NFL TEAMS must cut from 90 to 75 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday. That's the backdrop to tonight's Eagles preseason game at Jacksonville, coach Chip Kelly's first road venture.
Of course, the third preseason game is the one the starters use to prepare for the season, and there is plenty of drama there, but there are several notable names who need to play well, if not to survive the cut to 75, then to ensure a future beyond the final cutdown to 53, which must be completed a week from today.
Here are 10 Eagles on the hot seat:
* Danny Watkins: The 2011 first-round guard has had a decent camp, but he might have needed more than that, and missing last week's game with a concussion definitely was a setback. Savvy journeyman Allen Barbre seems to have supplanted Watkins as the top offensive-line reserve, and if Dennis Kelly hadn't undergone back surgery, Watkins might not even be second in line behind the starters.
That's an absurd position for a recent first-rounder.
Watkins' linemates still tout his promise, talk of ground lost during the Howard Mudd regime that Watkins is fighting to reclaim, but Danny turns 29 in November. How much does he really love this game that he stumbled into at age 22? What sacrifices is he willing to make to become the guy the Eagles thought they drafted? Has the time for Watkins to figure it out passed?
* Kenny Phillips: It's unclear whether Phillips, a safety fighting a quadriceps contusion, will play tonight. He was hopeful Thursday, when reporters last spoke with him. Phillips had the potential to be the Birds' most significant free-agent acquisition. Instead, he was running neck-and-neck yesterday with Felix Jones for biggest disappointment, until Jones was traded yesterday to the Steelers for former Temple linebacker Adrian Robinson, pending the passing of physicals.
Phillips has a lengthy knee history, but other leg problems have dogged him this summer. Maybe more alarming, when supposedly healthy, he has looked slow and hesitant. The lesson of the Phillips, Jones and Arrelious Benn signings might be that veterans with injury questions rarely turn out to be great values.
* Antonio Dixon: Everybody pulls for Dixon, in his second tour with the Eagles, who grew up homeless and has made a career for himself, taming a severe stutter in the process. When the Eagles went to a 3-4, he seemed a good fit at nose tackle. But a hamstring problem kept Dixon from making an impact, while rookies such as Bennie Logan and Damion Square forged ahead. Plus, coordinator Bill Davis stresses versatility on his defensive line, and Dixon is strictly a tackle. He needs a big night, and maybe for someone else to get hurt.
* Ifeayni Momah: Maybe it seems ridiculous to include an undrafted rookie in this grouping, but Momah came in with a lot of buzz, and fans got carried away with the potential of the 6-7, 240-pound wideout. Visions of Harold Carmichael danced in their heads. But Momah is beyond raw. Route-running, catching - so far he looks less ready to play than any receiver on the roster. At first you thought, "OK, practice squad project, then . . . " but at this point, I think Momah needs to pick up the pace even to merit that. He will not help the Eagles in 2013.
* Kurt Coleman: Had he been drafted into a better secondary, Coleman would have spent the last 3 years backing up and hustling on special teams, which is the level of player he is. Instead, he's started 27 games at safety over the past two seasons and has become a target of fan wrath for having been promoted past his capabilities.
Will he happily go back to being what he should have been all along? It's not at all clear Coleman will embrace a backup, special-teams role. Like several guys the Eagles have drafted from big time programs over the past few years, he has an outsized opinion of who he is and what he has accomplished. This attitude led to the banishment last season of Coleman's former Ohio State teammate, Brian Rolle, who didn't adjust to not starting.
* Clay Harbor: He wasn't going to make the team this year at tight end after the Eagles added James Casey and Zach Ertz. The switch to wideout makes more sense than you might think. Harbor has the speed to pull it off, and Kelly really wants to develop a big receiver besides Riley Cooper. It doesn't seem Ifeyani Momah is that guy. With a big night, maybe Harbor shows he can be.
* Jordan Poyer: Second-round pick Ertz and seventh-rounder Poyer missed almost all the spring work because their colleges were on the quarter system and they were not allowed to participate. Ertz made up ground. Poyer really hasn't. Not a factor at cornerback or in the return game, the latter being something of a surprise for Oregon State's fourth-all-time-leading punt returner. Sure, the Eagles can stash him on the practice squad, but with Curtis Marsh undergoing hand surgery this week, there's probably a spot among the 53 if Poyer can grab it.
* Casey Matthews: His story is similar to Kurt Coleman's. He was promoted way too quickly, way past his talent level, making him a fan target. He is not a bad inside reserve linebacker in a 3-4, but hasn't been healthy this camp. He ought to be a good special-teamer, and was in the preseason opener. He needs to do something to move ahead of a pack of guys.
* Jamar Chaney: He might have fallen faster than any other former starter. Chaney is a smallish overachieving LB who probably doesn't fit 3-4. He is a solid guy, and will find a job somewhere.
* Brandon Hughes: He's a great guy, but if you were on the roster as a corner here last year and couldn't get on the field, that's a damning indictment. He needs a miracle.