Studs, duds, turning point and more from Eagles-Patriots preseason game

Studs, duds, turning point and more from Eagles-Patriots preseason game


FOXBORO, Mass. — It wasn’t a good night for Nick Foles.

Then he got hurt.

The Eagles’ quarterback, in his first action of this preseason, had his struggles early on Thursday night, and then thanks to an injury, never got to get things on track as the Eagles fell to the Patriots, 37-20, in a Super Bowl LII rematch.

Early in the second quarter, Adrian Clayborn hit Foles on his throwing arm on a strip sack. While the Patriots were returning the fumble for a touchdown, Foles was clutching at his arm in some pain.

After getting checked out in a pop-up tent on the sideline, the Eagles said Foles suffered a shoulder strain. He didn’t return to the game, but was able to stay on the sideline. That seemed like a good sign.

Foles completed just 3 of 9 passes for 44 yards and was sacked a few times. It wasn’t just Foles; the entire first-team offense (and second-team offense) struggled to get going.

Offensive struggles
Like we said, the offense really struggled to get going. Some of that was pass protection. Some of that is probably because of a lack of playmakers. Corey Clement, Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery weren’t out there tonight. The offense is going to be different without those guys.

Suds dropping dimes
Nate Sudfeld had a great game in relief of Foles. He was making it rain all night (see 10 observations). His throw to Shelton Gibson on the early touchdown was perfect. He threw a great 28-yarder to Dallas Goedert in the first half.

In the second half, Suds threw a perfect fade to Goedert in the end zone but it was batted away. He came back on the next play with another perfect pass, this time to Richard Rodgers. He later threw another perfect pass to Gibson for a 57-yard gain. He threw another perfect touchdown pass to Rashard Davis.

Gibson flashes
For the second straight game, Gibson caught a touchdown pass. He didn’t catch a long bomb for a TD like he did last week, but he ran a great route in the red zone. The touchdown came after he got injured earlier in the same series. After going to the sideline to get checked out, Gibson returned and on his first play back, caught a TD. He also had a 57-yarder in the second half, showing off that speed.

And he also flashed on special teams.

He’s still learning the position with the new kickoff rules, but Gibson looks pretty good as a kick returner. He took one back 46 yards and was really close to turning the corner and possibly taking it all the way back. Gibson had four kick returns for 121 yards (30.3 per return).

Defense rebounds
The Eagles’ first-team defense didn’t get off to a good start against some guy named Tom Brady. Brady completed all five of his passes on the first drive of the game to get the Patriots in the end zone on eight plays over 63 yards.

From there, though, the Eagles’ first-team defense settled in some.

But after most of the Eagles’ starters were out, Brady moved the ball down the field easily on a last touchdown drive of the first half to put the Patriots up 27-7. Brady played the entire first half, throwing for 172 yards and two TD passes.

Catching issues
Three drops for Matt Jones. He’s trying to make the team, but that won’t help. He did make a few grabs too.

Faked out
Sidney Jones had good moments tonight, but he had a really bad one too. Cordarrelle Patterson caught a ball right in front of him, put his left foot in the dirt and cut back, leaving Jones in his dust. Patterson easily scored a touchdown. It was an ugly play from the Eagles’ talented young corner.

New penalties
The Eagles got called for three lowering-the-helmet calls. Rodney McLeod, Nigel Bradham and Jeremy Reaves got called for them.

Depth chart look
Jones got the start as the Eagles’ nickel, but rotated with Avonte Maddox with that first team. Kamu Grugier-Hill was the first-team WILL. Haloti Ngata started at DT next to Fletcher Cox; previously we have seen Destiny Vaeao there.

Missing in action
The following players didn’t play: Carson Wentz, Jalen Mills Agholor, Clement, Mack Hollins, Josh Adams, Donnel Pumphrey, Chandon Sullivan, Asantay Brown and Markus Wheaton.

Agholor and Clement are dealing with lower-body injuries. Pederson has said the team is resting them and getting them ready for Week 1.

Mills left practice early on Tuesday with an unknown injury. Rasul Douglas started in his place.

