The Eagles hung on to win a thriller on Thursday night, defeating the Dolphins, 38-31, at Lincoln Financial Field (see Instant Replay). It was the third preseason game — aka the "dress rehearsal" — which meant one final chance to evaluate the starters before the real thing gets underway in September. So how did they do?
It appears having receivers who can actually stretch the field and create separation is going to agree with Carson Wentz. Wentz completed 6 of 10 passes for 129 yards, with touchdowns of 50 and 15. It's also hard to fault Wentz for the interception he threw, which was batted into the air by a rusher in the quarterback's face. The most encouraging part was the eight-play, 93-yard drive he led from the shadow of his own goal post. And to Matt McGloin's credit, at least he kept the clock moving, completing 22 of 26 passes — albeit for only 155 yards — with one touchdown and one interception.
LeGarrette Blount rushed four times for 19 yards, and Wendell Smallwood had four attempts for 29. However, 16 of Blount's yards came on one carry, while Smallwood was steamrolled once in pass protection. All told, probably more good than bad from 1A and 1B. Corey Clement tacked on nine runs for 42 yards and a touchdown, and even Donnel Pumphrey found a little room, gaining 74 total yards of offense on 17 touches. This was fine.
Torrey Smith's preseason: one target, one reception, 50 yards, one touchdown. Put him back in bubble wrap until September. Alshon Jeffery added two receptions for 25 yards and a score. Nelson Agholor was not targeted, which doesn't necessarily mean anything given the limited sample size, yet seems notable. At least Agholor didn't drop any! Mack Hollins led all Eagles reserves with five receptions for 44 yards. Marcus Johnson hauled in a 1-yard touchdown pass as well. This was almost everything you could hope to see, minus Agholor's lack of involvement.
Most productive game of the preseason for Zach Ertz, who finished with three receptions for 44 yards on three targets, with a broken tackle on a nifty 18-yard catch-and-run. Trey Burton was also effective, recording four catches for 43 yards, though he also dropped a pass. Not sure there's a proper blocking tight end here, but they can put up numbers.
The starters struggled, again, with Lane Johnson having an especially rough go — again. Back in his traditional spot at right tackle, Johnson continued to get pushed around in pass protection, including the pressure that caused a ball to get batted into the air for an interception. There seemed to be some genuine confusion up front as well, with multiple free rushers waltzing into the backfield. Perhaps it can all be chalked up to a lack of game-planning, but the unit continued to look shaky, whatever the case may be. Meanwhile, the second-stringers fared well enough, minus a ton of penalties.
Vinny Curry finally came alive with a strip sack, and was generally disruptive. Elijah Qualls and Alex McCalister had a meeting at the quarterback as well, and Justin Hamilton and Steven Means each had a tackle for loss. Otherwise, it was a quiet night for the front four. Derek Barnett got the start, but failed to make his mark in the box score. The Dolphins had some success running the football as well, with starter Jay Ajayi carrying nine times for 53 yards. Brandon Graham — out with a triceps injury — was missed.
Mychal Kendricks continued to shine, registering an interception and a quarterback hit. Joe Walker and Don Cherry combined for one of the plays of the game — Walker getting pressure on the signal caller, and Cherry intercepting the pass and returning it 42 yards down to Miami's 5-yard line. Walker also read a screen pass to make a nice tackle for loss. Nigel Bradham finished with three tackles. Najee Goode had a night to forget starting in place of Jordan Hicks, but not enough to detract from the rest of the unit.
Not the follow-up Ronald Darby was hoping for at the Linc. Darby broke up one pass, but was on the wrong end of two huge plays — a 72-yard catch-and-run and a 42-yard penalty for pass interference. The 5-foot-11 cornerback had great position on the first play, but 6-3 receiver DeVante Parker skied above the coverage to make the grab. Darby showed good make-up speed on the second play, but made too much contact with the intended target. Toss in a missed tackle for good measure. Seeing action at corner, Jaylen Watkins made up for Darby's tough night somewhat with an interception and 50-yard return, and C.J. Smith came up with a pass deflection that resulted in an interception as well. But later, Rasul Douglas and Terrence Brooks collided while attempting to make a tackle, which wound up resulting in a 69-yard score. Too many breakdowns.
Solid, if unremarkable. Caleb Sturgis knocked down five extra points and a 30-yard field goal, while Donnie Jones downed 2 of 3 punts inside Miami's 20-yard line. Kamu Grugier-Hill had a heck of a hit, arriving at the punt returner at the same time as the ball — though was flagged for a personal foul in what was a very tough call to swallow. The Eagles tried a bevy of players in the return game, giving some guys opportunities to make the 53-man roster, but no one stood out.
Starters often play into the second half in the third NFL preseason game, but Doug Pederson made the executive decision to pull his guys after the first quarter. It felt like the right call, particularly for the quarterback's safety, and the health of key players is really the only thing that matters here. As always, there was little in the way of an actual game plan here, so Pederson's move to get the starters off the field and into September is solely what we're evaluating here.