Jets vs. Eagles: Philadelphia's Biggest Winners and Losers from Preseason Week 4
The Philadelphia Eagles concluded preseason by handing the New York Jets their fourth loss in preseason, 28-10. The Eagles finish preseason with a perfect record, 20 sacks and maybe the deepest preseason roster in football.
Andy Reid isn't going to sleep much tonight. He has some major problems to deal with tomorrow. They aren't bad problems, but he will have some really good players he will have to either cut or trade away. When Trent Edwards is your fourth best quarterback, Chris Polk your fourth best running back and Antonio Dixon your 11th best defensive lineman, you are going to have some really tough decisions to make.
The final week of preseason is treated like a bye week for the starters and the final showcase for everyone on the outside looking in. Some players stepped up and some struggled. Here are the biggest winners and losers from Thursday night's preseason finale.
Winner: Every Eagles Running Back
The Eagles have four really good running backs that deserve to get their share of touches on Sundays. We already knew that LeSean McCoy is a start and that Dion Lewis is a really good young back. What we didn't know was the type of players that Bryce Brown and Chris Polk can be in the NFL.
Both Brown and Polk deserve to make this roster. Brown has been an explosive runner with a natural ability to pick up the blitz in pass protection. Polk has been a beast all summer long, but showed a lot more speed and quickness against the Jets.
Brown and Polk can only control what they do on the football field. They have done all they can to make this roster. Brown should be a lock and Polk is a lock to make a roster in the NFL this season.
Do the Eagles trade Dion Lewis to make room for Brown and Polk? It is an interesting thought. Lewis is very similar to McCoy. The Eagles could elect to keep backs that can give them a change of pace while still giving them plenty of quickness and receiving skills.
The phone lines will be open all day tomorrow in Philadelphia. I don't see any way the Eagles cut any of these running backs. The only way they leave town is if the Eagles get something in return. Not bad for a seventh-round pick and an undrafted, broken down back.
Loser: Chas Henry
Chas Henry appears to have won the punter job, but he didn't do much to lock it up. Mat McBriar hasn't been officially released yet, despite some reports. Henry handled all the punts and holds against the Jets, which doesn't bode well for McBriar, who is expected to be cut on Friday.
On Henry's second punt, from the Eagles own 32-yard line, he could only manage a 35-yard boot. That isn't that impressive for a high school punter, let alone a professional one. Henry finished with an average of 33 yards per punt on four punts with a long of 39. He did down three of the four inside the 20, but there was a clear lack of power.
Henry will be the Eagles punter this season, but beyond that is pretty doubtful. He has done little to gain the confidence of the coaching staff.
Winner: Jaiquawn Jarrett
Nobody on this Eagles roster looked worse after the preseason opener against the Steelers than Jaiquawn Jarrett. He was constantly out of position or confused on his assignment in that game. Since then he has worked his tail off to get back to the level of play that would warrant a roster spot.
Jarrett has steadily improved over the summer and really stepped his game up tonight. He hit hard and played smart against the Jets in his last chance to prove he belongs on this roster. He finished the game with two solo tackles, but most importantly, he didn't blow any coverages or open field tackles. He was solid all night long.
I don't know if the Eagles coaches will feel comfortable enough to trust Jarrett as their first safety off the bench, but he has done enough to secure a roster spot for another season.
Loser: O.J. Atogwe
O.J. Atogwe was supposed to run away with the top reserve safety spot on this roster. Since signing with the Eagles he has struggled to get on the field as he has been battling hamstring injuries. When he has been on the field he has looked slow and out of position.
Atogwe left Thursday night's game early with more hamstring issues and did not return. Clearly he was well past his prime. He is a much slower, more fragile version of his former self. Right now he is on the outside, looking in heading into final cuts.
Winner: Ryan Rau
I don't think Ryan Rau is part of the Eagles plans for the final 53-man roster, but he did a lot to help himself against the Jets. He was great in pursuit of the football while also doing a great job in pass coverage. He was consistently in great position to make plays.
He finished with five solo tackles, most of which came very early in the game. I love his potential as a special teams ace who can also serve as a backup at weak side and middle linebacker. He is undersized at 230 pounds, but he is quick, he is tough and he is very instinctive.
