The Philadelphia Eagles are 1-0 in the 2016 NFL preseason after beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a final score of 17-9. It wasn't pretty, but the Birds got the job done. Now let's look at 10 things we learned from this meaningless game.
1) No major injuries
This is really the most important thing to take away from preseason games. Starting right guard Brandon Brooks left the game early with a biceps injury but he said he's going to be OK. Backup offensive lineman Josh Andrews left with an ankle injury, but he might not even make the team if he's healthy.
2) Carson Wentz showed potential
It wasn't a pretty performance by the rookie quarterback, especially as far as the numbers are concerned. He only completed half of his attempts for 89 yards, one interception, and a 41.8 passer rating. But the truth is he played better than the numbers indicate. He flashed some real potential at times. He fired an absolute laser to Zach Ertz up the middle after climbing the pocket to avoid pressure. He recognized a cornerback blitz and threw to the hot read to make the defense pay. He showed great toughness by taking a lot of hits but getting back up each time. The Eagles will continue to work on him with his mechanics and knowledge of the offense. His accuracy needs to be refined. Overall, though, it was an encouraging debut for Wentz. It's easy to already look forward to getting to see him play again next week.
3) This Eagles defense is going to eat
We saw a glimpse of why Eagles fans are right to be excited about the Jim Schwartz. Philadelphia's first two defensive stops were very good. The defense forced a three-and-out before the Buccaneers took over again and Fletcher Cox immediately recorded a strip-sack and recovery. Even if Cox hadn't gotten there, Bennie Logan was just a step away from crushing Jameis Winston (and he did anyway). Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry had some nice run stops. This Eagles defensive line is a very strong unit. It's hard not to get excited about what they can do.
4) But sometimes the Eagles defense might get eaten
Much to Schwartz's dismay, his unit wasn't perfect. The Eagles' first team defense allowed a 79-yard scoring drive that the Bucs capped off with a Winston touchdown throw to former Eagles receiver Russell Shepard. The cornerback spot is clearly a concern for this team, and I'm not just talking about the starters. Rookie
and future Hall of Famer Jalen Mills and 2015 second round pick Eric Rowe both played poorly on Thursday night. Along with the secondary issues, it could just take some time for Schwartz's defense to fully gel.
5) The Eagles still can't catch
The Eagles' wide receiver situation is looking very bleak, especially when Jordan Matthews isn't playing. Philadelphia simply lacks talent at the position despite spending high draft resources on players in recent years. Eagles receivers were targeted a total of 21 times on Thursday evening. They combined for 52 yards on 10 catches, with the longest reception of the night going for 10 yards. That's bad, and it only gets worse when you add context. Josh Huff fumbled a ball and Rueben Randle committed a dumb illegal batting penalty. Nelson Agholor was invisible except for the one time he got trucked while attempting to block for Huff on a screen. And then there were a ton of drops by everyone. This is a very discouraging group.
6) Offensive line depth is not looking great
The starting offensive line played pretty well. Granted, the starters got the ball in good field position. Still, the big guys up front did a great job paving the way for Ryan Mathews in the red zone for Philadelphia's first touchdown. Lane Johnson pancaked star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy on Mathews' touchdown.
The problem here, of course, is that Johnson might miss the first 10 games of this season. And if that's the case, it's not looking pretty for the Birds. The backup offensive line was very bad. They allowed a lot of pressure and couldn't provide much push in the run game.
7) Chase Daniel didn't make a great first impression
Everyone went to bed last night wondering why the Eagles paid Chase Daniel so much money this offseason and why he's ahead of Wentz on the depth chart. It's to blame them because Daniel looked pretty bad. Especially for a guy who is supposed to "know the offense." I have to cut Daniel some slack because, as mentioned in the previous two points, his receivers were awful and the line wasn't very good. Still, there was a play where Zach Ertz was open over the middle and he totally missed it. That may have been because he couldn't have seen over the line in front of him. A number of people weren't thrilled with the contract the Eagles gave to Daniel and he did nothing to prove them wrong on Thursday night.
8) Caleb Sturgis is still leading the kicker competition
Sturgis has been better than Cody Parkey all offseason and that didn't change on Thursday. The Power Sturge drilled a 42-yard attempt along with making his extra point kick. Sturgis also did a good job on kickoffs, which looked to be intentionally placed at the goal line in order to encourage returns. This led to the Eagles making a big special teams play on the first return of the game when Najee Goode stripped the Tampa Bay returner and Chris Maragos recovered the ball. Parkey made his one and only PAT attempt.
9) Jaylen Watkins is pushing to be the third safety
Last year at this time, Watkins was a cornerback who was whiffing on tackles and getting burnt deep. Now he's a safety who's actually playing relatively well. Watkins, who has looked good in training camp this summer, recorded a few passes breakups against the Buccaneers. He almost picked off Winston at one point. He even had a proper solo tackle, which is more surprising then anything. Ideally, the Eagles won't want Watkins to play much because they want Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins to be on the field. But with Jenkins missing time for now, Watkins has stepped up. His ability to play corner helps his cause for a roster spot.
10) Steven Means business
As Jim Schwartz would say: "Pun intended." Means recorded a strip-sack on Thursday night which is almost more than Marcus Smith has ever done. Means is practicing and playing well in Smith's absence. The former first round pick might not make the final roster this year. The Eagles have a strong three-man rotation at defensive end with Curry, Graham, and Connor Barwin, but having a fourth guy who can rotate in to help the pass rush is a nice bonus.