The good, the bad, Chase Daniel.
The Doug Pederson era kicked off on Thursday night with the Eagles’ 17-9 win over the Buccaneers at the Linc in preseason action.
And, of course, all eyes were on Carson Wentz. But first fans had to watch Daniel spend most of the evening on his backside (see 10 observations).
Everything in preseason games has to be taken with a grain of salt, but we can also learn a lot about the football. Some things we learned were good for the Eagles. Some were not.
The team got off to a hot start — almost as hot as the 100-degree heat index — after a fumble on the opening kickoff. They got a quick touchdown, which would be a huge deal if it happened in a real game.
But this wasn’t a real game. More people cared to watch the third-string quarterback. That’s where we’ll start:
We’ll just go ahead and give you what you want to know. Of course, the rookie and No. 2 overall pick made his NFL debut on Thursday night (see story).
Surprise! After head coach Doug Pederson said during the week that Wentz would start the second half, he got on the field with under two minutes left in the first half. Pederson probably wanted to see the rookie in a hurry-up situation. Of course, when he got on the field, the fans were loud and cheered. He kept that going when he hit Zach Ertz for a 19-yarder on the run.
Wentz opened the second half and already looked better than Daniel, which is to be somewhat expected behind shaky offensive linemen. Wentz was able to move around and keep his eyes downfield, something we’ve seen all training camp from the young rookie. The offense designed a lot of rollouts for him.
At one point in the fourth quarter, he held the ball on designed run play and did a flip after being hit low. Scary moment while he was in the air.
He did throw an interception in the third quarter. It was a bad decision to throw the ball and a worse throw intended for Paul Turner. Still on that drive, he made several great plays to get the Eagles into the red zone. Overall, the accuracy wasn’t where it needs to be yet.
He finished 12 for 24, for 89 yards, the interception and a passer rating of 41.8, before giving way to McLeod Bethel-Thompson late in the fourth quarter. Wentz also rushed for 15 yards on three attempts.
Man, what a long day at the office for Sam Bradford. He and the rest of the full first-team offense were on the field for three plays after the Bucs coughed up the ball on the opening kickoff. It took them three plays to go 18 yards and punch the ball into the end zone.
Bradford attempted one pass and completed it for three yards before taking a seat. Ryan Mathews carried the ball twice for 15 yards and a touchdown.
That was it.
The full Eagles’ first-team defense looked really strong early. On the Bucs’ first possession, they forced a three-and-out. And on the second, Fletcher Cox got a strip sack of Jameis Winston, then recovered the fumble. It looks like he’s going to be OK in this defense.
To start, we saw Ron Brooks and Leodis McKelvin on the field first, with Nolan Carroll as the third CB. Brooks slid inside in the nickel package. Brandon Graham was worked in the first team on the left and right side.
On the Bucs’ first touchdown, McKelvin was beaten by Russell Shepard for a 26-yard touchdown. McKelvin looked like he baited the throw to come his way, then couldn’t make the play when it did. Ed Reynolds was the safety on that side and took a terrible angle to the ball and then wasn’t in position to make a tackle.
The defensive line started the next series, but with mostly second-teamers.
The Eagles’ second-team offense against the Bucs’ first-team defense went about as well as you would expect.
The offensive line was shredded and it didn’t end when the Bucs’ put in their second team. Andrew Gardner was the second-team left tackle because Matt Tobin worked with the ones, and he was consistently beaten. In all, the entire second-team O-line wasn’t great, including veteran Stefen Wisniewski. Rookie Isaac Seumalo looked like a rookie.
This should be a huge concern, because the Eagles’ first-team offensive line is far from a sure thing. Lane Johnson is reportedly facing a 10-game suspension (more on Johnson here), Jason Peters is 34 and hurt and Brandon Brooks suffered a biceps injury in the game (see story).
Daniel wasn’t good either — in fact, he was just downright awful after his rushing touchdown — but his receivers weren’t getting open and his line wasn’t giving him time. Daniel finished 4 for 10 for 15 yards and was sacked four times for 19 yards. He had a passer rating of 47.9.
Since the first-team offense wasn’t on the field very long, we’ll talk about the receivers here. Not good. In the first half, Eagles receivers combined for three catches for 11 yards. A play that summarizes both Josh Huff and Rueben Randle happened in the first half. Huff caught a quick pass and fumbled the ball away. Randle then swatted it out of bounds, which is a penalty.
Some good and bad from the second-teamers. After a while, the unit really settled in though.
We’ll start with the bad. Jalen Mills has had a great training camp, but had a rough night on Thursday. A few missed coverages, a penalty, a missed tackle. He might have a chance to earn playing time this year, but he didn’t take a step toward that against the Bucs. And the guy who is behind him — Eric Rowe — didn’t look great either.
Jaylen Watkins started at safety and had a nice performance. He had a few pass breakups and even made a tackle. Tackling is the problem with Watkins’ game. If he can correct that, he’ll have a much better chance of making the team.
Joe Walker, a seventh-round pick from Oregon, did some good things. As Jordan Hicks’ backup, there’s a good chance Walker’s going to see some time this season, and it looks like he might be up for it.
It was the Wentz show, but some others looked OK. Tight end M.J. McFarland made a nice catch. Turner had a nice day, too — probably not a roster spot available for him, but certainly a practice squad candidate.
OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai looked like a rookie. They probably can’t count on him this season.
Defensive end Steven Means really got some pressure on the quarterback. He’s had a good camp and has a chance to earn a roster spot. He had a big strip sack in the third quarter. He has a chance to beat out Marcus Smith for a roster spot.
Some other linemen, including undrafted Destiny Vaeao flashed at times. Rookie linebacker Quintin Gause had an interception.
Starting right guard Brooks left the game after the first series with a right biceps injury. It didn’t seem too serious, but the team can’t afford to lose him. Backup center Josh Andrews also left early with an ankle injury.
A bunch of key Eagles didn’t play in the game, but there were no surprises. Peters (quad), Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring), Mychal Kendricks (hamstring), Jordan Matthews (knee), Smith (concussion), Wendell Smallwood (quad), Mike Martin (knee), JaCorey Shepherd (hamstring), Marcus Johnson (quad) and Hunter Sharp (hamstring) all sat out.
To replace the missing starters: Tobin started at left tackle. Watkins started at safety. Najee Goode started at WILL linebacker. Huff started at wide receiver.
The Eagles have an off day on Friday and are back on the field at 8 a.m. for practice on Saturday at the NovaCare Complex. On Sunday night, they have their second and final open practice at the Linc at 7 p.m.
The next preseason game is on Thursday at Pittsburgh — another 7 p.m. kickoff.