It’s the final night of preseason football and for many, that is a sigh of relief. For others, however, it is the last opportunity they will have to prove their worth on their respective team’s roster.
As is the case in Thursday night’s matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets, where many of the names most would come to see will trade their helmet and shoulder pads for a visor hat and t-shirt. There will not be any Tebowmania nor any Michael Vick heroics—just good, clean competitive football.
For the Eagles, a number of question marks still hang over their heads as they face their final test before cuts will be made to trim the roster down to 53. Those on the bubble will be biting their fingernails, striving to do whatever they can to earn their coaches’ approval one last time.
There may be no starters to watch in this meeting, but there will be plenty to keep an eye on. Here are five things to watch from the Eagles in their final preseason tune-up:
1. Can Chris Polk survive the final cut despite a deep running back group in front of him?
Undrafted rookie Chris Polk has had a fair summer for the Eagles, performing well in practicing and tallying 51 yards on 13 carries (3.9 yards per carry). He has clearly the most adept back in pass protection, but is that enough to earn him a spot on the roster?
LeSean McCoy is clear-cut starter and second-year back Dion Lewis has cemented his place as the backup. Fellow rookie Bryce Brown is not quite as certain, but it would be difficult to argue that Polk has had a better summer than the Eagles’ seventh round draft pick.
His talents as a blocker could be valuable at the fullback position, but it is unknown if the Eagles would be willing to go in such a direction. Polk must do whatever he can to prove he’s worthy and show the Eagles that they would be wise to keep a fourth tailback on their roster.
2. Where does Demetress Bell stand?
The Eagles went out and signed Demtress Bell to step up and fill the void left by injured left tackle Jason Peters in the offseason, only to render him to second-team play in favor of King Dunlap. For Bell, the Eagles and the fans, that has to be concerning.
Bell did not come at a hefty price, but he didn’t come particularly cheap either. To think the offensive tackle was such a disappointment in camp that he lost a starting job that many believed was his the moment he was signed is unacceptable.
Bell would have another opportunity to show what he’s made of against the Jets. Unfortunately, it will likely come against a primarily second-team Jets defense with little opposition to offer five-year veteran.
3. With Mike Peterson possibly out for all of 2012, does Antonio Dixon have a place on the defensive line?
Antonio Dixon is one of many players on the bubble for the Eagles on defense. After a strong 2010 campaign, Dixon is been nothing short of underwhelming. Dixon’s presence on the Eagles roster hinges on how many defensive tackles the team chooses to go with as well as their thoughts on his overall performance this summer.
The young defensive lineman has shown bright spots at times, but has been almost invisibile at others. The game against the Jets will be one more valuable night for him to prove he belongs on the team over other bubble defensive lineman like Darryl Tapp and Cedric Thornton.
4. Could Brian Rolle or Jamar Chaney be in trouble?
At the start of camp, Brian Rolle and Jamar Chaney were expected to be the top two competitors for the weakside linebacker position. Instead, their unsatisfactory performances cost them both the job in favor of Akeem Jordan.
Both men will likely make the roster, but could their underperformance have disgruntled the Eagles coaches enough that one could get cut? With Casey Matthews struggling with injuries, that’s highly unlikely, but it is fair to assume both men are on a short leash.
5. Everyone ready for a little bit more Nick Foles?
Trent Edwards is expected to play the final three quarters, but all eyes will be on rookie backup Nick Foles once again as he gets the start vs. the Jets. Foles has captured the hearts of Eagles fans with his stellar play in each of Philadelphia’s preseason games, and subsequently thrust himself into the No. 2 role formerly held by Mike Kafka.
Foles 36-of-57 passes (63.2 percent) for 507 yards, six touchdowns and just two interceptions in three games for the Eagles this preseason. He has also rushed for 24 yards on two carries.
Another impressive opening should solidify his place behind Michael Vick. Should that be the case, history tells us the confident rookie could see time as a starter at some point in 2012.