Eagles

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Josh McCown, T.J. Edwards earn high grades in Eagles' preseason loss to Ravens

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Josh McCown, T.J. Edwards earn high grades in Eagles' preseason loss to Ravens

The Eagles’ third preseason game may have ended prematurely, but not before a group of players was given a chance to shine.

Josh McCown, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and T.J. Edwards were among the Eagles’ standouts in a 26-15 loss to the Ravens on Thursday — a game which was cancelled with more than 11 minutes remaining because of the weather (see Roob's observations).

But not every unit received high marks, even if it looked like the Birds were on the cusp of staging a comeback before the game was called. Let’s just say lightning wasn’t the only thing that lit up the sky at Lincoln Financial Field.

Quarterbacks

Josh McCown: 17/24, 192 YDS, 2 TD

McCown’s night started with a fumble, three straight incompletions and a sack. It ended with a 70.8 completion percentage, 8.0 yards per attempt and back-to-back scoring drives, cementing his role as the Eagles’ backup — if there was ever a debate. Cody Kessler was ineffective in two series.

Grade: B+

Running backs

Corey Clement: 7 ATT, 25 YDS

Better game from Clement than the numbers would indicate. The third-year ball carrier looked spry in his return to action, and the extended first-half look suggests the Eagles might have plans for him this season. Josh Adams added 18 yards on seven rushes and an 18-yard reception.

Grade: B

Wide receivers and tight ends

JJ Arcega-Whiteside: 8 REC, 104 YDS, TD

Monster game for Arcega-Whiteside. The rookie wideout reeled in all but one pass that came his way, including a 20-yard score and a 35-yard catch-and-run. Greg Ward impressed again with four receptions for 45 yards, and tight end Alex Ellis pitched in a nine-yard touchdown.

Grade: A

Offensive line

The starting O-line sans Lane Johnson looked like to be in midseason form, with Halapoulivaati Vaitai notably coming along at right guard, and Jordan Mailata largely solid filling in at right tackle. Pre-snap penalties were an issue for the backups, though the unit rebounded some in the second half.

Grade: B-

Defensive line

Daeshon Hall: 2 QBH

Quiet night for Hall compared to previous weeks, though he was the only Eagles defender credited with a quarterback hit for the entire game. Treyvon Hester did have a sack erased by a Shareef Miller facemask, but the pass rush was nonexistent otherwise. Opposing running backs were limited to 2.3 yards per carry against a stout front, however.

Grade: C

Linebackers

T.J. Edwards: 7 TKL, 1 TFL

Edwards led the Eagles in tackles but was far from the only linebacker heavily involved in the action. L.J. Fort was good for four tackles, including two tackles for loss, while Alex Singleton notched a TFL as well.

Grade: B+

Defensive backs 

Rodney McLeod: 3 TKL, TFL

Good to see McLeod healthy, flying around the field and playing aggressively, but the secondary took its lumps, especially when the backups came in. Ravens quarterback Trace McSorley completed 16 of 24 passes for 203 yards with two touchdowns in the first half, picking on Eagles cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon early and often.

Grade: C-

Special teams

Boston Scott: 4 KR, 21.5 AVG

The Eagles’ average starting field position in the first half was their own 23-yard line. Some of that was penalties, and some of it was Scott’s pedestrian kick returns. Even more concerning was Jake Elliott’s missed field goal from 41 yards.

Grade: C-

Coaching

Agree or disagree with the decision to hold Carson Wentz out of the preseason entirely, all that matters is none of starters got hurt.

Grade: N/A

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Jalen Mills has always had the swagger that amps up his teammates

Jalen Mills has always had the swagger that amps up his teammates

A few weeks ago, days before his season debut, Jalen Mills stood by his locker at the NovaCare Complex and his voice barely rose above a whisper. The boisterous corner was uncharacteristically quiet. 

Mills was conserving energy. He knew he needed it because he knows his teammates feed off it. 

If there’s one word to describe Mills, it’s swagger. And that swagger is the hallmark of the Eagles’ green-haired, finger-wagging, trash-talking, dance-crazy, fashion-forward, always-confident cornerback. 

It always has been. 

“My mom always taught me to express yourself,” Mills said. “Whether it’s by dancing, hyping guys up, whatever it may be. Just always express yourself.” 

