The Philadelphia Eagles will play a preseason football game tonight against the Cleveland Browns. The final score won’t matter but it will still be interesting to see how certain players perform. There are plenty of roster jobs and position battles to be won/lost this summer. Here are the most interesting Eagles players to watch in tonight’s game. Keep in mind the starters will play through the second quarter, according to Doug Pederson. For your convenience, I’ve listed jersey numbers next to the names of players.
1 - Nick Foles - #9
Foles was certainly not in Super Bowl MVP form last week. The 29-year-old made the routine look impossible against the Patriots. It’d be nice to see a bounce back game from him. Don’t even need him to look awesome. That’d be ideal, of course, but I’m just looking for some level of competency, at least.
2 - Halapoulivaati Vaitai - #72
Another player who really struggled against the Patriots last week. Vaitai admitted he didn’t take last week’s game seriously enough. Hopefully that was a wake up call and he bounces back against the Browns. Going up against 2017 No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett presents a tough challenge for him. Just don’t let Foles get hurt again, Big V.
3 - Josh Adams - #33
Arguably the most intriguing player to watch tonight, as funny as that might sound. The fourth running back battle has gone poorly thus far and it’s really anyone’s job for the taking. Adams is the fan-favorite for the job after showing some juice in the Eagles’ first preseason game. It’s not 100% clear if Adams will play tonight since he recently missed a week of practice but he said he plans to play after practicing on Tuesday. Here’s hoping Adams DOES play and gives us some reason to be excited about him. He should have ample opportunity with Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, and Corey Clement all not playing.
4 - Sidney Jones - #22
Earlier this week, Jim Schwartz said Thursday night’s Eagles-Browns game will go a long way in determining who wins the nickel corenrback job. Jones appears to be the favorite. It’s hard to imagine the Eagles not finding a way to get their 2017 second-round pick on the field this year and he’s not going to be playing over Ronald Darby or Jalen Mills on the outside, so the slot is his best path to playing time. To my eye, Jones has been inconsistent. It would be nice to see more out of him this week. Jones will have a tough challenge in going up against Jarvis Landry.
5 - Avonte Maddox - #29
It seems like Maddox will get some opportunities to go up against Landry as well. I’d imagine the Eagles will want to mix their rookie fourth-round pick in with the first team if the nickel position is still truly up for grabs. Jones likely has an overall higher ceiling than Maddox but the Pittsburgh alumnus might be better equipped to play in the slot. Maddox has an opportunity to step up and prove as much tonight.
6 - Nathan Gerry - #47
Gerry has been getting the bulk of the first team weakside linebacker reps but I don’t think he’s really stood out in the games. It’d be nice to see him make a play. As Schwartz noted earlier this week, the linebacker competition isn’t just about who will start at WILL this year. It’s also about who all will start in Week 1 with Nigel Bradham set to be suspended for one game.
7 - Kamu Grugier-Hill - #54
Through two preseason games, Kamu ranks second on the team in total tackles with eight and first on the team in tackles for loss with two. He’s also logged a special teams tackle. I feel like he’s flashed more than Gerry. Whether or not he wins the WILL job, Kamu should be in line for some playing time in Week 1 with Bradham out.
8 - Jordan Hicks - #58
Surprised to see Hicks here? I’m including him because I was disappointed to see him get stiff-armed by James White twice last week. To his credit, Hicks rebounded with some nice tackling. But I know that Hicks can be even better than he was last week. I’m even going to call my shot and say he contributes to a turnover tonight. Go prove me right, Mr. Hicks.
9 - Derek Barnett - #96
I’ve noted multiple times that it’s been a quiet summer for Barnett. Maybe that’s to be expected as he battles back from offseason sports hernia surgery. Still, it’d be nice to see a Barnett flash at some point. It won’t be easy for him with Joel Bitonio playing left tackle for the Browns.
10 - Destiny Vaeao - #97
I just don’t feel all that great about the defensive tackle spot outside of Fletcher Cox. I was a little encouraged to see Vaeao stand out on a play where he pressured Tom Brady last week. Maybe we’ll see some more of that. Or maybe Haloti Ngata gets the start again. I don’t know. Just, somebody at defensive tackle, do something good.
11 - Bruce Hector - #66
Keeping with that theme at defensive tackle, I’m continued to be interested by what Hector has to offer. The undrafted rookie currently has the sixth highest PFF grade on the Eagles’ defense, for whatever that’s worth. In any case, he’s shown me more than Elijah Qualls. Can he do more than just make the team? Can he make any meaningful contributions?
12 - Billy Brown - #85
Richard Rodgers is out. Josh Perkins might be out after suffering a head injury last week. If that’s the case, Brown will be the third tight end behind Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. The sense here is that Brown is currently behind Perkins on the depth chart. He’ll have a chance to boost his stock tonight with a nice showing. To this point, Brown only has one reception for seven yards. Maybe a strong outing could convince the Eagles to keep him as the fourth tight end over Perkins.
13 - DeAndre Carter - #2
Don’t look now but Carter is third on the team in receiving yards this preseason behind Shelton Gibson at No. 1 and Goedert at No. 2. Carter has quietly been real solid this summer. With no one else really stepping up for the sixth wide receiver job, maybe he can be the guy. It’d be nice to see the Eagles mix him with the first team to see what he can do against starting defenders.
14 - Cameron Johnston - #1
Johnston is coming off a pretty solid punting performance against the Patriots. He needs to continue to be consistent in order to avoid being on the hot seat. If the offense continues to struggle as much as it has, the Aussie shouldn’t lack opportunities.