Five Players to Watch, the Jets Preseason Edition
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - One more to go.
The fourth and final (and often torturous) preseason contest between the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles really isn’t going to give the coaches all that much more information but the seemingly innocuous affair is somewhat important for a handful of players.
Here are the five Eagles players you should be focused on if you decide to stick through all 60 minutes tonight:
Linebacker, Myke Tavarres - All eyes will be on Tavarres during the national anthem but they should also stay on him throughout the game. The athletic rookie enters his final chance a tad behind fellow rookie Quentin Gause for the sixth and final LB spot and will need to make a splash in order to overcome some of the controversy he created earlier in the week.
Tavarres said he wanted to support Colin Kaepernick by joining the embattled San Francisco quarterback in protesting the treatment of minorities in the country by staying seated during the anthem before backtracking.
In the end, however, the Eagles will be watching the waiver wire closely and may want to bring in an outside talent to bolster their depth at the position.
Defensive tackle, Destiny Vaeao - When the Eagles moved on from veteran Mike Martin during the cut to 75 most assumed that boded well for veteran Taylor Hart, who will sit out tonight’s game with a knee sprain and ankle injury.
Don’t sleep on Vaeao, however, an undrafted rookie from Washington State, who has impressed the coaching staff as a three-technique and may have a higher ceiling than Hart. Vaeao has likely already locked up a practice-squad berth if he is able to clear waivers but he also has a chance to push for a spot on the final 53.
Offensive Tackle, Dillon Gordon - Maybe the most intriguing player in camp this year, the 6-foot-4, 320-pound Gordon played tight end at LSU before being moved to the offensive line by the Eagles. He’s played inside at guard, outside at tackle, and in the backfield as a lead blocker in goal-line situations. He could also, obviously, line up as a tight end in jumbo formations when the Eagles use “13” personnel.
If Lane Johnson is suspended, Gordon has a chance to be the Eagles’ last O-Lineman on the final 53. If Johnson is is available, Gordon is likely earmarked for the PS if Philadelphia can sneak the versatile talent through waivers.
Cornerback, C.J. Smith - When I first got a look at Smith during offseason work, my assessment was that he was brought in just to make his former North Dakota State teammate, Carson Wentz, a little more comfortable but the Burnsville, MN native has slowly opened everyone’s eyes and performed very well in Indy last week when given looks with the first team.
With Aaron Grymes out of the equation now, Smith is the leader in the clubhouse for the sixth cornerback slot and has a chance to lock it down tonight with another solid effort.
Linebacker, Mychal Kendricks - Most of the entrenched starters will not see the field tonight but Doug Pederson has made it clear that Kendricks needs work after missing many reps over the past few weeks with a hamstring problem.
When you add in the fact that Jim Schwartz-favorite Stephen Tulloch is now in the mix, Kendricks is on thin ice and needs to both produce and prove he can stay healthy.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen