Eagles

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Patriots preseason game

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Patriots preseason game

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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)

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Eagle Eye Podcast: Any interest in Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown?

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Eagle Eye Podcast: Any interest in Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown?

On this edition of Eagle Eye, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro discuss who the best quarterbacks were in the NFC East last season. 

Do either see the Eagles making a push for Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown?

Who have been the funniest, most underrated and most overrated players the guys have covered throughout their careers? 

1:00 - Rankings the NFC East quarterbacks.
10:30 - Will the Eagles be interested in Bell or Brown?
23:30 - Roob and Dave ask and answer random questions to and from one another.
24:00 - Favorite/least favorite road city.
27:00 - Which player do you want to host a podcast with?
29:00 - Funniest player you've ever been around?
33:00 - If you're in a bar fight, which former player do you want with you?
35:30 - Favorite current Eagle to interview?
39:00 - Most overrated/underrated player you covered?
43:00 - Guys answer questions from listeners.

Subscribe and rate the Eagle Eye podcast: 
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Was Carson Wentz the best QB in NFC East last year?

Was Carson Wentz the best QB in NFC East last year?

Carson Wentz returned from a serious ACL/LCL tear in Week 3 in 2018 and then his season ended early with a stress fracture in his back. But in the middle of all that, he actually put together some good numbers. 

This recent tweet from ProFootballFocus grabbed my attention. 

Yeah, they actually ranked Wentz as the best quarterback in the NFC East despite coming back from the knee injury and playing through a back fracture. My colleague Reuben Frank already dispelled 10 myths about Wentz (see story) and a lot of them were about the Eagles with Wentz vs. the Eagles with Nick Foles. I don’t want this to digress into the Foles vs. Wentz debate. 

I just want to take a closer look at how Wentz stacked up against the rest of the quarterbacks in the NFC East. Was he really the division’s best quarterback even with these injuries? 

Here’s a look at their overall numbers from the regular season: 

Carson Wentz: 11 games, 5-6, 69.6%, 3,074 yards, 21 TDs, 7 INT, 102.2 passer rating
Nick Foles: 5 games, 4-1, 72.3%, 1,413 yards, 7 TDs, 4 INT, 96.0 passer rating
Dak Prescott: 16 games, 10-6, 67.7%, 3,885, 22 TDs, 8 INT, 96.9 passer rating 
Alex Smith: 10 games, 6-4, 62.5%, 2,180, 10 TDs, 5 INT, 85.7 passer rating 
Eli Manning: 16 games, 5-11, 66%, 4,299, 21 TDs, 11 INT, 92.4 passer rating 

The thing that stands out there are the records. The Eagles were 5-6 with Wentz at quarterback, but I’ve always been hesitant to use wins as a QB stat. Sure, the QB plays a major role in them, but it’s a team stat that gets transferred to individuals.

Anyway, let’s take a closer look at a few of these stats with help from ProFootballReference: 

Passer rating

Wentz: 102.2 
Prescott: 96.9 
Foles: 96.0 
Manning: 92.4 
Smith: 85.7 

I know passer rating is an imperfect measure, but it’s still generally a really good indicator of quarterback play. It takes into account completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns and interceptions. 

Wentz actually improved his passer rating from 101.9 in 2017 to 102.2 in 2018. Those two passer rating numbers are the third- and fourth-best passer ratings in Eagles history (minimum 300 attempts) behind Foles in 2013 (119.2) and Donovan McNabb in 2004 (104.7). Wentz is now the only Eagles QB to have two seasons of passer ratings over 100.

Completion percentage

Foles: 72.3 percent
Wentz: 69.6 percent
Prescott: 67.7 percent
Manning: 66 percent
Smith: 62.5 percent 

Foles and Wentz saw huge jumps in their completion percentage. The highest completion percentage Foles ever had in a season before 2018 was when he completed 65.5 percent of his passes as a backup in KC. Even in his 2013 year, he completed just 64 percent of his passes. 

As for Wentz, he had a goal to improve his completion percentage and, boy, did he do that. He had a near-MVP season in 2017 but completed just 60.2 percent of his passes. He improved that to 69.6 percent in 2018. 

Yards per game 

Foles: 282.6 
Wentz: 279.5

Manning: 268.7
Prescott: 242.8
Smith: 218

The Eagles’ two quarterbacks were pretty close in yards per game. The crazy thing is that the Eagles have never had a 4,000-yard passer in franchise history and both of these guys would have been on pace if they played 16 games. Wentz improved his yards per game from 253.5 to 279.5 from 2017 to 2018. He has improved in this category in each of his three NFL seasons. 

For as long as Manning has been in the NFL, he’s had just one season averaging more than 279.5 yards per game. Prescott set his own personal high this season. And Smith’s career high is 269.5 from his time in Kansas City. 

TDs per game 

Wentz: 1.9 
Foles: 1.4 

Prescott: 1.38
Manning: 1.31
Smith: 1.0 

This one is obviously huge. Since the start of the 2017 season, Wentz has thrown a ton of touchdowns. And in his first three seasons, Wentz has thrown 70 touchdowns; ninth-most ever in the first three years of a career. 

INTs per game

Prescott: 0.50
Smith: 0.50
Wentz: 0.64 
Manning: 0.69
Foles: 0.80

This is obviously in reverse order. Foles threw the most interceptions per game, while Wentz was in the middle. After throwing 14 interceptions as a rookie (in 16 games), Wentz has thrown 14 in 2017 and 2018 combined (24 games). Among the nine QBs who have thrown at least 70 touchdowns in their first three seasons, Wentz’s interception percentage (1.93) is the second-best.

— 

So what does all this mean? Well, it means what we’ve been saying for a while now: Despite the injuries, Wentz was still pretty good in 2018. He’s not absolved for the team’s struggles early in the season, but it would be foolish to pin those struggles and that record entirely on him. Had the Eagles won a few of those close games — Tennessee, Carolina, both Dallas games — perhaps we’d look back on Wentz’s 2018 season much differently. 

Was he the best QB in the NFC East in 2018? I don’t know. But, if he stays healthy, I think he’s going to be the best QB in the NFC East for a long time to come.

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