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Instant Analysis: Grading the Eagles' preseason finale

Instant Analysis: Grading the Eagles' preseason finale

With the Eagles' 16-10 loss to the Jets on Thursday (see breakdown), the preseason has mercifully come to an end (see 10 observations).
 
No starters and few key players appeared in the game for the Eagles, though there were plenty of jobs on the line. Here's a quick rundown on the youngsters and reserves who saw action, most of them for the last time before returning to the bench or hitting the wire.
 
Quarterbacks
Matt McGloin gave a very Matt McGloin-like performance. He completed a high percentage of passes (66.7 percent) for minimal gains (4.3 yards per attempt). He wasn't always on the same page with his receivers and threw off his back foot a bunch, too. Dane Evans at least tried to push the ball down the field, albeit to little success. Evans completed 10 of 22 passes for 110 yards with a horrendous interception, and even his 41-yard touchdown was the result of a broken play. Best hope Nick Foles is OK.
 
Grade: D
 
Running backs
Short night for Corey Clement, who continues to look the part, carrying four times for 16 yards and doing a solid job in pass protection. Donnel Pumphrey certainly didn't convince anybody he warrants a roster spot over Clement with six rushes for 10 yards. Pumphrey exited with a concussion, and his cause wasn't helped any by Byron Marshall, either, who had 15 attempts for 57 yards. This was fine.
 
Grade: B-
 
Wide receivers
It was difficult to evaluate the wideouts given the quarterback play, to put it politely. Mack Hollins was the Eagles' go-to receiver early on, catching three passes for 25 yards, followed by Bryce Treggs with three receptions for 22 yards. Shelton Gibson had the long gain of the first half at a whopping 14 yards, while Marcus Johnson's 41-yard catch-and-run to the end zone was the result of a broken play. Not sure how much we're really supposed to see when a pass never travels farther than 10 yards in the air.
 
Grade: C
 
Tight ends
Officially, Anthony Denham finished with one reception for 10 yards, although he should've left some of that production on the field in favor of getting out of bounds with time winding down in the first half. In all honesty, that might've been the most egregious mistake of the game. Players miss tackles and assignments and turn the ball over, but there's no excuse for not knowing the situation.
 
Grade: C
 
Offensive line
Dillon Gordon nearly got the quarterback killed. Alas, it was only a sack-fumble. Gordon was going against Jets defensive end Kony Ealy on the play, and though Ealy has bounced around the league a bit this year, he once registered three sacks in the Super Bowl. In other words, touch matchup for Gordon, but also the level of talent he would face in the regular season. He surrenderd another easy sack later, as well. The rest of the unit was serviceable.
 
Grade: C
 
Defensive line
Two bubble players made strong pushes for the 53-man roster in Alex McCalister and Elijah Qualls. McCalister's sack gives him 3½ for the preseason, and the speedy defensive end also made a nice run stop, though he was not credited for the tackle — interesting that he exited with a hamstring injury. Qualls totaled five tackles, shared a sack, and the interior lineman was generally just a disruptive presence in the backfield all night. Fellow defensive tackle Gabe Wright also acquitted himself well, registering 1½ sacks.
 
Grade: B+
 
Linebackers
It seemed like Kamu Grugier-Hill was everywhere, racking up five tackles. Grugier-Hill's athleticism is typically on display on special teams, but this was probably his best defensive performance. Joe Walker finished with four tackles and a couple of hits on the quarterback. Don Cherry lost a jump ball to Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the back of the end zone for six. It was a mismatch, but an example of Cherry's limitations. Overall, a sound night for the trio, even with the touchdown.
 
Grade: B
 
Defensive backs
Jaylen Watkins began the game like he had something to prove. Watkins wasn't perfect in coverage and dropped a sure interception, but showed a willingness to hit with five tackles, which was once his biggest issue. Fellow cornerbacks Aaron Grymes and Dexter McDougle were not so effective at getting ball carriers to the ground. C.J. Smith joined Watkins and Grymes with a pass breakup each, while Smith provided generally sound coverage along with three tackles. Up against a sad Jets passing attack, there wasn't a ton to evaluate here.
 
Grade: C+
 
Special teams
At least Pumphrey showed some signs of life in the return game, taking three kickoffs 80 yards with a long gain of 34, and five punts 48 yards with a long gain of 14. Conversely, Jets returners were held in check by Eagles coverage units, which also ensured three punts were down inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Caleb Sturgis came up short on a 58-yard field goal try, showing the limits to his range, and there is absolutely nothing to report on newly-anointed long snapper Rick Lovato, which is a positive.
 
Grade: B
 
Coaching
Nobody of consequence played, which is the only coaching decision that matters in the fourth preseason game. The Eagles make it out of the summer without key injuries, thanks in part to Doug Pederson's management of the roster in exhibition games.
 
Grade: NA

Eagles still better off at QB than Giants

Eagles still better off at QB than Giants

The Eagles may have lost Carson Wentz for the season, but it could be worse. A lot worse. The Eagles could be in the New York Giants’ shoes.

How much better are the Eagles than their loathsome NFC East rival to the north this season? Even with a season-ending injury to an MVP-caliber player under center, the Eagles still look vastly superior to their Week 15 opponent Sunday. In fact, would you even trade their quarterback situation with the Giants?

We try to answer that question and more while we examine whether the Giants do anything better than the Eagles in 2017. Anything at all!

Probably not though.

QUARTERBACKS
Eli Manning may have a couple of Super Bowl rings, and his supporting cast with the Giants is awful, but I can’t understand why there was such a clamoring to have him remain the team’s starter. Their record is 2-11. He’s averaging 6.0 yards per pass attempt this season — only Joe Flacco has been worse. And Manning turns 37 in less than three weeks, so what’s the upside? He looks shot. At least Nick Foles gives the Eagles some hope heading into his 29th birthday. At this stage of their respective careers, you would take Foles, and it’s a no-brainer. Heck, plenty of people would take Davis Webb over Manning.

Advantage: Eagles

RUNNING BACKS
The Giants’ backfield is better than many suspected at the beginning of the season. Of course, turning out marginally better than the worst backfield in the NFL isn’t a huge accomplishment. Orleans Darkwa runs with power, and Wayne Gallman is a nice change of pace when he’s not fumbling the football. Both average better than 4.0 yards per carry. Shane Vereen looks cooked in the third-down role. Of course, the team doesn’t run the ball much, and none of the trio is a home-run hitter of the caliber of Jay Ajayi for the Eagles. Neither Darkwa nor Gallman looks like a better prospect than Corey Clement, either.

Advantage: Eagles

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS
The Eagles have three players with more yards and touchdowns than the Giants’ leading receiver. Alshon Jeffery has 732 yards and eight touchdowns, while Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor both have 663 yards and seven scores. New York’s receiving corps was also decimated by injuries to Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall. Despite the losses, speedy Evan Engram is having an incredible rookie season for a tight end, becoming the primary weapon in the passing attack with 55 catches, 623 yards and six touchdowns. Clearly, Engram’s stellar play hasn’t been enough to compensate. Now wideouts Sterling Shepherd and Roger Lewis are questionable to play Sunday, too.

Distinct advantage: Eagles

OFFENSIVE LINES
The Giants’ best O-lineman, right tackle Justin Pugh, is questionable as well with a back injury and hasn’t suited up in weeks. That’s a problem because their line wasn’t very good to begin with. Left tackle Ereck Flowers has improved as the season has progressed, and isn’t nearly as bad his reputation might suggest. Otherwise, there aren’t many bright spots up front. The Eagles have had their issues. The hope is Stefen Wisniewski can go with an ankle injury, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai has looked beatable in recent weeks. At least their issues are confined to the left side. From center to right tackle, the unit is great.

Advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE LINES AND LINEBACKERS
If games were won and lost on reputation, the Giants’ D-line would be among the scariest units in the league. Damon Harrison, Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon are all All-Pro/Pro Bowl players, yet New York ranks 31st against the run and is tied for 30th in sacks. The stars are not living up to the hype. Surely, it hasn’t helped that roughly all of their linebackers are on injured reserve. The Eagles still rank No. 1 against the run, though they’ve looked a little shaky of late, and are tied for ninth in sacks. Their defensive end rotation with Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Derek Bennett is becoming quite dangerous, with 20.5 sacks between them.

Slight advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Don’t worry, the Giants’ issues on defense aren’t limited to the front seven. The club also ranks 31st against the pass, and unlike so many other areas of the roster, injuries aren’t solely to blame. Janoris Jenkins was hurt all year and eventually landed on IR. For Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple, it’s been a question of effort and will they or won’t they quit on their teammates. Apple has since been benched and left on the inactives list. The Eagles’ secondary has its flaws, but attitude isn’t one of them. They’re also an opportunistic bunch, with three players — Jalen Mills, Rodney McLeod and Patrick Robinson — with three interceptions, and three more with two.

Advantage: Eagles

SPECIAL TEAMS
As bad as the Eagles’ special teams have been for at times this season, the Giants have been worse. Their kicking game stinks — Aldrick Rosas has made only 75.0 percent of field-goal tries. Their coverage units stink, with a blocked punt and a punt return for a touchdown. And their return game stinks, with a 19.4 average on kickoffs and a 5.1 average on punts. We’re going to assume the re-signing of Bryan Braman this week (see story) fixes some of the issues the Eagles have experienced, and they’re back to being one of the top all-around units in the league.

Advantage: Eagles

COACHING
Ben McAdoo had one of the most meteoric rises and falls you will ever see. In a matter of three years, McAdoo was hailed as a genius for reinventing Manning, usurped the head coaching job from Tom Coughlin, and guided the Giants to the playoffs. Eleven months later, he was out of a job. Perennially overrated defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo took over in the interim, so no groundbreaking changes on the sideline for the time being. McAdoo’s timeline might be a cautionary tale for Doug Pederson and the Eagles. As far as this game is concerned, the staff that’s not in the midst of upheaval has the edge.

Distinct advantage: Eagles

OVERALL
There was no shortage of warning signs for New York heading into 2017. Sure, they managed to go 11-5 and make the playoffs a year ago but had not won more than seven games in any of the previous three seasons. I’m not sure anybody saw 2-11 coming, although, with an aging quarterback, shaky offensive line, and no running game, the Giants needed their defense to shoulder the load. Obviously, that didn’t happen. The Eagles have the injury under center, but I’ll take Foles with his roster over the current version of Manning and his crew of flunkies. And I wouldn’t think twice.

Distinct advantage: Eagles

Richaun Holmes' mishap does not end well

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ESPN broadcast

Richaun Holmes' mishap does not end well

You will not find Billy Donovan on the Thunder's injury report after Friday's game against the Sixers.

But Oklahoma City's head coach may be icing down alongside his players or popping a few Advil.

Why?

Donovan took an errant pass straight to his face during the Sixers-Thunder game at the Wells Fargo Center. Richaun Holmes was looking to collect an assist on a JJ Redick jumper, but the Sixers' big man put a little too much mustard on the pass.

The one-handed dish went right to Donovan … who was not ready to catch it, and why would he be? Holmes also just barely missed former Sixers player and head coach, Maurice Cheeks, who is an assistant under Donovan.

At least that was Holmes' only turnover of the game.