FOXBORO, Mass. — Nate Sudfeld slinging it all over the field, Nick Foles struggling, Shelton Gibson’s remarkable growth, and disappointing Eagles debuts for a couple veterans.
It was a mostly ugly performance Thursday night at Gillette Stadium for the Eagles.
Then again, they won the one that mattered.
Three weeks before opening day, here are our 10 instant observations from the Eagles’ 37-20 loss to the Patriots in the second preseason game of the summer for both teams (see breakdown).
1. Scary seeing Foles get banged up on one of Halapoulivaati Vaitai's several terrible snaps. You could see Foles was in a lot of pain as soon as he got hit by Adrian Clayborn, the Patriots’ veteran defensive end, but the diagnosis of strained shoulder was a huge relief. He wasn’t even taken inside for X-rays or an MRI, which is a really good sign. As for "Big V," he played so well down the stretch and in the postseason last year and especially in the Super Bowl, it’s surprising to see him struggle so much in a preseason game. But he had a rough night. It looks like the Eagles dodged a bullet with Foles. I’m not sure we’ll see him again in the preseason, but I would think he’d be fine by the opener if Carson Wentz isn’t ready and the Eagles need him.
2. As for Foles' performance … it was bad. Really bad. He’s a rhythm quarterback, and he never got into a rhythm against the team he performed so brilliantly against six months ago. The numbers were ugly in his 2018 debut: 3 for 9 for 44 yards before he got banged up. But I don’t worry about Foles. Ever. He missed a bunch of practice days, he wasn’t getting good protection, he was victimized by a couple drops, and he was out there without his top two wideouts. When the games matter, if he has to play, Foles will be fine.
3. I love watching Sudfeld play quarterback. I’m convinced he can play in this league. He’s got a tremendous touch on the mid-range and deep balls, he’s exceptional down near the end zone, and don’t forget he’s out there playing with backup linemen and receivers. He can sling it. That 57-yarder to Gibson over the top from the Eagles’ end zone was an absolutely ridiculous throw, and his touchdown to Rashard Davis in the left corner of the end zone was spectacular. Sudfeld threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns Thursday night and has now thrown five TDs in parts of two games this preseason. He does tend to sometimes hold onto the ball too long, but the kid is a talent, and the Eagles are going to get offers. That’s probably why they’re taking a look at Christian Hackenberg, in case they need another No. 3. Sudfeld can flat-out play in this league. I don’t know where, but he’s going to have a long career.
4. Love what I’m seeing from Gibson. To make a 53-man roster, you’ve got to be talented and you’ve got to be tough, and Gibson showed both those things Thursday night. He had a 46-yard kickoff return early, and then in the second quarter, after getting helped off the field with a right leg injury and examined for several minutes by trainers, he grabbed his helmet, went back in the game and caught a touchdown pass from Sudfeld on a nifty outside move. That’s two weeks in a row with a TD catch for Gibson. Then he pulled in that 57-yarder in the third quarter and finished with five catches for 90 yards. He’s made an astonishing leap from last year, hasn’t he? Impressive stuff. He’s got the team made. And not only does he have the team made, he’s worked his way right into the WR rotation.
5. One guy who looks great is Jordan Hicks. He’s really made a miraculous recovery from a very serious Achilles injury, and he looks as good as new. Hicks has been very active and physical in these two preseason games, and most importantly he’s healthy.
6. The refs flagged Rodney McLeod, Nigel Bradham and Jeremy Reaves for personal fouls for lowering their head to initiate contact, and like it or not, that’s going to be called all year, and the Eagles need to understand that and adjust accordingly. Now, the rule is probably being called closer in the preseason than it will be during the regular season. That’s always the way it is with a new rule or interpretation. But with 15 yards at stake every time you get called, these guys need to learn what the NFL is looking for very quickly.
7. What a disappontment Matt Jones has been. Jones made his Eagles debut Thursday night after missing the Steelers game, and it was pretty much a disaster. This is a kid who was among the NFL’s leading rushers in 2016 before he got hurt, and he should really flash playing against backups. He should dominate. But he was 6 for 19 rushing and dropped three passes, including one that was intercepted. It’s hard to imagine him helping this team. Or any team.
8. That battle for the fourth running back spot isn’t going well for anybody right now. Josh Adams was out Thursday, Donnel Pumphrey hasn't played, Jones was terrible in his debut, and Wendell Smallwood got only four carries against the Patriots and managed just one yard, although it didn’t look like he had anywhere to run on two of those down at the goal line.
9. Wasn’t the best debut for Mike Wallace. Had one drop, had another that wasn’t quite a drop but he should have caught, and finished with no catches. The Eagles are going to need Wallace if Alshon Jeffery isn’t ready for the opener. I don’t generally worry about veterans like Wallace. They know how to turn it on when the regular season arrives. He looks fast in practice and I know he can catch the ball. But he won’t play in the preseason finale in two weeks against the Jets, so that Browns game next Thursday becomes big for him to come away with a few positives.
10a. I’m going to keep raving about Dallas Goedert. He just doesn’t look like a rookie. I don’t know if there’s enough footballs to go around, but I see him as a 35-40 catch guy now. He followed his 4 for 66 against Pittsburgh with a 3 for 57 against the Patriots. Impressive kid.
10b. Finally this: Two hours before kickoff, Jason Peters was in the north end zone working for quite a while with Taylor Hart, "Big V," Jordan Mailata and a couple of the other young offensive linemen. Peters isn’t playing or practicing yet, but what this guy does solely for the good of the team is remarkable. He’s really like another coach out there. For a future Hall of Famer to be so generous and so giving of his time and knowledge just speaks volumes about what kind of person J.P. is.
(Reuben Frank/NBC Sports Philadelphia)