The Eagles will play a meaningless football game tonight against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The final score doesn’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 21 most interesting Eagles players to watch in tonight’s game. Keep in mind the starters will only play for a series or two. For your convenience, I’ve listed jersey numbers next to the names of players.
1 - Sidney Jones - #22
Jones played a mere 29 defensive snaps last year. He’ll have a chance to beat that total tonight. The 2017 second-round pick is the current favorite to win the Eagles’ nickel corner role. I imagine he’ll be in the slot with the first team defense before shifting outside when Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby leave the game. It’s hard not to be excited about Jones’ potential. The Eagles said they viewed him as a top 10 talent prior to the unfortunate Achilles injury he suffered at his college pro day. I’ve seen some flashes of that talent during Eagles training camp practices, but I don’t think he’s been overwhelmingly impressive. Hopefully the preseason games will give us a better chance to see Jones shine.
2 - Dallas Goedert - #88
While Jones is the most intriguing player to watch on defense, Goedert is the most intriguing player to watch on offense. The 6-4, 260 pound rookie has been a monster in the red zone during offseason practices. It’ll be exciting to see if he can replicate his success in real game action. The Eagles might not play Goedert TOO much since he could be an important player for the regular season. I imagine he’ll have at least one flashy play, though.
3 - Nate Sudfeld - #7
With Carson Wentz and Nick Foles likely out for Thursday night’s game, it’s time for the Nate STUDFELD show in Philadelphia. Sudfeld has played a mere 40 snaps since signing with Philadelphia last September. As is the case with Jones, he has a chance to beat that total tonight alone. It’ll be nice to see him get some work with some of the first team. Sudfeld has had some nice flashes this offseason. He’s showed good arm strength and nice touch. Now we need to see more of Sudfeld’s mental processing and decision-making in game action. It’d be great if Sudfeld looks good and can be a long-term backup to Wentz and/or future trade bait.
4 - Shelton Gibson - #18
Gibson has an opportunity to be the Eagles’ most improved player from last year. The 2017 fifth-round pick had an awful camp as a rookie. He’s looked much more competent this offseason. Still, Gibson needs to prove himself in game action. The fifth wide receiver job is there for his taking.
5 - Rashard Davis - #19
Davis has quietly had a nice camp. I couldn’t help but notice how he was absolutely killing dudes in 1-on-1 last week. I also found it pretty interesting that Foles name-dropped Davis (along with Goedert) when asked about young players to watch out for on Thursday night. Davis is a small, shifty receiver who also boasts punt return ability. I don’t know if he’ll beat out Markus Wheaton and Greg Ward (two other players who certainly bear watching tonight) but it’s worth keeping an eye on him.
6 - Billy Brown - #85
Brown appeared to be on the roster bubble last season as a potential fourth tight end. He ended up on the practice squad instead. The Division II wide receiver-convert has had a full year to work on his game. He was relatively quiet in spring drills but he’s come on a little bit in camp recently. Let’s see if the 6-4, 255 pound specimen can make a strong case for himself this summer.
7 - Josh Perkins - #83
Perkins has the most NFL experience of any Eagles player competing for a fourth tight end job. It’s not a ton (eight games) but it’s not nothing. Along with Brow, Perkins has had some nice moments lately. Doug Pederson even name-dropped him at one point this camp. Maybe there’s something here.
8 - Jordan Mailata - #68
I talked to Mailata last week and asked him if he was ready to play in a preseason game. He hardly gave me a “yes.” Well, ready or not, the 6-8, 346 pound Australian is going to play in his first football game tonight. Think about that! His first football game ... EVER. There are probably going to be moments when he looks completely lost in pass protection and gets Joe Callahan killed. Let’s hope there are also some moments where he gets out in space and trucks a guy into oblivion.
9 - Matt Pryor - #69
Unlike Mailata, Pryor will not be playing in his first ever football game. And I expect it to look like that. The rookie offensive lineman has generated buzz in camp for looking real solid at guard. Pryor playing well should make at least one of Chance Warmack or Isaac Seumalo expendable. Maybe he could even develop into a future starter down the road. But even if he turns out to be the Eagles’ next Allen Barbre, that has value. It’ll be interesting to see if the Eagles give Pryor some snaps at tackle in addition to guard.
10 - Tre Sullivan - #37
Sullivan came out of nowhere last year to make a big impact — literally — in the preseason. He hit a rookie Packers receiver so hard that the player had to go to the hospital. Sullivan obviously doesn’t have the same opportunity to light up players in practice so we’ll have to see if he does it in game action once again. We’ll also need to see how he holds up in coverage. With Corey Graham back, Sullivan likely tops out as the fourth safety on this roster. But a strong summer can help his case to stick around as a future third safety or maybe even a potential starter when Malcolm Jenkins and/or Rodney McLeod will no longer be around.