Although they sometimes get used interchangeably, confidence and swagger are much different. Plenty of confident people are quiet; Mills isn’t one of them. While confidence is internal, swagger is its physical manifestation. True swagger can’t come without confidence. 

Mills has both in heaps. 

Confidence is a necessity for an NFL cornerback because if you’re an NFL cornerback, you’re going to get beat. And after you get beat, you’re gonna have to stand back on that field, look across at Julio Jones or Amari Cooper or Odell Beckham Jr. and fully expect to shut them down. 

Since Mills returned to the lineup a month ago, he has helped stabilized a secondary that desperately needed it. He’s done it with his play, but don’t discount the energy and, yes, the swagger that he brings to the Eagles’ defense. 

The origin 

When you ask Mills for the origin of his confidence, you get an interesting answer. 

“Adversity,” he said. “I’ve been faced with adversity my whole life. I’ve lost a lot and I always had to get back up. It’s just natural.” 

That has served Mills well in his football career. The ability to bounce back from adversity is an important trait for an NFL cornerback. 

Even in his early days as a football player Mills was a frequent dancer, but his signature finger wag didn’t until come much later. He thinks he started using the finger wag his senior year at LSU a few years after seeing Morris Claiborne do it. 

Claiborne was the No. 6 pick in 2012, but in 2011 had a breakout season and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back. Mills was a senior in high school in 2011, ready to follow in Claiborne’s footsteps at LSU. 

“He used to always do it,” Mills said. “You see older guys going to your school and you look up to them. It kind of translated over.”

Early in his NFL career, Mills said he wasn’t really able to have the swagger he does now. It wasn’t because he lacked confidence, but because as a rookie, he was just concerned about getting everything right and learning the defense. A few years later, he’s not worried about making mistakes anymore; he’s free. 

But even before he became the Green Goblin, his teammates and coaches saw glimpses of his personality and confidence when Mills was a rookie seventh-round pick in 2016. 

“I love the hell out of that kid. I really do,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said in December of 2016, Mills’ rookie year. “He’s a competitor. People talk about speed, people talk about ability to play the ball. To me, the number one criteria for playing corner is you have to be a competitor, and he is.”

It rubs off 

Mills was a rotational player as a rookie, but became a starter during the 2017 Super Bowl season and has been a starter, when healthy, ever since. 

And his Green Goblin persona has grown. 

“I didn’t notice that just when I got here,” fellow cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc said. “I noticed that from being on opposing teams, watching film. Like, ‘damn, that 31, he got that dawg in him. He’s gonna bark, but then he gonna bite. He’s not all bark. His play back it up.’ You know what I’m saying? 

“It’s football. You’re going to get beat sometimes, but you’re going to win some, you’re going to lose some. J don’t shy away from that. He likes to compete.” 

Rasul Douglas says every player in the Eagles’ defensive back room has a role. It’s clear that Mills’ job is to bring energy before and during games. It’s a role he takes seriously. And Mills feeds off energy from his teammates too. 

But even his non-defensive back teammates say Mills provides juice for the whole defense. In recent weeks, it’s shown. 

“Even outside of football, I’m a big energy guy,” Mills said. “I can feel somebody’s energy whether they’re up or down. I don’t even have to know them. So I know for sure that it rubs off on guys. I just try to, when I’m out there having fun, whether I’m dancing or doing whatever, I try to get guys into it. You may have guys that are so locked in, but the end of the day, this is a game we’ve been playing since we were 7, 8, 9 years old, so have fun too.”

No one seems to have more fun than Mills. 

There have been times during his three years in Philly where he’s been maligned by Eagles fans, but Mills’ confidence never wavered. He always believed in himself and based on the last few weeks, the Green Goblin has gained plenty of believers too. 

He’s played so well over these last few weeks, that maybe it’s time to start thinking about a possible extension for Mills, who is in a contract season. 

It’s been over three years since Mills showed up with green hair in July of 2016. He never thought it would last this long. 

“No,” Mills said with a smile. “But I think I’m gonna be stuck with it the rest of my career.”

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5 matchups to watch as Eagles host Seahawks in NFL Week 12

5 matchups to watch as Eagles host Seahawks in NFL Week 12

The Eagles (5-5) are coming off a loss to the Patriots and will host the Seahawks (8-2) at the Linc at 1 p.m. Sunday. 

