Who wins a job on Thursday night? I mean, that’s what this week is really all about, isn’t it? Most of your minds are on the Falcons and the regular-season opener on September 6, but there is a game to be played on Thursday (vs. Jets, 7 p.m., NBC Philadelphia) and there are jobs at stake, so that’s the focus here.
The question is: What jobs could actually be won? Who steps up and earns a spot on the 53-man roster? Here are some thoughts:
Josh Adams, RB
Who is the team’s fourth running back if the Eagles keep four? Will it be Wendell Smallwood, who had a big game with 53 rushing yards in Cleveland? Could it be Josh Adams, the undrafted rookie from Notre Dame who at 6-2 and 225 pounds runs upright, has some nimble feet, and burst and power. He’s looked good in the two preseason games Adams has played. You’d think the Eagles would give him a chance to show his skills on Thursday night against the Jets. The running back competition seems to be down to Smallwood and Adams, with Matt Jones and Donnel Pumphrey, ready to make his preseason debut, still hopeful.
De’Vante Bausby, CB
In the spring it sure looked like De’Vante Bausby would be in the mix for the nickel cornerback job. However, Sidney Jones appears to have earned that job, with Avonte Maddox in close competition. Bausby has continued to play well, and he has some versatility, but the numbers are stacked as the Eagles have, as we’ve said many times, loaded up on the position since the 2017 draft. An outstanding game from Bausby could give the Eagles a lot to think about with a group that looks fairly set with Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Jones, Maddox, and 2017 draft pick Rasul Douglas considered locks or near-locks to make the roster. This is a very interesting position to watch as the 53-man roster is set.
DeAndre Carter, WR
Signed on July 28 as kind of (to the outside world) a roster-filling kind of player, DeAndre Carter has impressed far beyond the “fresh legs” idea. He’s quick, he’s got good hands and he’s made plays with the football in his hands. The wide receiver room is unsettled at the moment with Alshon Jeffery on the Physically Unable to Perform list and with Mack Hollins coming back from his lower-body injury. If the Eagles keep five receivers, the likely group would include Jeffery (unless he starts the season on PUP, in which case he would not count against the 53-man roster but is unable to practice for six weeks), Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor, Hollins, and probably Shelton Gibson, a 2017 fifth-round draft pick who has played well this summer.
Carter? All he’s done is make plays. But that may not be enough to make the 53-man roster.
“He’s done a really good job,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said of Carter on Monday. “He’s a guy that we added in Training Camp and I’m glad that he’s here. He certainly has put himself in a position to be really competitive for a roster spot. Made some good plays the other night and some other plays he has got to improve on. Some easy things that we can get cleaned up. I think he’s focused on getting that done. He’s made some plays and he’s certainly shown up in the games.”
Bruce Hector, DT
As the Eagles look to firm up depth at defensive tackle and with the uncertainty of still-sidelined Tim Jernigan, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was asked about Hector on Monday during Schwartz’s weekly press briefing. Schwartz spoke highly of Hector.
“He’s impressed us all along the way,” Schwartz said. “But I think the thing that’s been most impressive is that there’s a lot of guys that look good early and then they level out, or they fade, or they can’t stay healthy, or they plateau and they just don’t improve, (but) that’s not Bruce. Bruce impressed us early but going on he has steadily improved. And he’s been on the field and he’s healthy enough to be on the field. Then in the last couple games, particularly in the last game, we got him some reps up against some better players and some better competition. He responded well. Those are all things you look for. He’s on the right track.”
Cameron Johnston, P
Some key numbers on Cameron Johnston’s behalf in this preseason: His 45.2-yard net average is third in the NFL and he’s had zero punts for touchbacks while he’s tied for sixth best in the NFL with six punts inside the 20-yard line. We’ve all waited to see if Johnston would falter because, well, the Eagles can’t afford to have a punter who is shaky. So far, no shaky. All good. Johnston has done a good job in limited duty holding for placekicker Jake Elliott as well. Johnston may not be in a position where he will win a job on Thursday night, but a poor outing could hurt him. He’s been terrific so far.
Jordan Mailata, OT
The seventh-round draft pick may have already played his way onto the 53-man roster with his rapid improvement, but you never really know until the roster is settled. The Eagles drafted Jordan Mailata knowing he would be a project, so they’re excited at the progress they’ve seen from the athletic left tackle. But there are many steps to take with this large piece of clay. The numbers are crowded along the offensive line and Mailata and sixth-round draft pick Matt Pryor need to play well on Thursday night. It’s a big game for both players.
Tre Sullivan, S
He’s been around the football quite a bit this summer, he knows the defense, and he’s improved his game. Is that enough for Tre Sullivan to earn a roster spot on the 53? Can the Eagles even keep a fourth safety with all of the roster juggling they’re going to have to do?
Sullivan and Jeremy Reaves are still here, and that means they’re going to have an opportunity to make it happen on Thursday night. A big game and …