Aug 21, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Matthew Tucker (39) scores on a 1-yard touchdown run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Steelers, 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Preview: Philadelphia Eagles vs New York Jets

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The Philadelphia Eagles came out on fire during last week’s preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers as the starters dismantled Pittsburgh’s starting defense to the tune of a 17-0 shutout in the first half. After two up and down performances, it was reassuring to see the Eagles move the ball effectively and capitalize on scoring drives. However, there were plenty of scares for Philadelphia fans as the game unfolded.

LeSean McCoy left the game early with an injured right thumb and didn’t return. X-rays were negative for the All-Pro but all signs are pointing to him starting the season without any negative side effects. Jeremy Maclin started off the game quickly as he hauled in six catches for 43 yards. Maclin gave Eagles fans a scare after he fell to the turf clutching his knee. He eventually walked off the field and even came back to catch another pass, assuring Eagles fans that he’s fine. Maclin has provided quite a few brief scares like this throughout training camp and preseason. With the season opener right around the corner, head coach Chip Kelly can afford to let his starters rest as he evaluates the rest of his roster to determine who will make the final 53-man roster.

There isn’t much to analyze from a scheme perspective or personnel matchups against the New York Jets considering neither will be playing their starters or game planning extensively. Keep an eye on roster bubble players trying to make the team as both the Eagles and Jets evaluate their remaining players.

Running Back Battle

Kelly has some tough decisions to make at running back in the next few days. Matthew Tucker has looked phenomenal this preseason making the most of his opportunities as a helpless Chris Polk has had to watch from the sidelines due to injury. Henry Josey has also performed well when given his chances and after signing Kenjon Barner last week, Kelly will have to make the difficult decision of most likely only keeping two of these running backs on his roster. Polk is expected to play in the final preseason game and will likely be playing for a final roster spot, after the Barner signing put his job in jeopardy.

Barner’s addition to special teams makes him a valuable team player that the Eagles may need early this season as rookie wide receiver Josh Huff‘s status is still questionable for Week 1. Polk had an efficient season last year when given the opportunity, but Matthew Tucker has been productive all summer and will garner some additional looks against the Jets this week. Josey may just get the short end of the straw in a crowded backfield as he has looked impressive as well but the numbers are not in his favor. Look for some tough running this week as each of these backs tries to prove to the Eagles staff that they belong on the team.

Secondary Competition

This may be the end for former third rounder Curtis Marsh as he was repeatedly beaten throughout the preseason. He has failed to live up to his high draft pick status and will likely be shown the door when final cuts are made. The same will likely be said for Roc Carmichael, who has shown a little more versatility but nothing worth keeping him over rookie Jaylen Watkins. It’s hard to picture the Eagles taking anymore than five cornerbacks into the season with the other four spots locked up by Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Nolan Carroll, and Brandon Boykin. It’s a shame Carroll had to battle through injuries this preseason, as he has the talent to possibly take over as a starter. In today’s injury-riddled NFL that time may come at some point this season, but for now it looks as if the Eagles will have the same returning starters from last year with Boykin still manning the slot.

After signing Malcolm Jenkins this offseason, the only real battle this season was between resigned Nate Allen and second-year safety Earl Wolff. Perhaps it was due to less pressure on him, but Nate Allen has looked consistent so far in preseason and has secured the other starting position without question. Wolff will be first to replace either safety in case of injury and has some incredible talent if defensive coordinator can find a way to get the best out of him. Free agent addition Chris Maragos was brought to play a key role on special teams while providing depth on the back end. Rookie Ed Reynolds had an uphill battle from the onset as Stanford’s academic schedule forced him to start the season slightly later than other rookies. We can expect to see some varying combinations of Wolff, Maragos, and Reynolds against the Jets as Davis experiments to find which combination works best.

Final Roster Projections?

The Eagles did not enter this season with many open competitions compared to years’ past. Between training camp and preseason, the Eagles’ staff most likely already knows who they plan on keeping on the 53-man roster even before this final game against New York. Inside the Iggles’ Giorgos Kassakos recently made predictions on which Eagles will make the final roster from the current 75-man team. He broke down each position predicting the number of players Philadelphia will carry at each position and which players will make the final cut.

As Kelly and his staff prepare to make their final decisions, players with the versatility to play on special teams will be weighed on heavily. The game against the New York Jets tonight will be used to confirm which players are able to prove they can handle both duties for the Eagles while also getting game film on younger players. With one final game left to play in the preseason, Eagles fans can start getting excited about the season opener against Jacksonville only a week away.

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