Eagles

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Steelers preseason game

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Steelers preseason game

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The Eagles played football Thursday night for the first time since the Super Bowl, and like most preseason openers, there was a lot of ugliness, a lot of of mistakes, a lot of sloppy play but also plenty of encouraging signs (see breakdown).

Three more weeks of this and it’s time to do it for real. It can't come soon enough! 

Here are our 10 instant observations off the Eagles’ 31-14 loss to the Steelers at the Linc:

1. Honestly, I’m OK if the key guys on the starting defense don’t play again until Sept. 6. That won’t happen, but I just feel like this group is ready to go. I know the Steelers didn’t play several of their starters, including Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, but the Eagles’ first defense held Pittsburgh to two yards on two drives and then Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz correctly got it off the field just five minutes into the game. This front seven is lethal, and the secondary is stocked. The defense was very good last year, and it's even better now. There’s not much more I need to see before Sept. 6.

2. With 26- and 19-yard catches over the middle and a 15-yard catch and run for a touchdown, you guys all saw why I’ve been raving about Dallas Goedert all summer. He doesn’t carry himself like a rookie, and he doesn’t practice like a rookie, and he doesn’t play like a rookie. The drop was unfortunate, but it was also the first I’ve ever seen from Goedert, and he gets a Mulligan for a bad drop in his first pro game. The rookie tight end finished with four catches for 66 yards and a TD in his NFL debut despite playing only the first half. I like the way he runs routes, I like the way he secures the ball, I like the way he puts his head down and fights for extra yards, I like the way he blocks, I like everything about his game. I’ll keep saying this — Goedert is going to be a stud. Not next year, not sometime in the future. Now.

3. Nate Sudfeld was all over the place, but he did enough good things that overall I like what I saw. He did throw two interceptions, but it looked like on the second one Bryce Treggs ran the wrong route. Sudfeld was accurate (10 for 14, 71 percent), he got the ball in the end zone (TDs to Goedert and Shelton Gibson) and he showed great touch on a deep ball (63-yarder to Gibson). This is a kid who wasn’t even with the Eagles in training camp last summer and started the season on the practice squad. That first INT was bad, but I’m convinced he can play in the league, and nothing I saw Thursday night made me think otherwise. 

4. Sudfeld to Goedert for a touchdown has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? That's why I tweeted this late Thursday morning! 

5. Man, how about the way Gibson exploded on that deep ball? He separated easily from cornerback Dashaun Phillips and caught that bomb from Sudfeld cleanly and without breaking stride dashed into the end zone. Gibson has looked like a different guy than last year in practice, and it was really encouraging to see him carry that over onto the field on game night. Gibson’s longest catch in last year’s preseason went for 14 yards, and he actually had more yards on the TD (63) than all of last preseason (56) and then just one 11-yard catch all year. He just looks like a different guy. His confidence, shot last year, is sky high, and you saw it on that play. Gibson added a 14-yard catch from Joe Callahan late in the game, finishing 2 for 77. The Eagles have tremendous wide receiver depth this summer, and Gibson might be the most improved guy in the bunch.

6. I wasn’t crazy about Tre Sullivan’s effort on that JuJu Smith-Schuster touchdown. Sullivan was late getting over to help Rasul Douglas, and I watched the replay a bunch of times, and he just wasn’t running full tilt toward the play. And then Sullivan just kind of ran along with Smith-Schuster without at least trying to make a tackle. I like Sullivan, but you’re trying to make a 53-man roster and the Eagles just signed Corey Graham at your position, you need a little more effort than that.

7. Good night for Josh Adams. The undrafted rookie running back from Notre Dame was 6 for 30 rushing and caught two passes. Showed a nice burst, a good knack for finding the hole and fought through traffic. Wendell Smallwood had some nice runs but also a bad fumble (that the Eagles recovered). Donnel Pumphrey and Matt Jones didn't play, and they need to get healthy to get back in the mix because they lost ground to Adams Thursday night. The battle for that fourth running back spot behind Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles might go down to the wire, but safe to say that on a day when Smallwood fumbled and Pumphrey and Jones watched from the sidelines, Adams really helped himself.

8. Kamu Grugier-Hill has been almost exclusively a special teamer in his two seasons with the Eagles. He’s played 530 snaps on special teams and just 86 on defense — 53 of them in that meaningless season-ender last year against the Cowboys. But I’ll tell you what, he’s really active, instinctive and quick out there. I wonder about his size — he’s just 230 pounds — and how he can hold up over a full season, but right now he’s been the most impressive of the group in that competition for the weakside linebacker spot, and he showed up Thursday night. Nate Gerry didn’t do anything to hurt himself, but Grugier-Hill is just always around the football, and we saw that against the Steelers.

9. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Cameron Johnston, and the rookie from Ohio State has some big shoes to fill, but he crushed it Thursday night. The heir apparent to Donnie Jones averaged 44.0 yards on five punts, with three inside the 20. And that doesn’t even include an 81-yarder that was negated by a penalty on Richard Rodgers. The concern with Johnston isn’t his leg strength, it’s his consistency, but this was an auspicious debut.

10. It’s about time Clyde Simmons and Seth Joyner find their way into the Eagles' Hall of Fame. You’re talking about two of the greatest late-round picks in NFL history, eighth- and ninth-round picks in 1986 who went on to become flat-out studs. Those rounds don’t even exist anymore. Simmons' 121½ sacks ranked 10th in NFL history when he retired after the 2000 season, and Joyner remains the only player in NFL history with 50 sacks and 20 interceptions. Two all-time greats, and this is long overdue. Now we can work on getting Wes Hopkins and Andre Waters in. 

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Carson Wentz won't be elite until he learns to play a complete game

Carson Wentz won't be elite until he learns to play a complete game

ARLINGTON, Texas — He’s terrible. Then he’s great. And it keeps happening.

