The Eagles are set to play a preseason game tonight against the New York Jets. While the final result may not matter, this game marks the last chance for a number of fringe players to fight for roster spots. Final cuts are due by Saturday, Sept. 3 at 4:00 PM ET. Here's a list of the most interesting Eagles players to watch on Thursday evening.
1) Marcus Smith
Will Philadelphia's 2014 first round pick make this year's team? A number of writers, myself included, project Smith to make the 53-man roster. He's hardly a lock, though. Smith has been outplayed by Steven Means and he's not as good of a special teams player as Bryan Braman. Then again, the Eagles could elect to keep six defensive ends. In order to better convince the Eagles to do just that, Smith could afford a strong showing against the Jets. If he struggles or looks invisible out there, Philadelphia might decide to finally move on.
2) Mychal Kendricks
Kendricks is one of the only 2016 projected starters who will be suiting up for this game. Doug Pederson said he wants to see Kendricks get more playing time since the starting WILL linebacker missed the first two preseason games. Kendricks doesn't seem too happy with how the Eagles have handled him lately. He's refused to talk to reporters ever since he was seen playing with the backups in the fourth quarter of the Eagles-Colts game last week. It'll be interesting to see how long Kendricks plays in this game and if he finally speaks in the locker room after it's over.
3) Chase Daniel
Daniel will get the start in this game. He'll potentially play the first half. Daniel has shown some improvement since getting off to a rough start in the first preseason game. This is a game where Daniel needs to look in control. The 29-year-old backup should be able to take advantage of lower competition.
4) Dorial Green-Beckham
DGB is expected to play the first quarter, according to Dave Spadaro. The 6-5, 237 pound receiver showed how he can be a dangerous red zone target in last week's preseason game. The Colts cornerback defending him had no chance of breaking up DGB's leaping touchdown catch on a fade route. Now let's see if the Eagles can get him more involved in offensive situations outside of the red zone.
5) Paul Turner
The Eagles cut Chris Givens and Rueben Randle earlier this week, so there's an opening for the fifth receiver spot. Turner has played well this summer and could fit in as the final pass catcher. Or the Eagles could just try to get him on the practice squad while trying to claim a receiver off the waiver wire. Turner can make one last case for the Eagles to keep him tonight. Being able to contribute on special teams will be important for Turner.
6) C.J. Smith
Who knew the Eagles might end up with two North Dakota State players on their 53-man roster this year? Smith has had a strong summer for the Birds. He's looked good in practice. He's earned praise from veteran players such as Malcolm Jenkins. The 23-year-old corner even earned a chance to play with the first team defense during Philadelphia's third preseason game. The Eagles might only keep five cornerbacks, but Smith is pushing for a sixth spot. Smith could benefit from a strong game tonight.
7) Chris Pantale
Pederson wants to keep four tight ends. This makes sense since the Eagles want to use a lot of three tight end sets. The team seems to like Pantale, but he hasn't done a ton to stand out in a good way this summer. If he continues to struggle, the Eagles could look to add a fourth tight end via a claim on the waiver wire. Perhaps the Eagles will look to add a more "traditional" fullback if one becomes available.
8) Destiny Vaeao/Aziz Shittu
I'm bunching these UDFA defensive tackles together because they're in a similar boat. They're pushing for a fifth defensive tackle spot and/or a practice squad job. There might be a spot for one of them on the 53-man roster as a fourth defensive tackle if the Eagles trade Taylor Hart, who is rumored to be on the trade block. It's a close battle but Vaeao might have the edge over Shittu right now.
9) Myke Tavarres/Quentin Gause
Like Vaeao and Shittu, I'm grouping these UDFA linebackers together. Tavarres made headlines earlier this week when he informed ESPN he plans to protest the national anthem. Tavarres later reversed course and said he plans to stand. There's no doubt he'll be watched closely during the pre-game, but he also deserves attention while the game is actually happening. The Eagles are thin at linebacker. Tavarres and Gause could be pushing for a sixth linebacker spot. Or one of them could end up on the practice squad.
10) Dillon Gordon
Gordon is an intriguing player due to his versatility. The former tight end is learning to be an offensive lineman. He's also been lining up for some fullback reps. Gordon is probably an ideal practice squad candidate, but he might be able to sneak onto the 53-man roster.
11) Blake Countess
Countess flashed at times during training camp practice but he hasn't really stood out a lot during the preseason games. The rookie safety is fighting an uphill battle to make the final roster. The Eagles might only keep four safeties with Countess being the odd man out. It seems likely he could end up on the practice squad.
12) Jake Metz
Metz won a championship with the Philadelphia Soul last week and now he's playing in his first career NFL game. The 2015 Arena Football League Defensive Lineman of the Year is obviously a huge long shot to stick with the Eagles. Still, it'll be interesting to see what he can offer.