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State of the Eagles, NFL Preseason Week 2

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This feature is a weekly piece on BleedingGreenNation.com titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.

What do we know about the 2016 Eagles? Looks like the defense could be really good. Looks like the special teams could change games in the Eagles' favor. Looks like the offense has a lot of question marks.

Fair to say? Two weeks into preseason, with all of the reaction and overreaction to last week's 17-9 win over Tampa Bay, it seems to me to be about as fair an assessment as we can have to date. Some things to talk about with the Steelers waiting on Thursday night ...

  • The offense needs to demonstrate that it has some firepower on the outside in the passing game and that it can survive the anticipated loss of right tackle Lane Johnson on the offensive line. The wide receivers were not productive against Tampa Bay. Nelson Agholor had zero catches. Josh Huff had two and a fumble. Rueben Randle didn't look all that inspired in his one-catch, one-drop night. The Eagles need much more from those three and from the group in general. I'm interested to see how the acquisition of Dorial Green-Beckham impacts the urgency of the wide receiver room. DGB isn't here as a savior, so let's get that out of the way first. He's a raw, highly-talented player who has a lot of flaws in his past off the field. The coaches in Tennessee were very public chastising him for his effort and his focus. The Eagles are aware of all of that. They have their "eyes open," said Howie Roseman on Tuesday. If you think DGB is Plaxico Burress right off the bat, you're dreaming. He certainly has that kind of talent, but isn't everyone talented in the NFL? Let's see how hard DGB works and how much he wants to be a great football player at this level. In general, though, the Eagles must figure out what's going on with Agholor, who needs some production to gain some confidence. They need to know if Randle is going to play like a guy who has a one-year contract. Huff, so inconsistent in his first two seasons, looks great on a kickoff return and then coughs the ball up with a catch and run. Maddening. Big game for this group against Pittsburgh.

  • Allen Barbre is playing right tackle for the Eagles. He isn't an athlete like Lane Johnson. He isn't a natural like Lane Johnson. The Eagles are going to have to scheme to help Barbre, who is a tough guy with good feet, but there is no doubt the loss of Johnson hurts the offensive line. Brandon Brooks is a giant upgrade at right guard over what the Eagles had last year. Jason Peters is going to give it everything he has this season. Thing is, nobody knows exactly how much he has left at age 34. Rookie Isaac Seumalo is the starting left guard and he will get some help playing between Jason Kelce and Peters. But the bottom line is this: What was expected to be a strength, the offensive line, now has some legitimate questions. The Eagles are high on some of the young linemen on the roster and they will get some good reps against the attacking Steelers defense on Thursday night.

  • Bummer about Carson Wentz, but I won't be surprised if he plays in the preseason finale. I hope everyone who watched him play last week recognizes the talent that he has, the maturity that he brings to the table and the bright, bright future he's going to have as an Eagle. Roseman and his staff now need to hit on draft picks and on "flier" acquisitions like DGB to fill in the talent gap around Wentz in the years to come. Wentz has a chance to be really, really, special and he was worth every draft pick traded to get in the draft.

  • Meanwhile, Sam Bradford looks for some rhythm against Pittsburgh. He'll play the first quarter and maybe into the second. Bradford continues to have a very fine summer. He played in one series last week and put the ball in the end zone. That's a winning night.

  • I'm really excited to see running back Wendell Smallwood in this game. Let's see how much juice the kid has with the ball in his hands and how he holds up in pass protection. Byron Marshall, late in the game last week, had a third-down carry and didn't stick his foot in the ground and convert the run, instead trying to bounce outside. That's a check mark against Marshall. These young guys need to learn how to get inside and get the first down.

  • The defense had plenty of highlights against Tampa Bay. Rookie Joe Walker showed up in a game situation, which was huge. Any talk of Stephen Tulloch this week, by the way? That's how impressive Walker was, I think. Steven Means can rush the quarterback. He's got to be a strong, strong candidate to make this team. Beau Allen can push the pocket inside at tackle. Najee Goode is just a solid, all-around linebacker and special teams player. Jaylen Watkins tackled well and did a fine job in coverage in his bid to be a reserve safety. The defense has some questions, no doubt, but they are mostly about depth. Still don't know who the starting cornerbacks will be, because after a strong summer Leodis McKelvin didn't play very well against Tampa Bay. Nolan Carroll is making his push. Same with Eric Rowe. Jalen Mills won't play in Pittsburgh because of a lingering hamstring injury, and that is disappointing.

  • Caleb Sturgis has ability to kick 55-yard field goals. He's been super consistent this summer. He has created, in my mind, some separation for the placekicker job.

  • Finally, something to look for against the Steelers. The Eagles are going to use a fullback at some point in the game. Could be tight end Chris Pantale. Could be a jumbo package with an offensive lineman, too. This is the time to experiment and the Eagles want to make sure they have it right on short-yardage situations.

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By DAVE SPADARO
Eagles Insider