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Instant Analysis: Grading the Eagles' preseason win over Bills

Instant Analysis: Grading the Eagles' preseason win over Bills

The Eagles edged the Bills, 20-16, Thursday night after a see-saw fourth quarter, but everybody knows the final score in a preseason game is irrelevant (see Instant Replay).

August football is all about evaluations, and we have plenty of instant analysis from the second exhibition game.

Quarterbacks
Carson Wentz did not look sharp in his first few series. Two of his first three pass attempts were uncatchable, sailing way over the receiver's head and out of bounds. Wentz was eventually able to get into a rhythm, completing five of his final six passes for 45 yards. Matt McGloin picked up where he left off last week, mixing the occasional nice throw with a bunch that was nowhere near the intended target. An easy interception into double coverage was the cherry on top.

Grade: C

Running backs
Eagles ball carriers once again found little room to run, which would partially explain how LeGarrette Blount managed to carry five times for eight yards. Blount's fumble on one of his two receptions was unforgivable, though. Undrafted rookie Corey Clement outplayed his 30-year-old teammate, carrying it eight times for 34 yards — a solid 4.3 average — and one touchdown. Clement came up with an impressive blitz pickup as well. His performance salvaged the whole operation.

Grade: C

Wide receivers
Alshon Jeffery didn't get a ton of work, catching two passes for 24 yards, but was able to showcase his explosiveness on a 14-yard slant. There's a reason for all the hype. Nelson Agholor added two catches for 43 yards, and Marcus Johnson had the long reception of the game for 38 yards. Late in the game, rookie Shelton Gibson drew a 35-yard pass interference penalty. The unit seemed to make the most of its targets despite a lackluster performance from the rest of the offense.

Grade: B+

Tight ends
Brent Celek, Trey Burton and Billy Brown combined to make seven receptions for 59 yards. Perhaps more impressive still, the trio combined to clear the away the left side of the field on the Eagles' longest run of the game, a 24-yard scamper. Brown had 4 for 34 all by himself. Nothing spectacular, but much improved from the previous week.

Grade: B

Offensive line
Lane Johnson did not instill confidence in place of Jason Peters at left tackle, struggling mightily. Johnson surrendered one sack and was forced to commit a holding penalty to prevent another. The O-line as a whole was less than stellar, opening few holes on the ground and providing shaky protection. The second unit and third units were a bit better, paving the way for a still subpar 3.2 yards per carry, but limiting the Bills defense to one sack.

Grade: C-

Defensive line
The front four didn't post eye-popping numbers but harassed Bills signal callers throughout the contest. Fletcher Cox drove an offensive lineman right into the quarterback's lap on one play, forcing an incompletion, and Brandon Graham had a tackle for loss. On Derek Barnett watch, the rookie was quiet against Buffalo's first-team offense but finished with two quarterback hits and one sack. Second-year defensive end Alex McCalister has a strip sack as well. Steven Means was a man among boys down the stretch, getting tot he passer twice.

Grade: B+

Linebackers
Remember Mychal Kendricks? The sixth-year veteran was everywhere in this one. Kendricks sacked the quarterback, had a second tackle for a loss, and also came up with an interception. He looks motivated. Jordan Hicks also got to the quarterback once. Then the reserves cleaned up during extended garbage time. Joe Walker had five solo tackles, while Don Cherry had three and a forced fumble.

Grade: A

Defensive backs
The Ronald Darby trade is already paying dividends (see 10 observations). Darby recorded one interception and should've had another. The 48-yard return on the pick was fun, too. Rodney McLeod's pass deflection at the line of scrimmage led to another INT as well. Corey Graham was the third safety when Malcolm Jenkins moved into the slot and made five tackles, including one in the backfield. Jalen Mills was solid in coverage as well and finished with two tackles, while Rasul Douglas had a nice pass breakup. An encouraging showing all around, as Bills starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor was held to eight completions for 43 yards on 18 attempts (44.4 percent). Terrence Brooks finished with a team-high eight tackles.

