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August 31, 2017

Eagles vs. Jets: Five things to watch

Eagles NFL

The Philadelphia Eagles will play in their fourth and final preseason game Thursday night against the New York Jets, as they typically do. The starters are highly unlikely to see any action whatsoever, so it'll be an opportunity for the coaching staff to get one last look at what depth players should make the final 53-man roster.

Here are five things we'll be watching:

1) The RB battle: Donnel Pumphrey vs. Corey Clement

Corey Clement has carried the ball 24 times for 89 yards and 2 TDs throughout the preseason and has somehow become thought of as some kind of stud running back the team absolutely cannot afford to expose to the rest of the league on waivers.

Still, he has had a better preseason than Donnel Pumphrey, a fourth-round pick who has struggled with ball security and has not looked as fast as you might expect from a 5'8, 170-pound player.

This is a huge game for each guy.

2) TE Billy Brown

One of the most intriguing players on the roster bubble is undrafted rookie Billy Brown, who converted to tight end after playing wide receiver at small school Shepherd University.

There's no guarantee that either Brent Celek or Trey Burton will be back with the team in 2018, so Brown would make sense as player worth keeping on the 53-man roster to groom for a year to be ready to contribute in 2018.

Ideally, the team would probably prefer to keep Brown on the practice squad, but they run a legitimate risk of having him poached if he hits the waiver wire. Brown's total playing time could tell the story on what the Eagles intend to do with him. If he doesn't play much, maybe the Eagles are trying to hide him from the 31 other teams. If he does play a lot, that could be an indication that they intend to get him valuable reps and keep him on the 53-man roster.

3) CB Dexter McDougle

Thursday night will be the media and fans' first chance to see the newly acquired McDougle, who came over in a trade with the Jets. McDougle has ability but has been unable to stay healthy throughout his three-year career. By all accounts, McDougle was having a good camp when the Jets dealt him, so it will be interesting to see what he can do in a new defense.

4) Backup quarterback agita

Nick Foles is highly unlikely to play against the Jets, and the Eagles will have to decide if they can trust him heading into the regular season as their only backup quarterback. It is less than ideal if they feel that they have to carry three quarterbacks on their roster, for the following reasons:

  1. The current third quarterback certainly isn't the answer.
  2. They'll have to cut a player at some other position that they would otherwise keep.
  3. It cost a ton of money to cut Chase Daniel and sign Foles. That will look like yet another colossal mistake at backup QB, two years in a row.

It will likely be known before the coin toss that Foles won't play. We'll see.

5) LS Rick Lovato

Seriously? A long snapper? Yep, that's preseason game No. 4 for you. Long snappers are only noticed whenever they (A) mess up, or (B) become "the guy" after the team trades away the uber-popular magician long snapper who was in place before you.

Thursday night will be a rare occasion in which there are people watching specifically for the accuracy of the long snapper's snaps. So that'll be fun.

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