WR Bryce Treggs (hamstring), TE Rodgers (knee), S Stephen Roberts (ankle), OT Taylor Hart (cramping), WR Kamar Aiken (hamstring) left the game early. TE Josh Perkins left to be evaluated for a concussion.

Up next
The Eagles are on the road next week for their third preseason game. They’ll play the Browns in Cleveland next Thursday, which means we might see them on HBO’s "Hard Knocks." More importantly, the third preseason game is known as the dress rehearsal. That’s when we’ll likely see the starters play deeper into the game. 

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Predicting Eagles' 53-man roster after spring practices

Predicting Eagles' 53-man roster after spring practices

The last time I predicted the Eagles’ 53-man roster was before OTAs and minicamp, so we have more to go on now. 

The Eagles had a total of 13 practices and reporters were allowed to watch seven of them. Based on what I’ve seen over the last several weeks, I’ve updated my prediction: 

Here is is: 

QB (3): Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson 

This didn’t change. Thorson didn’t have a very good spring, but I still think they’re going to use a roster spot on him. Over the last couple weeks, he’s looked overwhelmed and has made some poor decisions and equally poor throws, but he’s a fifth-round rookie. Unless he’s awful in training camp, I think this is his spot. 

TE (3): Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers 

No changes here either. These guys are pretty much cemented. Goedert had a tremendous spring. 

WR (6): Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins, Marken Michel  

I think these top four guys are still making it. I know Hollins still isn’t a full-go, but his ability on special teams keeps him around. Last time, I had them keeping five receivers, but I think there’s a chance they keep six. And I think there’s a better chance of them keeping an extra offensive player than a defensive player. Then, I gave this last spot to Michel, but there are plenty of candidates: Shelton Gibson, Greg Ward, Charles Johnson. I think that’s a pretty talented group, talented enough that one of them will do enough to force the Eagles to keep six wideouts. 

OL (10): Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Andre Dillard, Stefen Wisniewski, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jordan Mailata, Matt Pryor 

The only change from the last time is Wiz is back on here after being re-signed. That kicked Ryan Bates off the list, but he has a chance to stick as a practice squad player. I do wonder about Pryor’s job security. He was a sixth-rounder last year and they kept him on the roster all year, but with Big V’s emergence as a guard, there might be less of a use for Pryor, who they might be able to keep around on the practice squad. 

RB (4): Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Corey Clement, Boston Scott 

The big change here is Scott over Wendell Smallwood. No, I don’t think it’s really fair to compare Scott to Darren Sproles and I’m not on the hype train yet, but Scott had a good spring and might be a more complementary player than Smallwood or Josh Adams. And his ability as a punt returner is what might most help him make the team. 

DE (5): Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat, Shareef Miller

No changes here, although I do think Daeshon Hall might push for a job. I’ll need to see more from him when the pads go on. 

DT (5): Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Tim Jernigan, Hassan Ridgeway, Treyvon Hester 

Last time, I had just four DTs, but keeping five makes sense and I was able to steal a spot from the cornerback group (more on that soon). Hester and Ridgeway might be competing for the same spot, but there’s a decent chance both are on the roster. 

LB (5): Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, L.J. Fort, Zach Brown, Nate Gerry

I kept six last time because I wasn’t sure which player to remove. Sorry, Paul Worrilow. It’s not that he had a bad spring, but that knee injury did flare up and it’s starting to feel like all five of these guys are definitely going to be on the roster. 

CB (5): Ronald Darby, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc 

You’ll notice the omission of Jalen Mills, who is still coming back from a lengthy foot injury. While other recovering players have been working out on side fields, Mills has been noticeably absent and I’m beginning to wonder just how close he is. I heard a few weeks ago that he was expecting to be ready for training camp, but we’ll see. Until I see him doing something, I’m not ready to keep a roster spot for him. I don’t think the PUP is out of the question. 

S (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Andrew Sendejo, Tre Sullivan

Folks want to cut Sendejo to save a compensatory pick, but I don’t see it happening. Sendejo has been working as as starter as McLeod recovers, so I think he’s their third safety for now. Sendejo had a good offseason, so he would need to play poorly this summer to get cut. 

ST (3): Jake Elliott, Cameron Johnston, Rick Lovato 

Unless Kamu really applies himself to becoming a kicker, these three are set.

