Eagles

Eagles-Jets: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-Jets: Roob's 10 observations

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — There legitimately couldn't have been more than 3,500 fans at MetLife Stadium Thursday night, and you have to wonder what the few thousand who were there were thinking.

This was awful football even by typical fourth preseason game standards.

The Eagles' scrubs finished the preseason with a grotesque 16-10 loss to the Jets' scrubs (see breakdown), and all that's left before the Eagles open the season against the Redskins a week from Sunday at FedExField is a roster cut this weekend from 90 to 53.

How much did Thursday night's game impact the final roster? Probably not a whole lot. But there were a few notable tidbits, so let's get right to 10 instant observations.

1. I don't care how many times Doug Pederson says Nick Foles is day to day, I'm concerned. Foles did not play Thursday night, so he didn't play a single snap in the preseason. Beyond the obvious reason that's disappointing — we got to see Matt McGloin throw 109 passes in four preseason games — is that this mysterious elbow injury that won't go away wiped out Foles' entire preseason (see story). I wouldn't be as concerned if the injury didn't date back to last year and if Foles hadn't said back on Aug. 15 that he was back to 100 percent after a two-week layoff from training camp. Foles was throwing before the game, so the injury has to be improving to some extent. But if he was healthy enough to play, he should have played. And if he wasn't healthy enough to play, then that's definitely cause for concern.

2. Going to be very interesting to see what happens with Corey Clement this weekend. Clement has been consistently productive throughout the preseason and over the last three preseason games is 21 for 92, good for a 4.4-yard rushing average. I don't have Clement on my projected 53-man roster, only because I just don't see the Eagles keeping five running backs and I can't see releasing rookie fourth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey, only because this was always going to be a redshirt year for Pumphrey and a sluggish preseason shouldn't change their long-term plans for him. Sluggish isn't the word. Awful. Is it fair? Clement has been by far the more productive of the two rookie backs. He's got juice and so far Pumphrey hasn't shown anything. He ran the ball 26 times this preseason and his longest run was five yards. Heck, Byron Marshall has shown more than Pumphrey. But the Eagles have that fourth-round pick invested in Pumphrey, and Clement was undrafted (see story). It's been 20 years since the Eagles cut a fourth-round pick before his rookie year (Damien Robinson in 1997), and I just don't see it happening this weekend. If the Eagles give up on Pumphrey this fast, it's another draft-day disaster for Howie Roseman. (Then there's the possibility that Pumphrey will wind up on injured reserve with the possible concussion he suffered in the fourth quarter Thursday night. You never want to see anybody get hurt, but if the Eagles could get Pumphrey on IR, they could avoid a difficult decision.)

3. If it were me, and I had assurances that Foles were indeed healthy, I would say goodbye to McGloin so fast. He did finish the preseason with a high completion percentage — but he also committed four turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble) in the equivalent of about 2½ games. I'd rather keep Dane Evans on the practice squad and save a roster spot than have Foles and McGloin both on the 53. McGloin is never going to win games in the NFL. Period. So why even bother? I'd rather keep a promising young defensive lineman, cornerback or wide receiver than have McGloin gumming up a roster spot all year.

4. Here's a guy we haven't talked about a whole lot but I have on my 53-man roster: Elijah Qualls. The rookie sixth-round pick, a 320-pound defensive tackle from Washington, has been active and physical and will add good depth to a loaded position group. That's Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan starting, and Beau Allen, Destiny Vaeao and Qualls adding depth. Not many teams can match that.

5. Another defensive lineman who's been very impressive is Alex McCalister, a 6-6, 240-pounder from Florida that looks like a tight end but is quite an effective pass rusher. McCalister's sack Thursday night gave him 3½ this preseason. McCalister, a seventh-round pick last year, deserves a roster spot, but where do you put him? The Eagles are so loaded at defensive end, with Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Steven Means. In a perfect world, you could cut ties with Curry, who has not only had an unproductive preseason but has just six sacks in his last 34 regular-season games. But Curry is un-cuttable. It would cost $6 million more to release him ($15 million in dead money) than keep him ($9 million cap figure). And that's not happening. The Eagles have to hope they can stash McCalister on the practice squad. The kid sure seems to have some explosiveness and power.

6. It never occurred to me before the Eagles traded Jon Dorenbos, but could Donnie Jones also be in trouble? Jones is 37, the same age as Dorenbos, and Roseman made it clear he wants to get younger across the board. Younger also equalling cheaper against the cap. Jones has been very good and consistent in his four years with the Eagles. He's actually the best punter in franchise history. But Cameron Johnston, like Rick Lovato, has been very good this summer. He got all six punts Thursday night and averaged 46.0 yards with three inside the 20 and a net of 42.2. In the entire preseason, Jones averaged 43.3 with a net of 31.7, and Johnston, an Australian out of Ohio State, averaged 45.1 with a net of 42.7. Jones' strength has always been his ability to drop the ball inside the 20, but Johnston landed three of his six Thursday night inside the 20. If you just look at the stats, Johnston wins this battle.

7. I would be shocked if Marcus Johnson doesn't make the 53. Johnson has just made plays every chance he's gotten. He had only one catch Thursday night — a 41-yard TD from Evans — and finished the preseason 5 for 99 with two TDs. But he was just very consistent in practice, caught the ball well and after spending much of last year on the practice squad, just looked comfortable playing NFL wide receiver.

8. I liked Todd Bowles when he was on Andy Reid's staff in 2012. When he replaced Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator midway through the season, it was an impossible situation, but he handled it as well as anybody could have. I had high hopes when the former Temple Owl became the Jets' head coach in 2015. But what a wreck that franchise is. I don't know what's worse — that the Jets used their opening day starting quarterback in the fourth preseason game or that their opening day starting quarterback is 38-year-old Josh McCown, proud owner of a 2-20 win-loss record over the last three seasons. By the way, try to convince me McCown is a better quarterback than Colin Kaepernick. You can't do it.

9. Beautiful national anthem Thursday night by the Freeport (New York) High School Select Chorale. I’ve heard thousands of anthems before but never heard one where the end of each phrase was sung staccato, similar to much classical music, where musical phrases frequently end with a staccato — or a brief, shortened burst as opposed to a lengthy, sustained note. So, for instance, when they sang, “Dawn’s early light,” the “t” sound at the end of light was extremely brief. I thought they did a fantastic job. The arrangement was unique and the performance was respectful and perfectly sung. So far, my Anthem of the Year.

10. Finally this: If there was ever an argument that the preseason is too long, it's the three hours of garbage we watched Thursday night at MetLife Stadium. The NFL insults all of us forcing these meaningless games played with primarily guys who are going to get cut on us. The owners are making too much money to eliminate two or even one of the four preseason games, but really, nobody is benefiting from these games. They are just awful.

Updating Eagles position battles after 2nd preseason game

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USA Today/AP Images/NBC Sports Philadelphia

Updating Eagles position battles after 2nd preseason game

We’ve already updated our five Eagles position battles three times since the start of training camp, but it’s time to do it again. 

We have the last days of training camp and the game against the Patriots to judge. 

Let’s jump in: 

Nickel corner 

8/11: Sidney Jones practices after suffering a sprained left ankle in the game, but doesn’t do 11-on-11 drills. De’Vante Bausby starts the day as the nickel corner, but rookie Avonte Maddox also gets some first-team reps. This is the first time we’ve seen Maddox with the starters. 

8/12: After getting some first-team reps yesterday, Maddox gets all the first-team reps. He’s come really far and gets praised by Jim Schwartz after practice. It’s possible he has overtaken Bausby on the depth chart. Jones is back doing 11-on-11s but works with the second team. 

8/13: Maddox again gets first-team reps and has his best day of camp. He gets an interception and several batted passes. Jones works with the second team, has a rough day, but comes up with a huge pick-6 late in the practice. 

8/14: Maddox again gets work with the first team. Jones comes on as the LCB after Mills leaves practice early. 

Preseason game 2: Ronald Darby and Rasul Douglas start the game outside (Mills is out) and Jones starts in the slot. But Maddox quickly rotates in. Both Jones and Maddox give up a touchdown but do some good too. 

Updated prediction: The Eagles have given Maddox a lot of time with the first team, but I think it’s still clearly Jones’ job. But it also seems like Maddox might have passed Bausby on the depth chart. 

Weakside linebacker

8/11: As we’ve seen for a long time, Nate Gerry gets first-team reps, but only at the start of 11-on-11s. Finally, Kamu Grugier-Hill gets worked in with the ones. Not sure why this took so long, but KGH definitely deserves the extra reps. 

8/12: The Eagles weren’t in their base package very much today, but KGH gets the minimal first-team reps. Interestingly enough, at one point Gerry and Grugier-Hill were the two linebackers in the first-team nickel package. They’re not overtaking Jordan Hicks or Nigel Bradham, but maybe coaches wanted to see them side by side with the ones. 

8/13: Gerry picked off a pass at point-blank range. When the Eagles use their jumbo package, Hicks, Bradham, Gerry and Joe Walker are out there. 

8/14: Gerry gets first-team reps, but Walker is on the field in the jumbo package again. 

Preseason game 2: As has been the case for a while, Gerry gets the start ahead of Grugier-Hill at the WILL. He has a good game but plays a lot longer than I would have anticipated. Both guys get in with the first team at WILL, but Gerry stays on the field in the jumbo package, with Hicks, Bradham and Joe Walker. 

Updated prediction: We haven’t even mentioned Corey Nelson in a while; that’s how little impact he’s made. Gerry is the frontrunner, but KGH has been really good too. If nothing else, the Eagles’ linebacker depth is a little better than we first thought. 

Defensive line

8/11: The starting line of Long, Cox, Vaeao and Barnett remains the same. Michael Bennett continues to get worked in for Vaeao on third downs, creating a scary, scary line. Elijah Qualls bounces back from a penalty-filled game to make a TFL and does well in 1-on-1s. 

8/12: For the first time for a non-rotational reason, we see Haloti Ngata get first-team reps at DT instead of Vaeao. Bennett gets work inside on clear passing downs. 

8/13: Didn’t see too much new with the starters, but keep an eye on rookie Bruce Hector. Hector has been working with the second-team defensive line ahead of Qualls at times. 

8/14: Ngata gets some first-team reps next to Fletcher Cox again. The Eagles might be preparing him to start Week 1 very soon. 

Preseason game 2: Big day for Ngata, who starts next to Cox. And Ngata makes some plays; really the first time we’ve seen evidence he still has something left to give. That’s a great sign for the Eagles. A lot of Bennett inside and not just on third downs. Vaeao doesn’t start but shows some good pass-rush ability. 

Updated prediction: For a long time, it looked like Vaeao was going to be able to hold off Ngata. Don’t think that’s happening. Expect the old vet to start next to Cox until Tim Jernigan is ready to return. 

Running back 

8/11: Donnel Pumphrey misses practice again, but Matt Jones returns. Corey Clement was also not at practice after apparently suffering an injury during the first preseason game. Without some bodies, Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood both got some work with the first team. 

8/12: Still no Pumphrey or Clement. Pump wasn’t even out watching practice; Clement showed up late with a compression sleeve on his calf. It seems clear the Eagles are more interested in getting Adams and Smallwood reps with the ones and twos than Jones. 

8/13: Pump and Clement are still out. Adams is having a good day until he pulls up lame after a run play in the red zone. He doesn’t get back in. 

8/14: Adams misses practice after pulling up lame yesterday. Pump and Corey Clement each miss today as well. That means Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Matt Jones get all the reps. 

Preseason game 2: Adams and Pumphrey sit with their injuries, which gave Jones and Smallwood plenty of opportunities. They didn’t make the most of them. Smallwood had one yard on four carries, while Jones dropped three passes. Ajayi, minus one bad play in pass pro, head a good night. 

Updated prediction: I still think one of those last four running backs is going to make the roster, but I have no idea which one. For now, I think Smallwood has a slight advantage. 

Third safety 

8/11: Corey Graham made a nice play on a receiver and would have popped him in a real game. 

8/12: Not much here. Graham and Sullivan continue to work with the second team, with Stephen Roberts being the next guy up of note. 

8/13: Trey Sullivan has a really good day, making a few plays in the end zone. 

8/14: Not much again. Graham is the next guy up, but Sullivan gets some significant snaps too. 

Preseason game 2: Graham gets on the field early as a safety so Malcolm Jenkins can play nickel corner a little. Jeremy Reaves has a nice game but gets called for a new helmet penalty. Stephen Roberts gets hurt. 

Updated prediction: This battle hasn’t been much of one for a while. Graham is the third safety. Trey Sullivan is likely on the roster because of Chris Maragos’ injury. Maybe Reaves can sneak on the practice squad.

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A closer look at Nate Sudfeld's dimes against Patriots

A closer look at Nate Sudfeld's dimes against Patriots

If you don’t want to buy into the Nate Sudfeld hype after just one good preseason performance, that’s certainly understandable. 

So just to make sure we’re on the same page, I’m not either. I’m not saying he’ll ever be a great quarterback or a starter or even a good backup in the NFL. 

But after watching him against New England on Thursday night, I am ready to say this guy can toss some dimes. 

He did it all night against the Patriots. 

I don’t care if it’s preseason and I don’t care if there are high school kids out there on defense, it doesn’t change the fact that some of his throws Thursday were simply impressive. I’m not too surprised by it; he’s shown that ability in practice. But what we’ve also seen from Suds in practice is inconsistency. It looked like he was able to get into a rhythm Thursday. 

Let’s take a look at some of his throws (we’ll go in chronological order) that impressed me from the other night: 

This first one came on Sudfeld’s second drive (second quarter). It’s been interesting watching him this summer. Sometimes it seems like moving around in the pocket gets him going. On this one, it was the opposite. Wendell Smallwood picked up the blitz to buy some time, but Sudfeld couldn’t step into the throw. He was forced to throw off his back foot but showed the arm strength to get the ball downfield. 

Suds sees the blitz and recognizes the 1-on-1 down the sideline. DeAndre Carter was basically tackled early for DPI, but it looked like he had a step on the defender and the throw was going to be right there. 

Sudfeld normally looks pretty good throwing on the run. You could argue this pass was a little underthrown, but it was still put in a good spot for Kamar Aiken in the end zone. Keion Crossen, No. 35, seemed determined to just never let a receiver catch a ball against him again. Another clear DPI. 

A few plays later, Sudfeld hit Shelton Gibson for the first touchdown of the day. We’re going to skip that one, because Gibson’s route was so great, all Suds had to do was loft it up. 

This one came with just 52 seconds left in the first half. Really good experience for Sudfeld in the two-minute offense. The Patriots are using a deep zone, trying to prevent a huge play, but Sudfeld hits Goedert perfectly in stride over a trailing Patrick Chung for 28 yards. Hitting Goedert in stride is huge here because it allows Goedert’s momentum to help get him out of bounds and stop the clock. 

Just two plays later, Sudfeld hits Carter in perfect stride. Poor Crossen didn’t have a very good night. But even with Sudfeld’s double-pump and without him stepping into it, he has plenty of arm and hits Carter in stride. Again, that helped stop the clock. 

Those two throws got the Eagles down inside the 10-yard line with 30 seconds left. The Eagles didn’t score, so Sudfeld gets some of the blame, especially after a weird shovel pass on the fourth down play. But that experience of moving a team down the field in 52 seconds is very valuable. 


We lumped those two together because they happened the same way in a game. First, Sudfeld tried Goedert in that corner of the end zone and then on the next, he came back to Richard Rodgers for the touchdown. Good idea by Doug Pederson to pretty much run the same thing again.

On that second one, watch Sudfeld throw that ball off his back foot. That’s impressive arm strength. That’s a few times now we’ve seen him show off that arm without stepping into a throw. 

I love this one. The Eagles are backed up on their own 2-yard line but they’re coming out firing. Watch Sudfeld look off the safety and then drop a perfect pass in there. Bread basket. 

 
The touchdown to Rashard Davis was just pretty. Nice clean pocket and Sudfeld picked apart the defense. There wasn’t a ton of room for error there between two defenders and near the sideline, but it’s a perfect pass. 

There were a bunch of perfect passes from Sudfeld on Thursday night. I know it was just one preseason game, and that’s why we’re not getting carried away. 

But … feel free to at least be a little intrigued. This guy is probably the backup of the future and fans should feel better about that today than they did this time last week.

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