Backups, Roster Hopefuls Ready For Preseason Showcase
The Eagles are set to kick off preseason play Friday night against the Jets at Lincoln Financial Field, though head coach Nick Sirianni hasn’t determined how long his starters will play.
“Don’t have to make a final decision obviously until they go out there,” Sirianni said Wednesday. “But we’re thinking one to two series with the starters.”
The Eagles held 13 players out of practice Wednesday, including recent additions Jason Kelce – who is out indefinitely due to a “routine cleanout” surgery on his elbow – and safety Anthony Harris, who was added to the list after having his tooth extracted.
Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard both returned to practice Tuesday, albeit in a limited capacity, after clearing concussion protocol. The limited designation also carried over into Wednesday, though both participated in team drills.
Sirianni, however, hasn’t let the meager state of the offensive line deter him from allocating snaps as he sees fit.
“Still staying one or two series with them,” he said.
It’s also fair to wonder whether the risks outweigh the rewards for players like Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown, Lane Johnson, Brandon Graham, Haason Reddick, and even rookie center Cam Jurgens – and what exactly will be determined in a handful of game reps that hasn’t already been revealed in practice or will be in the coming weeks via joint practices.
In terms of reps, primary backups and players on the fringe of the roster benefit most from preseason.
Fourth-year quarterback Gardner Minshew, who has been erratic and careless with the football throughout the first two weeks of camp, might be the best example of a key reserve who needs live game reps to shake off the proverbial cobwebs and settle in.
“I think he’s running the offense smoothly,” Sirianni said. “He’s had some interceptions that have happened that aren’t necessarily his fault, right, with tipped balls, this and that.
“You always want him to keep getting better every day. I know he’ll go out there and play well in the pre-season games. You also know like, OK, if he has a down day, you know what he’s been in the past. You know that he helped us win a game last year and he’s played at a high level. You know the games he’s played in the NFL, his 42 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and all that stuff.
“I do believe there have been some picks he’s had that aren’t necessarily his fault, but he’s in the process of trying to get better just like we all are.”
While I expect Minshew to shoulder the majority of the snaps Friday night, I’ll be paying close attention several of the roster hopefuls that he’ll have at his disposal, like running back Jason Huntley and wide receivers Britain Covey and Deon Cain.
This preseason is more unique than most for the Eagles, because the team has a proven veteran quarterback commanding the second- and third-team offense, which legitimatizes the evaluation process.
First-round pick Jordan Davis, third-round pick Nakobe Dean, Davion Taylor, and Marcus Epps figure to be the main draws on defense.
The preseason won’t offer any clues in the way of a team’s philosophy or strategy, and the product on the field generally leaves much to be desired, but these three games are essential in terms of fine-tuning and filling out the backend of the roster.
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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