The Eagles are riding a four-game winning streak into a Week 18 rivalry showdown against the Dallas Cowboys that has important seeding implications on the line, but we could very well see the starters rest ahead of Philly's Wild Card game next week. With the starters unlikely to get many snaps, let's look at some young players that could get some significant reps.
Gardner Minshew II
Yes, I know Gardner Minshew is our backup quarterback, but this could be a good chance to evaluate how our backup does against one of the NFL's better defenses, since you know, backup quarterbacks are extremely important in today's NFL. In Minshew's only start of the season, he brought you everything you want from a backup quarterback, finishing with 242 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20/25 passing, and most importantly, ZERO turnovers. A game against Dallas will show us much more about Minshew than one against a poor Jets defense.
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Gainwell has proven to be a great third down back for the Eagles, but we need to see more from him as a runner. The rookie out of Memphis has a 74.5 PFF receiving grade and a 76.2 pass blocking grade, but only a 63.0 rushing grade. If Gainwell wants to be a more significant piece of the offense heading into his second NFL season, he needs to be efficient on the ground, and it starts this week.
Andre Dillard has not lived up to his first round pedigree, but a team in need of a young left tackle would most likely take a shot on the former first round selection. Dillard has also proven to be an extremely good pass blocking option, but he has struggled as a run blocker. If Dillard has a good showing against one of the NFL's best defensive lines in primetime, he could just raise his trade value for the Eagles.
The Eagles third round selection from the 2021 NFL Draft has put together a strong rookie season, showing off his elite athleticism and the versatility to play all over the defensive line. Williams has proven that he will be a huge building block on the defensive line over the next several years, and he will have his chance to show the fans what he is capable of against Dallas on the biggest stage. With Cox and Hargrave likely to receive little to no snaps at all, the spotlight is on Milton Williams, and he is more than capable of delivering.
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Philly acquired Tay Gowan from the trade that sent Zach Ertz to Arizona, but unlike everyone else on this list, Gowan is somebody that we really will be seeing for the first time this season. Only receiving 16 snaps on defense, Gowan will likely see a much increased role tonight, and he will be going against two of the best receivers the NFL has to offer. Asking Gowan to shut down Cooper or Lamb is far too much, but it will be intriguing to see how he matches up physically and mentally. As a corner you will get beat in the NFL, so it is important to come back the next play and not let it get to you. We will see if Gowan has that in him.
McPhearson was a fan favorite selection in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and could you really blame Philly fans desperate for a corner to pair with Pro Bowler Darius Slay? In the preseason, McPhearson struggled with getting beat off the line of scrimmage, but he has improved as the season has progressed. On the season, McPhearson has been targeted 13 times, only allowing 7 catches for 39 yards and a 59.5 passer rating when targeted. More impressively, McPhearson has a 71.4 grade as a run defender according to PFF, which shows that he is more than just a cover corner. With two rookie corners likely to be matched up against Lamb and Cooper, it will be intriguing to see how they have developed since the preseason and college.