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

Karl-Anthony Towns tried coming at Joel Embiid on Instagram ... and it was a mistake

Karl-Anthony Towns tried coming at Joel Embiid on Instagram ... and it was a mistake

Joel Embiid didn’t let back stiffness keep him from returning to the Sixers’ lineup on Tuesday with a dominant effort in the team’s 118-112 OT win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Embiid had 28 points (8 of 16 shooting), 12 rebounds and eight assists in a career-high 39 minutes. However, the big man’s best performance might have come on social media the following day.

On Wednesday, Embiid sent out a picture on Instagram and Twitter of him scoring a bucket past fellow center Karl-Anthony Towns during the victory.

Euro stepping our way through Minnesota and we ended up raising the cat last night #TheProcess

A post shared by Joel "The Process" Embiid (@joelembiid) on

Towns, who had 19 points and 16 rebounds in the matchup, had a response. But much like on the court, Embiid got the best of this battle too.

h/t Bleacher Report Twitter account.

M. Night Shyamalan says JJ Redick plays like he's 'at war' with himself

USA Today Images

M. Night Shyamalan says JJ Redick plays like he's 'at war' with himself

After pouring in 26 points during the Sixers’ 118-112 OT win over the Minnesota Timberwolves to close out a three-game road trip, JJ Redick took a brief break to drop off his latest podcast.

This edition’s guest was Timberwolves star center Karl-Anthony Towns. The two touched on a myriad of topics, perhaps the most interesting of which was a look at the inner workings of the mind of an NBA player.

Towns explained the origin of “Karlito,” an imaginary friend he developed at Kentucky that he talks to on the court for encouragement, to vent frustrations, calm nerves, etc.

That’s when Redick shared a story of one famous Sixers fan dissecting his own demeanor on the court.

“We have these breakfast meetings with the Sixers and this past week the movie director M. Night Shyamalan, who did Signs and Unbreakable [and] a bunch of other movies, he came and spoke to our team for about an hour,” Redick said.

“This is a guy who reads emotions. That’s what he does for a living. He tries to get actors to portray something and have it show up on screen and then sort of elicit an emotion. So he’s going through a few guys on our team, he’s a season-ticket holder of the Sixers [and] he sits courtside, so he’s going through and he’s talking about JoJo (Joel Embiid) and he’s talking about Ben (Simmons) and different things and he gets to me and he says to me, ‘When I watch you play, you’re at war with yourself.’ And I thought to myself that’s really (bleeped) up that he would say that in front of the team, but the other part of me was like maybe there’s some truth to that.”

Apparently it’s far from the first time someone told Redick he was inside his own head on the floor. The veteran sharpshooter said his father noticed those tendencies early on in his playing days.

“My dad knows me really well,” Redick said. “He knows how messed up I am in the head. He used to make me write head case on my shoes in high school. Some of my actual career highs in the NBA, as I’m setting career highs 27, 29, 31 [points], whenever I get to that level, I would always miss free throws. He would text me after the game and be like I know all you’re thinking about are the missed free throws. And I would be like, you hit it.”

Redick and Towns went on to discuss NBA unicorns, playing for Tom Thibodeau, the big man’s OCD tendencies and much more. Check out the entire podcast right here.