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. 

Eagles rookie CB Sidney Jones cleared to practice

Eagles rookie CB Sidney Jones cleared to practice

On a day that will be remembered most for a player the Eagles lost to an injury (see story), they did learn that they are getting another player back after a long injury rehab.

The Eagles are finally going to get a look this week at rookie second-round pick Sidney Jones at practice. Whether he actually gets into a football game this year is still in doubt.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said that nine months after he blew out his Achilles and eight months after the Eagles drafted him, Jones has finally been medically cleared to practice and will participate to some extent Wednesday when the Eagles get back to work following their win over the Rams Sunday in Los Angeles.

“We're just to the point of just want to see him out there running around, doing football activities outside of the normal workouts that he's been doing,” Pederson said Monday. “Just really changing direction and doing more football work this week.”

Jones tore his left Achilles during his pro day workout on March 11 and has spent the entire season so far on the reserve-non football injury list, which is for players with preexisting conditions dating before the first day of practice.

The Eagles had a window running from Week 7 until this week to activate Jones for practice, and once he practices on Wednesday, they’ll have 21 days to either activate him to the 53-man roster or shut him down for the year.

The Eagles have the luxury of taking their time with Jones, thanks to the play of starting corners Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, slot corner Patrick Robinson and fourth corner Rasul Douglas.

Before his injury, Jones was projected as a first-round draft pick. The Eagles got him with the 43rd pick, but even if he doesn’t play until opening day next year, he will still be only 22 years old and under contract through 2020.

Jones had nine interceptions, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, 8½ tackles for loss and 145 tackles in 40 career games for the University of Washington.

It remains to be seen where Jones will fit in next year, but Robinson, although he has played well, is due to become a free agent this offseason and turns 31 in September.

Douglas and Jones are signed through 2020, Mills through 2019 and Darby through 2018.

Doug Pederson adamant Eagles can overcome the ultimate loss

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Doug Pederson adamant Eagles can overcome the ultimate loss

Remember when the Eagles lost Jason Peters and Jordan Hicks and Darren Sproles and plenty of folks thought the season was over? 

Doug Pederson does. 

Sure, this isn't exactly an apples-to-oranges comparison. Losing a left tackle or a middle linebacker or a running back isn't the same thing as losing an MVP-level quarterback entering his prime. It would be unfair to suggest they're the same. 

But Pederson has seen his team hurdle over every obstacle this year. With the biggest one yet now in front of it, it's his job to convince his team it can do it again. 

On Monday, Pederson tried to convince fans who have prematurely canceled Christmas. 

"To the fans out there, you can't lose faith," Pederson said. "This has been a resilient football team all season long. If there's ever an opportunity for me as a head football coach to rally the troops, now might be the time. 

"We just came off a tremendous victory to win the NFC East. Guys are riding extremely high. It's a little bittersweet. But you know what? We've got the Giants this week and we've got an opportunity to ... if you win Sunday, you get a first-round bye. There's still a lot to play for. That's what's exciting about this season. We're still playing for the opportunity to hopefully be in that game."

Pederson, just after delivering news of a torn ACL, was adamant that his team can overcome the loss of Carson Wentz

"It sure can," he said. "Heck yeah." 

It won't be easy. Before leaving Sunday's game, Wentz threw his 33rd touchdown pass of the 2017 season, breaking the Eagles' franchise record that had stood since 1961. But more than touchdown passes, Wentz made special plays seemingly every week, plays that only a handful of quarterbacks in the world can make. 

Nick Foles is a pretty adequate backup, and he did a nice job when called upon against the Rams. But he ain't Carson Wentz. Everyone, including his teammates, knows that. 

It's just that they don't have time to wallow in the loss of their superstar leader. Next weekend might be huge. 

A win against the Giants would earn the Eagles a first-round bye. A win against the Giants, paired with a Vikings loss, would earn them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. After another obstacle was dropped in front of them on Monday morning, the Eagles can still help themselves. 

Pederson's role in all this is vital. He has to be the guy to hold it all together.  

"It's huge," he said. "I think even the guys felt it after the game yesterday. We just rally and we support the next guy. From my standpoint, you don't waver, man. You don't let people see you sweat, you just put your head down and you go to work. You get everybody ready to play. It was evident yesterday when Carson was out of the game, you saw Nick come in and come back and lead us to victory in that game. That right there is a great step in the right direction."