Eagles-Jets: 10 observations

Eagles-Jets: 10 observations

Nice work from a couple wide receivers, a struggle from the backup quarterback, a couple intriguing positional battles, a Pro Bowler heading for the waiver wire and praise for the punter.
Welcome to the final preseason edition of Roob’s 10 instant observations!
1. I saw what I wanted from Dorial Green-Beckham in the Eagles’ 14-6 win over the Jets Thursday night at the the Linc (see Instant Replay). He played only a few snaps but he caught both passes Chase Daniel threw his way, one for 15 yards, another for 16 yards, and looked comfortable doing it. Man, I’m trying not to get too excited about this kid, and I keep telling myself, “There must be a reason the Titans got rid of a 23-year-old receiver with tremendous size and speed that they drafted early in the second round.” But so far, the change of scenery seems to be working for DGB. I see no reason he won’t be the Eagles’ second-best receiver this year. I guess the Titans really love Dennis Kelly.
2. And then there’s Paul Turner, who really needed an impressive performance to solidify that No. 5 wide receiver spot and certainly responded. Turner’s been solid but you know Howie Roseman is going to be scouring the waiver wire to upgrade the roster after final cuts, and Turner is the kind of kid who without an impressive performance Thursday night could have made the 53-man roster only to be replaced later in the weekend. But Turner once again was exceptional, with six catches for 66 yards — including first downs of 17 and 20 yards — and a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown. Turner doesn’t have super measurables but he has those soft hands that coaches talk about. He catches the ball quietly and softly and effortlessly and brings it into his body smoothly. I’m not sure who to compare Turner to. Probably Greg Lewis is the closest, but Turner doesn’t have his speed. It’s rare for an undrafted free-agent wide receiver to make this team, but Turner has done enough to earn it.
3. Speaking of Lewis, he deserves some credit for the work he’s done in his first year as the Eagles’ wide receivers coach. Josh Huff has shown improvement, Green-Beckham has quickly assimilated into the offense, Turner has looked like a steal and even the bottom-of-the-roster guys like Cayleb Jones, David Watford and Marcus Johnson look like potential NFL players. I was not a fan of Bob Bicknell, who coached receivers under Chip Kelly. I never thought he connected with his guys and I don’t think they ever really learned how to run crisp, decisive routes. I’m still not sure what to make of this wide receiver group, but I know it’s better than it would be without G-Lew.
4. Steven Means is better than Marcus Smith. He just is. He’s more active, more instinctive, more productive. That said, I still think the Eagles will keep Smith, simply because of the tremendous investment they made in him as a first-round pick. Smith has looked measurably better than last year, and as long as he’s improving, the Eagles will likely keep him around, hoping he can one day pay off on being the 26th player taken in the 2014 draft. But I like Means. Maybe the Eagles can keep them both (see story), but they’re not releasing special teams ace Bryan Braman, so that would mean six defensive ends — Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin, Smith, Means and Braman. Not sure that’s possible without going too light somewhere else. But it might be the smartest course of action.
5. Then there’s Daniel. Not an encouraging finish to the preseason for Sam Bradford’s backup. Two bad interceptions and no points generated in a full half of football against the Jets’ scrubs. This is why the Carson Wentz rib injury hurts so much. If Wentz had stayed healthy and performed at a high level this preseason, it would have been tough for Doug Pederson to keep Daniel ahead of him. Now? It’s tough to make a case for Wentz as No. 2 when he barely played in the preseason. Although I would sure make him No. 2 as soon as he’s healthy. Daniel may be Pederson’s hand-picked backup, but if Wentz dramatically outplayed Daniel in the preseason, there would have been a lot of pressure on Pederson to promote Wentz ahead of Daniel. Remember, the Eagles’ No. 2 quarterback has played meaningful snaps every year since 2005. The odds are No. 2 is going to play. I don’t want that to be Daniel.
6. Interesting battle for that fourth safety spot behind Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod and special teams ace Chris Maragos. Jaylen Watkins has had a very good preseason, but Ed Reynolds didn’t hurt himself with that 90-yard interception return Thursday night and nearly had a second. Watkins is probably a better special teamer, but Reynolds is more physical. Both look pretty sound in coverage. Reynolds played pretty well last year. His interception clinched a win over the Bills — Chip Kelly’s final win as head coach of the Eagles. Watkins and Reynolds were drafted a round apart in 2014 — Watkins in the fourth round, Reynolds in the fifth. I like both these guys, but I feel like Reynolds might have a little more upside. Interesting decision for Roseman.
7. Chris Pantale began training camp with a real good shot at sticking, but he’s been a disappointment this summer and certainly hasn’t acquitted himself well enough to be in the conversation for the 53-man roster. Pantale had a chance at a big play Thursday night and was wide open 20 yards down the field but let a perfectly thrown McLeod Bethel-Thompson spiral slip through his hands. The Eagles are in good shape at tight end with Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Trey Burton, but Pantale will not be part of that rotation.
8. It’s been a year since JaCorey Shepherd tore his ACL, and the former Kansas Jayhawk just never got untracked this preseason and never looked as good as he did last summer. It takes some players a couple years to fully recover from ACLs, to regain their full speed and strength and ability, and Shepherd, a sixth-round pick last year, could be experiencing that now. He was very good last summer but just didn’t look like the same guy this year and finds himself now on the outside looking in going into roster cuts. Shepherd played in his first preseason game Thursday night and got beat on the Jets’ one touchdown. It wasn’t terrible coverage, but it seems like it’s a play he would have made last year. With the way Jalen Mills and C.J. Smith played, Shepherd will likely be released this weekend. But he does have practice squad eligibility and he’s the kind of guy I’d like to see the Eagles keep around.
9. I would have liked to have seen Cody Parkey attempt a few more field goals this preseason, but Caleb Sturgis beat him out any way you measure it, and I would expect the Eagles to go with Sturgis moving forward. Parkey says he’s healthy, but that was a serious injury he suffered last year, and he just didn’t kick the way he did in his record-setting Pro Bowl 2014 season. Parkey attempted only one field goal the entire preseason, a 40-yarder that he made. But he did miss a PAT against the Steelers. Sturgis was 3 for 3 in field goals (from 32, 42 and 47) and made his PATs. Parkey has the better résumé, but Sturgis has been better, both in practice and in the games. Parkey will ultimately go on to have a better career, but right now, the Eagles have to go with Sturgis.
10. Gotta throw in a word or two about Donnie Jones, who goes into his fourth year as the Eagles’ punter. Jones, now 36, keeps himself in tremendous shape and appears to be kicking as good as ever. Jones averaged 48 yards per punt this preseason with six inside the 20 and three touchbacks. Jones is the best punter in Eagles history and showing no signs of slowing down. 

