Instant Analysis: Grading the Eagles' 38-31 preseason win over the Dolphins

Instant Analysis: Grading the Eagles' 38-31 preseason win over the Dolphins

The Eagles hung on to win a thriller on Thursday night, defeating the Dolphins, 38-31, at Lincoln Financial Field (see Instant Replay). It was the third preseason game — aka the "dress rehearsal" — which meant one final chance to evaluate the starters before the real thing gets underway in September. So how did they do?

It appears having receivers who can actually stretch the field and create separation is going to agree with Carson Wentz. Wentz completed 6 of 10 passes for 129 yards, with touchdowns of 50 and 15. It's also hard to fault Wentz for the interception he threw, which was batted into the air by a rusher in the quarterback's face. The most encouraging part was the eight-play, 93-yard drive he led from the shadow of his own goal post. And to Matt McGloin's credit, at least he kept the clock moving, completing 22 of 26 passes — albeit for only 155 yards — with one touchdown and one interception.

Grade: A-

Running backs
LeGarrette Blount rushed four times for 19 yards, and Wendell Smallwood had four attempts for 29. However, 16 of Blount's yards came on one carry, while Smallwood was steamrolled once in pass protection. All told, probably more good than bad from 1A and 1B. Corey Clement tacked on nine runs for 42 yards and a touchdown, and even Donnel Pumphrey found a little room, gaining 74 total yards of offense on 17 touches. This was fine.

Grade: C+

Wide receivers
Torrey Smith's preseason: one target, one reception, 50 yards, one touchdown. Put him back in bubble wrap until September. Alshon Jeffery added two receptions for 25 yards and a score. Nelson Agholor was not targeted, which doesn't necessarily mean anything given the limited sample size, yet seems notable. At least Agholor didn't drop any! Mack Hollins led all Eagles reserves with five receptions for 44 yards. Marcus Johnson hauled in a 1-yard touchdown pass as well. This was almost everything you could hope to see, minus Agholor's lack of involvement.

Grade: A

Tight ends
Most productive game of the preseason for Zach Ertz, who finished with three receptions for 44 yards on three targets, with a broken tackle on a nifty 18-yard catch-and-run. Trey Burton was also effective, recording four catches for 43 yards, though he also dropped a pass. Not sure there's a proper blocking tight end here, but they can put up numbers.

Grade: B

Offensive line
The starters struggled, again, with Lane Johnson having an especially rough go — again. Back in his traditional spot at right tackle, Johnson continued to get pushed around in pass protection, including the pressure that caused a ball to get batted into the air for an interception. There seemed to be some genuine confusion up front as well, with multiple free rushers waltzing into the backfield. Perhaps it can all be chalked up to a lack of game-planning, but the unit continued to look shaky, whatever the case may be. Meanwhile, the second-stringers fared well enough, minus a ton of penalties.

Grade: C-

Defensive line
Vinny Curry finally came alive with a strip sack, and was generally disruptive. Elijah Qualls and Alex McCalister had a meeting at the quarterback as well, and Justin Hamilton and Steven Means each had a tackle for loss. Otherwise, it was a quiet night for the front four. Derek Barnett got the start, but failed to make his mark in the box score. The Dolphins had some success running the football as well, with starter Jay Ajayi carrying nine times for 53 yards. Brandon Graham — out with a triceps injury — was missed.

Grade: B-

Mychal Kendricks continued to shine, registering an interception and a quarterback hit. Joe Walker and Don Cherry combined for one of the plays of the game — Walker getting pressure on the signal caller, and Cherry intercepting the pass and returning it 42 yards down to Miami's 5-yard line. Walker also read a screen pass to make a nice tackle for loss. Nigel Bradham finished with three tackles. Najee Goode had a night to forget starting in place of Jordan Hicks, but not enough to detract from the rest of the unit.

Grade: A-

Defensive backs
Not the follow-up Ronald Darby was hoping for at the Linc. Darby broke up one pass, but was on the wrong end of two huge plays — a 72-yard catch-and-run and a 42-yard penalty for pass interference. The 5-foot-11 cornerback had great position on the first play, but 6-3 receiver DeVante Parker skied above the coverage to make the grab. Darby showed good make-up speed on the second play, but made too much contact with the intended target. Toss in a missed tackle for good measure. Seeing action at corner, Jaylen Watkins made up for Darby's tough night somewhat with an interception and 50-yard return, and C.J. Smith came up with a pass deflection that resulted in an interception as well. But later, Rasul Douglas and Terrence Brooks collided while attempting to make a tackle, which wound up resulting in a 69-yard score. Too many breakdowns.

Grade: D

Special teams
Solid, if unremarkable. Caleb Sturgis knocked down five extra points and a 30-yard field goal, while Donnie Jones downed 2 of 3 punts inside Miami's 20-yard line. Kamu Grugier-Hill had a heck of a hit, arriving at the punt returner at the same time as the ball — though was flagged for a personal foul in what was a very tough call to swallow. The Eagles tried a bevy of players in the return game, giving some guys opportunities to make the 53-man roster, but no one stood out.

