After 1 quarter and 2 TD drives, Eagles' offense looks ready to Pederson

After 1 quarter and 2 TD drives, Eagles' offense looks ready to Pederson

Just like that, it was over. After just one quarter, after just 19 snaps, after just 49 plays all preseason, Carson Wentz and the first-team offense were done.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson went against convention Thursday night and yanked his starters after just four drives and one quarter in the Eagles' preseason game at the Linc against the Dolphins.

NFL custom says the starters play well into the third quarter of the third preseason game, but after Wentz engineered a nine-play, 93-yard touchdown drive, Pederson had seen enough.

It was time to get Wentz and Co. safely to the sideline and start getting ready for the real stuff and the Redskins two weeks from Sunday in Landover.

"I feel real comfortable with where they're at," Pederson said after the Eagles' 38-31 preseason win. "Their focus now is in a couple of weeks, and they can get some really good work, 1-on-1 work, in these next few practices, and kind of get ready for the regular season."

There was a sense among the players that the two 2½-hour practices with the Dolphins on Monday and Tuesday were more valuable than the game itself.

Certainly, nobody was complaining about the quick hook.

"They got a lot of great work for two days," Pederson said. "You think about it, we really don't play full football games on 48 hours rest, and Monday and Tuesday (were) pretty intense for both teams.

"I felt like we got some good work, so that was part of the reason why I was able to pull them out sooner."

It does all make sense.

The starters played one series in the preseason opener and scored a touchdown; they played four series — two more than anticipated — in the second game against the Bills; then scored two TDs in four drives Thursday night.

A year ago, Sam Bradford and the first-team offense played 67 snaps in the preseason, including 35 in the third game against the Colts. This year, the 1's played 48 snaps.

"I don't want the fact to get lost that we practiced against the Miami Dolphins for two days before this game and got plenty of reps against them," center Jason Kelce said.
"That kind of gets lost in the translation a little bit. Would I have liked our offense to be more consistent in the preseason? I think we had a great week of practice against these guys and I think that probably factored into it, and the success we had early on.

"I would have liked to have more success against the Bills, but I feel like we got enough reps against Miami. We got so many reps. There were a lot of team reps, a lot of reps with their 1's against our 1's, so I think we got what we needed against this opponent."

There was plenty of offensive inconsistency from the Eagles' first offense in the three preseason games, but they did score three touchdowns on nine drives without the benefit of game planning and with the first O-line together for only the Miami game.

The starters won't play against the Jets in the final preseason game Thursday night at the Meadowlands.

"That is preseason football," Wentz said. "I got a lot of work in over camp, honestly. With 16 games last year, I was healthy. I got good work in in the preseason. I don't think it was overkill. But it was a good number, and I feel confident going forward.

"We got a lot of good situational work during the week where we didn't have to go fully live, but we got to see some different looks. I think that was part of it. And then coming out and putting together a couple of drives, I think it was a 93-yard drive we ended with, I think we all kind of said, 'We have seen enough.'"

The offensive line was still shaky at times Thursday night, but there were plenty of positives.

Like Wentz's 50-yard TD bomb to Torrey Smith — longer than any TD pass an Eagles wide receiver caught last year.

Like the running game finally showing signs of life, and LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood combining for 47 rushing yards on just eight carries.

Like Wentz smoothly finding Alshon Jeffery for completions of  20 and 15 yards on the 93-yard drive, the second one for a touchdown.

Like Zach Ertz looking explosive with three catches for 44 yards.

"I feel good," said Wentz, who threw only 23 passes in the three preseason games.

"I feel confident. I am thankful, for the most part, that everyone is healthy too. So I think, tonight, this offense was a good showing for us. The interception (on a tipped ball) was unfortunate, but we moved the ball well. And for the starters, it's exciting to start getting ready for Washington."

Jeffery was asked if had ever come out of a third preseason game this early.

"I don't remember," he said. "Honestly, I don't even think about preseason games."

Jay Gruden 'very upset' Eagles were able to land Carson Wentz

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Jay Gruden 'very upset' Eagles were able to land Carson Wentz

Washington head coach Jay Gruden has faced Carson Wentz just three times so far.