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3 Eagles land in PFF's top 50 NFL players going into 2019

3 Eagles land in PFF's top 50 NFL players going into 2019

There’s plenty of hype surrounding the Eagles this season and there should be. The Birds are coming off back-to-back playoff seasons and have a really talented roster. 

They also have three players on the ProFootballFocus’ list of top 50 players heading into the 2019 season.

(For reference, the Eagles had four players in their top 101 players from the 2018 season.)

In the top 50 list, the Cowboys also have three players (29. Travis Frederick, 32. DeMarcus Lawrence, 40. Zack Martin), the Giants have one (43. Saquon Barkley) and the Redskins don’t have any. Sorry, Washington. 

Let’s take a look at the Eagles on the list: 

41. Brandon Graham 

Here’s what they said: Sacks don’t tell the whole story for any player in the NFL, and no player epitomizes that more than Graham. He’s recorded double-digit sacks in PFF’s system only once (2017) but has been as consistent as they come from an overall pressure and pass-rush grade standpoint. He has recorded 45 or more pressures in six of his last seven seasons in the NFL and has earned 81.0-plus pass-rush grades in five of them.

My take: It’s true that sacks don’t tell the entire story, but Graham had just four last season. That’s too low. He was hampered by an ankle injury at the start of last season and it showed; he got off to a slow start. But Graham has been consistently disruptive over the past few years. He’s a very good player, but falls short of being great. I don’t know if he's a top-50 player, but it is nice to see his all-around game get recognized because his sack total has never officially gotten to double digits and he’s never made a Pro Bowl team. 

24. Jason Kelce

Here’s what they said: Kelce’s four-year overall grade (91.1) ranks fourth among the 94 interior offensive linemen with at least 2,000 offensive snaps played since 2015, and his 93.4 run-block grade ranks first among the same group of qualifiers. Most recently, Kelce earned a career-high 88.0 pass-blocking grade in addition to his 80.7 run-blocking grade in 2018. He also earned a 94.6 run-blocking grade throughout the Eagles’ Super Bowl run in 2017, a single-season mark that ranks first in the PFF era (2006-18) among qualifying centers and one that landed him PFF’s top run-blocker award in 2017.

My take: Kelce was the highest-ranked center on the list and the second-highest offensive lineman behind OT David Bakhtiari at No. 13. It’s high praise for Kelce, but he deserves it. He had a really good season in 2018 and has consistently been one of the top centers in the league for a while now. You can argue about whether or not he’s the best center in the league, but there’s no questioning whether or not he’s one of the best. With his football knowledge, Kelce keeps getting better despite being over 30 and despite all his injuries. He’s been an All-Pro the last two years, but hasn’t made the Pro Bowl in those seasons, which is an absolute joke. 

4. Fletcher Cox 

Here’s what they said: It’s a shame that Cox plays in the same league as Donald; he’d be the unanimous decision for top defensive interior if it weren’t for the Rams' superstar. Cox’s pass-rush win rate in 2018 (20.9 percent) is the fourth-best single-season mark of any defensive interior in the PFF era. And his 91.2 pass-rush grade this past season, another career high for the big man, also ranks inside the top 10 among qualifiers since 2006.

My take: The only players ranked higher than Cox were 1. Aaron Donald, 2. Tom Brady, 3. Bobby Wagner. That’s some impressive company, but it’s about time Cox gets his due. He’s a dominant player. Is he the fourth-best player in the league? I don’t know. What PFF does, ranking players regardless of position, is really tough. Is Cox better than Patrick Mahomes, who comes in at No. 6 or Drew Brees, who comes in at No. 5? I have a hard time saying he is. But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that Cox is an absolute wrecking ball. He’s gone to four consecutive Pro Bowls, but finally made his first All-Pro team in 2018. PFF is right, it’s a shame he’s playing in the same era as Donald, who is a future Hall of Famer. But it’s not just Donald; there have been plenty of other great interior lineman over the last few years — Gerald McCoy, Ndamukong Suh, Damon Harrison, Geno Atkins, Kyle Williams, Jurrell Casey. It has taken a long time for Cox to get his credit, but he really is one of the best players in the league. 

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