The Philadelphia Eagles will play their final preseason football game tonight against the New York Jets. The final score won’t matter but it will still be interesting to see how certain players perform. There are roster jobs and position battles to be won/lost before final cuts take place this weekend. With that in mind, here are the most interesting Eagles players to watch in tonight’s Backup Bowl. For your convenience, I’ve listed jersey numbers next to the names of players.
1 - Josh Adams - #33
It’s only natural that we start with the Eagles’ most intriguing player to watch: their undrafted rookie free agent signing from Notre Dame. Adams has been productive when his number has been called this summer; he’s up to 63 rushing yards on 10 attempts. The 21-year-old Bucks County native has shown some nice juice when he has the ball in his hands. I like how the 6-2, 225 pound rusher runs hard and fights through contact. Adams has a golden opportunity to win the No. 4 running back job. He may have already done that considering the reports about how he’d likely be claimed if the Eagles cut him. In any case, it can’t hurt for Adams to have another good game to boost his stock. Even if the Eagles keep Adams, he likely won’t see much playing time in 2018. But he’ll be one of only two running backs who are signed through at least 2019 (Corey Clement is the other) so he could be a nice future piece for this team.
2 - DeAndre Carter - #2
The Eagles pretty much have to keep six wide receivers on the 53-man roster with Alshon Jeffery expected to miss the first two games of the season. Not to mention that Mack Hollins hasn’t played since the first preseason game. Carter isn’t a direct replacement for Jeffery or Hollins since he projects more as a slot guy. But there’s no denying the 25-year-old has impressed this summer. Through three preseason games, Carter has eight receptions for 141 yards (17.6 average). It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep that production up tonight, especially while going against a bunch of backups.
3 - Jordan Mailata - #68
Mailata has drawn rave reviews for the progress he’s made this summer. Former NFL offensive lineman Brian Baldinger is out here saying Mailata has “taken a thousand light years of steps in four months.” Football scout/writer Tommy Lawlor says watching Mailata has reminded him of Jason Peters. Pro Football Focus has Mailata graded as the eight best offensive Eagles player this summer. The massive Australian has only allowed three pressures (one sack, two hurries) in 60 snaps played. By comparison, Halapoulivaati Vaitai has allowed 13 pressures in 140 snaps played. Other players who’ve allowed more pressure than Mailata include: Matt Pryor (9 in 115 snaps), Taylor Hart (7 in 108), Isaac Seumalo (6 in 130), and Chance Warmack (5 in 115). Mailata has seemingly already played his way onto the 53-man roster. I’m still waiting for that moment when the 6-8, 350 pound mammoth absolutely trucks someone out in space on a screen/run. You know that clip is going viral.
4 - Christian Hackenberg - #8
This feels like a regrettable inclusion by me because Hackenberg is so much more painful to watch than he is interesting to watch. I put him here, though, because we’ve barely seen anything from him. Hackenberg only really participated in one practice that the media was fully able to watch. Naturally, he threw two interceptions on his first two pass attempts. Things could get ugly tonight. It’d be pretty funny if he defies expectation and looks competent against the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. I like to imagine Hackenberg leading a last minute comeback to prevent the Eagles from going 0-4 in the preseason. Regardless of how Hack looks, I think the Eagles want to store him on the practice squad.
5 - Donnel Pumphrey - #34
Pump is set to make his 2018 preseason debut after tweaking his hamstring back on August 7. It might be too late for the 2017 fourth-round pick to make the Eagles’ roster even though he showed some positive signs during practice this offseason. He’s just been very unreliable on the injury front. Pump still needs to have a good game to convince other teams he’s worth taking a shot on. Or maybe the Eagles can store him on their practice squad. Who knows.
6 - Markus Wheaton - #80
Wheaton is also set to make his 2018 preseason debut tonight. It’ll also be the first time he ever plays a game in an Eagles uniform. And it might be his last if he doesn’t do much to impress. Wheaton looked like a leading candidate to be the Eagles’ sixth receiver earlier this offseason but he’s missed the last three weeks of games and practices due to a hamstring issue. It seems like it’d be hard for the Eagles to keep a gimpy Wheaton around when Jeffery and Hollins are already dealing with injury issues. Wheaton could be playing to make his case to other NFL teams.
7 - Anthony Denham - #?
Oddly enough, the Eagles don’t have Denham listed on their official roster page despite signing him earlier this week. So that’s why I don’t have a number listed next to his name. He used to wear No. 83 with Philadelphia but that number is currently taken by Joshua Perkins. Anyway, Denham is just one of a few tight ends who will split most of the playing time tonight. The others include Billy Brown and Gannon Sinclair. Denham had some nice, albeit brief, flashes with the Eagles last offseason. I think Denham might actually make the original 53-man roster given that Richard Rodgers is expected to miss at least the first week of the season and possibly longer. Denham can help his case with a good showing on Thurdsay evening.
8 - Tre Sullivan - #37
It’s been an up and down summer for Sullivan, who was originally getting looks as the No. 3 safety before Corey Graham was re-signed. Helping Sullivan’s chances of making the roster is that Chris Maragos is still on the PUP list. I’d currently include Sullivan on my 53-man roster projection but he’s not a stone cold lock. The 2017 undrafted free agent could really afford to boost his stock tonight. Hoping to see him cut down on the missed tackles.
9 - Darius Prince - #1
Prince is too much of a long shot to push for the 53-man roster but the former Philadelphia Soul receiver might be able to make a case for sticking on the practice squad. Even if he’s not in consideration for that, I’ll still be interested to see him play. Prince has an interesting story. He never played college football; he chose hoops instead. Now he’s trying to catch on in the NFL after a successful showing in the AFL. Prince caught the eye of BGN’s Benjamin Solak with his movement skills during practice earlier this week.
10 - Ironhead Gallon - #36
The Eagles really only signed him to be a warm body for tonight’s game but how can I not include him on this list. I want to see him make at least one “big” play just so everyone can yell “IRONHEAD GALLON!”
11 - Cameron Johnston - #1
Johnston has performed well in the games despite not always looking so great in practice. He should be able to lock up the Eagles’ punting job by avoiding disaster tonight.