The outcome doesn’t matter, though, as much as how certain players perform. There are jobs and position battles to be won/lost leading up to roster cuts.
With that in mind, here are the most especially interesting Eagles players to watch during Thursday night’s matchup against the Pats. Keep in mind the starters might only play for a series or two (at most). For your convenience, I’ve listed jersey numbers next to the names.
1 - Jalen Hurts - #1
Hurts has been at his best recently after an uneven start to camp. Can the second-year quarterback keep the positive momentum going? It’d be nice to see more of what we saw last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers in terms of Hurts looking calm and in command of the offense. Wouldn’t mind a touchdown drive or two before calling it a night.
2 - DeVonta Smith - #6
It’s unclear if Smith is actually going to play against the Pats. The Eagles’ 2021 first-round pick returned to team drills on Tuesday but he did not see a target. He also didn’t get any reps in 1-on-1, which makes me believe the Eagles were comfortable with him practicing route-running and releases and such but not actually seeing targets. Perhaps that’ll be the same case for tonight’s game. Or maybe Smith won’t play at all. It’d sure be great to see him have a big catch or two but we might have to wait until next week to really see him in action.
3 - Jalen Reagor - #18
Unlike last week, I’m not putting Quez Watkins on this week’s list. Watkins has already shown enough this summer that even if he does nothing against the Pats, that’s not a big deal. The same can’t be said for Reagor. The Eagles’ 2020 first-round pick deservedly generated a lot of buzz for his amazing one-handed catch against a Pats defender in 1-on-1s. But he was basically invisible in team drills. Can we see Reagor make a big impact in 11-on-11? And can he finally turn in a “clean” performance? Maybe make a couple good plays without any obviously bad ones to accompany them? Doing so would go a long way towards making people believe he’s truly turned the corner. Otherwise, he might just be a player who’s consistently inconsistent.
4 - Travis Fulgham - #13
As we recently wrote about, Fulgham isn’t quite having the summer that the Eagles probably would’ve liked to see out of him. There have been too many drops and tough catches not made. Fulgham didn’t even see a target in last week’s affair. He can boost his stock with a big showing tonight. Otherwise, he’s falling behind in the wide receiver picture. He’s currently looking like WR4 at best.
5 - Kenny Gainwell - #14
To begin with a tangent: I think it’s interesting how most have begun to call Steven Nelson “Steve” because he said he prefers that name but many still seem to refer to Kenneth Gainwell by his full first name instead of his stated preference of “Kenny.” Regardless of what you call him, tonight’s a big game for the Eagles’ 2021 fifth-round pick. One would guess the Eagles might hold Miles Sanders out again. Jordan Howard doesn’t need to see a lot of touches. Kerryon Johnson is on injured reserve and Jason Huntley is dealing with a ribs injury. This scenario leaves Gainwell as the favorite to get most of the running back touches. Kenny G showed some promise last week after not looking at his best in camp. We’ll see if game action brings out the best in the rookie once again. And how he potentially handles more of a volume role.
6 - K’Von Wallace - #42
Wallace returned to the field relatively quickly after originally being ruled as “week-to-week.” After missing last week’s game, the second-year safety has some ground to make up. It’d make sense for the Eagles to start him next to Anthony Harris to see how Wallace fares against the Pats’ first team offense. Which, by the way, might be out for some revenge against Wallace after he was taunting Cam Newton in practice. It’ll be especially interesting to see how Wallace is utilized. He has a track record of being able to play in the box dating back to college but the Eagles have also been using him as a free safety on the back end. How effective might he be in those looks? Can Wallace cement himself as the temporary starter next to Anthony Harris until Rodney McLeod returns?
7 - Patrick Johnson - #48
A third member of the Eagles’ 2021 NFL Draft class makes the list in this spot. Johnson has recently been seeing first team reps in the “Anthony Barr role” that’s previously been occupied by Genard Avery and Joe Ostman. Johnson made a big play in Tuesday’s practice by knocking down a Newton pass to prevent a wide open touchdown. Can he flash again on Thursday? He might need to in order to ensure his roster spot as he currently appears to be on the bubble.
8 - Jack Stoll - #47
With Tyree Jackson out for 8-10 weeks, the Eagles have a tight end situation to figure out. They might just carry Jackson on their original 53-man roster so they can put him on injured reserve with the ability to activate him later in the season. But the Eagles will need a third tight end in the short-term. It’s possible they’ll just keep Zach Ertz and ride with him, Dallas Goedert, and Richard Rodgers at the main trio. If Ertz is gone, which still seems possible, they’ll need someone behind Goedert and Dick Rod. Enter: Jack Stoll? The 2021 undrafted rookie free agent signing received the largest guarantee from the Eagles’ most recent UDFA class. He’s had a relatively quiet camp with Jackson getting all the targets and attention. Jackson’s injury might open the door for Stoll to step up in some capacity.
9 - T.Y. McGill - #76
With Javon Hargrave out, it’ll be worth watching who starts next to Fletcher Cox on the interior. It could be McGill. The 28-year-old journeyman has had a pretty good summer. He’s certainly outplayed Hassan Ridgeway. McGill is a player the Eagles could ideally cut and bring back after Week 1 to avoid guaranteeing his season salary as a vested veteran. But he might just be too good to set loose.
10 - Arryn Siposs - #8
Siposs made an encouraging NFL debut last week with a 55.8 average on four punts. There also weren’t any holding issues considering Jake Elliott was perfect on all his kicks. But, speaking of Elliott, the Eagles’ kicker might not play tonight. He popped up on the injury report this week as “day-to-day” with an ankle issue. So, the Eagles might have to have Siposs handle kicks instead? At the very least, he might replace Elliott on kickoff duty. Or maybe Elliott will be fine enough to play and this is moot. Siposs’s punting will still be worth watching in that case.