The Philadelphia Eagles are 0-1 in the 2017 NFL preseason after being defeated by the Green Bay Packers by a final score of 26 to 9. This game featured some real ugly and sloppy football. It wasn’t all bad, though. Here’s a look at 12 things we learned.
1 - Seemingly no major injuries
This is always the most important takeaway from meaningless preseason football games. It sounds like no one suffered any kind of major, season-ending injuries.
The Eagles didn’t leave the game completely unscathed, unfortunately. Halapoulivaat Vaitai suffered some kind of knee injury, though it’s reportedly not as serious as it looked. Starting slot cornerback Ron Brooks and roster bubble receiver Bryce Treggs both suffered hamstring injuries.
2 - Carson Wentz looks great
Wentz has been very sharp in training camp. It was good to see the second-year quarterback carry that over into a game setting.
Wentz was perfect during limited playing time on Thursday evening. It’s hard not to be impressed by his ability to avoid pressure in the pocket and keep his eyes downfield to make the play. This was obviously the case on his touchdown throw to Mack Hollins.
It’s true that Wentz’s pass to Nelson Agholor on the two-point conversion could have been better. The ball was a little high. We’ve seen this kind of issue with Wentz’s accuracy before. Still, the pass was catchable and not egregiously off target.
Wentz is off to a pretty nice start this summer. That’s a real encouraging sign considering he’s the most important player on the team.
3 - Derek Barnett is the real deal
We gotta talk about the Eagles’ first round pick from the 2017 NFL Draft. John Barchard and I have been hyping up Barnett on BGN Radio ever since we watched him look good during spring practices. Barnett made us look good by going out and playing very well in his first NFL action.
Barnett, who recently turned 21, finished the night with four tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits. The rookie pass rusher did a great job of both using his hands and using his ability to bend around the edge to get to the quarterback.
The next step for Barnett is to see him against starters. The Eagles should make it a point to do that in some of these upcoming preseason games.
4 - Mack Hollins might get worked into the offense this season
It was already a given that Hollins would be on the active game day roster due to his special teams ability. Now it’s looking like the Eagles should consider working him into the offense. He’s not going to be a starting receiver by any means, but Philadelphia should try to give Mack Attack a rotational role.
Hollins didn’t look like a rookie out there on Thursday night. He looked real smooth and under control. His tackle-breaking ability is something we’re not used to seeing from an Eagles wide receiver. Those stiff arms he threw out were nasty.
The Eagles’ fourth-round pick finished the night with four reception for 64 yards and one score.
5 - So much for that Jordan Matthew vs. Nelson Agholor debate?
Agholor has had a good camp. But that doesn’t matter so much if he doesn’t prove himself in the games. Unfortunately Nelly didn’t look so hot against the Packers. Yes, the ball Wentz to him was thrown high. Still, that’s a play a guy like him — a guy with so much to prove — needs to make.
I do think Agholor got screwed a little on the jet sweet play. Zach Ertz didn’t get to his block on the outside but everyone just blamed Agholor for not picking up the first down.
Still, not a great night from Agholor.
Meanwhile, Jordan Matthews played pretty well. He only had 18 yards on three receptions but he proved to be a reliable option for Wentz as he helped the starting offense move the chains. Matthews did a real nice job of breaking a tackle after a pass to him was thrown short of the sticks on third down.
I’m not ready to say that one preseason game ends the potential battle the Eagles have going on in the slot. But a performance like this from Agholor does him no favors.
6 - The offensive line didn’t look so great
I saw a lot of people on Twitter making fun of the fact that Pro Football Focus previously ranked the Eagles’ offensive line as the best blocking unit in the NFL. The cynicism was warranted given the Eagles’ struggles up front. Philadelphia failed to open up room in the running game. Wentz had to deal with pressure.
In fairness, the Packers did seem to be blitzing a lot. And it’s not like the Eagles are heavily game-planning for preseason football. It’s also worth pointing out Philadelphia was without starting right guard Brandon Brooks.
This wasn’t an encouraging performance from the o-line. Let’s see how they do next week.
7 - And neither did the running game
The Eagles finished with 47 rushing yards on 19 carries. That’s 2.5 yards per carry. Take out quarterback runs from Matt McGloin and Dane Evans and suddenly that number goes down to 32 yards on 17 attempts. That’s a mere 1.88 average, which is very bad.
I’ve seen it suggested that Doug Pederson didn’t run the ball enough. Uh, really? It clearly wasn’t working.
8 - The defensive line is indeed going to eat
I already touched on Barnett, but he wasn’t the only Eagles defensive lineman who stood out. Brandon Graham had a great run stop early in the game. He’s really good at exploding into the backfield off the edge and bringing the ball carrier down. Then Fletcher Cox stripped a Packers’ ball carrier to force a fumble. This unit is going to eat, as predicted.
Even the backups played well. Chris Long almost came away with a strip-sack. Steven Means generated pressure with regularity.
9 - The cornerbacks weren’t a total disaster
See? I told you the Eagles’ corner concerns were overblown.
OK, so I never said that. I don’t plan on saying it anytime soon, either.
It’s true that the Eagles’ starters did a good job of keeping everything in front of them. That’s where guys like Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson can handle themselves, though. The real challenge for them is defending passes deep down the field. They didn’t really get tested much in this regard. One of the longer passes the Packers attempted resulted in a Mills breakup that should have been flagged for pass interference.
C.J. Smith struggled out of the gate before settling in. It was good to see him battle back after giving up that touchdown on a double move. I still think he’s in the mix for playing time this season.
This corner group still has a lot to prove. At least this performance wasn’t a disaster.
10 - The Eagles will only keep two quarterbacks on their roster
Matt McGloin is pretty bad. Can I just leave it at that? I think the Eagles go with Carson Wentz and Nick Foles as the two quarterbacks on their roster with Dane Evans (or some other young quarterback who gets cut) as their practice squad quarterback.
The tricky thing here is if Foles’ elbow injury lingers. Then the Eagles would have to keep a third quarterback on the active roster. Hopefully Foles gets healthy soon.
11 - We’re going to see Big Balls Doug again this year
Pederson was aggressive on fourth down and he even went for a two-point conversion early in the game. I really like these calls from Pederson. Data shows that he was often right to go for it in 2016. People like to criticize Pederson for doing this because it’s not conventional. That doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice, however. The issue is that a bunch of NFL head coaches are just soft and too scared to be aggressive. I like that Pederson has no fear. He plays to win.
12 - Philadelphia has a lot of sloppiness to work on
Dave Fipp’s special teams unit didn’t look so great tonight. I’m not overly concerned about it because the officials missed some super obvious block in the back calls. I’m also sure Fipp will get this tightened up before the regular season begins.
The moment looked too big for Donnel Pumphrey at times last night. The rookie fourth-round pick fumbled, muffed a punt, and made a bad decision to field a punt with coverage bearing down right on him. Pumphrey barely returned punts in college, so he’s still learning the position. The ball security issues do make me a little concerned about how he’s going to hold up in the NFL at his current size of 176 pounds.
Pumphrey was hardly the only Eagles player to lose control of the football. The Eagles had five different players who put the ball on the ground last night. That’s not including the muffed punts from Pumphrey and Greg Ward Jr.
The good news is the Eagles have three preseason games left along with a few weeks of training camp practices. There’s still plenty of time to iron out mistakes before the regular season begins in one month.