By Ed Benkin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The last game of the preseason is often considered to be insignificant for fans. For many players, the game could be the last of their NFL careers.
The Eagles play the Jets at the Meadowlands Thursday night as they wrap up their preseason schedule. Nearly all of the players on the Eagles’ top unit will get the night off but for many of the backups on the field, the chance to play in the NFL could could come to an end. The team must trim its roster from 75 to 53 players by Saturday, and jobs will be on the line Thursday night. Coach Chip Kelly says the players fighting to stay on the roster must seize the moment.
“There’s a lot up in the air right now,” said Kelly. “Obviously, the games are different than the training sessions out here. It’s the last real good shot of us getting an opportunity to see how they react in an environment. It’s as close to a regular season as you can get, so it’s a huge night for all of those guys.”
With the final battle for jobs heating up, players who can contribute more in different ways appear to have a better chance of making the final cut. Offensive lineman who can play several positions or other position players who excel at special teams may have an advantage heading into the final preseason contest.
“I think versatility is the key,” Kelly said. “Some of those decisions that you make towards the end ‑‑ in your travel roster, it’s kind of like your active, deactive, it’s the same thing. Like why are we bringing the fourth running back when he doesn’t contribute on special teams when the sixth receiver does contribute on special teams?”
A mix of rookies and veterans will be competing for the final roster spots. Veteran safety Kurt Coleman is looking to keep his job in the secondary, but he says he is confident his hard work and past performance will make a difference as he takes the field on Thursday.
“I have proven myself,” said Coleman. “I know that I can play in this league and I can play at a high level, but that’s just the way it is. Every year, you’ve got to be able to compete.”
With Michael Vick enjoying the night off on Thursday, backups Nick Foles and Matt Barkley will split much of the snaps at quarterback. For Barkley, it will likely be his last action in the foreseeable future unless there are injuries to Vick and Foles. However, the rookie understands his situation.
“You realize that’s how it is,” Barkley said. “You take it in stride and you learn to deal with it. Obviously, you want to play, but there is an opportunity to learn.”
After Thursday’s game, the Eagles will be off on Friday and Saturday before beginning preparations for their regular season opener on September 9th against the Washington Redskins.