With one pre-season game left to go, the Eagles’ roster is taking shape, and the answers to the questions asked through OTA’s and training camp (Who’s the right guard? Will Sam Bradford be ready week one?) are becoming clearer every day.
Here are three players who have been the beneficiary of strong pre-season play, and three who, well, haven’t.
Stock is rising: Kenjon Barner
Barner has taken Philadelphia by storm this pre-season. With a punt return touchdown in each of the first two games and a 50 yard reception in the third, he’s making the case for the Eagles’ to take four running backs – already their deepest position group with DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, and Darren Sproles – into the regular season. Barner’s success has stolen the spotlight from Ryan Mostert, who would be making his own case for a roster spot if not for Barner.
It might not be clear to see where Barner will get on the field during the regular season, given the team’s depth at running back and Sproles’ ability as a return man, but Barner ran for over 3,000 yards for Chip Kelly at Oregon and Kelly traded a seventh round pick to bring him to Philadelphia last season. This isn’t a player Chip wants to see signed off his practice squad to another organization, and Barner’s play this pre-season has all but assured that will happen if the Eagles let it.
Burton, who didn't catch a pass as a rookie in 2014, has been taking full advantage of Zack Ertz' time away from the lineup. He has seven catches so far through a strong pre-season that culminated in two touchdowns that helped spark the Eagles' victory over the Packers Saturday.
An undrafted free agent, Burton was a revelation on special teams last year and, if the pre-season is anything to judge by - has translated into a receiving threat quicker than anyone expected. One touchdown each came from Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez, showing Burton has the trust of whomever is in the game at QB.
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The offensive line appears to be set, and it’s set with Andrew Gardner at right guard. The biggest question entering the pre-season was who would fill the second guard spot after the team cut Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans this off-season.
Gardner has started all three pre-season games so far and remained at right guard against Green Bay when the second offensive line unit entered the game. His main competition has either been moved to tackle (Matt Tobin) or just plain played poorly (Tobin and John Moffitt.)
Stock is falling: Eric Rowe
While it may have seemed like just a matter of time before Rowe surpassed Nolan Carroll for the cornerback spot opposite Byron Maxwell, that hasn’t happened. Rowe has shown flashes, and a knack for punching the ball out once it’s caught. But he’s also struggled consistently in coverage and was routinely targeted by Brett Hundley Saturday. Let’s not think about how it would have looked if Aaron Rodgers was in the game.
With the departure of Brandon Boykin and injury to JaCorey Shepherd, Rowe’s best chance may now come winning the battle at nickel corner against the likes of E.J. Biggers and Jaylen Watkins. Even that doesn’t seem assured. Hopefully the Eagles’ staff allows him to continue acclimating to one position, rather than try out a return to safety and overload him much like Marcus Smith in 2014.
Huff was the trendy pick to take off this year, and he still may. But the pre-season hasn’t shown us anything. Huff didn’t play against the Packers in the Eagles’ third pre-season game and has only one catch for 12 yards throughout the pre-season. Through no fault of his own (the death of a loved one) Huff has missed a lot of time in practice too.
Meanwhile, other options are certainly on display in the Birds’ passing game. Jordan Matthews looks ready to take a significant step forward from his rookie year, and Nelson Agholor has impressed as promised, despite a couple drops.
It’s not that Sanchez has played particularly poorly outside of the pre-season opener against the Colts, but that it’s been made clear to any remaining holdouts that there is no quarterback competition in Philly.
Sam Bradford has been exceptional in his short appearances and has survived live hits so far. As long as he keeps doing that, he’s Chip Kelly’s QB1.