Rau is a rookie from Portland State that would make a great addition to the Eagles practice squad. He isn't quite ready to make a major impact on an NFL roster just yet, but you could really see the potential he has.
Loser: Brian Rolle
Brian Rolle isn't winning back his weak-side linebacker starting spot anytime soon. He has shown very little progression from last season, when he started 13 games. He just looks way too overmatched in the passing game. He handles himself okay against the run, but really struggled to stay with his man Thursday night against the Jets.
Rolle has to get more comfortable in the passing game before he can even sniff the football field in a meaningful game again. He is easily confused and thrown off against the pass. He tends to over-pursue and try and make up for his confusion with over-aggression. A full season on the bench learning from veteran players like DeMeco Ryans and Akeem Jordan could do wonders for his confidence level.
Winner: Brandon Graham
It's not ideal for your former first-round pick to play in the final preseason game, but Brandon Graham made the most of it. He played both defensive end and tackle, and he got great penetration from both areas. He finished the night with two solo tackles and a sack.
Graham should be a key contributor in the Eagles defensive line rotation. He is both a good pass-rusher and is solid in run support. He should see his fare share of snaps in the regular season, depending on how many defensive ends the Eagles decide to keep.
You could tell Thursday night that Graham hasn't lost any of his speed from his ACL tear back in 2010. He is all the way back this year and should become the player the Eagles trade up in the first round for back in 2010.
Loser: Demetress Bell
Demetress Bell is probably a lock to make this roster, but he is doing his best to lose his roster spot. Bell has really struggled to fit in Howard Mudd's blocking scheme. He has been slow off the line and is making zero impact in the running game.
Bell was signed in free agency shortly after Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles. The plan was for Bell to win the left tackle job while King Dunlap would be a key reserve. Dunlap ended up winning the job as Bell has really struggled to block anybody throughout preseason.
The pressure is off Bell unless Dunlap gets hurt. He will serve as the backup left tackle. We have seen nothing from Bell that would indicate he is worthy of a starting role on any offensive line. He might be struggling to adjust to a very unique blocking scheme that offensive line coach Howard Mudd utilizes, but Bell would be far to slow from the snap in any blocking scheme.
Winner: Trent Edwards
What a long journey it has been for Trent Edwards this summer. When we first saw him during the Eagles OTAs, he looked like a washed up quarterback that wouldn't survive training camp. Now he looks like he might make the Eagles final roster.
Michael Vick is the starter and rookie Nick Foles is the backup. Andy Reid likes to keep three quarterbacks on his roster, as would anyone with Michal Vick as his starter. The third string quarterback spot is still in question. You can thank Trent Edwards for that.
Edwards completed 22 of 32 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns on Thursday night. He led the Eagles on four touchdown drives and had zero turnovers. He has been doing most of his work in preseason against third and fourth stringers, but he has also been playing with third and fourth stringers.
Edwards has a really good shot at making the roster. It will come down to how Andy Reid feels about Mike Kafka, the projected backup to Michael Vick just three short weeks ago.
Loser: Mike Kafka
You go to feel for Mike Kafka. He had his non-throwing hands stepped on against the Steelers in the first week of preseason and hasn't been able to play since. Since that time, both Nick Foles and Trent Edwards have been on fire and Kafka has become an afterthought in a lot of people's minds.
It's not so crazy to think that Kafka could get cut because he has been hurt while Edwards and Foles have been lighting it up. Andy Reid loves to go with the hot quarterback. He named Vick the starter over Kevin Kolb after just two starts in 2010 because Vick was on fire after Kolb was knocked out of a couple starts with a concussion.
Kafka has had more time in the offense, two plus years to be exact, but it might not matter. Edwards has been a starter and has done a great job at marching the offense down the field. Edwards has completed over 67 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He isn't facing elite competition, but he isn't making any mistakes either. He has complete control of this offense at the moment.
Has Trent Edwards done enough to overtake a quarterback with two relief stints and over two years in this offense? It's a coin flip right now. We will find out in less than 24 hours along with several other tough roster decisions.