11 - Donnel Pumphrey - #34
Ah, yes. This summer is Pumphrey’s shot at redemption. After an incredibly underwhelming 2017 preseason, where he didn’t even look like a legitimate NFL player, Pump has at least shown signs of competency this offseason. We’ll need to see if he can carry that over into game action. The fourth running back job is up for grabs. I’d currently say Pump is in the lead for it but that could easily change if he doesn’t step up in the preseason. It’s a big summer for the 2017 fourth-round pick.
12 - Josh Adams - #33
After missing the entirety of spring practices, the undrafted Adams has caught attention lately with some nice runs. But running the football in practice and running in live game action is obviously very different. The Bucks County native has a chance to be the Eagles’ fourth running back with a strong summer showing.
13 - Kamu Grugier-Hill - #54
Spoiler alert: it’s time for the WILL linebacker competition section of this post. We lead off with Kamu, who is my favorite for the job. Grugier-Hill boasts athleticism and always seems to be around the ball. He’s had some real nice moments in camp.
14 - Nate Gerry - #47
Gerry is currently listed as a starter on the Eagles’ first depth chart. Maybe that means something, maybe it doesn’t. #Analysis. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him out there with the first team defense tonight based on what we’ve seen in practice lately. I’m not down on Gerry, but I feel like I haven’t seen a ton to make me feel like he should definitely be the guy at WILL.
15 - Corey Nelson - #52
The most notable thing Nelson has done this offseason is ... banging into Paul Worrilow on the first day of OTAs, which caused Worrilow to suffer a torn ACL? Seriously, I feel like Nelson has been pretty invisible this offseason. I wonder if the free agent signing is even a lock to make the team. I can’t really remember the last time I saw him getting first team WILL reps. Nelson could easily stick around as a backup / special teamer in the Najee Goode mold but it’d be nice if he could show up and make people feel like he earned his roster spot.
16 - Isaac Seumalo - #73
Seumalo’s fall from grace has been well-documented. Now the 2016 third-round pick is playing at center instead of guard. He’s been responsible for a number of high snaps in practice, though I think he’s shown some improvement in that regard. He better hope for his sake he doesn’t do that in the preseason games or he’s going to piss people off. Seumalo turning into at least a quality backup center would be good because then the Eagles wouldn’t have to change two starting positions if something happened to Jason Kelce (God forbid).
17 - Elijah Qualls - #98
With Timmy Jernigan out for an undisclosed amount of time, the Eagles are looking kinda thin at defensive tackle. I mean, Destiny Vaeao has been taking most of the first team reps next to Fletcher Cox throughout the offseason. The Eagles can always use some of their defensive ends at tackle, yes, but they still need some bodies dedicated to the inside. It’d be nice if Qualls, who really flashed last summer, has another good preseason.
18 - Josh Sweat - #75
Sweat is now free to play in a scheme where he can line up wide and attack the quarterback. That’s not what he was able to do at Florida State. Sweat’s had some nice practice moments but he’s also been going against an incredibly inexperienced player in Mailata during that time. Now we should get to see him going up against some better competition. Can Sweat make Steven Means expendable? It’s possible if the rookie steps up.
19 - Joe Ostman - #95
I’m looking forward to Ostman, who led the NCAA in sacks last year, terrorizing some fourth string quarterbacks late in preseason games this summer. The Eagles are already so loaded with pass rushers that there’s a good chance there won’t be room for Ostman. So enjoy him while you can before a 3-4 team might claim him on waivers after final cuts. (I’m hoping he’ll land on the practice squad instead.)
20 - Rasul Douglas - #32
Douglas is something of a feast or famine corner. He’s either making plays on the ball or getting roasted deep down the field. Overall, I’d say I’ve seen more good than bad out of him this offseason. We’ll see if that continues into the preseason. Douglas looking good could potentially make Darby more expendable if the Eagles get a good offer.
21 - Cameron Johnston - #1
Big Balls Doug might have to control himself a little here and be more conservative on fourth down in order to give Johnston some punt opportunities. The Eagles need to figure out if Johnston can be their guy. The Aussie hasn’t struggled with power but his directional punting hasn’t been sharp. The Eagles will likely be keeping an eye on teams that are carrying two punters on their roster in case Johnston doesn’t work out.