Eagles

10 day-after takeaways from Eagles' first preseason game

10 day-after takeaways from Eagles' first preseason game

For those who think I don't have a hard job, I watched the Eagles' preseason game live last night, then I watched it again this morning.

That's twice in like 12 hours!

When I watched it again Friday morning, some of the game confirmed what I already came away with from Thursday night, but I learned plenty more, too.

Here are 10 next-day takeaways from Preseason Game No.1:

1. I was in the locker room when Doug Pederson held his postgame press conference, but I couldn't believe what he said about Carson Wentz's flip play. You know, the one where Wentz ran downfield and was upended by a Bucs defender.

Wentz said he'll learn from the play. Hopefully he doesn't take his head coach's advice.

"Kind of loved it," Pederson said. "Wish he would have hurdled the guy instead of taking one in the legs. You know the guy is going low on a big quarterback like that. They're usually not going to stay up. I wish he would have hurdled. The fact he'd done a lot of that in college, that was a no-brainer for me."

I have ever heard an NFL head coach say he wants his star quarterback to hurdle defenders. That's not a good idea. Never a good idea. As bad as the play could have been, it could have been worse if Wentz was already in the air when it happened. I still can't believe Pederson said it.

2. While we're talking about things I can't believe Pederson said, there's this: he answered 12 questions about Lane Johnson. Twelve!

As a reporter, I'm all for honesty from coaches. It's refreshing and in many cases, there's not the downside some coaches think there is.

But on Thursday night, I was shocked to not only see how many questions Pederson fielded about Johnson, but also how he answered them. Pederson repeatedly used the word "upheld" when talking about the reported looming suspension. Just one problem, Johnson hasn't been suspended yet!

Aside from his press conference, I thought Pederson had a pretty good night. He didn't flub any time management or play calls to the surprise of many.

3. Chase Daniel had a horrible game (see story), but it wasn't all his fault. The offensive line in front of him and the receivers on the field with him were equally as bad. I'll focus on the two guards for a second. I was shocked to re-watch the game and see how poorly Stefen Wisniewksi played. Sure, he was going against Gerald McCoy for a good portion of the game, but still, he just looked terrible. So did Isaac Seumalo. Many thought the rookie third-rounder would challenge for a starting gig this year. Not happening yet. He looked lost at times.

4. Forget the numbers, I thought Wentz looked really good. Aside from the interception, which, upon review, was less of a terrible decision and more of a terrible throw, he played really well. He took command, fired the ball and showed his athleticism.

No, the accuracy wasn't always there. Plenty of throws weren't perfect, but his receivers did him no favors. I counted at least three blatant drops.

I want to highlight two plays: Earlier on the drive that ended with that interception, Wentz threw a ball to Chris Pantale across the middle, but the ball was a little behind him. Pantale caught it, but the pass slowed him down. After the play, Wentz nodded his head; he learned something. On the very next play, he rifled a ball to tight end M.J. McFarland across the middle. It was probably his best throw of the night because he hit McFarland in stride, through a tight window. It's going to be fun watching him figure this out.

5. Rueben Randle looked completely uninterested in playing football on Thursday night. I didn't notice it completely until re-watching, but he dropped balls, didn't run crisp routes, didn't look like he cared. I've seen this from Randle throughout training camp at times. And at other times, he looks pretty good. He's clearly talented, the type of talent this receiving corps desperately needs, but there's a reason the Giants didn't re-sign him. There's a reason the Eagles were able to get him on a cheap one-year prove-it deal. So far, all he's proved is what the Eagles probably feared.

6. Speaking of the receivers … yuck. Daniel wasn't good, but no one was open. When they were, they dropped balls. Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, Chris Givens, Randle, T.J. Graham all showed nothing on Thursday night. This team is lost at receiver without Jordan Matthews.

A little nod in the direction of Paul Turner, though. He's not big or fast, but he finds some open field and catches the football. Maybe there's no room for him on the 53-man roster, but if I ran the Eagles, I'd think about finding a spot for him.

7. The most encouraging thing for Eagles fans on Thursday night should have been the defensive line play. That unit got a lot of work, even after the rest of the first team came out of the game. On the Fletcher Cox strip-sack, if he didn't get the ball out, Bennie Logan would have had a big sack. This unit is the key to the Eagles' defense. So far, so good.

8. In the secondary, the corners had a bad day, while the safeties had a good one. And we're not just talking about the starters, we're talking about the depth guys, too. Leodis McKelvin, Eric Rowe and Jalen Mills all struggled. Jaylen Watkins, Ed Reynolds and Chris Maragos all played well. Watkins has tremendous cover skills for a safety, but his tackling is the question. He did have one nice tackle on Thursday. When it comes time to form the 53-man roster, there might be a tough cut at safety.

9. If you're looking for two reserves who can play, look at DE Steven Means and LB Joe Walker. Walker immediately made an impact last night, avoiding a guard block for a big tackle for loss. It's still fair to be concerned about the depth at linebacker, but Walker might have a future. Because of the depth, his spot is pretty much cemented.

