EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - If last night's game was the only Eagles preseason action you caught, you're thinking that Chip Kelly intends to run his offense through Raheem Mostert, and that Tim Tebow pretty much has to make the team.
Through three quarters of last night's 24-18 loss to the New York Jets that blessedly ended the preseason, Mostert had run for 59 yards on a dozen carries, and caught seven passes for 88 yards. The Eagles had completed only 10 passes, seven of them caught by Mostert.
But the undrafted rookie running back from Purdue will not have a huge role in the Eagles' backfield this season. In fact, with DeMarco Murray, Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews definitely ahead of him, and Kenjon Barner presumably ahead of him, Mostert probably won't be on the 53-man roster the Eagles designate before 4 p.m. tomorrow. He has an excellent shot at the practice squad, if he passes through waivers unclaimed.
So what did we learn last night about players who will figure into the Eagles' plans, very few of whom took the field, as is customary in the final preseason game?
Not a whole lot that was encouraging. Tebow directed the offense to 15 of its 18 points and threw the ball better than Matt Barkley, but that is damning with faint praise. Barkley (4-for-9 for 45 yards, an interception and a 20.4 passer rating) played like a quarterback who would just as soon try his luck somewhere else, and might just get that chance.
Tebow saw, by far, his most extensive action as an Eagle - six drives - and he threw, by far, his best pass of the preseason, an 18-yard back-shoulder touchdown toss to undrafted rookie Rasheed Bailey, from Roxborough High and Delaware Valley University.
"Rasheed got a step. I just gave him a shot. Rasheed makes a lot of plays," Tebow said.
But Tebow, like Barkley, threw an interception, to the very same Jet, Darrin Walls. Barkley's first-series pick was badly underthrown. Tebow threw into a crowd of Jets, hoping to thread the needle to Quron Pratt on fourth-and-15 from the Jets' 21.
Later, though, Tebow uncorked a 45-yard completion on the money to Freddie Martino. And still later, Tebow avoided unblocked blitzer Dexter McDougle, scrambled to his left and lofted a wobbler that Martino did an amazing job of stretching for, with both feet down in the end zone, before falling out of bounds.
"I was gonna run for it. The corner came up, and I was in-between," Tebow said. "Freddie did a good job of staying on the outside and making a play."
If the battle for the third QB spot really came down to this game, Tebow (11-for-17, 189 yards, two TDs, one interception, 117.0 passer rating) won it going away. You could make a decent case that Barkley ran the offense better through the training camp and preseason until last night, but Kelly did say Tuesday that "our opinions aren't formed." Then he talked about how different practice is from games, when QBs can be hit. "So there is a lot of weight in" the final game.
After the game, Kelly did not seem ready to make a third-quarterback determination. He stressed watching last night's film and taking into account "everything they've done."
"To make a quick comment after a game doesn't help anybody or hurt anybody," Kelly said.
"Everything goes into . It can't be just a one-game, this is it, make or break. This isn't 'American Idol.' "
Barkley finished the preseason 27-for-52 for 351 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, and a 57.5 passer rating. Tebow was 21-for-36 for 286 yards, two TDs, one INT and a 90.8 passer rating.
Tebow, as always, seemed at peace with whatever happens, as he attempts to resurrect an NFL career that ended after the final New England Patriots preseason game two years ago.
"I think I'm getting more and more comfortable, more and more comfortable in the offense, getting into more of a rhythm, especially on first down," he said.
He said that on his interception, "it was fourth down and long, and I thought, 'We've got to throw it in there.' "
Asked about what the next day or two will be like for him, he reiterated that "I don't worry about what I can't control."
Barkley said his start was "not ideal, but I feel like I bounced back well." The two QBs alternated quarters, and Tebow ended up getting more chances in his second- and fourth-quarter time.
"It's kind of hard to put a whole game together with three drives. I feel like there were ups and downs to this game for everyone. Definitely don't want to start like that," said Barkley, a fourth-round Eagles draft choice in 2013.
Barkley said that overall, "I think I've improved in a lot of areas, and I'm happy with how I've played throughout camp."
Barkley seemed at peace, as well. He said he planned to go home to his wife and son and, "for now, that's all that matters to me."
Other than Mostert and that all-important third quarterback battle, what did we see? Second-round rookie cornerback Eric Rowe played a lot outside and really struggled, as he had in Green Bay last Saturday. This is a concern. In fact, other than a nice interception by second-year corner Jaylen Watkins, the roster aspirants who played in the secondary looked overmatched against Jets subs. Do the Eagles have a nickel corner or a third safety?
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis afterward talked up how his starting safeties, Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond, can play nickel corner, which was not a vote of confidence in Rowe or journeyman E.J. Biggers.
Inside linebacker Kiko Alonso did make his Eagles debut, as promised, playing one uneventful series.
Both Kelly and Davis said Rowe "had some ups and downs."
Davis said Rowe "had some growing pains he had to go through tonight . . . One thing about Eric, though, he may get beat or have a bad technique or a bad down, but he really rebounds well. He comes back up the next play like the last one didn't happen.
"But I think it's good for them to go through some of these growing pains and stumble a little bit. It keeps their edge sharp, and they keep working, and they know they've got a long way to go."
In fact, that was exactly what Rowe said: "I know I had a few mistakes. They were obvious . . . I can't wait to go home and watch the film and see what I did wrong, so I can correct it."
Chip Kelly said wide receiver Miles Austin "couldn't go" but he didn't specify an Austin injury . . . Kelly said he's confident kicker Cody Parkey (groin) will be OK by the Sept. 14 season opener at Atlanta. Kip Smith missed all three extra points he attempted . . . Local hero Rasheed Bailey caught 10 passes for 100 yards in the preseason. He's a longshot to make the 53, but certainly seems to have a future, on someone else's team or the Eagles' practice squad. "The game is slowing down just a little bit," he said. "Just getting smarter, surrounding myself by guys who are smart, by guys who are going to keep pushing me to the next limit. I still have a long way to go, I'm still growing every day. Of course, everybody knows that I came from a Division III school . It's going to be beautiful, when I reach that pinnacle."