Billy Brown

Eagles-Jets preseason finale: 10 players to watch

Eagles-Jets preseason finale: 10 players to watch

Ahh, the fourth preseason game. I know you're excited. 

It's a game that means nothing to most but everything to a select few. Those few will have one last shot to battle it out for a roster spot Thursday night when the Eagles play the Jets in North Jersey. 

The starters won't play, which means Carson Wentz and his group will watch. 

If Nick Foles actually plays in this game, he's worth watching. He has practiced minimally throughout the summer and hasn't played in any of the preseason games. He finally returned to practice Monday but missed Tuesday because he was sick. Head coach Doug Pederson as of Tuesday hadn't made up his mind about whether or not Foles would play, but the team doesn't seem to be worried about forcing him into action. 

With that said, here are 10 other Eagles to watch on Thursday night: 

Dexter McDougle 
The Eagles traded for McDougle on Sunday and he'll face his former team Thursday night. Not a ton of time to prepare for the young cornerback. But as Jalen Mills said earlier this week, "Man is man, zone is zone," no matter what defense a corner is playing in. McDougle is a late-arriver but keep an eye on him in the slot. That might be a position that fits him in Philly. 

Beau Allen
Allen returned from the non-football injury list this week after completely healing from his torn pec. He's entering a contract season and is probably still the Eagles' top backup defensive tackle, although Destiny Vaeao was impressive in Allen's absence. Don't expect Allen to play a ton Thursday, but he should get a few snaps and we'll see where he is. 

Rick Lovato 
It's the fourth preseason game and I'm telling you to watch a long snapper. I apologize. But let's be honest, you were going to watch Jon Dorenbos' replacement anyway, weren't you? The Eagles were impressed enough with Lovato at the end of last year and this offseason to move on from their longest-tenured player. If Lovato has a bad snap Thursday … 

Billy Brown 
When asked recently about which position battles he's watching in these final days, Pederson surprisingly mentioned the tight ends. That's surprising because the top three guys — Zach Ertz, Trey Burton and Brent Celek — haven't changed. What has changed is Brown, a young receiver-turned-tight end from Shepherd. Brown has been impressive all summer and might have the Eagles thinking about keeping four tight ends.

Corey Clement 
Clement has done everything right this summer. The running back from Glassboro, New Jersey, has run the ball well, pass protected and even shown his growing ability as a pass-catcher. But will it be enough? It seems unlikely the Eagles would keep five running backs, so in the group of LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey, who would go? The easy answer might be Pumphrey, but he's a fourth-round pick and it would be very rare to give up on him this early. Clement has one more chance to prove his worth. 

Greg Ward
After a really strong start to training camp, Ward has kind of been forgotten in recent weeks. The former University of Houston quarterback made a pretty seamless transition to NFL receiver and turned heads early in camp. He still has a chance to make the roster. After the first four receivers — Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins — Marcus Johnson is probably the next guy up. If the Eagles keep six, Ward is battling with Shelton Gibson and Bryce Treggs for that last spot. 

Taylor Hart 
It's crazy to think, but it wouldn't be that big of a surprise if Hart makes the Eagles' roster as an offensive tackle. He switched positions in the spring, flipping from defensive to offensive tackle and hasn't looked completely out of place. Now, he very likely wouldn't be ready to take snaps this year, but the Eagles might think they have something in him. 

Alex McCalister
Expect McCalister and Steven Means to play a ton in this last game. We listed McCalister instead of Means because, based on performance and the latter's extension Wednesday (see story), McCalister is the one playing catch-up. Now, he was a late-round draft pick a year ago, so maybe that gives him one advantage. But in terms of on-field play to go with a new deal, it will be tough to keep Means off the roster. A big game from McCalister can't hurt, though.

Justin Hamilton 
Allen's return from the NFI list was bad news for Hamilton, who has been having a very quiet but good summer. With Allen back, there's one less roster spot up for grabs. That means Hamilton is fighting with draft pick Elijah Qualls for a spot. Qualls has come on strong lately and has a lot of untapped potential. 

Aaron Grymes
The former CFL cornerback might have made the 2016 team but he injured his shoulder in this game a year ago. With Ron Brooks gone, it appears that either Patrick Robinson or McDougle will take the slot role, but don't sleep on Grymes just yet. He got some run with the first-team defense in the nickel corner spot and is a natural fit there.