The Philadelphia Eagles are now 2-1 in the 2017 NFL preseason after defeating the Miami Dolphins by a final score of 38 to 31 (recap here). The Eagles had some good moments and some not-so-good moments on Thursday night. Here’s a look at 12 things we learned.
1 - NO MAJOR INJURIES
Forget about any concerns you might have about this Eagles team for a second and take a moment to realize they accomplished the most important goal of the preseason: staying healthy. Not a single Eagles starter suffered any kind of significant injury this offseason. Even the backups remained relatively unscathed. That’s great news.
The next time we see Philadelphia’s starters in action will be on Sunday, September 10 against the Washington Redskins. It’s nice to know they should be entering that game at full health.
2 - Carson Wentz put a bow on a strong preseason
Wentz struggled during practice last week and it carried over into the Eagles’ second preseason game. Against the Dolphins, however, Wentz looked a lot more sharp. The touchdown pass he threw to Torrey Smith was fantastic. The second-year quarterback managed to air it out despite having a defender right in his grill.
Wentz showed great pocket mobility during the night as he dodged oncoming pass rushers. This play to Ertz is part of what makes the Eagles’ quarterback special. He has the ability to get creative under pressure.
Wentz completed six of his 10 attempts for 129 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and a 104.2 passer rating. According to Pro Football Focus, his incompletions were not his fault: two passes were throwaways, one pass failed because he got hit as he threw, and his pick was on a tipped ball.
Overall, it was a pretty good summer for Wentz. He didn’t look perfect but he certainly looks better than last year. There’s ample reason to feel good about him heading into Year 2, which means there’s good reason to feel good about the Eagles as a whole considering he’s the team’s most important player.
Wentz’s final preseason stats: 16 of 23 (69.6% completion) for 241 yards (10.5 yards per attempt), three touchdowns, one interception, and a 125.2 passer rating.
3 - The Eagles are so much better at wide receiver than last year
It’s not even close.
Despite trading Jordan Matthews, the Eagles are still clearly a lot better at this spot than last year. Torrey Smith is showing that he’s a legitimate deep threat. Alshon Jeffery is a beast who figures to be a reliable target for Wentz. He’s going to be unstoppable on that slant route all year.
Mack Hollins had another nice showing with five receptions for 44 yards. Marcus Johnson only had two catches for three yards but he ran a nice route and made a tough catch in the end zone for a receiving touchdown.
Nelson Agholor didn’t have a single target last night, which isn’t the end of the world. Everything else was working so it’s not even like they needed to count on him ... which is probably a good thing.
As for Bryce Treggs, Shelton Gibson, and Greg Ward — they’re all pushing for a potential sixth receiver spot. Treggs still looks the best out of all of them.
4 - The offensive line is allowing too much pressure
This is one of the biggest concerns from the preseason. The Eagles’ offensive line simply isn’t looking awesome.
Doug Pederson keeps saying the line isn’t game-planning against pressure so maybe this is something that will get cleaned up with the real games start. Maybe he’s right.
Still, it’s never encouraging to see the quarterback get pressured on 63.6% of his passing snaps (per Pro Football Focus). The Eagles’ tackles seemed to do fine but Philadelphia has been allowing too much interior pressure. Jason Kelce is a concern in that regard.
In fairness to the Eagles’ blockers, the Dolphins have a pretty good defensive line. Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh are hardly a bunch of nobodies.
And it’s not like the run blocking was awful. Wendell Smallwood and LeGarrette Blount combined for 47 yards on eight rushes (5.88 average) while running behind the first team offensive line.
5 - The running back picture is still unclear
A little more clarity has been brought to the Eagles’ running back situation. Smallwood is clearly making this team. Four rushes for 28 yards was a pretty nice night for him. He’s still not great in pass protection.
As for Blount, he’s a flawed player. As John Barchard point out on the BGN Radio recap show, he’ll have a number of runs where he gets stopped for a loss or no gain. But then he’ll rip off a 16-yard run and be hard to bring down in the open field. You have to live with the highs and lows.
Blount and Smallwood are locks. Darren Sproles is obviously making this team as well. So who is the fourth running back, assuming the Eagles keep that many (which I think they will)?
Corey Clement added to his preseason glory by finishing the night with nine carries for 42 yards (4.7 average) and one touchdown. Clement isn’t really doing anything special -- I still think he’s JAG (just a guy) — but he’s making the most of his opportunities. I’d kind of rather keep him than Donnel Pumphrey at this point.
Pumphrey didn’t have a terrible game: he finished with 37 receiving yards and 37 rushing yards. But I don’t know man. I just don’t see it with him. There’s no explosion or burst. His production in this game wasn’t really all that efficient (3.1 yards per carry, 7.4 yards per reception) and it came against third and fourth stringers. Pumphrey also muffed another punt, which proves he can’t be counted on when it comes to special teams.
The best case scenario for the Eagles is for Pumphrey to suffer a minor injury so they can stash him on injured reserve. If he makes the 53-man roster, he’s not going to be active on game day.
If you’ll allow me to rant for a little bit, allow me to point out that the Pumphrey development is very frustrating. The Eagles desperately needed running back help this year and they left a talented 2017 NFL Draft class with only a part-time rusher who doesn’t look NFL ready. And keep in mind this is a guy the Eagles traded up for. Philadelphia gave up the No. 230 pick in the draft to get him.
