Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Jaguars

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE — The Eagles keep losing quarterbacks at an alarming rate, although some good things came out of their 24-10 preseason win over the Jaguars Thursday night at TIAA Bank Field. The loss of Cody Kessler to a concussion a week after Nate Sudfeld broke his wrist puts the Eagles in a difficult position 23 days before opening day.

And I think by this point nobody in their right mind wants to see Carson Wentz before Sept. 8.

Here are some observations on the Eagles’ QB situation and a bunch of other stuff off the second of four games in a way-too-long preseason:

1) At their current rate, the Eagles are going to get four quarterbacks hurt this preseason. With Wentz and Clayton Thorson their only healthy QBs with two preseason games remaining, you would think they have no choice now but to sign a quarterback. Who knows, maybe they would just keep running Thorson out there and use Braxton Miller or Greg Ward — who were both big-time college quarterbacks — if the rookie gets hurt. But Sudfeld isn’t expected back until a few weeks into the regular season, and you never know how long anybody will take to be cleared after suffering a concussion. It’s hard to imagine going into the regular season with just Wentz and Thorson. But you also can’t bring in a quarterback cold 23 days before opening day and realistically expect him to be ready to play. Someone who knows the offense? Christian Hackenberg, who was here last preseason? No thanks. It has to be someone like Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown or Brock Osweiler, veterans who were in the league last year and wouldn’t need a long process to become football ready. Sanchez and McCown have officially retired, but they’re out there. What about Colin Kaepernick? I answer that here. Precarious situation.

2) That said, Thorson played well Thursday night, leading three TD drives, including one of 87 yards and one of 90 yards. A week after a lost debut against the Titans, the rookie fifth-round pick threw a 38-yard touchdown to Ward on a 4th-and-7, had a real nice 3rd-and-7 conversion to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, converted another 4th down with a 25-yard strike to Will Tye and finished 16-for-26 for 175 yards, a TD and an interception off the hands of rookie DeAndre Thompkins that wasn’t his fault. Thorson definitely calmed down after last week and made some throws that honestly we haven’t even seen him make in practice. Interesting question: If Thorson continues to play well and Kessler doesn’t play again in the preseason, do you make Thorson your No. 2 until Sudfeld comes back if Kessler is healthy? Have you seen enough from Kessler to trust him? There’s a lot to sort out, but definitely an encouraging night for the rookie from Northwestern.

3) Seeing the improvement Thorson made in just a week really speaks volumes about the Eagles’ offensive coaches, especially quarterbacks coach Press Taylor, and the work they do behind the scenes. Thorson was so bad last week he had a passer rating of 0.0. But he looked like a different guy against the Jaguars. Obviously, he has a long way to go, but for a fifth-round rookie, you look for improvement, and we definitely saw it last night.

4) A couple encouraging signs from two young defensive ends. Daeshon Hall, a third-round pick of the Panthers just two years ago, had two sacks, including his second strip-sack in two weeks, and Shareef Miller, the Penn State rookie from Northeast Philly, also picked up his second sack in two weeks and had a tackle for loss. Josh Sweat had a couple moments, too.

5) Linebacker Zach Brown flashed again, and that’s good news for a team that’s still missing its two best linebackers — Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill. Brown is a little limited in what he can do. You probably don’t want him out there in coverage on 3rd-and-8. But considering the state of the Eagles’ linebacking corps in general, it’s definitely encouraging seeing Brown so active and physical. 

6) I really think the Eagles have themselves a running back in Miles Sanders. He only got five carries Thursday night and only has eight in two games, but we saw last night what we’ve seen all along in practice, a shifty, decisive back who has the ability to get yards after initial contact. Sanders had a 12-yarder and a 16-yarder and finished 5-for-31. Still not enough work to get into any kind of rhythm, but you have to like what you see.

7) With the Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard additions, Josh Adams has been kind of a forgotten guy this summer, but last year’s Eagles rushing leader had himself a nice game and did two things he wasn’t able to do last year. Adams, who didn’t look like much of a receiver last year (seven catches all year), looked very comfortable taking a short pass from Thorson and navigating traffic for a 19-yard gain in the third quarter. The Eagles have worked a lot with Adams in the receiving game, and that’s a play he wouldn’t have made last year. Adams also had a one-yard TD run, which is notable since he was an NFL-worst 0-for-7 last year on 3rd- and 4th-and-1 (or goal). Adams is still facing an uphill battle to get back on the 53 man roster and the fumbles are still a concern, but it’s nice to see improvement from Year 1 to Year 2.

8) Every time I start to worry about Jake Elliott, he makes a huge kick. He crushed a 52-yarder against the Jaguars a week after hitting a 53-yarder against the Titans. His lack of consistency still concerns me — he missed a 40-yarder last week. If he can just make the kicks he’s supposed to make, he can play here for a decade.

9) I’ve liked Greg Ward since he first got here back in 2017. He’s smooth and fast and for a guy who played QB in college, he catches the ball really well. He’s also an active special teamer and when it comes down to picking the bottom of the roster receivers he’s making a case for himself. You saw his athleticism on that 4th-down 42-yard TD Thursday night, and you saw his versatility on his incomplete pass down the field. It wasn’t complete, but you know Doug Pederson would love to keep a guy who has the versatility to make big plays in a few different ways. 

