McMullen’s Quick Hits: Projecting the Final 53, Tebow makes his case
Tim Tebow never had much success in North Jersey when he played there but the popular backup quarterback turned it up on Thursday night, making his case for a roster spot by outplaying Matt Barkley in the Eagles' 24-18 preseason loss to the Jets.
In fact if Chip Kelly was telling the truth earlier this week, it's Barkley who should be sweating as the NFL's final roster cut looms.
“Our opinions aren’t formed,” Kelly claimed Tuesday when discussing the competition. “It’s one more time for a game opportunity. Obviously, I think especially with the quarterback position, practice is different just because they are wearing red jerseys. When they are not hit, when you get them out there in a game, it’s another opportunity to get a legitimate evaluation of them. So there is a lot of weight in it.”
That weight shifted heavily toward Tebow as he and Barkley alternated quarters.
The Southern Cal product got the start and looked awful early, badly underthrowing Josh Huff which resulted in a Darrin Walls interception and a subsequent Jets' TD. He followed that up with a bad overthrow on the second series before settling down and finding Trey Burton on a nice drag route. Barkley finished 3-of-6 for 38 yards and the INT as Philadelphia trailed 7-3 after the first 15 minutes.
Tebow gave the offense far more juice in his first try, flashing uncharacteristic accuracy while completing 6-of-10 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown with a 129.2 passer rating while adding 18 yards on the ground on two attempts. Jeff Maehl and Seyi Ajirotutu also dropped catchable passes so it could have been better and Tebow's 18-yard scoring hookup with Philly native Rasheed Bailey may have been his best throw as an Eagle.
Barkley barely got a chance in the third quarter as the Jets played keep away with ball control, He was only on the field for five plays in the frame and finished the night 4-of-9 for 45 yards and a dismal 20.4 passer rating.
Walls got Tebow in the fourth quarter as well but the Florida product rebounded and threw another TD pass to Freddie Martino, making him responsible for 15 of the Eagles' 18 points on the night. Tebow finished 11-of-17 for 189 yards and the two scores.
"If you keep three (quarterbacks), Tebow's your guy," Eagles television analyst Mike Mayock said. "I'm not sure you keep three but if you do and i expect the Eagles want to. Tebow won the job."
THE FINAL 53: Why wait for Chip to make the moves, which he is expected to do a day early on Friday. Here's what the final 53 will look like:
In: Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow
Out: Matt Barkley
The Skinny: See above.
In: DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner
Out: Raheem Mostert
The Skinny: This shapes up as one of the deepest backfields in football with an All-Pro as the bell cow (Murray), a tremendously talented former top-15 pick who ran for over 1,200 yards in 2013 as the caddy (Mathews), and perhaps the best third-down back in the game (Sproles). Barner played himself onto the roster after returning punts for TDs in the first two preseason games and adding a 50-yard screen in Green Bay. His presence as a kick returner could allow Sproles and Josh Huff to focus purely on their offensive duties. The speedy Mostert is ticketed for the practice squad.
In: Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Riley Cooper, Josh Huff, Miles Austin, Seyi Ajirotutu
Out: Jeff Maehl, Quron Pratt, Rasheed Bailey, Freddie Martino
The Skinny: Maehl, Bailey and Martino are all better receivers than Ajirotutu but you are not going to need your sixth receiver on the field much so Ajirotutu's special teams acumen gives him the nod.
In: Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, Trey Burton
Out: Andrew Gleichert, Eric Tomlinson
The Skinny: Don't expect Ertz to be ready for Atlanta but the Eagles will make due with just Celek and Burton for a week or two. Kelly recently called Celek the best blocking tight end in football and Burton is in the running for most improved Eagle. Both rookie undrafted TEs are candidates for the PS.
In: Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Andrew Gardner, Lane Johnson, Matt Tobin, David Molk, Dennis Kelly, John Moffitt
Out: Julian Vandervelde, Josh Andrews, Malcolm Bunche, Brett Boyko
The Skinny: If the Eagles don't believe they can get Bunche through waivers and on to the practice squad he could replace Moffitt on this list. After the long layoff Moffitt's play hasn't really been worthy of a roster spot but Philadelphia sees a ceiling there and may be willing to wait it out. Tobin is the top backup at every position except center where Molk fits in. Dennis Kelly remains a Chip favorite and Vandervelde's poor play in the preseason opened the door for him.
In: Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton, Beau Allen, Taylor Hart, Brandon Bair
Out: Brian Mihalik, Travis Raciti
The Skinny: Not much drama here as the Hart, Allen, Bair backup triumvirate is just as entrenched as the starters. Mihalik's length is intoxicating but he needs a year on the practice squad to add functional football strength.
In: Kiko Alonso, DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, Najee Goode
The Skinny: When everybody is healthy this shapes up as the Eagles' deepest defensive position group with three legitimate starters for two spots, a promising rookie and a solid special teams player in Goode.
In: Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Bryan Braman, Brad Jones, Vinny Curry,
Out: Marcus Smith, Diaheem Watkins, Deontae Skinner
IR: Travis Long
The Skinny: You can sense Kelly's frustration with Smith and his latest hamstring injury will be his undoing. Walking away from a first-round pick this early in a career is never easy but Chip can paint it as a Howie Roseman mistake and the Curry move to OLB foreshadows the thinking.
In: Byron Maxwell, Nolan Carroll, Eric Rowe, E.J. Biggers, Jaylen Watkins
Out: Denzel Rice, Randall Evans
IR: Jacorey Shepherd
The Skinny: There are major issues here after Maxwell and Carroll. Rowe and Watkins were both torched early by the pedestrian Jets' receivers although Watkins recovered to jump a route inside New York's own 5-yard line and pick off a Matt Flynn pass. Biggers' veteran savvy gives him a spot and he will likely be the nickel against the Falcons while Rice will get through waivers to the PS, which makes the Watkins decision even easier.
In: Malcolm Jenkins, Walter Thurmond, Chris Maragos, Ed Reynolds
Out: Chris Prosinski, Jerome Couplin
The Skinny: Reynolds' ball skills give him the nod over the special teamer, Prosinski, and the hitter, Couplin.
In: Donnie Jones (P and holder), Cody Parkey (PK), Jon Dorenbos (LS)
Out: Kip Smith (P)
The Skinny: The only drama here is Parkey's groin issue.
STORAGE SPACE: The Eagles shelved 28 players, including most of their key starters and contributors, save Alonso and Huff, who needed a few repetitions.
Alonso was on the field in live action for the first time since 2013 due to his torn ACL before last season and the concussion and tendonitis he has struggled with this preseason. He had four tackles in the first defensive series before exiting.
Huff needed the work after taking some personal time to mourn the death of his God brother.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen