The dress rehearsal is over, and now the Eagles look ahead to final roster cut downs and the season opener against the Rams on September 11th.
Just as the calendar has turned to September and the temperatures have given a glimpse of the coming autumn, the Philadelphia Eagles preseason has mercifully come to an end. Following Thursday night’s 24-14 Eagles win over the Jets at Met Life Stadium, the Birds now turn their focus to the season opener on September 11th in St. Louis against the Rams. Philadelphia finished the pre-season with a 3-1 record, but also with enough questions to ponder as the regular season approaches.
Before game plans can be devised though, rosters need to be finalized and the Eagles must now get their roster down to 53 players from its current 80 by Saturday afternoon.
Those final roster spots are what fourth and final preseason games are all about. Evaluations are finished by and large. Position battles nearly decided, which makes for an easy night for first teamers who don baseball caps and visors rather than pads and helmets. However, for backups and fringe roster players, the fourth preseason game may as well be a Super Bowl.
It’s difficult to offer any true evaluations from a game in which the opponents played a game just three days prior. Yet there were some standouts.
Vince Young drove the Eagles down the field moving the offense well all through the first half. Young finished with 15 of 23 for 193 yards and a touchdown. Young strained his hamstring on his final drive in the second quarter, and although the Eagles are optimistic that the injury is nothing serious, he will undergo an MRI today.
The only starter to see any action in the preseason finale was rookie right guard Danny Watkins, after the first round choice went to Head Coach Andy Reid and Offensive Line Coach Howard Mudd to request some extra reps. Watkins looked improved from his dreadful performance against the Browns last week, but the obvious caveat here is that Watkins looked stronger in both run and pass protection against third string Jets fighting for a roster spot.
“It was another game, just more experience getting ready for the regular season,” Watkins said. “It was good. I was looking forward to it and the more playing time I can get, the better.”
One beneficiary to the patchwork offensive line’s performance was rookie running back Dion Lewis. Lewis, likely to be the team’s third running back and kick returner, impressed with 15 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown while adding three catches for 38 yards. The 5-8 195 pound shifty back had the look of a playmaker and adds another versatile piece of the Eagles backfield puzzle who can be utilized in the Eagles screen game as well as, as a runner.
Defensively the Eagles dominated the line of scrimmage and did a nice job of getting in the Jets backfield which was highlighted by Chris Wilson’s fourth quarter sack of Jets backup Greg McElroy when the free agent linebacker stormed into the backfield, made solid contract with McElroy and forced a fumble.
It was just that kind of night for the Eagles defense. Philadelphia allowed just 117 total yards.
However, there are still nagging questions surrounding a crucial component of this football team: The kicking game. Alex Henery finished the night 1-2 on field goals, missing a first quarter 43 yarder that wasn’t even close. The Eagles placed a lot of faith in the rookie out of Nebraska when they allowed veteran David Akers to walk following last year’s playoff meltdown against the Packers. Henery’s foot after all has the ability to prolong the Eagles season, or as Akers contributed to a year ago, end it prematurely. That’s a lot of pressure on a rookie.
The Eagles roster will be finalized on Saturday at 6pm, and then with the monotony of the preseason dress rehearsal in the rearview, attention can be turned to the season opener against the Rams on September 11th.
Matt Lombardo is the Philadelphia Eagles beat reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL
Filed under: 2011 NFL Preseason, 2011 NFL Season, 2011 Philadelphia Eagles, NFL, Vince Young | Tagged: Chris Henery, Danny Watkins, Dion Lewis, Eagles, Matt Lombardo, New York, New York Jets, NFL, NFL Preseason 2011, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Eagles, Vince Young |