The final week of the preseason continues with the Philadelphia Eagles at the New York Jets. This is the last chance for many players to make their case to be on the opening season roster, whether it be as a role player, as part of a position rotation, or as a special teams player. Our team of PFF analysts have all the most important position battles and players to watch for each team:
Coverage by: Mike Alessandrini
Position Battle: Najee Goode/Kamu Grugier-Hill/Joe Walker/Don Cherry, Reserve LB
- Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham are the Eagles’ top two linebackers, while Mychal Kendricks (barring a late summer trade) and rookie Nathan Gerry (provided he is healthy) are also roster locks. Behind these four, there are only one or two backup spots remaining. Goode is the veteran of the group and started in place of an injured Hicks in Philadelphia’s matchup with the Dolphins last week. The linebacker has one stop and one missed tackle in run defense this preseason, while allowing two receptions for eight yards in coverage (0.29 yards per coverage snap).
- Grugier-Hill played in 12 games for the Eagles in 2016, making his biggest impact on special teams. The sophomore leads this competition with 41 coverage snaps per reception and 0.15 yards per coverage snap in three games. Walker was a seventh-round selection in 2016, but missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL. His 14.3 run stop percentage is the highest among competitors for backup linebacker spots. Cherry has also impressed this preseason, collecting one pass defensed, one forced fumble and one interception in 64 snaps. Opposing quarterbacks have a 57.3 passer rating when targeting the young linebacker during the preseason.
Players to Watch:
- Elijah Qualls, DI- The sixth-round rookie has been a pleasant surprise this summer. Qualls ranks third among defensive interior players for the preseason with a cumulative 87.7 overall grade. His 8.5 pass rush productivity is tops among rookie interior defenders.
- Dexter McDougle, CB- Traded for safety Terrence Brooks on Sunday, McDougle will look to earn a roster spot in his first game as an Eagle. The defensive back has allowed five receptions for 37 yards on 12 targets this preseason. Quarterbacks have a 49.7 passer rating when targeting the former Jet.
- Shelton Gibson, WR- Struggling to impress this summer, Philadelphia’s fifth-round pick could need a strong showing Thursday to make the final roster. Gibson’s 0.28 yards per route run is the lowest on the team, and Eagles quarterbacks have a horrendous 6.3 passer rating when targeting the rookie.
Coverage by: Cyrus Geller
Position Battle: Juston Burris/Marcus Williams, CB
- The battle for a starting cornerback job rages on, and thus far in the preseason, it appears Juston Burris is in the lead. Burris ranks 20th out of 118 qualified corners this preseason in passer rating targeted at 47.2. Williams ranks 37th at 66.5.
- Burris also ranks tied for 39th in coverage snaps per reception at 13.5, while Williams ranks tied for 93rd at 7.7. However, both played well last week against the Giants, as Williams actually edged out Burris with an overall grade of 81.1, compared to Burris’ 78.8. Whoever plays better this week against Philadelphia could have the upper hand on the starting cornerback job heading into the regular season.
Players to Watch:
- Brent Qvale, OT – Qvale is not guaranteed the starting right tackle spot, as he and Brandon Shell have gone back and forth throughout this preseason. Qvale ranks tied for second out of 70 qualified tackles this preseason in pass blocking efficiency at 98.8. Who is he tied with? Brandon Shell. This is another position battle that will be worth monitoring in the final preseason contest of the year.
- Spencer Paysinger, ILB – Paysinger has excelled in coverage thus far this preseason, as he ranks tied for fifth out of 98 qualified inside linebackers in coverage snaps per reception at 34.0. However, he hasn’t been as good in the run game, ranking tied for 29th out of 89 inside linebackers in run stop percentage at 11.1.
- Christian Hackenberg, QB – Once again, what will we see from the young signal caller? Last week he was outplayed by Bryce Petty, as his overall grade of 60.0 was severely dwarfed by Petty’s 78.4. Up until last week, Hackenberg was beating out Petty in the preseason, but against the Giants Petty’s adjusted completion percentage of 88.2 ranked significantly higher than Hackenberg’s 68.4.