Eagles' 0-2 preseason start no reason to panic

Eagles' 0-2 preseason start no reason to panic

The way things are going, the Eagles are going to have a tough time winning that preseason Lombardi Trophy. They’re 0-2 in the preseason, and for the first time in over 40 years, they’ve lost both of their first two preseason games by at least 17 points.

All of which means precisely nothing.

If we haven’t learned yet, we’ll never learn. Preseason scores mean nothing. Preseason records mean nothing. Getting a team ready for the regular season is all that matters.

This is a time to count down the days until the Eagles begin defense of their NFL championship. Not a time to panic. Or even be concerned.

If Bill Belichick wants to play Tom Brady for a full half and blitz and stunt more than most teams in a preseason game? Let him have his fun. Doesn’t change what happened Feb. 4 in Minneapolis.

This is a very talented, very deep Eagles team, and there’s no reason to think they’re not primed for another deep run.

Yeah, the offense looks out of sync. But Doug Pederson isn’t game planning for anybody right now. There’s no reason to. Two years ago, when Pederson was a rookie coach trying to establish a culture, he thought his team needed to learn how to win, and the Eagles went 4-0 in the preseason. That summer, that’s what that group needed.

Now? The explosive offense that roared to the Super Bowl title is under wraps and stays that way until Sept. 6.

And no Jason Peters, no Darren Sproles, no Nelson Agholor, no Carson Wentz doesn’t help.

Of that group, Wentz is the only one who might not be ready by opening day. And I still think he’s going to play against the Falcons.

But even if he doesn’t, I never worry about Nick Foles and how bad he looks in the preseason because as we learned last winter, when it’s go time, he’s ready. Foles has this weird ability to look really, really bad until he has to look good. And then he plays lights out.

Alshon Jeffery is a concern, but he’ll be back eventually. And if the price of his absence now is his performance down the stretch and in the playoffs, nobody would say it wasn’t worth it.

With Jeffery rehabbing, we’ve seen Shelton Gibson blossom (see story). I love what I’ve seen from Gibson, and his growth from a guy who was lost last year into the confident playmaker we’ve seen the last couple weeks is remarkable. He's going to help this team.

This is a deep, talented group of wideouts, and if the Eagles have to line up a couple weeks with Agholor, Mike Wallace, Gibson and say Kamar Aiken and Mack Hollins alongside Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert and a couple exceptional pass-catching backs? They’ll be fine.

And while we’ve focused on a disappointing battle for the fourth running back spot, Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Sproles are all healthy and ready to go. That’s a heck of a running back room.

OK, let’s take a look at where the first-team defense is halfway through the preseason.

They allowed two yards in two drives against a collection of Steelers starters and backups. Good start.

And Thursday night they played three series against Brady and Co. They were on the field 21 plays against Brady and other than the three personal fouls, which is something they need to learn from, they really just allowed two bad plays — a James White run that went for 22 yards (that Jordan Hicks probably should have stuffed at the line of scrimmage) and a short Brady pass to White that was nicely blocked and went for 18 yards.

And one touchdown that came when Brady got a favorable matchup in the end zone between a seventh-year veteran wide receiver and a rookie slot corner, Avonte Maddox.

Maddox allowing a TD to Tom Brady isn’t cause for concern. It’s tremendous experience for a 22-year-old playing in his second NFL preseason game against the greatest of all time.

The Eagles didn’t care about this game. Sure seemed like the Patriots did.

Brady threw more passes than he’s thrown in any preseason game sine 2006 and more than he’s ever thrown in a second preseason game. In 19 seasons.

Pederson has nothing to prove in August. Not anymore.

So for the Eagles, these games are to get long looks at the young guys, to experiment with players in various positions and groupings, to get veterans work when they need it, and to prepare for the regular season.

Things can look pretty ugly in preseason football when you’re not trying to win.

For the Eagles, it’s all about being ready on Sept. 6.

And they will be ready. No matter what we're seeing now.

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Eagles NFL draft options at 25: Jerry Tillery

Eagles NFL draft options at 25: Jerry Tillery

Jerry Tillery arrived at Notre Dame as an offensive lineman, and with his quickness and athleticism he probably would have been a pretty good one. But he moved to defense as a freshman, and the move certainly paid off.

Tillery had some issues early in his career. He was suspended for the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State as a freshman for violating team rules and in a game against USC as a sophomore got into trouble for stepping on a player’s leg and kicking another player while he was on the ground. But he grew into a leader and one of the most dominating interior linemen in the country.

Tillery blossomed as a junior with nine tackles for loss and 4 ½ sacks and earned All-America status this past year with 10 ½ TFLs and eight sacks. At 6-6, 295, Tillery is a force against the run but also a ferocious pass rusher. Tillery is still raw and prone to occasional technique breakdowns, but his upside is off the charts.

