The Eagles won their opening preseason game last night against the Ravens, 13-6. It's hard to judge "fringe" players (players with a 50-50 chance to make the roster) in preseason games because they sometimes only play against the deepest of the other team's depth.
Therefore, you look for players to stand out from the rest. Two players stood out to me from last night's game and have started making their case for a roster spot.
WR Chad Hall and DT Derek Landri.
Chad Hall was on the roster last season as the fifth wide receiver and was used in a variety of ways. I consider him a fringe player now because the Eagles have brought in Steve Smith, Sinorice Moss and Johnnie Lee Higgins.
The Eagles usually only keep five receivers on their roster. As it stands right now, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper and Steve Smith are all locks to be on the team.
However, Smith could very well start out on the PUP list and nobody knows what's going on with Maclin. That could leave the door open for another receiver to at least make the opening day roster.
There is also a chance the Eagles decide to keep six wide outs and go lighter at another position simply because of all the talent they now have.
Last night, Hall made a good case for keeping him. He caught a team-high five catches for 82 yards, including a nice 32-yarder from Vince Young on a broken play. The little guy (5' 8", 180 pounds) seems to have a knack for getting open and making tough catches.
He's also versatile in that he can run plays from out of the backfield and serve as a return man. The Eagles love versatility in players.
Remember Danny Amendola? The Eagles really didn't want to have to release him and I'm sure they wish they hadn't. Hall is a very similar player and if cut, will almost certainly land on another roster and get some playing time.
But the Eagles also seem intent on giving Higgins a fair shot as they were giving him first dibs at returning kicks. Unfortunately, there were no kicks (or punts) to return so he didn't get a chance to show his value in that regard last night.
One thing to remember too is that kick returning will be less valuable this year due to the rule change where kickoffs are now from the 35 yard line.
Hall will definitely have to earn a roster spot. Based solely on productivity from last night, he has the early upper-hand on his competition.
The other player that stood out was DT Derek Landri. He was somewhat of a nonchalant signing right after Mike Patterson went down. To most people he appeared to be just another body to throw in since we were getting thin at DT.
Last season he quietly put up 43 tackles, three sacks and seven tackles for a loss. Last night, the stats show two tackles and one sack but that doesn't tell you the whole story. He was disruptive several times during the game.
He was routinely in the Ravens' backfield and showed good hustle in getting down the field in pursuit. He played like a guy who is hungry for a roster spot.
The Eagles typically keep 10 defensive linemen and it's usually broken down to six ends and four tackles. Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson are the only true locks for the roster. Landri's main competition is Antonio Dixon, Anthony Hargrove and Trevor Laws.
If I were to guess, Dixon will make it. Would the Eagles keep Landri over Laws? If he keeps playing like he did last night, absolutely.
On another note, here some random observations from the game last night:
- Andy Reid is in mid-season form on replay challenges, going 0-1
- The Eagles Television Network broadcasters were brutal
- Michael Vick looked sharp
- Riley Cooper helped ease concerns about not having Maclin
- Vince Young looked better than I thought he would
- Mike Kafka looked "okay"
- RB Dion Lewis is quick and has some wiggle
- RT Austin Howard hurt his chances for making the roster
- RB Ronnie Brown will turn out to be an excellent addition
- TE Donald Lee helped his case to make the team
- CB Jorrick Calvin was juked out of his shorts on an open field tackle attempt
- Not sure why Casey Matthews didn't play more, he could use the work
- DE Darryl Tapp looked awesome
- DE Philip Hunt showed some burst
- Fourth string QB Jerrod Johnson appeared to slide down very prematurely to avoid taking a sack