Then there's Means. He's been better than Marcus Smith during training camp and now Smith has a concussion, while Means had a strip sack and generated constant pressure on Thursday. If the decision is based on merit, Means will make this team over Smith.

10. The NFL's idea to put the ball on the 25-yard line on kickoff touchbacks is going to backfire. We already saw it on Thursday night. The league wanted to limit kick returns, but there are probably going to be more. During training camp, the Eagles worked on angling kicks and they were able to execute on Thursday night. During the last couple of weeks, I've been chatting with several special teams players about the new rule, which is on a one-year trial, and many were unsure what was going to happen.

So far, it looks like more returns. It'll make the game more exciting, but it won't have the intended result.

Eagles Injury Update: A glimpse of Mike Wallace sans boot

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Eagles Injury Update: A glimpse of Mike Wallace sans boot

Eagles receiver Mike Wallace is still on injured reserve after fracturing his right fibula in Week 2, but we got a glimpse of him at practice. 

Just last week, we saw Wallace in the Eagles’ locker room with a walking boot on his right leg. That walking boot is off. 

Wallace, 32, was a spectator as Thursday’s practice inside the practice bubble. He was out of that boot, but still seemed to be walking with a limp. See for yourself. 

This is notable because earlier this week, the Eagles designated Richard Rodgers to return from injured reserve. That means they have just one spot remaining for either Wallace or fellow receiver Mack Hollins. Both are eligible to return now. Just last week, we saw Hollins working with trainers on a side field. So it appears Hollins is closer to returning than Wallace. 

The Eagles might have a decision to make. Is it worth getting back Hollins, who has never really been a productive receiver, but is a good special teams player? Or is it worth bringing back Wallace, who, at his best, is a big-time downfield threat? 

The following players were not at practice on Thursday: Ronald Darby (torn ACL), Jalen Mills (foot), Josh Perkins (knee) and Darren Sproles (hamstring). None of them are expected to play this weekend. 

Haloti Ngata (knee), who missed practice on Wednesday, returned to practice on Thursday. 

Lane Johnson (knee) and Sidney Jones (hamstring) were also both practicing after being listed as limited participants on Wednesday. 

Malcolm Jenkins (wrist), who was added to Wednesay’s injury report late as a full participant, was back out there again on Thursday. He’s going to play Sunday.

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How Andy Reid stole a play from Carson Wentz

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How Andy Reid stole a play from Carson Wentz

The Chiefs ran a play on opening day last year that helped them to a 42-27 upset win over the Patriots in Foxboro, and it’s a play that would look very familiar to Carson Wentz.

Here’s why:

With the Patriots holding a 27-21 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, Andy Reid’s Chiefs had a 1st-and-10 on their own 22-yard-line.

What were the Chiefs facing? The Patriots at that point were 105-0 at home with Tom Brady when entering the fourth quarter with a lead.

Reid called a play where Kareem Hunt — playing in his first NFL game — lined up in the backfield, just to the right to Alex Smith, Tyreek Hill was in the left slot, Travis Kelce lined up tight to the right and and WR Chris Conley was wide left.

Hill went into motion to the right, drawing safety Duron Harmon down to the line of scrimmage. Cornerback Eric Rowe, the Eagles’ second-round pick in 2015, was lined up on Hill but dropped back when Harmon moved up.

Rowe then picked up Kelce as he ran a crossing pattern, leaving the middle of the field open, and giving the Chiefs a great matchup of linebacker Cassius Marsh on Hunt.

Smith had tremendous protection and dropped a perfect pass to Hunt, who caught the ball just past midfield and ran in for a 78-yard touchdown. The Chiefs wound up winning by 15.

It was a perfectly designed play.

And it came right out of the Carson Wentz playbook.

In her SI.com piece, “Andy Reid is Creating Football’s Future, and Patrick Mahomes is Living It,” SI writer Jenny Vrentas explains that Reid first saw the play that resulted in that 78-yard touchdown — and which the Chiefs have had success with other times as well — while watching tape of Wentz at North Dakota State.

The Chiefs weren’t planning to draft a quarterback in 2016, but Reid always watches film of the top quarterback prospects anyway, and while watching North Dakota State film, he saw Wentz and the Bisons run that play over and over ... with great success.

“We were studying Carson and kind of snuck that one,” Reid said.

According to Vrentas, North Dakota State calls the play "He-Man," and the Chiefs call it "All-Go Special Halfback Seam."

Whatever the name, it works, and it neatly connects the Eagles’ current quarterback with their former head coach.

Ironic that Reid snagged a play from Wentz, who now plays for Doug Pederson, who was Reid’s quarterback in 1999 and offensive coordinator with the Chiefs from 2013-15 and now coaches Wentz.

Do the Eagles have that play in their playbook? Probably. But they definitely don’t have a Kareem Hunt.

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