More than anything, preseason games are often used by teams to evaluate which players deserve a chance to be on the active roster in the regular season. The fans get a kick out of football finally returning and coaches have an opportunity to experiment with their calls before the real games begin, but perhaps the most important aspect of the exhibition schedule is narrowing down the depth chart. As the Eagles approach their next preseason contest, who is on the rise and decline after the club’s opener against Pittsburgh?
Eagles on the rise:
- QB Nick Foles: In his debut preseason game, the rookie threw two deep touchdowns with ease, made no turnovers, and might have sparked a competition for the No. 2 passing job behind Michael Vick. He’s only expected to get more reps after his impressive performance against the Steelers.
- QB Trent Edwards: His performance wasn’t as flashy as that of his fellow backup, Foles, but he still managed to turn in a productive outing at quarterback, throwing a touchdown on a fourth-down situation in the final quarter and completing 12 throws for over 100 yards. Edwards might be unable to secure a roster spot at this point, but there’s no telling what another solid showing could do.
- RB Bryce Brown: Early on, the seventh-round draft pick gained very little on the ground, but a 33-yard hand-off sealed an otherwise respectable performance. The rookie also caught a 16-yard pass and appears to be well ahead of Chris Polk for the No. 3 RB job.
- WR Damaris Johnson: The darling of spring practices and Training Camp, the shifty Johnson was wide open on a 70-yard touchdown pass from Foles and also returned a punt nine yards. If he continues to flash his big-play ability, it won’t be long until the Eagles clear a final roster spot for his services.
- WR Jamel Hamler: The wide receiver position might be too deep for Hamler to crack the roster now, but his performance could at least alert other teams of his potential. When called upon in the clutch, he came through with a touchdown catch and finished with 34 yards on three receptions.
- DE Phillip Hunt: It wasn’t a guarantee that Hunt would reprise his backup defensive end job coming into the preseason, but if he rattles off another two-sack performance, that might change. The pass rusher was providing pressure on a consistent basis Thursday night.
- DT Cedric Thornton: Last year, he was primarily a developmental project, but Thornton showed he might have a role on the active roster this year by racking up four tackles–some of which came behind the line–and a sack.
Eagles on the decline:
- QB Mike Kafka: He seemed to have the No. 2 QB role locked up in camp, but Kafka was simply outperformed on Thursday. Not only did his peers look excellent, but in his opportunities, the third-year man completed just five of nine attempts and threw an interception on a screen pass.
- DT Antonio Dixon: It might not have been his fault that other defenders received more reps along the line, but a single tackle in a game that many players stood out up front might not bode well for Dixon’s chances of securing a reserve job.
- OLB Brian Rolle: He was only on the field for several series as part of the first-string defense, but Rolle appeared to fall behind on a few plays early on when the Steelers had little trouble getting into Eagles territory. Of course, his job might not be in jeopardy just yet, but lapses in his play could result in others (i.e. Jamar Chaney) earning additional playing time.
- CB Kevin Thomas: The corner acquired in the Eagles’ recent trade of linebackers to the Colts, Thomas did little to stand out in his debut within Philadelphia’s crowded CB position, giving up several deep throws early in the game and finishing with just one tackle.
- SS Jaiquawn Jarrett: The former second-round pick made two tackles to finish the night, but lunged into one of his teammates on a missed attempt to take down Steelers runner Jonathan Dwyer and appeared to take a poor angle in pass coverage as well.
The Eagles must trim their offseason roster from 90 to 80 players by August 28, then finalize their 53-man lineup by September 2.