Learning more about Rich Scangarello’s role in Eagles’ offense

Learning more about Rich Scangarello’s role in Eagles’ offense

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s a pretty ambiguous title.

The Eagles earlier this month hired former Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello as a senior offensive assistant. But if Doug Pederson is the play-caller, Press Taylor is the passing game coordinator and Jeff Stoutland is the run game coordinator, it begs a pretty obvious question:

What the heck is Scangarello going to do?

At the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, Pederson finally answered that question with at least a little bit more depth than we previously heard.

“He’s going to be able to bridge the gap,” Pederson said Tuesday. “He’s going to be able to bring together the run division and the pass division. With a blend of formations and plays and things that really tie everything together. He’s going to have his hands all over the game plan as well. A lot of communication. A lot of film study. Yeah, he’ll work with the quarterbacks, just like I do. He’ll have a chance to have some input there."

OK, so we don’t exactly know how Scangarello will fill every minute of his work days but we’re starting to get a clearer picture.

Pederson said he and Scangarello bonded over their early backgrounds in the West Coast offense but it’s Scangarello’s close ties to 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan that the Eagles found most intriguing. Scangarello worked under Shanahan in both Atlanta and San Francisco and the Eagles are hoping to blend some of those concepts with the offense Pederson is already running.

Namely, the Eagles are hoping this hire really helps Carson Wentz. That’s the No. 1 reason Scangarello was hired.

In addition to the time Scangarello will spend actually coaching the quarterbacks, the idea of QB movement is key. For whatever reason, the Eagles seemed hesitant to move Wentz in and out of the pocket early last season but once they did, he thrived.