Grade: A+

Special teams
Caleb Sturgis missed a field goal from 45 yards, but connected from distances of 24 and 48 and was perfect on extra points. Donnie Jones pinned two of three punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Rasul Douglas and Kamu Grugier-Hill each made a nice tackle. Penalties were an issue for the unit as a whole, and Donnel Pumphrey still hasn't shown much explosiveness in the return game, taking three punts a grand total of 11 yards.

Grade: C

Coaching
The decision to send Wentz back on the field for a fourth series after the offense failed to get a first down in its first three opportunities. Wentz's final drive didn't produce points, but the unit was able to move the ball and build some confidence before a turnover ended the night. As always, the Eagles aren't scheming or game-planning for specific opponents, so the usage of starters is the only aspect of coaching that's worth evaluating.

Grade: NA

NFL Referees Association: Pete Morelli criticisms are click bait

NFL Referees Association: Pete Morelli criticisms are click bait

The NFL Referees Association responded to criticisms of Pete Morelli and his officiating crew, and in doing so, suggested Eagles fans and impartial members of the media have no idea what they are talking about.

Morelli has come under fire over the seemingly lopsided officiating during the Eagles' 28-23 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Week 6. The Eagles were penalized 10 times for 126 yards in the contest, while the Panthers drew only one flag for one yard, despite the appearance of committing many of the same infractions.

Since that game, a change.org petition moving to ban Morelli from working Eagles games in the future is approaching its goal of 75,000 signatures. Research also shows Morelli's crew has been calling penalties against the Eagles in disproportionate numbers for awhile now. In the last four games with Morelli, the Eagles were flagged 40 times for 396 yards, compared to just eight penalties for 74 yards against opponents.

Almost everybody seemed to be in agreement that the officiating was at the very least poor in the Eagles-Panthers game, if not biased. Everybody, that is, except NFLRA executive director Scott Green, who released a statement on Thursday.

Via ProFootballTalk:

“Claims like these demonstrate a fundamental lack of knowledge about NFL officiating,” Green said. “NFL officials are graded on every call made in every game. Missing a single one can hurt his or her ranking and may be the difference between working in the postseason or not. These recent attempts to sensationalize statistics and create click-bait headlines lack important context. Without the proper perspective, the information being pushed is completely misguided. The passion of NFL fans and teams are a big part of what makes the game so great. However, it’s no excuse for the irresponsible and baseless claims we’ve seen lately. NFL officials are committed to upholding the integrity of the game and do so every week.”

Lack of knowledge. Completely misguided. Irresponsible and baseless. You would expect the NFLRA to come to the defense of Morelli -- it's literally their job -- but insulting the consumers' intelligence along the way probably isn't the best way to go about it.

Is there anything sinister about Morelli's and his crew's officiating? Maybe not, but it doesn't take somebody who's gone through the NFL's (presumably) rigorous Officiating Development Program to watch two nearly identical plays called differently for two different teams within three hours of each other. Innocent mistakes or not, that's what appeared to happen on multiple occasions throughout the Eagles-Panthers game.

Instead of releasing overly defensive statements, perhaps the NFLRA should show video evidence why the calls against the Eagles were correct, and the eerily similar non-calls that went in the Panthers' favor were not. Because this responding to criticism with more criticism isn't changing any minds.

A surprising Eagle keeps getting drug tested

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Jake Elliott IG

A surprising Eagle keeps getting drug tested

Jake Elliott has been a revelation for the Philadelphia Eagles after Caleb Sturgis went down with an injury early in the season.

But has he been too good...

The rook has made 12 of his 14 attempts for the Birds this season.

If you're looking for a good laugh today, go check out this reddit thread that starts with a photo from Elliott's Instagram story in which he points out he got flagged for his third drug test in two weeks!

The comment section is as good as a Jake Elliott 61 yarder.

"Well, he does bleed green...," abenyishay says..

"Is kickers doping really a thing?" ChaosFinalForm wonders, as do we.

What do you think? Just the way the random drug draw fell the last few weeks, or does the NFL think Jake Elliott is into something?