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Instant Analysis: Grading the Eagles' preseason opener

Instant Analysis: Grading the Eagles' preseason opener

The Eagles fell 24-9 in their preseason opener to the Green Bay Packers, though the result on the scoreboard is of no importance. We'll come back with more in-depth analysis of the tape from the first exhibition game, but here is our instant analysis of how the team fared on Thursday.

Quarterbacks
Carson Wentz made a pair sensational plays, twice stepping out of sacks to complete third-down passes, the second of which wound up going for a 38-yard touchdown. Wentz connected on all four of his passes for 56 yards, though he sailed a two-point conversion attempt incomplete. Matt McGloin looked sharp — when he got his feet set. The Penn State grad completed 28 of 42 for 205 yards with an interception, and failed to move the offense across the goal line.

Grade: A-

Running backs
Tough to evaluate the backs, as they were given very little room to run. Donnel Pumphrey had a rough NFL debut. Pumphrey appeared to fumble on his first carry, but was ruled down, and the fifth-round pick may have run the wrong route on an interception. Undrafted rookie Corey Clement provided a late spark in the passing game with two receptions for 31 yards.

Grade: C-

Wide receivers
Neither Alshon Jeffery nor Torrey Smith played, and the receivers were still phenomenal. Fourth-round rookie Mack Hollins stiff-armed two Packers defenders on his way to a 38-yard touchdown, part of a four-catch, 64-yard debut. Bryce Treggs led all Eagles wideouts with seven receptions for 91 yards. Jordan Matthews played for one series, hauling in three passes, including conversions on third and fourth down. This was a promising outing from top to bottom.

Grade: A

Tight ends
Not a good night for Eagles tight ends. Zach Ertz appeared to miss several blocking assignments. Trey Burton and Billy Brown each lost fumbles.

Grade: F

Offensive line
First and foremost, the Eagles were unable to mount any type of ground attack, finishing with 32 yards on 17 carries — a 1.9-yard average. The unit's problems didn't end there, as the first-team O-line allowed a fair amount of pressure on Wentz as well, including a sack. To be fair, Green Bay was loading up the box and blitzing, but the offense still needs to be able to run the football and keep the quarterback upright. The reserves fared slightly better in protection, and no better at opening holes for ball carriers.

Grade: D

Defensive line
Tremendous debut for first-round pick Derek Barnett, who tormented Green Bay's second-string offensive linemen to the tune of 2.0 sacks. Brandon Graham stuffed a run in the backfield, and Fletcher Cox forced a fumble. But the surprise performance of the game goes to Alex McCalister. The 2016 seventh-round choice registered a sack and a pair of hurries after spending his rookie season on injured reserve. Good pressure throughout, not to mention Green Bay was limited to 45 yards on the ground.

Grade: A

Linebackers
Very active. Though he was not credited with a forced fumble, Jordan Hicks arrived on the scene to help jar a ball loose. Najee Goode had three tackles, including a stop in the backfield. Mychal Kendricks had two tackles and an interception. And rookie Nathan Gerry made three tackles as well, although he took a bad angle and missed one, too.

Grade: A-

Defensive backs
This was an uneven performance, as anybody following the team might expect. Jalen Mills was consistently tight in coverage. Terrence Brooks made two tackles for loss. Undrafted rookie Tre Sullivan was a physical presence. That was the good. Patrick Robinson got bailed out by a couple of dropped passes. C.J. Smith was less fortunate, getting torched for a 20-yard touchdown. Nobody made a case to win the starting cornerback job opposite Mills.

Grade: B-

Special teams
Uncharacteristically brutal. The Packers returned two punts for 94 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown. Pumphrey and Greg Ward each muffed a punt, though both were somehow able to recover. And Caleb Sturgis hit the upright on a 46-yard field goal to close out the first half. The kickoff coverage unit was solid, preventing this from being a total disaster.

Grade: D

Coaching
It's preseason. About the only thing to evaluate here was the usage of key players, and it was what it needed to be. Wentz played one series. Cox and Hicks were in for two. Jeffery didn't play at all. In short, no real complaints here.

Grade: NA

Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg get a bit heated in dugout altercation

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FOX Sports Atlanta

Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg get a bit heated in dugout altercation

While the Phillies put up seven early runs Friday in an attempt to overcome a shaky start by Jake Arrieta out of the All-Star break, there was some drama in D.C.

Stephen Strasburg, in his return from the DL, was pulled after allowing six runs in 4⅔ innings to the Braves. As he jogged off the field and down the dugout steps, he was greeted by Nats ace Max Scherzer, who gave him a supportive pat on the back.

Seconds later, Strasburg barked at Scherzer, who snapped his head back and shrugged in exasperation.

Scherzer was clearly ticked off and shouted back at Strasburg with some emphatic gestures. Strasburg jumped up and began to walk down the steps back to the clubhouse with Scherzer following him. It appeared they wanted to finish their heated conversation in private.

It's been a frustrating season for the Nats. They're 48-49 and six games behind both the Braves and Phillies. This was Strasburg's 14th start of the season and it hasn't been Strasburg-like at all. He has a 3.90 ERA and has allowed 12 home runs in 85⅓ innings.

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Mike Muscala wasn't very fond of Joel Embiid as an opponent

Mike Muscala wasn't very fond of Joel Embiid as an opponent

Joel Embiid's new backup wasn't very fond of the Sixers' star center when he wasn't his teammate.

The Sixers will eventually acquire Mike Muscala from the Atlanta Hawks as part of a three-team trade involving Carmelo Anthony (see story). The trade is not official yet.

As is the case these days with social media, players' old takes resurface and Muscala is no different — except this time, it's not old tweets from a teenaged Muscala.

Appearing on the Road Trippin' podcast (h/t Jeff McMenamin and Pro Basketball Talk) on Feb. 13, 2018, Muscala, then with the Hawks, said the following:

I don’t like the Sixers.

I just don’t like them. I just feel like they talk a lot of s—, especially Embiid.

I understand there’s going to be some trash-talking. But I just feel like — I don’t know. Sometimes, I just — I respect players that just let their play do the talking. And I think sometimes, it just gets excessive, especially with Embiid.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the league. I think it’s entertaining, and I think people can feed off of that. In a weird way, I respect him for being to do that, because it takes a lot of guts and confidence, at the same time.

One important thing to note here. Muscala and Embiid were not teammates at the time and anyone who has watched Embiid play basketball knows he's a trash-talker. Of course, his opponents are not going to like it.

Embiid played just one game against the Hawks in 2017-18. He scored 21 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in 30 minutes on Nov. 1, 2017. Muscala? Just two points in 22 minutes.

Yeah, it's pretty clear who had the better stat line. And you can bet Embiid was chirping the entire game. Who could blame him?

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