The 2019 NFL preseason schedule continues on Thursday night with the Philadelphia Eagles set to face the Baltimore Ravens. In order to find some meaning in a meaningless game, here are the most important players to watch out for as there are still some roster spots and/or position battles to be won this summer.
Keep in mind the Eagles’ starters won’t play much, if at all. The first team units already got a lot of work in this week’s joint practices.
For your convenience, I’ve listed jersey numbers next to player names.
Josh McCown - #18
New guy. It’s not exactly clear if McCown is actually going to suit up but I’d think the team would want to get him some snaps to knock off the rust and ease him into the new offense he’s learning. McCown’s looked solid in limited practice reps so far. Let’s see how he handles real game action after only returning to football activity over the weekend.
Brett Toth - #66
Another new guy. The Eagles have been lining up Toth as their third team right tackle. The Army alumnus has a very short window to impress the team since final cuts will take place in 10 days. I think the team is already planning to put Toth on the practice squad but he can only help his case by showing some promise.
Clayton Thorson - #8
It’s strange how we got here but Thorson’s offseason arc is trending up. He looked awful during offseason practices and his first preseason game before settling in a little against the Jaguars last Thursday night. Thorson followed that effort by turning in his best week of practice heading into this week’s Ravens game. Can Thorson keep the positive momentum going? And if he can, does that convince the Eagles to keep four quarterbacks (Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, McCown, Thorson) on their 53-man roster? Or do they risk Thorson getting claimed on waivers and just try to stash him on the practice squad anyway? I think the latter is more likely than the former.
Mack Hollins - #16
Hollins looked good on special teams last week but he didn’t do much on offense. Hollins then proceeded to drop two deep receptions in practice this week. Despite his struggles and previous health issues, I don’t get the sense Hollins is in serious jeopardy of getting cut. Special teams performance matters when you’re a fifth receiver and we know that’s one thing Hollins is good at. He can sure help his case by actually making a play or two on offense, though.
Corey Clement - #30
Clement’s been looking healthy and explosive as ever in practice. It’d be nice to see him get some game reps for the first time this summer so hopefully he plays on Thursday night. With all the first team reps he’s been taking this week, it seems like Clement is going to have some kind of role in this offense.
Joshua Perkins - #83
You can also lump the other tight ends (Alex Ellis - #48 and Will Tye - #85) into this section. There should be plenty of reps to go around with Zach Ertz likely not playing, Dallas Goedert out for the preseason, and Richard Rodgers getting carted off on Monday. Rodgers’ injury potentially opens the door for Perkins, Ellis, or Tye to make the 53-man roster as a third tight end. The Eagles could always look to add a tight end through waivers or a low-cost trade but for now the in-house guys have an opportunity to step up and show they belong.
Hassan Ridgeway - #64
Ridgeway showed some good signs in limited playing time against the Titans before suffering a concussion and missing last week’s game. Now that he’s back healthy, we’ll see if Ridgeway can pick up where he left off. He’s currently the favorite to be the Eagles’ fourth defensive tackle behind Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, and Timmy Jernigan. Ridgeway might knock Treyvon Hester off the roster, though the Eagles could just keep five at that position.
Daeshon Hall - #74
Hall’s been DOMINATING the preseason so far with eight total tackles, five quarterback hits, four tackles for loss, three sacks, and two forced fumbles. He’s been very fun to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing if he can continue wrecking the opposition on Thursday night. If he does, I can’t see how he doesn’t deserve playing time in the Eagles’ defensive end rotation.
Nate Herbig - #67
The Eagles have demoted Stefen Wisniewski from second team center duty and replaced him with Herbig. Wis had been struggling with snapping the ball accurately throughout the entire offseason. Herbig, meanwhile, only started taking center reps for the first time in his life a couple weeks ago. Methinks the Eagles are giving Herbig an opportunity to prove they should keep him over Wis. The Eagles gave Herbig the most guaranteed money of any of their undrafted rookie free agent signings (actually tied for first with T.J. Edwards) so they clearly like him a little bit. It’s also worth noting that Wis can be cut to clear $1.58 million in cap space (only $250,000 in dead money) or traded to clear $1.83 million ($0 in dead money). Oh, and PFF has Wis ranked as the third worst center in the NFL through two preseason games (76th out of 78 players).
The Eagles’ rookie draft picks are always obvious inclusions on this list. Andre Dillard has looked great in the preseason; can he keep it up? Is Miles Sanders going to continue to flash (and how much will he even play)? Is JJ Arcega-Whiteside going to make one of his signature catches? Can Shareef Miller show some more promise after flashing a little last week?
Greg Ward and Marken Michel have outplayed Mack Hollins from an offensive perspective. Will that continue to happen? And even if it does, will that really matter? (I don’t think it will. I think Ward and Michel can both be kept on the practice squad. Or at least one of them.)
Johnathan Cyprien kind of feels like the fourth safety by default but it’s not like he (or anyone else) has seized that job. He could use a good game. Can Trae Elston, who’s made some plays, come out of nowhere to beat Cyppy Cuy out?
T.J. Edwards and Alex Singleton have had some nice moments. Are they actually pushing for a roster spot at linebacker? The Eagles might need to keep six at that spot with Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill both less than 100%?
Jordan Mailata and Matt Pryor are always worth watching. The latter has been flagged four times in two preseason games. Pryor really needs to step up.
I feel like Daeshon Hall already has Josh Sweat beat out for a fourth defensive spot but the second-year pass rusher will try to close the gap on Thursday night.