Eagles

Eagles-Packers: 10 observations

Eagles-Packers: 10 observations

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Carson Wentz was perfect, Derek Barnett showed why he was the 14th pick and a rookie running back had a rough first game in the Eagles' 24-9 loss to the Packers on Thursday night in the preseason opener (see Instant Replay)

The Eagles will play again next Thursday night at home against the Bills at 7 p.m. 

Here are 10 observations from the preseason opener: 

1. Wentz wasn't in the game long, but he did everything the Eagles wanted him to do. He went 4 for 4 for 56 yards and a touchdown, to go along with a perfect 158.3 passer rating. The touchdown pass was his most impressive play of his short night. He had Clay Matthews grabbing around his ankles, but Wentz was able to shake him off and find Mack Hollins in the middle of the field for what ended up being a TD. 

Wentz's strength and ability to extend plays is sometimes overlooked but it's that ability that makes him have a chance to be a special player. That's what has worked for so long in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers. 

2. Give C.J. Smith credit. The second-year cornerback was burned by a pretty weak double move from wide receiver Jeff Janis for a 20-yard touchdown just a couple plays after giving up a 10-yard pass to Geronimo Allison in the first half. On the touchdown, Smith just bit way too hard on the first move. He had safety help from Jaylen Watkins but it came too late and, to his credit, quarterback Brett Hundley threw a perfect pass into the end zone. 

But he rebounded. Smith came back on the next series and did what corners need to: He forgot about the last play, breaking up a pass near the sideline. He also broke up a pass late in the third quarter and nearly picked it off. 

3. Hollins has looked good in shorts in the spring and then good against his own team in training camp. We just needed to see it in an actual game. Hollins showed what he can do on Thursday night. He caught a pass from Wentz across the middle of the field and did the rest. He was aided by some shabby tackling from Packers defenders but managed to hug the sideline and get into the end zone. He then ran toward the bleachers and acted like he was going to do a Lambeau Leap but held up. Still, a nice play for the rookie. 

4. Donnel Pumphrey is still a work in progress when it comes to punt returning. The first punt he saw, he decided to field it even though there were a few Packers in his area. He caught it, but it was an adventure and could have been disastrous. The second one he saw, he called for a fair catch, but muffed it, luckily recovering his own fumble. Pumphrey was not used as a returner in college, so this is new for him. He's looked relatively smooth during practice, but doing it in a game is a different animal. 

On offense, Pumphrey got a ton of touches but was completely ineffective. He had nine touches for 17 yards. 

5. Barnett picked up his first sack in an Eagles uniform, and it was a beauty. After getting pretty good pressure on his first series, Barnett used an inside move to toss Packers tackle Jason Spriggs out of the way. Spriggs is 6-foot-6, 301 pounds, but Barnett tossed him aside like he was nothing. 

And that was just the beginning for Barnett. Working from the right defensive end spot, he was just too hard to handle for Spriggs, who was a hot name coming out of last year's draft. After a less-than-stellar start to his training camp, Barnett had a good showing in his preseason debut. He did what he was supposed to: dominate second- and third-team players. 

6. After the Eagles' first-team defense left the field in the first half, two players from the starting unit remained: Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson. Mills had a good day and even Robinson broke up a pass. But their still being in the game late is a reminder about how fluid the situation is at corner. That competition is far from over. 

7. Matt McGloin made a pretty good tackle on Thursday night, which tells you about how the play started. McGloin threw a pass directly to linebacker Joe Thomas, who took off for 30 yards before McGloin brought him down. McGloin just didn't have a very good night and hasn't looked good throughout training camp. Unless he really turns it around in the next couple preseason games, he's not going to have a roster spot. 

Doug Pederson inexplicably allowed McGloin to throw 42 passes before taking him out of the game for Dane Evans. McGloin completed 28 of those for 205 yards. His long was a 38-yarder. 

8. Eagles receiver Marcus Johnson has had a really good training camp. He's been so good that plenty of folks have already called him a roster lock. But on Thursday, Johnson didn't play after having a hamstring injury earlier in the week. And while Johnson didn't play, another receiver fighting for a roster spot did. 

Bryce Treggs had a really good game. He and McGloin seemed to mesh in the second quarter. Treggs, known as a speedster, ran right past second-round draft pick Kevin King. Treggs had five catches for 75 yards in the first half, finishing with seven catches for 91 yards. 

9. Halapoulivaati Vaitai went down in the second half with a left knee injury and didn't return. While he was on the ground, everyone started to remember that the Eagles can't afford to lose him. He's their best backup tackle. After him? The team has Dillon Gordon and Matt Tobin. All offseason the talk about the offensive line has been about interior depth, which the Eagles have. But the tackle depth is lacking and Big V's injury is a reminder of that. 

