Another preseason game, another mess. The Eagles lost to the Patriots 42-35 [full recap], and there were bumps, bruises and follies along the way. The Eagles first team offense was missing its top wide receivers, but still looked good given the circumstances. However, outside of a Cary Williams interception for a touchdown, the defense came up short several times on Friday night. Still, it was just one preseason game. The team will clearly have to rebound once again in the third week. With that said, there is a lot to talk about, so let's get into it.
Foles is Fine
Nick Foles seemingly bounced back from a horrid performance in Chicago against the Patriots on Friday night. While he wasn't a "world beater" by any stretch, Foles was accurate and didn't force throws. He looked comfortable in the pocket outside of two plays and really seemed to avoid throwing off his back foot. Foles was 8-of-10 for 81 yards and touchdown, while utilizing his starting tight ends throughout his performance.
Foles seemed to be hurt again by a lack of quality receivers in his unit. Ifeanyi Momah fumbled after a catch on the first drive and Arrelious Benn and Brad Smith really didn't get a lot of open looks. Foles was forced to really focus on Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, which worked out pretty well. I am anxious to see how we will do with Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper in the game.
All things considered, Foles wasn't perfect. He had two plays that seemed to show off his tendency to hold onto the ball for way too long. On one play it worked out with a throw to Celek and the other nearly led to an intentional grounding call. He made better decisions and didn't force throws, but he still needs to get the ball out of his hands quicker.
As the Sanchez Passes
Once again, Mark Sanchez showed that he is, at the very least, a very good backup quarterback. Outside of a rough interception in which he overthrew James Casey, Sanchez was extremely sharp. The guy is confident in a two minute drill and likes the no-huddle offense. He had two touchdowns on the night and went 11-of-12 for 117 yards. He obviously did this against backups and third-stringers, but that shouldn't matter that much. His command of the offense was terrific.
As I said last week, this is not an open competition. Foles is the starter and Sanchez is the backup. That said, if Foles struggles and the Eagles go 0-3 or 2-4, Sanchez could get the call. I think the Eagles have a very good problem on their hands but we need to look at it in context. Sanchez has had more room to impress and Foles has gone 14-of-19 for 125 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Those aren't great numbers but it's not like he has looked abysmal in both games. Foles has shown the ability to rebound.
In Ertz We Trust
If Zach Ertz isn't a Pro Bowl tight end in the next two years, something is definitely wrong. This guy is special and he showed it on Friday. He finished with two catches for 26 yards and a score, but both grabs were impressive. Ertz made a mid-air catch for 20 yards and also had a touchdown while boxing out former Eagles safety Pat Chung. His extra effort created the score.
Starting O-Line Says "We're Okay!"
I had no major qualms with the offensive line on Friday, outside of one play where backup right tackle Allen Barbre was a turnstile for Rob Ninkovich. The Patriots pass rusher pushed Barbre aside for a sack. Outside of that, the line held well for the most part and gave Foles time. When Lane Johnson is in the fold, the line is in the Top 5 in the league. They just need to be good with Barbre in his place.
Defense Needs a Rain Check
Yikes! The entire defense looked pathetic on Friday outside of the Cary Williams' pick-six. Williams made a play on a miscommunication between Tom Brady and the Patriots 54th tight end of the week, Steve Maneri, who is clearly lost in the offense. Williams got a great block by Mychal Kendricks on Nate Solder and then Vinny Curry cleared the rest of the way with a stuff on Maneri. Chip Kelly will likely look at that tape and smile. The rest of the game, probably not so much...
The defense was gashed early and often as Curtis Marsh did his best Roc Carmichael impression and gave up an astonishing three touchdowns (easily could have been four) and committed a pass interference and a holding call on the second Patriot drive of the game. Marsh had been the talk of the defense in training camp, but that clearly didn't translate on Friday. That said, it's one preseason game (with one of the worst performances by a veteran that I can recall). CHEAP PLUG: Make sure to listen to Curtis Marsh's interview on BGN Radio this weekend. He will be talking about the extremely-enforced illegal contact penalty and the most impressive offensive player in camp. Stay tuned!
The Eagles defense used a lot of sub packages which probably played with their rhythm and it seemed like everyone and their mothers got to have first-team reps. From Travis Long to Brandon Bair to Emmanuel Acho, everyone got a turn. That didn't go so well though. However, I thought DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks and Nate Allen played well on Friday night.
Momah and Marsh Get a Ride Back to Earth
The two darlings of training camp fell hard on Friday. As previously mentioned, Marsh was burned so badly and so frequently that he may not get s'more reps with the first team moving forward (I like my puns). He was frankly putrid and to make matters worse, you could tell he was working his butt off out there. It's really a shame. He's a smart player and a really nice guy, but I can't see how his chances of making the roster are all that good. Again, it's just one preseason game, but it created a TON of bad tape.
