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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What landmark contracts for George Kittle, Travis Kelce mean for Zach Ertz

What landmark contracts for George Kittle, Travis Kelce mean for Zach Ertz

Updated: 4 p.m.

George Kittle and Travis Kelce didn’t just reset the tight end market on Thursday. They obliterated it. 

And you can bet Zach Ertz is taking note. 

The 49ers and Kittle agreed to a groundbreaking contract for the All-Pro tight end that comes with an average of $15 million per season. And then the Chiefs and Kelce agreed on a deal that came in a little under that. 

Ertz, 29, is still under contract through the 2021 season but is also in line for a contract extension of his own. And while you might not think he deserves as much money as Kittle or Kelce, Ertz might think so. 

Check out what Ertz said about the comparisons to Kittle and Kelce last week: 

I do consider myself in that upper echelon of guys, in that same tier with all those guys,” Ertz said last Friday. “I don’t mean any disrespect, but I think a lot of guys in this building feel the same way about me. I’m never in the business of comparing people. I think all three of us are at the top of our games, and I think we’re all perfect in the offense that we play in, honestly. I think we all have unique skill sets. We’re all very different, with some similarities. But overall I don’t think my game is any less than any of their games.

We’ll eventually find out if the front office agrees with him. Because the Eagles are going to face a really critical decision soon regarding Ertz. And the existence of Dallas Goedert only adds more layers to this situation. 

Ertz, 29, signed an extension in 2016 that gave him an average per year of $8.5 million. While he might not get to the $15 APY that Kittle just got, he’s going to aim to be in that area. That’s the natural progression of contracts in the NFL. My guess is he gets in the $11-13 million per season range, which is still a really big investment on a player who will likely be over 30 when that deal happens. 

For a long time, the market for tight ends has been really stagnant. The Jimmy Graham $10 million APY had been the benchmark until Austin Hooper passed that with a $10.5 APY this offseason. Now, Kittle and Kelce have demolished that. 

It’s also worth noting that NFL Network’s Mike Silver reported earlier this offseason that Ertz actually turned down a deal during the 2019 season that was more lucrative than the deal Hooper signed. That should give you an idea of Ertz’s mindset. (But it was the right decision; let Kittle or Kelce reset the market.) 

There’s no questioning what Ertz has meant to the Eagles offense. He’s been their leading receiver in each of the last four seasons and this is the guy who caught the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl! He’s in the middle of an absolutely tremendous career. 

Ertz last week emphasized his desire to play for the Eagles for his entire career. But it’s never that simple. 

Remember, Goedert is still just 25, he has two more years left on his rookie contract and is already a top 10 tight end in the NFL. And while Ertz has put up incredible — like Hall of Fame — receiving numbers, Goedert is definitely a more well-rounded player. Heck, ProFootballFocus actually ranked Goedert ahead of Ertz for the 2020 season.

The one thing that seems clear is that it’s going to be really hard to keep both talented tight ends long-term. 

If the Eagles want to keep Ertz, they’re going to have to give him a huge contract. These new tight end deals just created some framework and a potential obstacle. 

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Doug Pederson hints at big role for Greg Ward Jr. with Eagles this season  

Doug Pederson hints at big role for Greg Ward Jr. with Eagles this season  

Greg Ward Jr. became a great story for the Eagles last season, when he began the year on the practice squad and ended up being their best receiver down the stretch. 

But is he more than a good story? 

Doug Pederson seems to think so. 

The one thing now as he goes into this season, he's in that rotation, in that starting mix for us,” Pederson said on a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday. “It's just a matter of him embracing every day, getting better. Being a former quarterback, he understands our offense. Being in our offense, he knows the concepts and the routes. He and Carson (Wentz) have a really good feel for one another.

“I think for him now it's just a matter of continuing to get better each and every day and putting in the work. We expect some really big things from Greg. He can also be a leader. He can be a leader of that group. Him and DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, these guys, they can be leaders now and mentors to these young players.

In one year’s time, Ward has gone from practice squad player to being a leader in a wide receiver room that includes three draft picks, an undrafted rookie and a second-year draft pick. 

Ward, 25, is technically in Year 4 of his NFL career but he didn’t get a chance to play until the 2019 season and even then he didn’t play until November. 

Ward finished last season with 28 catches for 254 yards and a game-winning touchdown in a huge contest against Washington. 

Maybe Ward will never become a star player in the NFL, but he’s sure-handed, dependable and earned the trust of his quarterback and coaching staff last season. 

If you look at the Eagles’ group of receivers, Ward is probably the top candidate to win the slot job. DeSean Jackson is going to be the starting Z receiver and at the X the Eagles have Alshon Jeffery and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Rookie 1st-round pick Jalen Reagor is learning both outside spots. 

Eventually, could Reagor play in the slot? Absolutely. In fact, I’d love to see him in there because he’d bring an explosiveness to the position that Ward probably can’t offer. 

But Ward is going to play a lot in 2020. He’s going to have a chance to become more than a great story. 

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