Grade: B

Starters often play into the second half in the third NFL preseason game, but Doug Pederson made the executive decision to pull his guys after the first quarter. It felt like the right call, particularly for the quarterback's safety, and the health of key players is really the only thing that matters here. As always, there was little in the way of an actual game plan here, so Pederson's move to get the starters off the field and into September is solely what we're evaluating here.

Grade: NA

The Eagles won the Super Bowl! So how come I'm not happy?

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The Eagles won the Super Bowl! So how come I'm not happy?

It’s now been two weeks since the Eagles finally won their first Super Bowl. In that time, I’ve re-watched the game five times, re-watched the parade 15 times, and purchased six Super Bowl champions t-shirts, four sweatshirts and five hats. And that’s just from the next morning.

We won, like I’ve always wanted. We’re Super Bowl champs. It wasn’t a dream. I was led to believe that once the impossible happened and we reached the promised land, I'd have nothing more to worry about, ever again. 

So how come I’m still not happy?

I’ll tell you why: It’s because of Cris Collinsworth’s bias. And the unfair coverage of our celebrations; the national media won’t tell you this, but once the Super Bowl was over, not a single Eagles fan punched a horse.

There were the ridiculous crowd-size estimates. And Mike Francesa objecting to Jason Kelce’s language and calling for him to be cut. And the oddsmakers putting our Super Bowl odds below the Patriots’.  And Duracell, for that tweet about Philly fans throwing batteries. Disgraceful. From now on, I’m only throwing Energizers. I’ve also yet to hear an apology from Donovan McNabb, Andy Reid or Joe Banner for not winning us a Super Bowl before now.

At the parade, as we all remember, Jason Kelce sang “no one likes us, we don’t care!” But he was wrong. I care.

Maybe I’m not used to the feeling yet. Maybe it’s because I’ve been chasing this my whole life, and at this point, what else is there to chase? Maybe this sort of existential despair is what I’ve been fearing all along.

Nah, who am I kidding. It’s Cris Collinsworth.

Anyway, here’s my solution for the quarterback thing: Play Carson Wentz, AND Nick Foles. At the same time. Defenses won’t know what hit them, and besides, I’ve got a feeling if it comes down to it, Foles would make a hell of a wide receiver.

So don’t trade Foles. But DO trade Nate Sudfeld. I bet Cleveland would give up a 1 and a 4.

Other Philly sports takes:

- I’ll tell you what, Markelle Fultz caught a break. If not for the Eagles making a Super Bowl run and winning, he’d be all we had to talk about for the past month.

- The Michael Carter-Williams trade was three years ago this week, and let me tell you, I’m still mad about that.

- Jason Kelce appeared in Clearwater for the start of the Phillies’ spring training this week. I just wish he’d go through the entire Phils roster and list everyone’s faults and weaknesses.

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Mike Francesa admits to not really knowing what he was talking about with Kelce's speech

Mike Francesa admits to not really knowing what he was talking about with Kelce's speech

Mike Francesa probably wears flip flops in the city in the middle of winter.

The former radio host absolutely tore into Jason Kelce last week for his legendary speech on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Francesa even went so far as to say Jeff Lurie should cut Kelce for it.

Now, Francesa did a total 180 on it. 

Just to refresh, here's what he said last week:

“Should have stayed home, the jerk," Francesa begins on Kelce. "Why is that I have to be in my car when these guys win championships, and they decide that they are going to grace the audience with this profanity-laced stupidity. You gotta turn it off, your kids can’t even listen it. He sounded like a total moron. How about going up there and acting like a champion and not acting like a total moron? I turn that stuff off. I’ve seen LeBron James do that, now I’ve seen him do that. You know what? It’s not the time or place. You ever heard of winning like a champion? Somebody should have taken a hook and pulled him off.”

And here's what he had to say today as a guest on Angelo Cataldi's morning show on 94 WIP:

Bottom line is, I went back last night and watched the thing in its entirety, and I have to say, it was not as bad as I thought it was when I watched it and got to see it. I wish he hadn’t used any profanity because it would have been a classic, it was really well done, he did a great job. I thought it was one that would last and could be used a long time. I know it’s popular in Philly even with the profanity but to me those are such special moments that I wish they would raise their level. I’d like to see them do it so they can be used time and time again. Take the profanity out of it.

No. 1, I overreacted. I wouldn’t cut him. I take that back, I apologize to Kelce for that. No. 2, it was not as bad as I thought. I just wish he had raised his vocabulary a little. That was a great speech. He did a great job. 

"Should have stayed home, the jerk!" to "That was a great speech. He did a great job." Okay.

I guess the first step is admitting you have a problem.

You can listen to the full interview here.