The last time the Eagles beat the Seahawks was on the road in November of 2008. 

Here are five matchups to watch on Sunday: 

Andre Dillard vs. Jadeveon Clowney 

Because of Lane Johnson’s injury, Dillard is preparing for his first-career start at right tackle and he’ll likely see a ton of Clowney, who can absolutely wreck a game. We saw it a few weeks ago on national television. He has that type of just ruin-everything ability. 

For Dillard, he settled in nicely to his role as a left tackle when Jason Peters was out earlier in the season, but that’s the spot he’s played a long time and he hadn’t done a ton of cross-training in the NFL before this week. It’ll be a big test for him on Sunday. 

Russell Wilson vs. Eagles’ defense 

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is the favorite to win the NFL’s MVP award this season, but Wilson is probably second. The future Hall of Famer is having his best NFL season yet. 

He’s thrown for 2,737 yards with 23 touchdowns and two interceptions. And he also has 50 carries for 256 yards. Wilson is 30 now and he doesn’t run as much as he used to, but the threat is still there. 

Wilson is the best example of a do-everything quarterback in the NFL. 

“Well, there's scrambling quarterbacks, there's running quarterbacks, there's drop-back quarterbacks, there's quarterbacks that are good from the pocket, there's quarterbacks that are good outside of the pocket, there's quarterbacks that can throw on schedule, there's quarterbacks that can create on their own,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. 

“And he's all of the above. So I think that you layer all those things together, and it makes it a tough challenge. You have to defend perimeter plays like boots and play actions. You have to defend RPOs and zone reads. You have to defend off-schedule plays.

“But he can also be as good as anybody in the league when it comes to just dropping back and throwing it. He's very talented that way, and he can scramble not just for 1st downs, but he can scramble for big plays down the field. Just an excellent competitor, and it's a great challenge this week for us.”

It will be a big challenge and it’s really a challenge for the entire defense because of Wilson’s unique ability. 

In his career, Wilson is 3-0 against the Eagles with six touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also ran for a touchdown. In those three wins, the Seahawks have outscored the Eagles 74-39. 

D.K. Metcalf vs. Jalen Mills 

The comparisons between Metcalf and J.J.Arcega-Whiteside are unavoidable this week because the Eagles could have had Metcalf, who is well into a really impressive rookie season. The rookie receiver has 35 catches for 595 yards and five touchdowns this season. That’s an average of 17.0 yards per catch, a number Schwartz immediately brought up when asked about Metcalf on Tuesday. We bring this up because the Eagles’ secondary has solidified with Mills and Ronald Darby back, but the Eagles have given up plenty of big plays before. And this is a good trio of receivers: Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Josh Gordon, who was a mid-season addition. It’ll be a good test for a secondary that has looked much better for the last two games. A solid performance in this game would let us know this secondary is for real. 

Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert vs. Seahawks D 

Without competent receivers, the Eagles’ offense has become very dependent on Ertz and Goedert and the 12 personnel package. Even when the Patriots put almost all their attention on Ertz last week, he still had nine catches for 94 yards. And in his last two games, Ertz has 18 catches for 197 yards and a touchdown. Even when opposing teams try to stop him, he’s a threat. And Goedert has proven to be a weapon too. He has four touchdowns this season in 10 games and has been a steady contributor. 

The good news for the Eagles is that the Seahawks have struggled against tight ends this season. They’ve given up 51 catches, 615 yards and four touchdowns to tight ends. The Seahawks have given up 61.5 yards per game to opposing tight ends, ranking them fifth-worst in the NFL. And that’s with missing George Kittle in Week 10 because he was inactive. 

Seahawks’ OL vs. Eagles’ pass rushers

Despite his elusiveness, Wilson has been sacked 27 times this season. Just six quarterbacks have been taken down more. The reason for this is that the Seahawks’ offensive line hasn’t been very good, partially because injuries have really hurt them. The only guy on the line to start every game this season is right tackle Germain Ifedi. The Seahawks are going to try to run with Chris Carson, but the Eagles’ still have a really good run defense. The plan this week, like it always is for the Eagles, is to stop the run. If they can pin their ears back against this offensive line, they have a chance to be really disruptive.

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