That's all he needed to think Wentz is special.  

"I think he's progressed at a rate as fast as anybody I've seen really," Gruden said on a conference call with Philly reporters on Thursday. "His ability to make plays in the pocket, his ability to stay in the pocket in the face of a rush and still deliver balls accurately, his command of the offense. 

"I think he's already proven this short in his career that he's one of the top quarterbacks in the league, quite frankly, and he's going to be for a long time. And I don't know how he got to Philadelphia. And I'm very upset about that." 

Wentz is 1-2 against Washington in his first three games, but that first win came in this season's opener on the road. In that game, Wentz completed 66 percent of his passes for 307 yards, two touchdowns and one pick, for a passer rating of 96.8. 

And Wentz has gotten even better since then. He's now the favorite in Vegas to win the NFL MVP. 

When asked how daunting it might become to face Wentz twice per season for the foreseeable future, Gruden pointed out that it's similar to the Cowboys and Dak Prescott. Then he pointed out they still have to face Eli Manning twice per season. 

"Every week it seems like we're playing against an excellent quarterback and knowing that Wentz is going to be there for a long period of time just puts a few more gray hairs on my head," Gruden said. "But love the competition and it's our job to get after him and make him uncomfortable." 

While Wentz is clearly the Eagles' quarterback of the future, things are a little cloudier in Washington, where Kirk Cousins is in his second year of playing on a franchise tag. 

Gruden said the "intent" is to have Cousins for the long-term, but it's already been a long saga and there's still no deal in place. 

Cousins has had a crazy career path. He began as Robert Griffin III's backup after being taken three rounds later in the same draft in 2012. But he won the starting job and he's started every game for Washington the last three seasons. 

Thursday, on a conference call with Philly reporters, Cousins said he thought there was a good chance the Eagles were going to draft him in 2012. He felt that way after meeting with Howie Roseman and Andy Reid before the draft. But instead, the Eagles took Nick Foles 14 spots ahead of him. 

After watching the Eagles rotate quarterback since then, Cousins doesn't have any hard feelings. 

"I think the Eagles have ended up with the guy that they want," Cousins said. "I think they're really excited about Carson Wentz and for good reason. They're one of the best teams in the league on third down, and some of the plays he's making off-schedule are very special. I think they're very content and I'd like to think the Redskins are as well. Hopefully, it can make for a great rivalry that a lot of fans can get behind and get excited about, hopefully, for many years ahead."

Doug Pederson responds to Chris Thompson's comments about Eagles fans

Doug Pederson responds to Chris Thompson's comments about Eagles fans

Redskins running back Chris Thompson doesn't want to bring his family to the Linc Monday night because he's afraid of what Eagles fans will do.

Doug Pederson hopes Thompson changes his mind.

"Philly fans are some of the meanest fans I've ever experienced," Thompson told ESPN radio's Washington affiliate, ESPN 980, on Wednesday, according to a story in the Washington Post.

"I heard that's the one stadium you keep your family from going to. My family will be (up from Florida) this week, and they were like, 'I want to come to the Philly game.' I said, 'Absolutely not, you're going to have to wait until Dallas comes around. … I was told that right away my rookie year: Keep your family away."

Pederson said he loves Eagles fans and the energy and passion they bring but also said he hopes Thompson or any opposing player feels comfortable bringing his family to the Linc.  

"I just know that playing at home is a great advantage for us," Pederson said before practice Thursday. "Our fans are great, they're energetic, I love playing at the Linc. 

"You know, I hope every family can watch their sons play. I think it's important that they're there and have a chance to watch their siblings play, brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents.

"Right now in the league, every stadium is great for the home team and ours is no different. We're just excited now to finally be getting a stretch of games where we can play for the home fans."

Thompson, a fifth-year running back out of Florida State, has played at the Linc twice, in 2015 and 2016, both Redskins wins.

The Eagles, 5-1, host the 3-2 Redskins in a national TV game Monday night at the Linc. The Eagles are 8-2 at home under Pederson, including a 2-0 mark this year, although they're only 4-6 at home against the Redskins over the last 10 years.