Birds Preseason Ends With Backups Swamped In South Florida
The preseason ended for the Eagles on Saturday against the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, in epic fashion.
After a rough go against the Dolphins on Wednesday in the week’s lone joint practice, the Eagles fell behind early Saturday, as Miami’s starters pounded on Eagles backups, and Miami’s backups were handed the torch to finish off the 48-10 route.
The Eagles, who were on the road for their final two preseason games and joint practices, will return home, whittle down their roster to 53 by 4 p.m. Wednesday, and start preparation soon after for the Sept. 11 season opener on the road against the Detroit Lions.
Just a few observations to sum up the preseason:
* We know the Eagles have a good 53-man roster. They should be a competitive team within the NFC East and entire conference. Nothing about July or August, or the preseason finale should change that perception. The preseason only revealed that there are some positions that aren’t as deep as others, especially in the secondary. But overall, the Eagles stayed healthy again during the preseason and enter the regular season in good shape.
* Lacking depth in the secondary has come back to hurt some good Eagles teams in the past – the 2018 team, for example. But those teams were ravaged by injuries. The Eagles have to hope they stay relatively healthy at corner or safety, or everything they’ve worked for this offseason and preseason can go downhill quickly.
* Safety will be the team’s Achilles heel. Every team has a weakness, no teams are perfect or flawless. I’m not sure there’s a safety out there – or will be after cutdown – that’s going to drastically improve this defense, but it sure didn’t help that K’Von Wallace and Jaquiski Tartt didn’t appear to help themselves much in the finale, nor inspire any confidence in them. Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon might have to scheme around this weakness like he did for Steven Nelson last year, but offense that can stress a defense vertically will lick their chops.
* Here’s what I’m thinking in the moment about No. 3 quarterback: The Eagles would probably love to waive both Reid Sinnett and Carson Strong and hope that Sinnett clears waivers to be re-signed to the practice squad and that Strong – who’s got more than $300,000 in guaranteed money in his deal – gets claimed by another team. But they can’t afford to waive both quarterbacks and lose Sinnett to waivers. One has to be available to them, so I could see the Eagles keeping Sinnett on the initial 53, waiving Strong, but then maneuvering in the days after to have Sinnett back on the practice squad. No need for two quarterbacks on the practice squad.
* Patrick Johnson has earned a spot on the 53. He’s played well this preseason as the backup SAM linebacker and also contributes plenty on special teams. Makes him a valuable backup. Question is, would the coaches would actually play him as a replacement for Haason Reddick if Reddick were to get hurt? O would they play one fewer overhang defender and go with a more traditional four-man front.
* Third-year linebacker Davion Taylor’s unenthusiastic preseason continued against Miami. He played the entire game – which says a lot – and struggled again in coverage, where he’s struggled in the past. The 2020 third-round pick probably makes the team as the fourth off-ball linebacker off his draft status, not merit.
* Mac McCain, Kary Vincent Jr. and Tay Gowan were given an opportunity to prove they belonged on the 53 but all fell short. Obviously, McCain and Vincent having to defend Tyreek Hill in their last dance was no picnic, but it didn’t help that they struggled – and not just when Hill was on the field. The top four corners are Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Avonte Maddox and Zech McPhearson. It’s possible the Eagles count Josiah Scott as the fifth corner and also a reserve safety, or maybe undrafted rookie Josh Jobe – who was injured and didn’t play against the Dolphins – makes it. But those bottom-roster corners the Eagles were hoping to see development from didn’t play well.
* I get why fans want to see Deon Cain make the 53. He’s played well. He’s shown that he can make tough catches. He has NFL experience and good size. But it doesn’t make sense to have Cain occupy a roster spot if he doesn’t have a role. He’d never see the field, with A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins and Zach Pascal already ahead of him. You need those last spots on the 53 for major special-teams contributors. I’d rather keep safety Reed Blankenship or tight end Noah Togiai because both of them have contributed more on special teams and play positions that lack depth.
* What do with Grant Calcaterra? The sixth-round rookie tight end has explosion but really needs to get stronger. My hunch is that he doesn’t make the 53 unless the Eagles are afraid he’ll be claimed off waivers. They might still be scarred from losing Togiai to the Colts off waivers two years ago.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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