August 26, 2021   5 MIN READ

Inside The Birds: D-Line Overwhelms Jets; Crunch Time For Bubble Wideouts


As the Eagles prepare for their final preseason game Friday night against the Jets, the question is if head coach Nick Sirianni will play or rest his starters.

On the latest Inside The Birds, Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan shared notes from joint practices and discuss the 53-man roster outlook.

ITB photo: Eagles first-year HC Nick Sirianni will make several tough roster decisions after Friday’s preseason finale.

Resting Starters

People have asked, ‘Who is really calling the shots on this?’ Is this a Nick Sirianni decision or a decision that’s coming from above. When you dig into it, you start to connect some really obvious dots. One team that we know of that doesn’t play its starters in the preseason – and now this year is also not playing significant backups – is the Rams. That’s happened ever since Sean McVay got there. Sean McVay is big into sports science. If you recall … when Howie Roseman redid the [Eagles] medial staff for like the second time in three years, one of the big central figures in their medical and sports science departments is Ted Rath. What team did he come from? The Rams.

“Jeffrey Lurie may have had his issues with Chip Kelly, but one thing he loved about him was the technological advances, and a lot that sports science was kept over [after Kelly’s firing]. It’s pretty clear every time Nick Sirianni is asked about short practices and games and starters not playing, he says it’s a collective decision and always mentions many people on ‘the staff.’ It’s pretty clear connecting the dots that a lot of these decisions right now have a lot of influence from Ted Rath and his sports science/medical background.”

Ryan Kerrigan

Adam Caplan: “Kerrigan’s right thumb is casted. What he’s doing at practices, he’s dressed fully, where if you didn’t know better you’d say, ‘Oh, he’s back practicing.’ Not quite. He’s actually taking mental reps the entire practice as if he were playing but he just can’t put his thumb down yet. It’s his right thumb, because it just has to heal, because you can see it casted. So I don’t know that he’s gonna be ready Week 1 yet. We’ll have more on our next show, but that’s where he is at right now.”


Caplan: “Let me just tell you something, [the Eagles’] D-Line absolutely abused the Jets. I’ve been to a lot of joint practice before, and the Wednesday practice was more spirited than the Tuesday practice, but they absolutely manhandled the Jets offense. It was actually not fair at times to the point where it was like, ‘Are the Jets putting the best guys out there? What is going on here?’”

Devonta Smith

Caplan: “I’ve covered this business for 21 years and I’ve seen some great talented receivers, and I’d really have to ask some receivers coaches who they’ve seen with better with releases. I don’t think [the Jets] covered his release from the line once. I know the Jets corners are not very good, they’re marginal starters. It was not fair, this kid was unbelievable getting off the line. In 1-on-1s – I’m not kidding – it’s like when you see Allen Iverson with his crossover, he’d break ankles, these guys didn’t know where he was going. It was unbelievable this guy getting off the line, it was something to see.”

Geoff Mosher: “It’s a good point you raised because a lot of the rookies that you see come in and do well from the start in the NFL are usually the bigger, physical types, so if they’re not winning with great releases, they’re winning with a big body or catch radius. I’m talking about a DK Metcalf, for example, or a Keenan Allen. So the ceiling for Devonta Smith, who has it all, but really wins right from the snap, I think he could have one of the best rookie years ever for an Eagles wide receiver, as long as the offense is functional, just because he already has that part down.”

Kenny Gainwell

Mosher: “Nick Sirianni didn’t even hide it in his last press conference, they want to get Kenny Gainwell on the field and they’re going to as long as he can continue to handle it. I don’t know if you heard his answer to the question about the running backs and catching the ball, but he talked about Miles but then he immediately said, ‘We want to get our other running backs on the field to catch passes including Kenneth,’ and then he mentioned Boston Scott in passing, but he was talking about Kenny. They want Kenny on the field.”

Caplan: He has the best hands of the running backs. I’m going to make a prediction. Now we have 17 games, not 16, so I’m going to give him 45 catches on the season. That’s a lot for a guy who’s a backup. That’s less than 3 per game. I’m going to give him somewhere around 2.5 on average per game. I look at when he’s lined up in the X position, which he was at Memphis, that’s what [Memphis head coach] Ryan Silverfield told us. He’s gonna be a lot of an X sometimes. I’m interested because he won there in college. I’m interested to see if he can win at this level against better, faster, more athletic, stronger linebackers.”

Steven Nelson

Caplan: “He did a good job of keeping guys in front of him. He is really physical, you can see that up close to practice. He’s a different style corner than they have had before.”

Listen to the latest “Inside The Birds” podcast from Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan here:

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