Momah made his way back to practice squad material against the Patriots. Again, Foles targeted him on the first play of the game and he caught the ball but fumbled after taking a shot from two defenders. Later on, Momah coughed up a touchdown pass and he was lucky to have his competition, Benn, standing nearby with quick hands. Momah just seemed to have a bad night, but he is competing for a job that will only exist if he or Benn or Jeff Maehl (who fumbled as well during the game) prove they deserve it.
Benn, Barkley and Wolff Make Plays
Benn has been in the previously-mentioned sixth receiver camp battle all off-season. On Friday, he finally did something worthwhile to write about. First, he had a really nice punt block that set up Philadelphia's first touchdown drive. Benn shot the gap in the middle of punt protection and got his entire hand (and maybe his wrist) on the ball. Chris Maragos was able to recover the ball and Benn got a nice confidence boost in the special teams department. He's been questioned in that area by fans and media alike. He also had the touchdown catch in the third quarter that flipped out of Momah's hands and into Benn's palms. Glad to see him doing well, with Josh Huff possibly sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Matt Barkley showed improvement against the Patriots. Outside of an unlucky interception off a Damaris Johnson bobble, Barkley looked in command of the third-team offense. He went 9-of-12 for 132 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His touchdown was a screen pass that he had little to do with, but he moved the ball downfield well. He is definitely the third guy as G.J. Kinne didn't get to run his "three-second offense" this week.
Earl Wolff had a bogus forced fumble on the stat sheet, as the opposing player's knee hit the ground first. However, he had a really nice blitz on Jimmy Garoppolo, which led to a batted ball by the second-year player. He seemed relatively-active with the backups.
Rookie Report: Matthews, Josey Shine
- Marcus Smith: A lot is made of Smith and his pass rushing, but he was constantly in the backfield against New England. He had a few pressures but never closed on the quarterback. He definitely has speed and gave the offensive linemen fits. He also showed solid coverage against tight ends. Smith needs work but he will still be a fixture this season.
- Jordan Matthews: Whoa! What a rebound for the former Vanderbilt receiver. He was targeted nine times and had 104 yards on nine catches. He made some tough grabs and proved that he could hold onto the ball. He was the main focus of Sanchez on Friday night and deservedly so. There is definitely a reason to be excited again, but we need to give him time. He looked good with the ball in his hands, which should work well in this offense.
- Josh Huff: Returned one kickoff but injured his shoulder on the play.
- Jaylen Watkins: Didn't play with a hamstring injury.
- Taylor Hart: The tall and long lineman was active against the Patriots. He had a few stops against the run and had a tackle for a short game in the redzone. I would like to see more, but I am comfortable with him as a backup.
- Ed Reynolds: Non-factor.
- Beau Allen: He got great penetration in the second quarter as he split two lineman and headed right at Garoppolo. The pressure forced a pass to be led out-of-bounds. Allen is going to get a lot of playing time if Fletcher Cox continues to be non-existent (he looked slow on a few plays against New England).
- Henry Josey: The undrafted running back was fantastic against the Patriots. He made the most of his time and had a combined 83 yards and a receiving touchdown, which came on a terrific screen. Josey showed great vision and burst and could be a threat to Chris Polk's gig with him battling injuries consistently. Josey has a great story, but he also has talent. It will be interesting to see how he fits moving forward.
- These excessive flags will ruin this sport. I understand the need to help the offense to sell tickets and fantasy football, but these preseason games have been a chore to watch. The NFL really needs to review these games and see why someone may not want to pay a ticket to see yellow flags get thrown every three plays. Referees need to enforce the rules, but shouldn't place an embargo on momentum or fun.
- I said on Friday that the first 15 cuts will feature some really tough calls. Based on this game, without acknowledging a third game (where most of these guys won't play anyway), my predictions for those cuts would be Carey Spear, Will Murphy, Blake Annen, Trey Burton, Donald Hawkins, Wade Keliikipi, Frank Mays, Alejandro Villanueva, Jason Phillips, Roc Carmichael, Daytawion Lowe, Davon Morgan, Julian Vandervelde (IR), Kadrone Boone and Josh Kaddu. I also wouldn't be shocked if the team cut Curtis Marsh and/or Keelan Johnson for better waiver wire pickups. Stay tuned for my updated 53-man roster prediction later in the week.
- Under-the-radar good games included David Molk (awesome blocking on the Josey touchdown screen), Brandon Bair (a few stops, one for loss) and B.J. Cunningham (fantastic grab on a 3-and-12 from Barkley to keep a touchdown drive going).
- Alex Henery missed a 47-yard field goal attempt... Surprise! If I were Howie Roseman, I'd at least be watching the waiver wire after Week 4 of the preseason.
- My "Weekly Huh?" goes out to Chip Kelly who ran four straight runs with wide receiver Damaris Johnson at the goal line in the fourth quarter. Why? I understand you want to figure out if Johnson can do it, but why waste a relatively productive possession and a potential confidence boost for Barkley? I am sure Kelly knows better than me (or us), but that seemed really odd. I don't get it. Johnson isn't likely to make it past final cuts at any position.