? Certainly, Martin's absence will help Vaeao's chances of making the team.

LB Myke Tavarres

OMG, will he stand or sit for the national anthem?!?

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