Eagles Avoid Winless Preseason with Late Rally Against Jets
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Preseason results are meaningless unless of course, you are a little superstitious, a club Doug Pederson counts himself in.
"Maybe I'm superstitious, but I really don't like being 4-0 in the preseason," the Eagles' coach said earlier this month.
Well, after Thursday's 10-9 late-game win over the New York Jets, Philadelphia avoided the polar opposite of 4-0 in the 2018 preseason and another superstition: only one team has gone winless in August and gone on to win the Super Bowl, the 1982 Washington Redskins during a strike-shortened season.
South Jersey native Joe Callahan helped the Eagles avoid that potential historic hurdle by re-entering a game he started and leading Philadelphia on a game-winning 11-play, 68-yard drive, culminating with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Matt Jones with only 18 seconds remaining. The ensuing PAT by Jake Elliott put the Eagles in the win column for the first time since Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis back in February.
As usual in the fourth preseason game, each team sat its starters and meaningful reserves, leaving Callahan and Christian Hackenberg to run the offense for the Eagles against the Josh McCown and John Wolford-led Jets.
That's not exactly Donovan McNabb and Joe Namath trading haymakers so things were about as ugly as you might expect as McCown is the only one of those QBs likely to be employed by the end of business on Saturday.
Callahan and Hackenberg combined for four turnovers -- three by the former Jets' second-round pick and the other an interception near the Jets' goal line with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Callahan rebounded from there, however, to finish strong and completed 18-of-26 passes for an 82.9 passer rating. Hackenberg, on the other hand, had a dismal 16.9 rating against his former team.
The other positives for Philadelphia were a Chandon Sullivan interception, a 55-yard Jake Elliott field goal and excellent play by veteran scout-team star Steven Means, who finished with six tackles and three sacks.
As far as the roster battles, no one really stood out as rookie running back Josh Adams ran it 13 times for only 27 yards and cornerback De'Vante Bausby continued to struggle to tackle consistently.
Receiver DeAndre Carter saw a lot of traffic, with two catches for 37 yards on five targets, while also serving as the punt returner and a gunner on punt coverage. That versatility may have earned Carter a spot on the 53-man roster because none of the other receivers stood out.
Donnel Pumphrey also showed some juice as a third-down back with three receptions for 39 yards but the number of snaps he played was inconsequential, indicating the Eagles really didn't want to get a good look at him.
Jones also came on late and finished with nine carries for 54 yards but his poor preseason as a whole had already sealed his fate.
FINAL 53-MAN ROSTER PREDICTION:
QUARTERBACKS (3): Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld
The deepest QB room in the NFL. No surprises here.
RUNNING BACKS (4): Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood
Smallwood is far more well-rounded than Josh Adams at this stage, a player who should pass through waivers and get to the practice squad.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor, Shelton Gibson, Mack Hollins, Markus Wheaton
The uncertainty surrounding the health of Jeffery and Hollins means the Eagles need some depth outside, saving Wheaton, who isn't all that expensive as a vested veteran whose salary is guaranteed if on the roster Week 1.
TIGHT ENDS (3): Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers
Rodgers' knee injury complicates things a bit as does a week-to-week designation but it looks as if the Eagles will carry him early in the season in the hope he's ready relatively soon.
OFFENSIVE LINE (10): Jason Peters, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Isaac Seumalo, Matt Pryor, Jordan Mailata, Chance Warmack
The Eagles will go heavy on both lines and Jeff Stoutland loves both Mailata and Warmack.
DEFENSIVE LINE (10): Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Haloti Ngata, Michael Bennett, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Destiny Vaeao, Bruce Hector, Steven Means, Josh Sweat, Tim Jernigan (NFI)
You really believe the Eagles aren't keeping Means. He's the scout team's most valuable player because of his work ethic.
LINEBACKERS (5): Jordan Hicks, Nathan Gerry, Kamu Grugier-Hill, LaRoy Reynolds, Joe Walker, Nigel Bradham (Suspended List)
Nigel Bradham is suspended for Week 1 so he won’t count against the roster. This remains the biggest question mark on the team with Gerry or KGH taking over as the weak-side LB and Reynolds being counted on as the special-teams stalwarts. Walker is the only Mike option behind the oft-injured Jordan Hicks.
CORNERBACKS (5): Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas
De'Vante Bausby's inability to tackle consistently has him on the outside looking in.
Safeties (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, Tre Sullivan, Chris Maragos (PUP)
With Chris Maragos still not ready to go, that opens the door for Tre Sullivan, who has easily held off undrafted rookie Jeremy Reaves.
Specialists (3): K: Jake Elliott, P: Cameron Johnston, LS Rick Lovato
Pretty easy to predict when there is no competition. There has been some hand-wringing over Johnson and directional punting but the Eagles love him and working on stuff like that is what training camp and the preseason are for.
PRACTICE SQUAD (10):
RB Josh Adams, WR Greg Ward, WR DeAndre Carter, TE Joshua Perkins, OL Toby Weathersby, DE Joe Ostman, DT Elijah Qualls, DT Aziz Shittu, CB D.J. Killings, S Jeremy Reaves
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen