Eagles

Eagles

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.