Atlanta Falcons

Eagles rookie Dallas Goedert left NFL debut with learning opportunities

Eagles rookie Dallas Goedert left NFL debut with learning opportunities

Dallas Goedert played in his first NFL game last Thursday night and it went “pretty good,” according to head coach Doug Pederson. 

There are, however, a couple plays from the 18-12 win Goedert would like to have back. 

“I’m sure he would like to have that pass over the middle back,” Pederson said. “I think that was one he knows he’s going to have to have in traffic.”

Yup, Pederson’s right. Goedert would like a do-over on that one. 

This play happened on 1st-and-10 with just under 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter of a one-score game. So the stakes were high. 

This would have been a tough play to make and all the blame doesn’t deserve to go to Goedert. You could argue that Nick Foles simply needs to deliver the football earlier. 

But Goedert needs to hold on to it too. 

“Obviously, it’s a bummer when an interception like that happens and it’s on you,” Goedert said. “You gotta be better. Just hang on to it. You know you’re going to get hit.”

Goedert gave credit to the charging safety, Damontae Kazee, and he deserves it. It was a great defensive play. That, paired with a little luck, gave the Falcons the ball back. 

This next play actually happened in the second quarter. It was nearly the play of the day and it would have been if Goedert was still in college. 

“I was pretty close. I think I got one foot in,” Goedert said. “Obviously, that’s something I need to work on as well. I know I gotta get two feet in. The ball was up there. I just have to be aware and get the other foot down.”

Even though he didn’t pull this catch in, it is a good sign for Goedert going forward. One, that he nearly caught it. Two, that Foles was comfortable enough to toss it up to him. 

The rookie said he thinks any of the Eagles’ quarterbacks feel comfortable with him in those situations that he’ll either catch the ball or make sure it falls incomplete. 

“It feels good,” Goedert said. “When he signaled what I was going to do, I was pretty excited. I knew I had a pretty good chance. That’s a play that I feel like a lot of times, I can go up and make. Hopefully we do that a little bit more.”

All in all, it wasn’t a spectacular debut from Goedert. He played 17 snaps and caught one pass for four yards. But the second-round pick showed some promise. More importantly, the rest of the team showed confidence in him. 

If he pulls in the ball on these two plays, we’re talking about what an impressive night the young rookie had. Instead, he left with a couple of things to improve. 

“But for the first time out, as a rookie, big spotlight like that, big crowd, sort of a playoff atmosphere, was encouraging,” Pederson said. “And we’ll continue to work with him, and he’ll just get better each week.” 

By the end of the season, expect Goedert to have a significant role with the team. 

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Former Eagles DE Steven Means signs with Falcons

Former Eagles DE Steven Means signs with Falcons

It took a week, but former Eagles defensive end Steven Means has found a new team. 

Means, 27, was signed by the Atlanta Falcons Monday as the corresponding move after Keanu Neal was put on IR. 

He can help them. 

The problem for Means in Philly was that he was just buried on the depth chart with little chance of playing. He was behind Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, Michael Bennett and the team wasn’t going to cut draft pick Josh Sweat. 

After the Eagles got their roster down to 53 members, Howie Roseman said Means was the final cut. 

“I think because of what he means as a person and a player, [it was] really hard,” Roseman said. “Hard one.” 

Means joined the Eagles’ practice squad back in 2015 but made the active roster coming into the next season. Over the next two years, he played minimally in 14 games but picked up two sacks. 

But Means did have a strong showing during this preseason, leading the team with three sacks and might be able to help the Falcons this season. 

His former teammates will be happy for his success. Jim Schwartz said he’s never been around a more respected player. Means didn’t play much but brought it in practice every day, helping the offense to get better over the last two seasons. 

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Eagles' red zone defense will make them very difficult to beat

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USA Today Images

Eagles' red zone defense will make them very difficult to beat

They had the ball on the 5-yard line and couldn’t get in the end zone.

They had the ball on the 3-yard line and couldn’t get in the end zone.

They even had the ball on the 1-yard line and couldn’t get in the end zone.

“It’s really everybody doing their job, everybody having the mindset that, ‘They’re not going to score,’” Jordan Hicks said. “As long as there’s a blade of grass, we’re going to defend it.”

Red zone defense was a strength for the Eagles in 2017, and they began 2018 the same way Thursday, turning in two massive goal-line stands to open the game and another to finish it.

In all, the Falcons managed just one touchdown and two field goals in five trips inside the Eagles’ red zone.

Ballgame.

“Our thought process is stop the run first, force them to throw, then after that, they want to spread us out, we’ve got guys that can cover,” Hicks said. “Force them to make the tough throws, and we’ve got two really good corners outside who are able to make plays on those guys.”

This is why Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz doesn’t care how many yards the Eagles give up.

If it’s this hard for teams to get into the end zone, the yards just don’t matter.

During the 2017 championship season, the Eagles ranked ninth in the NFL in points allowed per red zone possession at 4.75 and fifth in total red zone points allowed, with two takeaways.

That number went down to 2.70 in the postseason, with two more takeaways.

The Eagles were back at it Thursday night.

The Falcons ran 15 plays in the red zone, netting just 11 yards. Matt Ryan was 1-for-9 for three yards, a seven-yard sack, an interception and a passer rating of 0 in the red zone.

“We put a big emphasis on red zone,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “Our scheme is pretty simple, we’re really good at what we do, we detail every small thing, and we trust our players.

“When we get down to it, it’s nothing complex or anything. We just do our jobs and we trust our matchups. Obviously, guys show up, and it’s been crucial for our team.”

Thursday’s game was the first in 21 years in which the Eagles have kept an opponent out of the end zone on three separate drives inside their own 10-yard line.

The last time it happened was Oct. 26, 1997, in a 13-12 win over the Cowboys at the Vet.

• In the first quarter, the Cowboys had a drive in the first quarter that ended at the 8-yard line when Brian Dawkins batted away a Troy Aikman pass intended for Michael Irvin.

• In the second quarter, a Dallas drive ended at the 6-yard line when Wade Wilson — who had replaced an injured Aikman — threw incomplete to Herschel Walker.

• In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys started a drive with a 1st-and-goal on the Eagles’ 4-yard line, but Rhett Hall sacked Wilson on second down and then stopped Emmitt Smith for a two-yard loss on third down.

A couple other notes about the goal-line stands:

• Thursday was the first time the Eagles allowed no points on two drives to the 5-yard line or deeper in the same game in 14 years – since Sept. 12, 2004, in a 31-14 win over the Giants. In that game, the Giants had a drive to the 7-yard line that Sheldon Brown ended with a strip-sack of Kurt Warner and another that ended at the 5-yard line when Warner threw incomplete to Ike Hilliard (covered by Ike Reese).

• The last time the Eagles defended five or more red zone drives in one game and allowed one or fewer touchdowns was actually a 26-16 loss to the Andy Reid Chiefs at the Linc in 2013.

“As we continue to get better, being such a dominant red zone defense is huge,” Hicks said. “As long as we don’t give up a big play, they’ve got to score tough, and I like our chances when we make someone have to score tough.”

If you can't score, you can't win. And if you can't get in the end zone, it's really hard to score. 

The Eagles’ defense is smart and tough and quick. Of their 18 players who got more than 200 defensive snaps last year, 14 are back. They communicate well. They think fast. They can pressure and they can cover.

Everything you need to play terrific red zone defense.

It’s not going to be easy to get into the end zone on these guys this year. Even if there’s only a blade of grass to work with.

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