Thursday night, the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles play their annual NFL preseason finale, and despite nearly all of the first-team players on both teams sitting out, there’s a heck of a lot on the line.
Final NFL roster cuts come down on Friday, so many players on the bubble will be having their final audition Thursday night, their last opportunity to show that they deserve to be on the final 53-man roster.
Yes, Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes will not be uniform Thursday. Neither will Michael Vick or LeSean McCoy.
Even Tim Tebow will be in street clothes. He may not be an official “starter,” but the versatile all-purpose back is an integral part of the team and will be treated as a first-teamer, getting the preseason finale off.
Get ready for a heavy dose of Greg McElroy. McElroy is battling rookie Matt Simms for the Jets’ final quarterback spot this season. Expect the two of them to get one half each to make their case.
However, not all of the Jets’ first-team players are getting the day off.
Rookie defensive end Quinton Coples will play tonight, as Rex Ryan wants to push Coples as much as he can, to make sure his conditioning is top-notch heading into the regular season.
Starting right tackle Austin Howard, still the starter for now after the Jason Smith trade, will also get a handful of snaps tonight just to keep him sharp as well.
John Conner will play, partly because he’s the only fullback on the Jets roster, but also because he’s been pretty underwhelming and he could be in danger of getting cut if a better fullback becomes available.
Defensive backs Donnie Fletcher, Julian Posey, D’Anton Lynn, and Isaiah Trufant are all battling potentially for one spot, and they should all see playing time against the Eagles.
Two players who won’t play are linebacker Ricky Sapp and wide receiver Chaz Schilens. Both of them have been battling injuries nearly all of training camp. Sapp has not gotten into any game all preseason.
It’ll be very difficult to carry either one of them, even though at one point Schilens looked like he had a legitimate shot at the number 2 receiver job. However, a lot can change from Thursday to Friday.
The Jets and Eagles kick off at 6:35 pm. For some players, it will be their last game in an NFL uniform. The final preseason game is not meaningless to them.