August 30, 2017
Just one game stands between football fans and football that actually matters – for Eagles fans, it's Thursday night's preseason finale at the New York Jets – and that's a good thing. A very good thing.
With three preseason games in the books, including last week's win over the Dolphins that was highlighted by a streaking squirrel, pretty much everyone is ready to get to the regular season. Unfortunately, the one game remaining is typically the worst of the four.
The starters won't play – and in the case of the Eagles, it's looking like backup quarterback Nick Foles won't be making his preseason debut – but the one thing this game has all over the first preseason game is the stakes. Sure, the points don't matter, but what happens on the field could be the difference between a player starting a lucrative career or starting to look for a new job.
For the Eagles, a few of those roster battles – at wide receiver, tight end and running back – could be impacted by their quarterback situation. Former Penn State QB Matt McGloin, already the team leader in pass attempts this preseason, will start if Foles is once again inactive and could play nearly the entire game.
How big of an effect, if any, that has on the skill players trying to find a spot on the roster remains to be seen. And perhaps the most intriguing of those battles is at running back, where a local undrafted free agent has a chance to beat out the all-time FBS career rushing leader.
In other words, there are reasons to watch.
Here's a look at five over/unders for Thursday night's game against the Jets, including a look at the running back battle:
That’s the total currently being offered over at Bovada. I was spectacularly wrong about the points last week against the Dolphins – they surpassed the 42.5 points needed to hit the over by the middle of the second quarter – so what little confidence I had in my ability to predict how a bunch of backups will play is completely shot. Even though the Eagles struggled to score in their first two games, I’m going to take the over this week.
That’s right, with Nick Foles likely sitting out yet another preseason game and Carson Wentz having the night off, I’m putting my faith in Matt McGloin (62-of-88 for 491 yards, 1 TD and 3 INTs in three preseason games). Don’t let me down.
If we were doing yards per carry, I’d go with Clement in a heartbeat. But we’re not; we’re including receiving yards as well (but not return yards).
So far this preseason, Pumphrey is averaging 3.48 yards per offensive touch (39 rushing yards on 19 carries, 69 receiving yards on 12 catches) and Clement, who has scored twice on the ground so far, is averaging 4.57 per touch (89 rushing yards on 24 carries, 48 receiving yards on 8 catches). And based on what we’ve seen from both backs, it’s hard to envision Pumphrey suddenly figuring something out in the preseason finale.
Could the winner of this over/under guarantee himself a roster spot over the other? It’s not as simple since one is a fourth-round draft pick and the other is a UDFA. If Pederson had total control, he'd go with the best player, no matter how he was acquired. But there are other considerations to be made.
"At the end of the day you pick the best 53," Pederson said Tuesday when asked about weighing such factors. "Obviously, I think you do consider where a guy was picked and if there are resources invested, if there's guarantees, all that stuff, which I leave that to Howie [Roseman] and those guys. I'm sure that plays a little bit into the decisions. But from my standpoint, we pick the best 53 football players for this roster."
As much as I’d like to see Clement, a Glassboro, N.J. native make his hometown team, it’s more important for the Eagles that they see something out of Pumphrey. After all, he broke the FBS career rushing record last season. It’d be a shame to think that kind of talent can’t translate to the NFL.
So far, however, it hasn’t, so I’m going to take the under (meaning Clement has the better numbers). But that doesn’t necessarily mean the roster battle is over even if it plays out that way.
That’s way too high, right? Not so fast. It’s actually below what the Eagles are averaging this preseason in terms of takeaways per game (3.67). They’ve forced at least three in all three games this preseason, including four in each of the last two. Sure, the starters aren’t playing, but it’s actually been the other guys on the roster responsible for the takeaways – every game, multiple have occurred after the starters were pulled.
Hell, Mychal Kendricks might hit the over all by himself in this one.
Through three games, Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks has played like a guy who wants to win a starting job – and not necessarily one on the Eagles. After asking the team for a trade earlier this offseason, Kendricks has gone above and beyond trying to help his current team get the best value in return by posting three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), a sack, and two tackles for loss.
This number depends a lot on how much he plays, but if the Eagles are still interested in trading him before the season, it would make sense for him to see a decent amount of time against backups from a team that already lacks much offensive firepower.
The Eagles traded away their longest-tenured player on Monday night, long snapper Jon Dorenbos. It’s probably the only time in NFL history that a team trading their long snapper caused people to question how his absence might impact team chemistry. It’s also probably one of the only time’s a guy at that position has been called a fan favorite. But it’s true – and for good reason.
Replacing Dorenbos will put a lot of pressure on
Demi Rick Lovato. And when you put a lot of pressure on someone who has just one job, that’s often when you see the cracks.
But Lovato’s done this before. Don’t forget he’s the guy who replaced Dorenbos last season following a wrist injury. He played in each of the Eagles final three games and has played in seven total over his two-year career. I think he can handle the spotlight just fine.
Of course, the first time a snap isn’t perfect, fans will begin clamoring for Dorenbos. No pressure, kid.
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