That movement, throughout Wentz’s career, has always seemed to get him in a rhythm. And the Eagles are finally ready to lean into that.

“It was important for me,” Pederson said. “I think when I look back at our season and how we kind of finished the season, the thing Carson excelled at was basically those two elements. The play action, the QB movement stuff, the screens were important. And the run game ties into all that.

“This was what was intriguing with Rich, the background, what he’s learned. He studies this game now. You’ll learn when you get to speak to him. This guy has spent a lot of time studying the game. Now helping us, helping our offense. That’s why he was so intriguing to me.”

Despite finding a relatively high level of success with rookie quarterback Drew Lock in Denver, Scangarello lasted just one year as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator.

After the season, head coach Vic Fangio fired Scangarello and replaced him with Pat Shurmur. There’s plenty of smoke around the idea that Fangio and Scangarello didn’t have the strongest of working relationships.

Check out this exchange I had with Fangio on Tuesday morning:

What were some of Scangarello’s strengths?

“Rich is a good football coach. He knew the system well that he came from, does a good job with quarterbacks. I think Rich has got a bright future.”

What specifically did you like about Scangarello as a coach?

“I think for the first year in there, he did a good job. We played with three quarterbacks, so that has some stress to it. He did a good job of handling that.”

So why didn’t it work?

“That’s a long answer to a short question. I’m not going to get into that.”

See? Plenty of smoke.

Fangio did say on Tuesday that he wanted his offense to be more aggressive in 2020, so perhaps that’s another reason they elected to make a switch.

The word out of Denver is the area where Scangarello struggled was on game day, calling plays. On the flip side, he seemed to excel in preparation and game-planning. The good news for the Eagles is that Pederson is probably never going to give up play-calling responsibilities, so they won’t need Scangarello to do much on game day anyway. They’ll be able to utilize his strengths without worrying about his weaknesses.

Only Pederson really knows the logistics of how this new offensive structure will really work. It’s rare for a team to not have someone with an offensive coordinator title but it’s not unheard of. And the Eagles even thought of deviating from the norm back in 2018 when they promoted Mike Groh.

If this structure doesn’t work in 2020, that failure will belong to Pederson. But if it does work, Scangarello will be a big reason why. 

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How Andy Reid’s life has changed since winning the Super Bowl

How Andy Reid’s life has changed since winning the Super Bowl

INDIANAPOLIS — If you were expecting Andy Reid to win his first Super Bowl and turn into a different guy, you don’t know Andy Reid.

At the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, Reid spoke to a huge gathering of reporters at the first big NFL event since his Chiefs beat the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.

And guess what?

Not much has changed for Big Red.

“I stay in the office, so I’m isolated a little bit that way. There’s not much change there. I’m sure the players, if you talk to them, they’re out there and being recognized as world champs. 

I have gotten a couple free meals. That was nice. But I’m not out there that much to where I’m affected by it too much.”

Gotta love when Andy plays the hits.

Reid said he and his staff enjoyed the Super Bowl for a few days. They had a parade and reveled briefly but then it was back to business as usual. The focus then had to immediately switch to free agency and the draft in what was now a suddenly short offseason.

“Maybe someday when we get a little older and we’re out of the game, you can sit back and go, hey, you know what, we did pretty good there,” Reid said. “But right now, it’s buckling down and making sure we take care of business."

During the Chiefs’ run to the Super Bowl, Reid was very aware of the support he was receiving from Philadelphia, where he spent 14 seasons as head coach. Not everyone was rooting for him but it seemed like a large portion of Philadelphians were happy to see Reid hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

On Tuesday, Reid was asked if he’s heard from folks in Philly since winning the big game.

"Yeah, I’ve talked to all those guys. I’ve stayed close to the organization,” Reid said before scanning the crowd in front of him. “Guys like Les (Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Les Bowen) I’ve stayed close with.”

Les gave a wave.

“There are a couple other guys here that are Philadelphia here,” Reid continued. “I spent 14 years there. I appreciated every bit of it. Jeff Lurie, I appreciated him being at the game and supporting me there, too."

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