EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The next time the Eagles play a football game it will actually matter.
The Eagles 2017 preseason mercifully came to a close with a 16-10 loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Thursday night. The Eagles finished the preseason with a 2-2 record.
Thanks to the new rule that allows teams to keep 90 players through the fourth preseason game, there was no need for the Eagles to play starters or even a lot of their second-team players. A lot of guys who won't make the roster were on the field Thursday night.
The big question coming in was about Nick Foles. He didn't play. He missed all of the preseason and has practiced very minimally in the last month thanks to a lingering elbow injury (see story).
With Carson Wentz not playing and with Foles out, Matt McGloin got the start. He didn't do much to alleviate any fears about his ability to be the Eagles' backup if necessary. He's played a lot this preseason and hasn't looked very good. At times, he hasn't been awful but there hasn't been any reason to think he could be an adequate backup if Foles' injury ends up being more serious.
The final preseason tally for McGloin: He went 76 for 109 for 581 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions and a passer rating of 73.99.
Stopping the starters
The Jets put their first-team offense on the field against the Eagles' reserves and still couldn't get much going. With starting quarterback Josh McCown on the field, the Jets had two drives. They went 62 yards on 14 plays total with three first downs and had to settle for a field goal on the second drive. A starting NFL offense should have been able to move down the field against the combination of second- and third-team players the Eagles had out there. That might speak more to the state of the Jets than it does about the Eagles' reserves.
Almost a disaster
The Jets wanted to get their first-team offense some work but nearly had a disaster. Joe Walker came on a blitz in the first quarter and put a hard hit on McCown. The Jets' starter tried to shake it off but couldn't and needed to briefly come out of the game. Luckily, for the Jets, he was able to return. But this is why teams don't play their starters in the fourth preseason game. Obviously, the Jets aren't going to be good this year, but losing their starting quarterback would have been rough.
Donnel Pumphrey didn't show much this preseason, but the Eagles did show what they think of him. To call him a running back at this point isn't completely accurate. He's a hybrid player to the Eagles and I'm not sure we can tell his worth until they game plan. The Eagles also made it a point to get him on the field at the same time as Byron Marshall. That's important because Darren Sproles hasn't played this preseason and there might be opportunities for them to use that "pony" set this season.
Pumphrey left the game to be evaluated for a head injury in the second half. That may or may not be enough to stash him on the IR. The Eagles don't want to give up on a fourth-round pick, but Pumphrey is making this hard on them.
Dillon Gordon has a ton of potential but he isn't living up to it yet. Kony Ealy beat him bad on a swim move to pop McGloin and force a fumble. A little later, he got beaten badly again. The Eagles kept Gordon on the roster all last season as a project and there's a good chance they keep him again, but how long will they wait?
Qualls is caught up
Defensive tackle Elijah Qualls missed the spring because of the stupid NCAA graduation rule and then got hurt early on in training camp, which led to a bizarre scene where position coach Chris Wilson berated him while the rookie was still on the ground. Everything since then has been good for Qualls, the sixth-round pick. He was extremely quick off the ball and made some plays (see 10 observations). I think he will be on the roster.
McCalister keeps coming
Second-year defensive end Alex McCalister piled up sacks this preseason. It appears that Steven Means locked up the fifth defensive end job when the team signed him to an extension on Wednesday night, but McCalister didn't sulk. He came out and got another sack, bringing his preseason total to 3½. He left the game with a hamstring injury.
Since it was the fourth preseason game, a bunch of Eagles didn't play. Here's the list: Foles, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Brooks, Ronald Darby, Brent Celek, Malcolm Jenkins, Vinny Curry, Wendell Smallwood, Zach Ertz, Carson Wentz, Chris Long, Mychal Kendricks, Derek Barnett, Trey Burton, Patrick Robinson, Tim Jernigan, Rodney McLeod, Sproles, Jason Kelce, LeGarrette Blount, Isaac Seumalo, Stefen Wisniewski, Nelson Agholor, Alshon Jeffery, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Nigel Bradham, Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Brandon Graham, Jordan Hicks.
It's notable that Robinson didn't play. It looks like he has locked up a roster spot (see story).
Also, last year Kendricks played deep into the fourth preseason game. This year, he didn't play at all. He had a great preseason and there still might be trade value that would have been lost with an injury.
The roster, which is at 86 players now, must be down to 53 by 4 p.m. on Saturday. The Eagles have a lot of work to do.
The regular season kicks off next Sunday, Sept. 10, when the Eagles head down to Washington. Then they're at Kansas City in Week 2. The first home game of the season is against the Giants on Sept. 24.