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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