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."

Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

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Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

The Eagles have brought back a former special teams ace for the stretch run. 

Special teamer Bryan Braman on Tuesday signed with the Eagles to rejoin Dave Fipp's special teams group.

Braman, 30, had been with the Eagles from 2014-16, when he was a major contributor for Fipp's top-end special teams unit. He can help fill the void left by the season-ending injury to Chris Maragos earlier in the season. 

During his three seasons with the Eagles, Braman led all Eagles with 1,214 special teams snaps. He played more special teams snaps than any other Eagle in each of the last two seasons. He played in all 48 games over those three seasons, but was mainly a special teams player. 

After officially placing quarterback Carson Wentz (ACL) on Injured Reserve Tuesday, the Eagles had one available roster spot. It looks like it will be filled by Braman. 

Braman was not resigned by the Eagles this past offseason. He spent some time in New Orleans but was placed on their IR and was then released. He hasn't been with a team since early September. 

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Carson Wentz is out, Nick Foles is in. 

And the Eagles claim their offense isn't going to change. 

On it's face, that seems somewhat absurd. After all, Wentz is more than an average quarterback. He's the face of the Eagles' franchise and was an MVP candidate through 13 weeks. Foles was once a Pro Bowler, but there's a reason he wasn't a starter entering this season. 

So how will the offense look different? 

"I don't expect it will look different at all," Foles said adamantly.  

Why is that? 

"Because it's our offense," Foles answered. "This is the Eagles' offense. This is the one that is the DNA of this team. And we're going to do what we do. We have so many tremendous players on offense that can do a lot of different things. We just have to go out there and execute and have a great week of work and just keep moving." 

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich finally admitted that there will be "very minor tweaks" to the Eagles' weekly game plans with Foles in at quarterback. But he made the same point as Foles, that the system is built around the QB, but also around the other talent on offense. 

There is, however, one pretty significant difference between Wentz and Foles. 

"Now, Carson has some unique physical traits that he does exceptionally well, but it's nothing that Nick can't handle," Reich said. "We're full steam ahead."

The Eagles run plenty of run-pass option plays, but head coach Doug Pederson pointed out on Monday that the Eagles very rarely use their quarterback to run the ball in those situations. And as far as RPOs go, Foles has used them plenty before. 

Another part of the offense that has been tailored to Wentz is the autonomy the quarterback has at the line of scrimmage. Wentz has been able to make calls and checks pre-snap based on what the defense shows. It seems like Foles will have that same ability, which is something he's excited about. 

"Understand this, he's a veteran player who has played and won a lot of games, not only here, but other places that he's been," Pederson said. "Nick's a highly intelligent football player."

Pederson said he and Foles will talk weekly to make sure his quarterback is comfortable with the plays that go into the game plan. So, theoretically, things could be different. But based on what the offensive leaders of the team have said, don't expect wholesale changes. 

Now, what might change about the offense isn't necessarily by design. Because of Wentz's unique physical gifts and escapability, he's able to make incredible plays. The escape in Washington, the throw to Corey Clement in the end zone, the deep flick down the sideline in Seattle, those are plays only a handful of guys in the world can make. It would be unfair to expect Foles to make them. 

But as far as game-planning goes, the Eagles are going to do what they've done. 

"I feel comfortable in this offense," Foles said. "I love this offense. We're going to run this offense. Nothing's going to change."

Foles dealt with elbow soreness during the summer, but says his elbow now feels "amazing" and is not an issue. That's good news for the Eagles, because at least Foles has plenty of starting experience. His backup, Nate Sudfeld, has never even been active for an NFL game. 

The Eagles' hopes in 2017 rest on the shoulders of Foles. 

"I've always been a gunslinger, just let it rip," Foles said. "That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to play loose, count on the guys, lead this team. There's no other place I'd rather be. That's why I came back here. ... I'm ready to step up and help this team win."