10) One guy we really haven’t talked at all about this summer is tight end Josh Perkins, but he’s had a really nice camp, he catches everything, and with Richard Rodgers sidelined for close to two weeks now, Perkins has put himself in position for a possible roster spot. Perkins isn’t considered a great blocker on the line of scrimmage, but he had a fantastic block down the field on the Ward touchdown Thursday night.

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The 1 thing Eagles desperately need to fix after loss to Patriots

The 1 thing Eagles desperately need to fix after loss to Patriots

The Eagles on Sunday had their worst third-down game of the season. 

That was largely because they made it really tough on themselves. 

The Birds converted just 3 of 13 chances on third downs against the Patriots, but nine of those 13 attempts came on 3rd-and-8 or longer. They converted just one of those nine and their average yardage to gain on third downs against the Patriots was 8.32. 

It’s hard to convert in situations like that. 

“That's the thing,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “I think we were in too many 2nd-and-longs. I think we had 12 or more. I think second down and eight, nine plus, and then 3rd-and-8, we had like another eight or nine of those in the game Sunday. You can't — it's hard to overcome.”

Of those nine 3rd-and-longs, three of them were set up by penalties earlier in the set of downs: An ineligible man downfield, and two false starts. Another was set up by a sack. 

To put it really simply: the Eagles have to try to either avoid third downs altogether or pick up yards on first and second downs to give themselves a chance. 

“So that's an emphasis this week,” Pederson said. “We've have to do better on first and second down; obviously that helps third down. If you can create more first downs to eliminate the third down overall, that's even better. But we know that we have to keep it a little bit more manageable.”

Under Pederson, the Eagles have now had eight games in which they’ve converted on 25 percent or fewer third down opportunities and they’re 2-6 in those games. In the NFL this season, teams that have been under 25 percent on third downs are 16-49. 

So you can win without being good on third downs, but it’s really hard. 

Coming into last weekend, the Eagles were actually third in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage at 48.4 percent and after last week’s mess, they’re still fifth in the NFL at 46.0 percent. 

Even with all their offensive shortcomings this year, that’s a pretty significant jump from the 41 percent (12th in the NFL) last season. 

Situational football was a big emphasis for the Eagles this offseason and third downs were certainly included in that. And it’s made a difference. But they really can’t afford to have games like the one they did against the Patriots. This offense lacks firepower, so playing behind the sticks is a recipe for disaster. 

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Why did Eagles draft JJ Arcega-Whiteside over D.K. Metcalf?

Why did Eagles draft JJ Arcega-Whiteside over D.K. Metcalf?

It’s hard not to compare J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and D.K. Metcalf.

They play the same position, they were taken seven spots apart in this year’s draft, and they’ll both be playing at the Linc on Sunday.

Through 10 games?

Metcalf has 35 catches for 595 yards, 23 first downs and five touchdowns.

Arcega-Whiteside has 3 catches for 43 yards, 1 first down and no touchdowns.

It’s still awfully early. But so far the Seahawks’ rookie has a monumental edge in production.

Doug Pederson said Wednesday that the Eagles liked Metcalf coming out of Mississippi. 

They just liked Arcega-Whiteside better. 

“We liked the player,” Pederson said. “He’s a big, powerful, physical guy, and he had some really good tape out there. And then we also liked J.J. We loved his size, his ability to play above the rim so to speak in the red zone and things like that. Similar players and made the decision with J.J. and we’ve been happy with that.”

The Eagles took JJAW with the 57th pick in this year’s draft, and the Seahawks selected Metcalf at No. 64. 

Metalf’s 595 receiving yards leads all NFL rookies, and Redskins rookie Terry McLaurin, a 3rd-round pick, is second with 566. 

The Eagles could have had either one. 

Metcalf and McLaurin are tied with the second-most receptions this year by rookies, three fewer than 49ers wideout Deebo Samuel, the 36th pick out of South Carolina. 

The only Seahawk in franchise history with more yards in his first 10 games of his career than Metcalf is Joey Galloway, a high 1st-round pick who had 650 in 1995.  

Metcalf has played 577 snaps. Arcega-Whiteside has played 195 but only 62 in the last six games.

His 29-yard reception against the Patriots Sunday was his first catch since Week 3.

“He did some nice things in the game, even though the ball necessarily didn’t come his way,” Pederson said. “He ran some really good routes and he played physical. The signs of him getting work in practice kind of paid off in the game and it will just give him more confidence moving forward.”

With Alshon Jeffery’s status still up in the air, there’s a chance JJAW will get more work against the Seahawks.

But it won’t be as much as Metcalf.

The only person who can really explain why the Eagles liked Arcega-Whiteside more than Metcalf is Howie Roseman, and he doesn’t do interviews during the season.

So Pederson sometimes has to answer questions about personnel that really aren’t his department.

“Young players sometimes it just takes time,” Pederson said. “It takes time to settle into their role, to understand their role and then to understand our game, to be able to play fast and to be able to play at a high level, and he showed some of that Sunday.”

Metcalf has been showing that every Sunday. 

It’s still way too early to write off Arcega-Whiteside or speculate who’s going to end up having the better career. There is certainly no reason to think JJAW won’t become a key part of this offense. 

But something is holding him back right now. Whether it’s coaching or just a poor evaluation by Roseman and his scouts, something is keeping him off the field. 

Meanwhile, Metcalf is producing at a high level as a 21-year-old rookie for one of the NFL’s best teams. 

And the way the Eagles’ wide receivers have been playing, it’s hard not to wonder how things would have gone if the Eagles had taken Metcalf instead.

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