Over and over and over and over and over.

The Eagles are the worst first-quarter team in football, and Carson Wentz is one of the worst first-quarter quarterbacks in football, and it would be foolish to think there wasn’t a huge connection. 

He keeps getting off to terrible starts, then regrouping once the Eagles fall behind, finding his way, putting up big numbers late and most of the time, it’s too little, too late.

Sunday at AT&T Stadium, in one of the biggest games of Wentz's career, it was too little, too late.

Again.

Wentz threw for 48 yards in the first half with a fumble, then threw for 180 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the second half. 

His final numbers look great. But you can’t win like that. And even though Wentz led touchdown drives on the Eagles' last two possessions, the Cowboys won 29-23 in overtime.

Too little, too late. Again.

And Wentz’s slow starts are one of the big reasons the Eagles find themselves 6-7 and all but mathematically eliminated. 

Take a look at Wentz this year:

• First quarter: 46 for 74 (62 percent) for 481 yards with three TDs and three INTs and a 72.6 passer rating. Only Sam Darnold has a lower passer rating than Wentz this year in the first quarter.

• Second through fourth quarters: 232 for 324 (72 percent) for 2,577 yards with 18 touchdowns and four interceptions and a 108.3 passer rating.

Two different people.

“It’s frustrating,” Wentz said. “It’s absolutely frustrating. We just couldn’t execute (early), couldn’t sustain drives. … We obviously couldn’t get in a rhythm and started slow. It seems to be a common theme for us and it’s something we have to look hard at. It’s tough. It’s frustrating for sure.”

It keeps happening. And they have no answers. None of them.

The Eagles have been outscored 54-28 in the first quarter this year and 140-112 in the first half.

They’ve outscored their opponents 166-143 in the second half.

Sunday was typical. The Eagles didn’t score a point on their first six drives and averaged just 15 yards per possession as they fell behind 9-0.

Then they magically started rolling and scored 23 points on their last five drives. 

You can’t win like this.

How can Wentz look so bad early and so good late? Virtually every game? 

Nobody knows.

“Well, I think some of it, give credit to Dallas,” Doug Pederson said. “This is a good defense. We knew that going in. Some of it is their design, very disruptive up front.

“And then it just comes down to attention to detail, focus. Things that have kind of hampered us a little bit all season showed up a little bit early in this game and it was tough to get things going early.”

If Wentz could play in the first quarter the way he’s played after the first quarter he’d be back in the MVP race.

But he just keeps making the same mistakes early.

Missing open receivers. Making incorrect reads. Holding the ball too long. Showing a lack of situational awareness in the pocket.

And it keeps putting the Eagles in a hole.

A hole that against decent teams they can’t dig out of.

This is on Pederson as much as Wentz. It’s his team. His offense. His play calls. He’s got to be better. He’s got an elite quarterback, and he’s had three months to find ways to get him off to faster starts, and he’s flopped.

But ultimately, it’s on Wentz to raise his level of play from the jump. To get the Eagles started the right way.

You can’t be elite unless you’re elite for 60 minutes.

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Hamstrung in secondary, Eagles give up staggering numbers to Cowboys

Hamstrung in secondary, Eagles give up staggering numbers to Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas — By the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 29-23 overtime loss to the Cowboys, the Eagles were down to a hamstrung Sidney Jones and De’Vante Bausby, who wasn’t on the team a month ago.

It showed. 

And Dallas attacked with its newest weapon (see observations)

Even though the Eagles’ defense played fairly well for most of Sunday, by the end of the game, the stats were staggering.

• Dak Prescott threw for 455 yards, the most the Eagles have ever given up in a regular-season game, surpassing Jon Kitna’s 446-yard game in 2007. Prescott’s previous career high was 332. 

• Amari Cooper had 10 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns. He’s just the ninth player in the modern era to put up that stat line. It’s the second-biggest game a receiver has ever had against the Eagles (Kenny Britt in 2010). 

• The Cowboys piled up 576 total yards — the fourth-most ever against the Eagles in a regular-season game. 

Staggering. 

“We did a pretty good job earlier in the game,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “We knew they wanted to throw quick game and control passes. But with some injuries we had on the outside, they felt like that was the matchup they could take deep obviously. Two big plays that kind of broke open the game on defense. I mean, Amari Cooper is a good player. We knew they would make plays. He made those plays.”

The two big plays Jenkins was talking about came in the fourth quarter. Cooper caught a 28-yard touchdown against Sidney Jones and then he caught a 75-yard touchdown against Bausby just a few minutes later. 

Jones played just one more series after giving up his touchdown before his hamstring really pulled on him and trainers took him out. He said he just couldn’t open up when running. He was in and out Sunday. 

It was pretty clear Jones’ hamstring was hurting during that game.  

“It’s nowhere near 100 [percent],” Jones said. “I can tell you that for sure. This hammy’s been frustrating. It lingers. Just gotta get healthy at the end of the day. 

“It hurt but I was like, ‘I gotta go back in, it’s do or die.’ I fought. I went back in and gave my best effort.”

It seemed like the Cowboys were happy to target Jones, who clearly wasn’t healthy. They were similarly eager to go after Bausby when he replaced him at left cornerback. 

Bausby, who was promoted from the practice squad on Nov. 17, gave up the 75-yarder as Corey Graham was slow to get over as help. 

The Eagles on Sunday afternoon had just one regular defensive back left starting in Jenkins. Rodney McLeod, Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are all on IR. The Eagles have been at the bottom of the barrel in the secondary and that definitely showed Sunday. 

“It’s tough,” said nickel corner Cre’Von LeBlanc, who arrived to town on Nov. 5. “We gave it all we got and we didn’t fold.” 

They didn’t really hold up either.

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