Bubble WRs, Rookies Under Microscope Vs. Jets
The Eagles close the exhibition season Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
With roster decisions looming, many of the Eagles reserves will be looking to rebound from an abysmal showing against the New England Patriots and leave a lasting mark for coaches to evaluate while others will look to build on their summer momentum.
Here are six players to watch closely against the Jets:
RB Kenny Gainwell
Gainwell’s receiving prowess alone should earn him consistent snaps during the regular season and add a different dimension to the offense, but he’s also shown decisiveness and burst as a runner. The dynamic dual threat will presumably start the preseason finale before giving way to Elijah Holyfield and Jason Huntley. Keep tabs on Gainwell’s impact against the Jets’ top reserves.
WR Travis Fulgham
No surprise to see Fulgham on this list. The 25-year-old played deep into last week’s game against the Patriots and has yet to put his stamp on a roster spot despite a remarkable five-week outpour of production last season. Though he probably offers the highest ceiling between J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and John Hightower, you would like to see Fulgham rise to the occasion against Jets reserves before cementing his roster status. Otherwise, the team could scour the waiver wire to fill the big receiver void once the initial 53-man roster has been set.
TE Jack Stoll
Stoll played 31 snaps last week against the Patriots, hauling in four receptions for 33 yards on seven targets while also logging eight special teams snaps. Given the lack of depth at the tight end position, Stoll will likely be on the field for the majority of offensive snaps Friday, along with an occasional cameo from newcomer Cary Angeline. The 6-foot-4, 247-pound Stoll also received the most guaranteed money of the team’s most recent crop of undrafted free agents, so perhaps the initial interest, coupled with his added value, could move the needle and prompt the Eagles to go heavy at the position.
DT Marlon Tuipulotu
Tuipulotu had a golden opportunity to seize a wide-open depth role as the team’s fourth or fifth defensive tackle but has yet to distinguish himself. The rookie has played 94 snaps this preseason but has gotten engulfed in the running game and has yet to exhibit any glimpses of a prospect worth rostering. He’s looked decidedly overmatched in his transition to the NFL. He’ll get a long look against the Jets, but Tuipulotu’s rookie season would be best served on the practice squad, where he can continue to develop his play strength and refine his skill set.
LB Patrick Johnson
Genard Avery, the presumed frontrunner to assume the hybrid SAM role on Jonathan Gannon’s defense, has been sidelined with a groin injury. Joe Ostman was waived Tuesday. So, essentially, the last man standing in that battle is 2021 seventh-round selection, Patrick Johnson. The 6-foot-2, 248-pound Johnson has the instincts, anticipation, and pass-rush prowess to thrive in a situational role and has performed well on special teams. While the top three linebackers are likely etched in stone, the depth behind them is unsettled. Johnson will have an opportunity to impress the coaches one more time in his roster push.
S Elijah Riley
Riley has been my roster dark horse and was included on my pre-training camp 53-man roster projection for InsideTheBirds.com. The 23-year-old defensive back provides positional versatility – he was a standout boundary cornerback at Army – ball skills, range, and special teams upside. The 5-foot-11, 214-pound Riley has undoubtedly benefited from the absence of K’Von Wallace, playing 70 defensive snaps and 25 on special teams through two games, but Riley has seemingly maximized the opportunity. Riley’s primary obstacle to a roster spot is veteran Andrew Adams. While the 28-year-old Adams has 73 games of NFL experience working in his favor, he’s also a vested veteran, meaning if he’s on the roster for Week 1, his 2021 salary is fully guaranteed. Aside from the financial luxury, Riley appeals as a potential core special teamer in the vein of Rudy Ford, though it’s arguable the former offers greater upside as a defender.
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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