Current roster at DT: The Eagles desperately need help at defensive tackle behind projected starters Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson. With Haloti Ngata retired, the only other interior linemen on the roster are former practice squadders like Treyvon Hester and Bruce Hector. 

How he would fit: He’d play immediately. The combination of Hester, Hector, Ngata and Detiny Vaeao played more than 800 combined snaps on defense last year, so if ideally Cox and Jackson play about 75 percent of the snaps, that leaves about 35 snaps per game for the third defensive tackle. Perfect for a rookie.

Eagles history at DT in draft: The Eagles have taken four defensive tackles in the first round since 2000 – Corey Simon, Mike Patterson, Brodrick Bunkley and Cox. All but Patterson were among the first 14 picks. Only the Rams and Jaguars have also taken four tackles since 2000. Before that there was Leonard Renfro in 1993 and Jerome Brown in 1987.

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Other options at 25 

Are Eagles more likely to trade up or down in 2019 draft?

Are Eagles more likely to trade up or down in 2019 draft?

During his joint 42-minute pre-draft media availability this week, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was asked a simple question: 

Are you more interested in trading up or down in the first round? 

His answer was not nearly as simple: 

Who’s on the board? What’s the value? What are we getting?

His point, of course, was that they’ll have to see how the first round is going before figuring out whether or not they’d be willing to trade up to target a player or trade back to acquire more draft picks. At No. 25, it seems like they’re in a good position to do either. And Roseman is never shy about making draft-day trades. 

I still think the Eagles are more likely to trade up to get what Roseman calls a “difference-maker,” but that doesn’t mean a trade down isn’t possible. 

Remember, for Roseman, the draft isn’t about just getting good players; it’s about getting good players for good value. Earlier this week, Roseman outlined three reasons to make a trade in the first round: 

1. Trading up: If there’s a fall-off point in talent in the first round, it makes sense to move up to get a difference-maker. The Eagles are sitting at 25, so if they have 20 players they think are first-round worthy (even though their grading scale doesn’t work by round), there’s a chance they’ll have to move up to get one of those top players. They’ll do their research, but won’t truly know if one of those top-tier players will be available at 25 until the players start getting picked off the board. 

2. Trading down: If the Eagles are on the clock at 25 and they have, say, four players who are graded equally or close to it, they could add value by moving back three or four spots. They would get more or better later-round picks and still get a player they view as an equal to whomever they’d get at 25. 

3. Trading down: If they’re on the clock at 25 and they don’t think any of the players are worthy of that pick, they can hope someone else sees value there. In that case, they can trade back and get into a pocket of that round or the next round where they’d feel more comfortable making a pick. 

Since he became the Eagles’ GM in 2010, Roseman has been in charge of eight drafts (not including the 2015 draft under Chip Kelly). In those eight years, he has made 25 draft-day trades and four of them include first rounders. That’s over 3.0 per year and he’s never not made a trade during the draft. (This doesn’t include the two trades in 2016 to get in position to draft Carson Wentz; those happened before the draft.) 

Of the four Round 1 trades, two were to trade up, two were to trade down. 

• In 2010, the Eagles traded picks Nos. 24, 70 and 87 to move up to No. 13 to draft Brandon Graham. 

• In 2012, the Eagles traded Nos. 15, 114 and 172 to move up to No. 12 to draft Fletcher Cox. 

• In 2014, the Eagles traded No. 22 down to No. 26 to draft Marcus Smith. The Browns wanted Johnny Manziel. The Eagles also got No. 83. 

• In 2018, the Eagles traded out of the first round (No. 32) when the Ravens wanted to draft Lamar Jackson. The Birds ended up trading back up higher in the second to take Dallas Goedert the next day. 

Roseman has talked before about the usual talent cutoff in first rounds. There are only a certain amount of “difference-makers” atop every draft — it differs by team — and on Tuesday, he said most drafts don’t have “32 legitimate first round grades” on players. He, of course, didn’t say whether or not this is one of those years, as to not tip his hand. But the Eagles are already running through all the hypothetical situations. And this is the time where preliminary phone calls between teams about draft-day intentions start happening. Roseman always says trades happen because of relationships around the league. 

So the reason Roseman didn’t answer the question on Tuesday is because he probably really doesn’t know what’s going to happen when the draft kicks off. He certainly has more of an idea than he let on — I still think the Eagles are in prime trade up territory — but there’s no point in tipping his hand. 

The only thing we know for certain: Roseman isn’t one to shy away from draft-day moves, so there’s a good chance we see one again next week. 

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