Generally, the 4th preseason game generates the least fan interest among the 4 preseason games. The reason for this is because none of the starters play. Week 3 is treated as a regular-season dress rehearsal, so teams across the NFL rest their starters for week 4.
The Eagles specifically played their starters on offense and defense into the 2nd quarter. Week 4 ends up being relegated to backups, most of whom will not end up on an NFL roster. With that said, there are still important things to look out for. Since the game against the Ravens was called early due to lightning, week 4 has even more important for players either in a roster battle or who are unlikely to see much playing time during the season. So, that means there will still be important takeaways from this preseason matchup against the Jets, as highlighted below.
1) Battle for the 6th Receiver
There are 4 locks at the receiver position (Alshon Jeffery, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Nelson Agholor, and DeSean Jackson), and 1 near-lock in Mack Hollins. The past two seasons the Eagles have kept 6 receivers. So, if the Eagles decide to keep a 6th, the two players to look out for are Marken Michel (26 years old) and Greg Ward (24 years old).
Michel had the long 75-yard touchdown in the Eagles first preseason game, but he has been relatively quiet since. Meanwhile, Ward has been the opposite. He showed up big the past two preseason games with a nice touchdown catch and run in week 2, and looked good in week 3 with 4 catches for 45 yards. So far it would seem like Ward has the edge since he is younger and has had a better preseason, but a strong game 4 from Michel could vault him over Ward.
2) Last Look at Andre Dillard and Jordan Mailata
Fingers-crossed, but a healthy season from both Jason Peters and Lane Johnson means that this will be the last time we see young tackles Andre Dillard and Jordan Mailata. Dillard was excellent in weeks 1 and 2 but had a worse performance in week 3. While he still looked good, he made more mistakes than he had the previous two weeks. The Eagles certainly won’t lose hope over his long-term potential with a mediocre preseason game, but it would still be nice to see him rebound with another excellent showing.
Mailata, similarly to Dillard, had his worst game in week 3. He was up and down the first two weeks, with mostly good snaps coupled with some misses, but had a rough game against the Ravens. He was called for a false start and missed multiple blocks that lead to pressure on the QB. The Eagles obviously have a lot less invested in Mailata than they do with Dillard, so therefore he also has much lower expectations. Dillard is being forecasted as the left tackle of the future while Mailata is a complete wild-card. Still, given his unique situation, there is a lot of intrigue surrounding Mailata. The more playing time for him and the more film on him the better.
3) Which Undrafted Rookie Makes the Team
Every year an undrafted rookie comes out of nowhere to steal a roster spot after a strong preseason. Never forget that before Corey Clement was a Super Bowl hero (a game which the Eagles won) he was an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin fighting for a job. This year the candidates are OL Nate Herbig and LB TJ Edwards.
Edwards, also out of Wisconsin, is limited athletically but has shown that he knows how to set up a defense and where to be on every play. His performance on special teams will go a long way in determining if he makes the team or not. Herbig, on the other hand, replaced Stefen Wisniewski as 2nd team center. Wisniewski had trouble snapping the ball and Herbig has looked decent in his stead. The prediction here is that both end up making the team, with Herbig having the better chance.
4) Clayton Thorsen
The Eagles are unlikely to keep 4 QBs. So, with Carson Wentz, Josh McCown, and Nate Sudfeld all being locks, Thorsen finds himself on the outside. With that in mind, the Eagles have an interesting decision to make as far as how much playing time they decide to give Thorsen. On one hand, they might want to rest him in hopes that with less tape they can sneak him on the practice squad. Or, they could want to give him as much experience as possible since this is the last game action he will see until next preseason. After a horrific Week 1, Thorsen bounced back in week 2 to look decent.
Unfortunately, the game was called when Thorsen had only played one drive, so he has even less playing time than the Eagles were originally planning. The guess here is that the Eagles will end up playing Thorsen and have him in for at least a half. He was one of only 5 picks in this past draft, with the Eagles hoping that he could develop into a solid #2 QB to back up Wentz. So far he has not looked the part, which makes this an intriguing situation to monitor.
5) It’s Still Football
When deciding if you should watch the game or not on Thursday, just remember how sad it is in the time between when the Super Bowl ends and football starts again. There is only a limited amount of football to watch in the fall, so crack open a cold one and let’s watch some 4th stringers battle it out.
Featured Photo: DAVID MAIALETTI / The Philadelphia Inquirer