After they play the Jets Thursday, there will be 22 fewer Philadelphia Eagles.
And for all the practicing and learning, hard work and progress, a lot is at stake for many vying for a spot on the Eagles roster when it cuts to 53 men prior to Saturday.
Sometimes a numbers game leaves a veteran unemployed, while a late surge, or impressive performance in the fourth preseason game can earn a job for an undrafted free agent.
So while the big names, like Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Mychal Kendricks and others sit on the sidelines a handful of players will be fighting for their football lives at 7 p.m. at MetLife Stadium, just up the New Jersey Turnpike. Here are the three most intriguing storylines as we get one last look at the Eagles prior to the start of the regular season.
Tebow vs. Barkley
There has been a lot of buzz about the Eagles No. 3 quarterback duel, the one that pits Matt Barkley (who will start Thursday) against fan-favorite and underdog Tim Tebow. And one of the scenarios that has been overlooked is if Chip Kelly decides to keep just two quarterbacks, Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez, and cut the other two.
With Bradford and Sanchez each healthy, but injury-prone, the odds are a third QB stays in Eagles green this season. Making the fourth preseason game perhaps the deciding factor as to who stays.
“Obviously, I think especially with the quarterback position, practice is different just because they are wearing red jerseys,” Kelly said.”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.”
There are a handful of household names who are at risk to be cut this week, including veteran wide receiver Miles Austin.
As a receiver, Austin has been decent on the field, but may be outpaced by some other fringe wideouts like Jeff MaehlandSeyiAjirotutu. Though he’s been a valuable asset to youngsters Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff and Nelson Agholor, Austin still has to earn his spot.
Look for Austin to join the Eagles special teams units Thursday to try to show he brings a little additional value, as well as Maehl,Ajirotutu and feel-good storyRasheedBailey battling to either make the 53-man roster or earn a spot on the practice squad.
Get some work in
Obviously, someone has to play Thursday. With 60 minutes of playing time to divvy up and players at different places in their prep for the season, chances are a handful of first-team guys will be playing vs. New York.
Kiko Alonso, who has missed parts of camp and preseason games with a concussion and leg injury said he expects to take a few snaps at inside linebacker.
Eric Rowe is another key defender who will likely play, looking to earn the nickel cornerback role. The rookie has been hit or miss at corner this preseason and more reps against an NFL offense will serve him well.
AndAgholor, who clearly will be an impact player in 2015, will likely get a few chances as well. Look for him to try and sort out some early preseason mistakes and earn a bigger role in the Birds’ rotating offensive attack.