10. For the last few years, the Eagles' special teams has been among the best units in the league. But the unit wasn't great on Thursday. The Packers' punt return touchdown in the first half was a mess. First, Ron Brooks was the first guy down the field and couldn't make a play (he left with a hamstring injury). Then Terrence Brooks and Najee Goode, two good special teamers, couldn't make a play either. The refs probably missed a block in the back against Chris Maragos, but seeing that touchdown probably didn't make Dave Fipp very happy. Then, Joe Walker was called for holding, a call that negated a nice Pumphrey return. And then Caleb Sturgis bounced a 46-yarder off the right goal post. 

Rick Lovato explains why he got a huge Lombardi Trophy tattoo

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Rick Lovato

Rick Lovato explains why he got a huge Lombardi Trophy tattoo

After the Eagles beat the Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII, there will be a Vince Lombardi Trophy living in Philadelphia permanently. 

There will also be one on Rick Lovato forever. 

On Wednesday, the Eagles' long snapper tweeted out a photo of some new ink, a huge Lombardi Trophy on the left side of his torso. Lovato isn't the only Eagles player or fan to get a tattoo after the Super Bowl, but it looks like his tattoo might be one of the biggest. 

On Thursday, Lovato went back on Twitter to explain why he decided to get the trophy tattooed on himself. 

Two years ago, in April of 2016, Lovato visited the grave of Vince Lombardi, which happens to be in his hometown of Middletown, N.J. He said that's also where his grandfather is buried. 

"I still pray and thank Coach Lombardi to this day because of how my life has changed since the day I visited his grave," Lovato explained in his tweet. 

A couple months before Lovato's visit, MMQB's Jenny Vrentas took a trip to Mount Olivet Cemetery to learn a little bit about the legendary coach's unassuming grave.

When Lovato visited Lombardi's final resting place, the long snapper was still playing for the Packers. After a college career at Old Dominion, Lovato spent that first summer with the Bears but didn't make the team and wasn't signed by the Packers until December of 2015 when their long-snapper suffered an injury. 

Lovato spent the rest of the season with the Packers and was with them for the next whole spring and summer. But just a few months after his visit to the cemetery, he was released. 

During the 2016 season, he was signed by Washington to fill in for 10 days before he was again cut. Lovato was back working at his family's restaurant, "Joyce's Subs and Pizza" in Lincroft, N.J. after that, but Jon Dorenbos got hurt and the Eagles needed a replacement. Lovato did a good enough job at the end of last season to warrant a position battle this past summer. He won the competition and was the Eagles' long snapper in their Super Bowl season. 

It seems like the tattoo is a reward for finally making it to the pinnacle. 

Here's Lovato's full explanation of his new ink and what it means to him: 

"For those who want some more background on my tattoo, 2 years ago I visited Vince Lombardi's grave in my hometown of Middletown, NJ where my grandfather is buried. Not having a full time job in the NFL yet and not knowing where this career would take me, I trusted my passion and faith to keep reaching my dreams. Since then I was cut two more times and could've given up on those dreams, but it made me want it more than ever. After a heated battle with my friend Jon Dorenbos in training camp I had finally found my place in this league. Through the ups and the downs of my first full season in the NFL, I have fulfilled my dream of playing and winning the Super Bowl. It has brought me more joy in my life than I could've ever imagined. I still pray and thank Coach Lombardi to this day because of how my life has changed since the day I visited his grave. This tattoo means much more than just winning a Super Bowl. It represents my journey, everyone who's supported me and my faith in God." 

Eagles Stay or Go — Young CBs and a new return man?

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USA Today Images

Eagles Stay or Go — Young CBs and a new return man?

As we continue our offseason series examining the future of the world champion Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro try to figure out who will be on the roster in 2018. 

We go alphabetically — Part 1 was Nelson Agholor to Derek Barnett, Part 2 was De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks, Part 3 was Billy Brown to Vinny Curry. Today is Darby to Ertz. 

Ronald Darby
Roob: I’m still not completely sold on Darby. He made some big plays but also needs to be more consistent. That’s probably true of every young cornerback, and Darby certainly has all the tools to be a very good corner in the NFL. He just turned 24, he’s got world-class speed and when he gets his hands on the ball he’s always a threat to go the distance. The Eagles have a whole stable of young corners, and he’s in a similar position to Jay Ajayi in that he has one year left on his rookie four-year deal with another team, an AFC East team — in this case the Bills — and 2018 will give the Eagles a long look at him with a full training camp and season in an Eagles uniform. Darby will definitely be here in 2018. Beyond that, we’ll see.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: When you think about Darby's road to becoming a Super Bowl champion last season, it's pretty crazy. He gets traded to the Eagles during training camp, has to catch up and learn the defense and then dislocates his ankle in Week 1. He eventually came back as the Eagles' starter and never looked back. He's still just 24 and is really talented. Darby is about to enter the final year of his rookie contract, so the Eagles are going to have a decision to make about him soon enough. But for now, this is a no-brainer. 

