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."

Trey Burton denies report questioning his Eagles future

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Trey Burton denies report questioning his Eagles future

Several hours after an NJ.com report surfaced that the Eagles were unlikely to re-sign Trey Burton, the tight end denied it on Twitter.

Replying to a tweet about the report from former Eagles teammate Emmanuel Acho, Burton said he hasn't spoken to anyone.

NJ.com's Matt Lombardo reported Friday that the Eagles made Burton an offer that the soon-to-be-free-agent "didn't consider serious."

"We are fully expecting Trey to sign elsewhere," the source said.

It wouldn't be surprising whatsoever if Burton leaves in free agency. A team will likely pay him starter's money and offer him a chance to start, which he doesn't have here with Zach Ertz firmly entrenched.

The Eagles are over the projected salary cap, and while they could create space in numerous ways, they also have to worry about re-signing key linebacker Nigel Bradham.

6 ways for Eagles to create cap space

6 ways for Eagles to create cap space

The Eagles are coming off a thrilling season but there's a lot of work to be done. 

The NFL's new league year begins on March 14 and the Eagles must be under the salary cap by then. The problem is that based on projections, the Eagles are set to be more than $9 million over the cap, according to OverTheCap. So it's time for some maneuvering. 

The good news is that Howie Roseman's specialty has always been finding unique ways to get the Eagles out of cap trouble. There are ways for him to do it again.

Cut Torrey Smith 
Probably the easiest one. Smith was a great teammate and a solid addition to the Eagles' locker room, and he really stepped up his game in the playoffs, but it's probably not enough to bring him back. He just wasn't good enough last season, and cutting him would save the Eagles $5 million in cap room with no dead money. The Birds still have Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, while Mack Hollins is entering Year 2. 

Cut Brent Celek
This one will hurt, but Celek can take away the sting if he decides to walk away as a champion. He's set to have a cap number of $5 million. That's just way too much for what Celek provides these days. By cutting him, the Eagles would save $4 million in cap space. So just between Smith and Celek, the Eagles will almost get back to zero ... but there's other work to do. They'll still need money to sign free agents and draft picks. 

Extend Brandon Graham 
Graham is entering the final year of his contract with a cap number of $8 million. He wants a new contract and deserves one. Good news: An extension would work for both sides. Graham would get more money long term and the Eagles could get his cap number down this season. 

Rework/cut Vinny Curry
Curry is coming off of probably his best season in the NFL but will have an $11 million cap number. That's tough to swallow, especially with Derek Barnett waiting for his chance to start. It seems likely the Eagles will ask Curry to take a pay cut or rework his deal. If not, cutting him would leave $6 million in dead money but would also save $5 million in cap room. 

Trade Mychal Kendricks
If you remember, Kendricks actually wanted a trade last offseason. Good thing that didn't happen. Kendricks ended up being a big part of the Eagles' success in 2017. Depending on what happens with Nigel Bradham in free agency and with Jordan Hicks' Achilles recovery, trading Kendricks might again be an option. A trade would save $4.4 million in cap space. 

Trade Nick Foles 
This is such a tough one — we explore it more here. But basically, Foles is a pretty amazing insurance policy until we know when Carson Wentz is going to be ready. If the Eagles do trade Foles, it would save them $5.2 million that they could certainly use. The problem is that by the time they know Wentz's status, free agency will be long gone and that cap space won't help this year. But it could help in 2019.