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There are two ways to look at the final preseason game. Some look at it as the game that nobody cares about because many, if not all, of the starters are not playing. Others look at it as an important game for some players to either gain roster spots or be cut.
For both the Eagles and the Jets, there are important spots up for grab, including quarterback spots for each. Here are some storylines for tonight's game:
1. EAGLES' THIRD QUARTERBACK: BARKLEY VS. TEBOW
It's the biggest third quarterback race in the history of this organization. Matt Barkley, who has never impressed during regular season play in his two seasons with the team, has been very impressive during the preseason with the Birds. He's gone 23-for-43 for 306 yards and an interception in three preseason games, not that bad. There would be no question that he would make the team if the other QB wasn't Tim Tebow. But guess what, that other QB is Tim Tebow! Tebow is arguably the league's most talked about third/fourth string QB since his arrival in the NFL. Tebow has gone 10-for-19 for 97 yards and ran 10 times for 50 yards and a touchdown in three games this preseason.
Barkley is a much better passer, but Tebow is able to use his legs as a mobile QB. Chip Kelly hinted before the preseason at using Tebow on two-point conversion attempts. He did that twice on Philly's first two drives, and he couldn't convert either attempt, one on a run and the other on a throw. It will look like both QBs will be playing most of, if not the entire game tonight. Barkley might be the better quarterback overall, but if Chip sees an offer for him that he likes, I wouldn't be surprised if he deals Barkley and gives Tebow the final QB spot.
2. EAGLES' FOURTH RUNNING BACK: BARNER VS. MOSTERT
Another battle on offense to watch is between Kenjon Barner, a former Oregon Duck, and Raheem Mostert. Both have done extremely well in the preseason, as a RB and on special teams as a return man. Barner has carried the ball 12 times for 48 yards and a touchdown, but has also returned two punts for touchdowns earlier in the preseason. Mostert has double the carries of Barner, running for 88 yards on 24 carries, and a 67-yard kick return against the Packers last week.
Barner has played a little bit with Carolina in 2013, but Mostert's stock is rising and could be at an all-time high after last week. Mostert has an elite skill in the form of speed that Chip likes, so he might be able to beat out Barner if he impresses on both ends.
3. KIKO ALONSO AND JOSH HUFF EXPECTED TO PLAY
It would have been nice to see both on the field last week in Green Bay, but at least they will be out tonight. Alonso had a nagging leg injury last week that caused him to miss the game, but told reporters during practice on Tuesday that he expects to get some snaps before the season opener in Monday. It will be very exciting to see what he brings to the table, as he missed all of 2014 with an ACL injury of his own.
As for Huff, he missed last week due to the death of his god-brother. He has only had one catch for 12 yards this entire preseason, so giving him some catches should help him get rid of some rust before Atlanta.
4. QUESTIONS IN THE SECONDARY
Tonight's game will help decide the backups and reserves for cornerback and safeties.
Let's start with the cornerbacks. Looks like Byron Maxwell and Nolan Carroll will be your starters, and Eric Rowe will be safe as a rookie backup. But there's four other corners looking for a spot in E.J. Biggers, Jaylen Watkins, Denzel Rice, and Randall Evans. Biggers might have been safe if he did not have a bad game against Green Bay last week. The six-year veteran was beat in coverage multiple times and also took a bad penalty. But Biggers does have NFL experience and can play at CB and safety, as well as special teams, which is a big emphasis on this team. Jaylen Watkins might not be in contention for a spot if rookie JaCorey Shepherd didn't go down with an ACL injury. He's been inconsistent this preseason, which could give a spot to either Evans, a sixth round pick this season out of Kansas State, or Rice, an undrafted free agent.
Now to the safety position. Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond has the starting spots locked up, along with special teams specialist Chris Maragos. But Thurmond has not played a full season in his five years in the NFL, so there will more than likely be someone starting in his place for a game or two, or maybe a few. With Earl Wolff gone, the three contenders are Chris Prosinski, Jerome Couplin, and Ed Reynolds. Prosinski was picked up midway through last season and was fourth on the team in special teams tackles, so he looks like he should be fine. Couplin has one advantage he has over Reynolds in his really long wingspan. He's also made some plays in games against the Ravens and the Packers. Reynolds had an outstanding first preseason game, making two interceptions against the Colts and a couple of great plays in the following preseason games, but nothing else yet. It might come down to the latter two players.
5. NAJEE GOODE, DIAHEEM WATKINS, AND RASHEED BAILEY
Goode's play at linebacker has been outstanding this preseason, and it might make the Birds keep another inside linebacker. Watkins has been a dark horse this preseason to earn a spot, as the undrafted rookie outside linebacker from UAB has hurried the quarterback six times in three preseason games, the most on the team. With Travis Long out for the year and Marcus Smith suffering a hamstring injury, Watkins has a new fan in Connor Barwin, and the two have been working with each other everyday after practice. Another great game could solidify his spot on the roster.
On the other side of the ball, wideout Rasheed Bailey has been popular with the fanbase, catching eight balls for 70 yards in three preseason games. The Roxborough and Delaware Valley product might not make the active roster, but many fans are hoping that he may get a shot on the practice squad.
6. JETS QB BATTLE: MATT FLYNN VS. JOSH JOHNSON
The Eagles aren't the only team with a backup spot up for grabs. Thanks to Geno Smith's broken jaw, Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the team's starter for the first part of the regular season. Rookie Bryce Petty looks to be the third stringer for the season, but the temporary backup job is up for grabs between Matt Flynn and Josh Johnson. Flynn has been in the league longer, and signed with the New England Patriots before hamstring and ankle injuries caused the team to release him. Johnson has had less success than Flynn, as he last played in 2011. Expect Flynn and Johnson to get the majority of the snaps tonight, and maybe a little look at Petty as well.
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