Spadaro: Final preseason game not completely meaningless

The offense has been pretty putrid through three games, but how much of that will even matter come Sept. 6?

By Dave Spadaro

With the starters watching from the sidelines on Thursday night when the Eagles close out the preseason against the Jets at Lincoln Financial Field, a scant one or two roster spots will be up for grabs and then, in a very rapid manner, the transition will be made toward the NFL’s regular season.

The Atlanta Falcons come to town on Sept. 6, when everything matters.

You’ve watched the first three preseason games, still hung over from the Super Bowl LII victory perhaps, and maybe you’re wondering just what in the heck is going on with the 0–3 (preseason record) Eagles. The offense has been pretty putrid through three games, but how much of that will even matter come Sept. 6? Here are some things I think you can take to the bank about these Eagles …

• The defense is better than last season’s version. Adding veteran linemen Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata will pay great dividends for a team that plays a downhill, attacking scheme and relies on depth and versatility up front.

The Eagles have a wealth of pass rushers — Brandon Graham, who is on target to play against Atlanta, Chris Long, Derek Barnett and Bennett lead the way — and they can all move up and down the line of scrimmage and create havoc for offensive blocking schemes.

While the Eagles still have to prove that they can replace nickel cornerback Patrick Robinson to the same level, starting outside cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are better than they were a season ago. This is all very important in the pass-happy NFL.

• If left tackle Jason Peters can stay on the field and play at a high level — maybe not to his all-world level, but still very high — the offense will go. Doesn’t matter who plays quarterback. Doesn’t matter who catches passes or carries the football. The game is won at the line of scrimmage, and the Eagles are great there — if Peters is on the field.

• Darren Sproles will be a dynamic third-down weapon again. He didn’t play in the preseason. Doesn’t matter. Watch him dance past defenders in his last NFL season and enjoy the show and appreciate his greatness bundled in a 5-foot-6, 190-pound body.

• Carson Wentz will play … when the medical staff clears him. And when he’s cleared, he’s going to be great. Wentz looks like Wentz on the practice field. It’s just that nobody knows when he’ll get cleared for contact.

• Nick Foles needs people around him to be outstanding. He doesn’t carry a team by himself. We’ve seen him at two extremes lately — at the top in the 2017 NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LII and at the bottom in this preseason.

• Nelson Agholor is going to be used more than he was last season. He can play inside and outside at wide receiver. Agholor is primed to lead the Eagles in receiving.

• Jordan Hicks may be the most valuable player on defense (neck and neck with Fletcher Cox and Malcolm Jenkins). Having Hicks on the field gives this defense a chance to be dynamic.

• The Eagles will win the NFC East and post 12 wins in the regular season. It won’t be easy. They may start slowly. But there is too much talent, and the coaching staff is too good for the Eagles to take a step back this season. After winning the NFC East? Anything goes in this year’s conference playoffs. ••