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August 16, 2019

What they're saying: The Eagles' biggest roster hole and takeaways from second preseason game

The Eagles came away with a win in their second preseason game on Thursday night, beating the Jaguars, 24-10, on the road. But Philly also lost third-string (and the backup until Nate Sudfeld returns) to a concussion early in the game, paving way for The Clayton Thorson Show.

And, unlike most things in life, the sequel was actually much better than the original. Many of the takeaways from the win were about how much improvement the rookie fifth-round pick showed from week to week. But there was plenty more to dissect as the Eagles prepare for their joint practices with the Ravens on Monday and Tuesday. 

With the Eagles having the day off on Friday, we decided to take a look around at what the local and national football analysts are saying about the Eagles following their first preseason win.

The biggest hole on the roster

Dan Graziano | ESPN

Before getting into all those breakdowns of Thorson and Daeshon Hall, let's take a look at the bigger picture for the Birds with a story from ESPN's Dan Graziano, in which he broke down the biggest weaknesses on each contender's roster. And with the Eagles being one of the favorites to make a deep playoff run this season, the Eagles were included in his list.

So, where does he see a potential problem for Philly?

Chances to make the playoffs: 66.7%

Chances to win the NFC East: 56.4%

Biggest hole: Cornerback

Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are coming off injuries. Sidney Jones is in the mix as a replacement for one of them. But there isn't a ton of depth, and the recent acquisition of Orlando Scandrick shows that the Eagles know that.

We're nitpicking here, because all of these rosters so far look very strong top to bottom. But if there's a crack in Philly, it could show up on the back end of the defense.  []

Getting defensive

Dave Spadaro |

One of the things that should help the Eagles secondary this season will be the pressure generated by the defensive line, one that has proven to have quite a bit of depth this preseason. Two of those depth players at defensive end are Shareef Miller and Daeshon Hall. 

Here's more on how those two looked on Thursday night from Eagles insider Dave Spadaro:

6. Once again, defensive end Daeshon Hall was a major factor. He had two more quarterback sacks and a forced fumble. He has three sacks and two forced fumbles in two preseason games. As the Eagles look for pass-rushing depth, Hall is stating his case impressively.

7. Fourth-round draft pick Shareef Miller was around the ball as well, recording a sack, two tackles for loss, and four total tackles. He’s coming on. The Eagles felt confident in their young edge players and that confidence is being rewarded halfway through the preseason.  []

MORE: Handing out 10 awards from Eagles-Jaguars

A good problem to have

Mike Kaye |

Unfortunately for the Eagles, they likely won't have enough roster spots for both Miller, a fourth-round pick out of Penn State, and Hall. And with the way both are playing this summer, the Eagles are going to have a hard time getting them through waivers and onto their practice squad. And that could put Howie Roseman in a difficult spot in two weeks when the team has to cut the roster nearly in half. 

Entering the preseason, the Eagles seemingly had their top two pairings set in stone: Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett as starters and Vinny Curry and Josh Sweat as their main backups. Hall and Miller were then expected to compete for the fifth and likely final spot.

However, with the pair’s emergence during the exhibition slate, the Eagles may need to get creative with their roster numbers. The Eagles have short-term injuries at quarterback, tight end, cornerback and linebacker, so the team could have a handful of notable sidelined players on the Week 1 roster.

With multiple injuries posing problems for the Eagles’ depth chart, the front office may struggle to house six defensive ends on the 53-man roster. Due to the injuries at cornerback and linebacker, extra depth spots may be used to fill the voids at those positions, leaving little room for one or two extra pass rushers.  []

Thor, son

Brandon Lee Gowton | Bleeding Green Nation

I told you we would get to the Clayton Thorson love. Here's more from Brandon Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation, who hints at the fact that Cody Kessler, not Thorson, could be the odd man out in the Eagles' quarterback competition.

Thorson’s touchdown pass to Greg Ward drew some criticism for being underthrown. I think that’s silly. He’s a rookie quarterback who was facing a blitz and he ultimately gave his receiver a chance to make a play on fourth down. (Look at me, I’m suddenly a Clayton Thorson defender!)

Thorson looked much more composed out there tonight. The rookie was able to put his first game jitters behind him. It also helped that Thorson received good protection from his offensive line. He was only sacked once and hit twice.

If Thorson continues to show promise, the Eagles won’t risk exposing him to waivers by cutting him and trying to get him on the practice squad. They can just stick with him as Wentz’s top backup for a couple weeks before Sudfeld eventually returns. Kessler would obviously be the odd man out in this scenario.  []

Could the Eagles really head into Week 1 with Clayton Thorson as their backup? If they do, the good news is that it likely won't be for long.

MORE: 4 Eagles who impressed in win over Jaguars

Stock watch

Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Over at NBC Sports Philadelphia, Dave Zangaro took a look at which players saw their stock rise and which saw it fall on Thursday night. Unsurprisingly, Thorson's stock is on the rise, while a veteran offensive lineman who pretty much everyone expected to make the roster heading into camp has seen his stock take a bit hit.

Stock up 

Clayton Thorson

The bar was pretty low for Thorson after an absolutely dreadful performance last week, but the fifth-round rookie cleared it by a miles against the Jaguars. Thrust into action much earlier than he anticipated because of Cody Kessler’s injury, Thorson showed a little something on Thursday night. He completed 16 of 26 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown. He threw an INT, but it wasn’t really his fault. What makes his performance even more impressive is that he barely got any practice reps during the week.

Stock down

Stefen Wisniewski

I don’t know what’s going on with Wiz, but he just can’t seem to snap the football right now. It’s really strange that an NFL veteran — a guy who has been a starter in this league at center — keeps having these wild snaps, but they’ve happened all training camp and now in the first two preseason games. Really, I think the Eagles’ backup center is Isaac Seumalo, but the Eagles have always liked Wiz’s versatility. That doesn’t mean much if he’s a liability at center.  []

Nowhere to go but up

Daniel Gallen | Penn Live

Because you should never trust just one stock analyst, we're also going to take a look at what Daniel Gallen of saw against the Jags. 

While several of their players are the same — and there are none that directly contradict each other — here's one that's somewhat different from what Dave had (he listed Miles Sanders under "stock up," not the entire running game). And after a dismal performance against the Titans in the preseason opener, there was hardly anywhere to go but up... 

Stock up: The running game

The running backs couldn’t get anything going until late against the Tennessee Titans last week. Against the Jaguars, Miles Sanders got the start and paced the Eagles early, along with Jordan Howard. Sanders rushed five times for 31 yards, while Howard had four carries for 15 yards, including a nice 10-yard run through the line.

In the fourth quarter, Boston Scott and Donnel Pumphrey shut things down. They combined to gain all the non-penalty yards on one touchdown drive, and together, they carried 12 times for 72 yards and a touchdown. Both are longshots to make the roster, but they could be opening career avenues elsewhere.

And in between, Josh Adams stepped up after an fumble last week. He had five carries for only seven yards, but he bullied his way in for a 1-yard score — and area he struggled in as a rookie — and he also had a 19-yard catch and run. It’s a positive development for the Eagles.  []

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