Five storylines to watch during the Eagles’ 3rd preseason game against Baltimore

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Almost there, just two more exhibition games left.

Lots of Eagles have rested during the preseason as head coach Doug Pederson clearly wants his roster a lot more healthy than it was heading into 2018. Although we’ve seen mostly backups, these are the guys who the preseason is garnered towards, players fighting to keep their NFL dreams alive in an attempt to be one of the final few to crack the 53-man roster.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to seeing on Thursday …

1. Andre Dillard Continues to Dominate

Dillard has yet to allow a pressure and has also looked more than capable in the running game after getting negative marks in that area coming out of Washington State. The 22nd overall pick in April’s NFL Draft, who surrendered just one sack and 13 pressures out of 677 pass attempts as a senior at Washington State, is currently ranked first in pass protection and third in run blocking among tackles in the preseason, according to PFF.

Dillard’s pass sets have been really clean. He gets into them very quickly and seamlessly. His feet are quick, his arms get extended, he changes direction easily and showcases fluidity and balance when mirroring pass rushers. The athleticism he possesses makes it tough for edge rushers to turn the corner on him in pass protection.

The run blocking has been a pleasant surprise. It was a knock on him coming out, but to be fair the Cougars didn’t tote the rock often and tape in that area was limited.

Dillard looks ready to start in Week 1.

2. Daeshon Is Charging up the Hall

When Chris Long retired, I was wondering where the depth at defensive end would come from, but Josh Sweat, rookie Shareef Miller and Daeshon Hall have all showed potential, especially Hall.

Hall has been the MVP of the preseason so far with three sacks, four tackles for loss, five quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. His PFF score of 93.1 leads all defensive linemen in the preseason.

With a reputation of being an athletic but light pass rusher at 260, Hall packed on 30 pounds during the offseason as he has transitioned to a 4-3 defensive end after playing linebacker with the Houston Texans last year. It has certainly paid dividends.

3. The Battle for the Fifth Wide Receiver Spot

I think this is Mack Hollins’ job to lose, he brings too much to the table on special teams.

Hollins missed the entire 2018 season with a groin injury and struggled with setbacks before finally making his preseason debut last Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The North Carolina product caught 17 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns during his rookie season in 2017.

Marken Michel is pushing Hollins for that fifth wideout spot on the roster. The 26-year-old is the older brother of New England Patriots running back Sony Michel and recently played two seasons in the CFL in an effort to get into the NFL. He hauled in a 75-yard bomb from Nate Sudfeld in the preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans.

4. The Battle for the Fourth Running Back Spot

The Eagles normally keep three running backs, but with Darren Sproles seen more as a pass catcher and special teams ace, the Birds will probably go with four and I believe that Corey Clement will beat out Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood for the fourth running back position. The third-year running back tore his ACL in December and got first-team reps for the first time all summer on Wednesday.

Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh spoke about his progress.

“Well, he’s cleared, but he hasn’t played a whole lot. I wouldn’t say he’s where he needs to be because he just needs to get more time out here. We’re trying to accelerate that process here with two weeks to go. Trying to catch him up, if that’s fair to say. Physically, he feels really good, and we just want to work him back in as quickly as possible.”

Adams continues to struggle with the fumbles and still looks uncomfortable catching passes out of the backfield. Smallwood runs hard and has had his moments in Philly, but he struggles in pass protection and his time is up.

5. Who’s Flying Under the Radar?

Alex Singleton was undrafted in 2015 by the NFL, but has played the last three seasons for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL and most recently won the leagues’ Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award.

The 25-year-old has been a tackling machine and a special teams ace, recording five last week against Jacksonville, including one tackle for loss.

Follow Adrian Fedkiw on Twitter (@AdrianFedkiw) and e-mail him at [email protected]. Subscribe to The Bitter Birds on YouTube here.

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