Verdict: STAYS

Rashard Davis
Roob: Davis came and went on the practice squad throughout the year, but he was along for the Super Bowl ride in Minneapolis as a practice squad receiver, so the Eagles must like him. Davis had a decorated career at James Madison, where he was a record-setting punt returner, and that’s something the Eagles could be looking for depending what happens with Darren Sproles. Davis remains a long-shot, but he is an interesting guy. Stranger things have happened. Especially around here lately. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Davis didn't even spend all year on the Eagles' practice squad in 2017, but the team did bring him back and he'll be with them this spring. An undrafted receiver out of James Madison University, there's not a ton of people who even know about him. His best chance to make the Eagles' roster is as a returner, especially if Kenjon Barner isn't back. Not completely out of the question, but he has a steep uphill climb. 

Verdict: GOES

Rasul Douglas
Roob: I really like Douglas. What he lacks in pure speed he makes up for with intelligence and preparation. He’s a physical corner, likes to support the run, a sure tackler. He started five games while Ronald Darby was out and played surprisingly well for a rookie third-round pick, even picking up two interceptions in the first month of his pro career, both in key situations in close games. Whether or not he eventually moves into the slot or even safety remains to be seen, but I expect Douglas to be around here for quite a while. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Douglas had a pretty weird year. He was a third-round pick and would have had the opportunity to win a starting job but struggled some early during training camp. If he didn't, the team might not have made the move to trade for Darby. But when Darby went down, Douglas became a starter and played really well, finishing with two interceptions. He's not the fastest guy, but his length and ballhawk skills make up for it. With Darby and Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones all in the mix, how does Douglas fit in? That's not clear yet, but he'll be back for his second year. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dannell Ellerbe
Roob: Ellerbe gave the Eagles functional linebacker play after joining the Eagles late in the season to provide defensive depth in place of Jordan Hicks. He was solid against the run and provided veteran leadership during the postseason run. He essentially did exactly what the Eagles brought him in to do. But Ellerbe is 32 and has nine years under his belt, and the Eagles will no doubt go younger at linebacker moving forward. Whatever happens, Ellerbe now has two Super Bowl rings — one with the Ravens and one with the Eagles. Not a bad career!

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles were looking for a veteran to play on base downs, so they went out and got Ellerbe from the street in November. The 32-year-old eventually became a starter, but never played much. He then missed the NFC Championship Game with an injury and played just a few snaps in the Super Bowl. The Eagles need to upgrade and get younger at linebacker. Ellerbe shouldn't be back. 

Verdict: GOES

Jake Elliott
Roob: Yeah, he missed too many PATs, but the positives sure outweigh the negatives with Elliott. If Elliott didn’t prove his worth with the 61-yard game-winner against the Giants, he sure did with fourth-quarter field goals of 42 and 46 yards in the Super Bowl. Those are incredibly tough pressure kicks with the whole world watching, and Elliott crushed them. Caleb Sturgis is a very good kicker. Elliott is a potentially great one.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: This time last year, Elliott was still at Memphis getting ready for the draft. A lot has happened since then. He went in the fifth round to the Bengals, but he lost the competition in Cincinnati, was placed on their practice squad, and stayed there until Sturgis got hurt in the first week of the season. Elliott came to the Eagles and in his second game, he became a hero when he made a 61-yard, game-winner against the Giants. The crazy thing about it is, if Elliott missed the 46-yarder just before the game-winner, he would have been 2-for-5 and in jeopardy of getting cut. But that didn't happen and now it's his job for good. 

Verdict: STAYS

Zach Ertz
Roob: Ertz has established himself as a top-three tight end in this league, behind Gronk and probably a little behind Travis Kelce, although it’s close. As good as Ertz was during the regular season, earning his first Pro Bowl honor, he was massive in the postseason, with 8-for-93 against the Vikings and 7-for-67 with two huge catches in the Super Bowl — the two-yard gain on a fourth-quarter 4th-and-1 with the Eagles trailing by one at their own 45 and his go-ahead touchdown a few moments later. Ertz has the sixth-most catches by any tight end in NFL history after five seasons and the 10th-most yards. He’s already the greatest tight end in Eagles history, and he just turned 27. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There's no question about it. Ertz has grown into one of the best and most complete tight ends in the NFL. He's one of the best weapons on the team and he's going to have a chance to continue to grow his already-impressive chemistry with Carson Wentz. 

Verdict: STAYS