A list of the rushers taken after pick No. 230 include: Devante Mays, Khalfani Muhammad, Elijah Hood, Chris Carson, and Matthew Dayes. Are there any players there you would take over Pumphrey? It’s frustrating to think that the answer isn’t an easy no.
Maybe I’m overreacting to Pumphrey’s preseason, as BGN’s Benjamin Solak might suggest. But I’m pretty sure I’d rather even have Byron Marshall over him at this point. Pumphrey the sixth best running back out of the six running backs on this Eagles roster at this point.
6 - Mychal Kendricks continues to be preseason MVP
It’s amazing how Mychal Kendricks hasn’t had a regular season interception since 2013 yet he has three picks through three preseason games this summer. Funny how that works out.
I know there’s a lot of people clamoring for the Eagles to keep Kendricks. I’m not opposed to the idea. He obviously shouldn’t be cut and I wouldn’t trade him for a mere seventh-round pick.
But he’s still hardly a key piece for this Eagles team.
Look at the reality of the situation. He only played 27% of the snaps last year. It’s not like he’s going to see a big jump in playing time this year. If that was the case, the Eagles would be pulling him out of the game when they remove the rest of the starters. Check this out:
Preseason Game 1
Eagles starting defense snaps — 6
Mychal Kendricks snaps — 19
Preseason Game 2
Eagles starting defense snaps — 16
Kendricks snaps — 27
Also this idea that he’s playing out of his mind is a little exaggerated. Two of Kendricks’ picks have been on balls there were tipped in the air right in his area. He’s been fortunate in that regard.
The feeling here is the Eagles would still be very willing to trade Kendricks for a fifth-round pick. It’s not like he’s going to be around for the long-term. I think Howie Roseman might be able to even get a fourth if he can work his magic like he usually does.
If the Eagles don’t get a good offer, they can just keep Kendricks around for depth purposes.
7 - People need to chill tf out about Ronald Darby
Yes, Darby didn’t have his best game last night. But I really don’t think he looked as horrible as some are making it out to be.
The deep reception Darby gave up to DeVante Parker was just a tough play. Parker has five or six inches on Darby. The Dolphins wide receiver is also a former first round pick, not some random scrub. And for all his faults, one thing Jay Cutler is good at doing is throwing the ball down the field. Darby may have slightly mistimed his jump, sure, but I really can’t kill him for giving up that play. He still contested the pass — the receiver just made the better play. If that was any other Eagles cornerback, they wouldn’t have made the play as close as it was.
Same thing goes for the “defensive pass interference” penalty in the end zone, which I still think was tacky. Even though Darby got beat, he still showed great closing speed to make up the gap and contest the ball. That’s still an encouraging sign.
When you factor practice performance in, Darby has shown much more good than bad since arriving in Philadelphia. He even had a good pass breakup against Miami that everyone forgot about once he gave up some big plays.
Darby is going to be just fine. He’s not elite, sure, but I think he’s looked pretty good overall, which is pretty impressive considering he’s still in the process of learning the defense and working on communication with his new teammates.
8 - Derek Barnett is a BUST
JUST LOOK AT THESE NUMBERS!!!
Derek Barnett played in 17 snaps in the first half with his first preseason start. Didn't have a tackle or a hurry.— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) August 25, 2017
Ha, just kidding.
Barnett didn’t show up big on the stat sheet, which is OK. He was going up against starters in real game action for the first time of his career. 17 snaps is a small sample size to completely evaluate how he’ll fare against first team units.
One positive thing that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is Barnett’s great hustle.
Normally it’s not a great sign to be praising a first-round pick for their hustle. They should be drawing praise for their talent, not just their effort. But in the case of Barnett, he’s both talented and determined to play hard. That’s a great sign.
9 - Eagles defensive line is still eating
This Eagles defensive line has made a ton of plays this preseason. Vinny Curry blasted Cutler from behind to lead to a forced fumble that was recovered by Fletcher Cox. This unit is really going to terrorize offensive lines all year long. Pretty impressive how the Eagles’ line looked good despite missing one of their best players in Brandon Graham.
It wasn’t just the starters who looked good, either. Chris Long was getting good pressure and playing the run well.
As for the depth guys, the Steven Means versus Alex McCalister battle is still close. Means had a good play where he blasted Matt Moore as the Dolphins backup quarterback was letting go of the ball. McCalister, meanwhile, picked up half a sack. Maybe the Eagles’ best bet is to try to see if they can get something for Means and role with the younger McCalister.
10 - It turns out the Eagles don’t miss Byron Maxwell
Remember when Maxwell said the Eagles messed up by getting rid of him? Well, he got burned in practice by Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery in practice earlier this week. Then it happened again in the preseason game. Conclusion: I don’t think the Eagles miss Byron Maxwell.
The annual fourth preseason game garbage time bowl is up next. The Eagles and the Jets will play next Thursday in New York. Unlike previous years, the roster will not be cut down from 90 players to 75 before the final preseason game. This year it’s just one cut from 90 to 53 before the regular season begins.
Watch Doug Pederson’s post-game press conference via the Bleeding Green Nation Facebook page (click here or view below).
EAGLES WIN - Head coach Doug Pederson talking now!Posted by Bleeding Green Nation: For Philadelphia Eagles Fans on Thursday, August 24, 2017
Watch Carson Wentz’s post-game press conference via the Bleeding Green Nation Facebook page (click here or view below).
CARSON WENTZ speaking after the Eagles' win!Posted by Bleeding Green Nation: For Philadelphia Eagles Fans on Thursday, August 24, 2017