EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few Eagles showed Thursday night why they should be on the 53-man roster that has to be set by 4 p.m. Saturday.
A few others showed why they should not be.
And most of the guys who will play significant roles for the team this season not only didn’t play in the preseason finale against the host New York Jets, they stood on the sideline in warmup clothes.
En route to a mind-numbing 6-0 loss, the Eagles weathered an awful first-quarter sequence in which their second possession ended with a Wendell Smallwood fumble – perhaps the epitaph for Smallwood’s three-plus-year Eagles career – and their third possession ended in an awful Clayton Thorson interception.
Thorson, the fifth-round rookie from Northwestern, played the entire game, poorly. He completed 7 of 13 first-half passes for just 42 yards, hitting Canadian Football League veteran Marken Michel for a 30-yard gain, and tight end Josh Perkins for 12, but his other five completions netted zero yards.
By the end of the third quarter, Thorson was 11-for-20 for 80 yards. His final line was 12-for-26 for 84 yards and a 38 passer rating.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson defended Thorson afterward.
“I think he’s playing probably like a rookie quarterback should and would be at this time,” Pederson said. "It’s not easy, being a quarterback in the National Football League. The things he has done, in practice, even in some of these games, it may not look like it because of the end result, but he’s made a lot of progress this entire training camp."
The defensive star for the Eagles was defensive end Daeshon Hall, who continued his preseason string of strong pass-rush pressure games, strip-sacking Jets quarterback Luke Falk. Hall left briefly to be evaluated for a concussion but quickly returned.
“I feel like everything is already written, and what God has in store for me is for me, so I’l be ready whatever happens,” said Hall, 24, who joined the Eagles last December from the Texans’ practice squad and played in three games. “I feel good what I put out ... put my best effort out there.”
Pederson said of Hall and the other young defensive ends who played -- fourth-round rookie Shareef Miller and second-year player Josh Sweat -- “They came ready to play. It was good to see, the energy level they had, the effort they gave.”
Eagles defensive tackle Aziz Shittu was not as lucky as Hall was, on a hit to the head. Shittu went down in the third quarter and ended up riding the cart to the locker room, officially to be evaluated for a head injury, but really, they do the evaluating on the sideline.
Josh Hawkins, a cornerback who has had a tough preseason, intercepted Jets quarterback Davis Webb late in the third quarter, setting Thorson and the offense up at the New York 38. The right side of Thorson’s line collapsed and he took a 12-yard first-down sack that doomed the series, which ended in a punt.
The Eagles’ right tackle Thursday night was Brett Toth, the former star for Army who was able to defer his service commitment and join the Eagles two weeks ago. Toth hadn’t played since the 2018 Senior Bowl, and it showed. He might be bound for a practice squad berth.
“Too many missed assignments, and I was kind of slow to react a few times,” Toth said. Told that this seemed understandable, all things considered, he said: “I know, but in that offensive line room with the Eagles, there’s a standard that they hold us all up to, no matter how short a time I might be there.”
Thorson noted that the Eagles were “behind the sticks” quite a bit. “It felt like I could make a couple more throws,” he said.
For roster prediction purposes, it was interesting to note who played and who didn’t. If you played and they didn’t bother putting you in until the second half – as was the case with wide receiver Carlton Agudosi – you almost certainly aren’t making the team.
But is everyone who didn’t have to play guaranteed a spot? This might or might not be the case. The coaches might have just decided that there was nothing a veteran such as, say, guard-center Stefen Wisniewski, or cornerback Orlando Scandrick, or safety Johnathan Cyprien was going to show them in the fourth preseason game, against deep reserves, that would change their perception.
Running back Corey Clement, whose outing last week against the Ravens was encouraging as he returns from a knee injury, did not play against the Jets and probably has a roster spot. Ditto linebacker L.J. Fort.
It was interesting that some players got in early but didn’t play much. This would seem to be a good sign, maybe, for wide receiver Greg Ward or defensive end Josh Sweat. Or it could mean that the brain trust wanted to limit the exposure of guys they hope to sneak through waivers and onto the practice squad.
The Eagles’ three highest-drafted rookies, first-round offensive tackle Andre Dillard, second-round running back Miles Sanders, and second-round wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, all sat out.
Pederson said the players, overall, “left it in our hands. It’s our opportunity now to make some tough decisions now in the next couple of days.”
One of those tough decisions might be on wide receiver Mack Hollins, a promising fourth-round rookie during the Super Bowl season who missed 2018 after two groin surgeries. Hollins has been slow to regain his form. He caught one pass for 6 yards against the Jets.
“We’ve just got to go back and look at everything, full body of work,” Pederson. "Obviously, his health coming in was an issue, but he battled back, got himself healthy and back on the field."
Along those lines, offensive tackle Jordan Mailata was not present Thursday, after missing practice all week with a back problem. Mailata ended last season on injured reserve after suffering a stress fracture in his back.
“We’re actually going to get another update [Friday] morning. When we get back on Monday I should have probably a better update with where he’s at,” Pederson said.
With five minutes remaining, safety Jason Thompson, signed two days before, punched the ball out from Jets tight end Eric Tomlinson. Linebacker Alex Singleton, who seemed to play every defensive snap, recovered, but he was ruled to have done so out of bounds. Pederson challenged, unsuccessfully.
On the next snap, Webb, under pressure, lofted a balloon that Eagles linebacker Chris Worley picked off at the Jets’ 36. Three plays later, Thorson’s fourth-and-11 pass sailed behind DeAndre Thompkins, who was open over the middle.