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Eagles v. Patriots: 9 winners, losers, and I don’t knows

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Should the Eagles be concerned about losing back-to-back preseason games against AFC contenders? (I’m just playin’ y’all pls click)

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

How embarrassing. The national media is going to have a field day. Super Bowl rematch, and the defending champs just get plastered. Wheew. What a storyline.

Winners

Nate Sudfeld

You already know Bill Belichick was watching Studdy last night thinking to himself “Man, my past two ‘break in case of Brady retirement’ quarterbacks have both slipped through my fingers...but this Nate kid is a free agent next season.” Get out the quarter-zip, Howie: it’s time to fleece.

Sudfeld is at his best when he can just uncork it to his first read. Tons of natural arm talent on the kid. Those deep balls to the boundary are certainly pretty, but the play that stood out the most to me was the incompletion in the end zone to Goedert (good rep by Dallas, even better PBU from the defender). Sudfeld’s excellent arm strength on the move, with that quick of a release? Sheesh. That’s irregular.

Steven Means

Means has never seen a rep that doesn’t matter. He’s a high-motor player that the coaches love, and when he’s out there against second- and third-team offensive tackles who lack his physical profile and effort, he shines.

But last night he was out there against Trent Brown, the starting offensive tackle for the New England Patriots, who is not a bad player in his own right. And Means had his fair share of excellent reps against Brown, showcasing lateral agility and explosiveness. That stood out to the coaching staff for sure.

Shelton Gibson

Gibby’s the obvious one, mostly because we are all very used to him being, how you say, very bad. I do wonder to what extent playing with Matt McGloin and Nick Foles in last year’s preseason affected his ability to shine, because those two are The Checkdown Queen and King for a team that had Sam Bradford on it not three years ago.

But Nate Sudfeld hangs it up for Gibson to go get it, and he has the necessary marriage of skills (tracking, stacking with leverage downfield) and traits (long speed, hands?!) to become a true deep threat. That nice return was also a big bonus in his column.

Corey Nelson

I noticed Corey! Like, a linebacker made a play, and I went to go see the number, and it was #52! And it happened more than once! What is this witchcraft?

Nelson hasn’t seen significant reps above Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry, which is surprising considering that Philly went out and got the man in free agency. But Nelson showcased really nice speed to the hole, from what I saw last night, and did well to take on contact when he needed to fill with leverage against blockers. It wasn’t too much, but it was a start.

Tre Sullivan

Tre wasn’t bad, which makes him a winner because he was bad against the Steelers. In the winners/losers column following that game, I said.

He came far too hot into contact on a lot of plays, over-attacking and surrendering the cutback. Even when he arrived to contact, he looked far too often for the hit and never for the clean wrap and takedown.

Tre was a much better tackler against the Patriots, which is a good sign. My biggest issue with his Year 1 tape was his consistency coming into the contact point: was he under control? Did he track the runner’s hip? He must continue to build on the New England performance—I’m not sold yet—but we’re getting close.

Losers

Derek Barnett

Barnett is a young player who is going to get better and can’t be expected to win every snap.

Did I cover all of the comments that will be inevitably made in response to this blurb?

I would have liked to have seen Barnett win a few more snaps against Trent Brown, especially after Steven Means came out with the second team and starting beating Brown like a drum. Barnett simply did not threaten the outside track against Brown, and when attempting to go through him/inside of him, he lacked the requisite power or finesse in his hands. Just a quiet night against a good tackle.

Elijah Qualls

Elijah has so much opportunity as a second-year defensive tackle to take a stride, and he just isn’t. There are some really nice flashes in his game — there were a couple against New England — but on a snap-to-snap basis, he does not provide a shred of consistency. It’s tough to get that sort of player on the field.

Qualls played all across the line for the Huskies in 2016, but in Philadelphia, he has to learn how to fulfill all the responsibilities of just a nose tackle in the 4-3. Too frequently he runs himself out of plays by trying to do too much, and fails to just take on his blocks with discipline to keep the defense free and integrated. I need to see improved situational understanding from a player whose physical profile I still really like.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai

That was rough, family. PFF’s John Kosko charted the game last night and told me that Vaitai allowed 13 pressures against New England, including another three reps he lost in which the ball was already out. That is really, really bad.

Vaitai has a weakness that doesn’t seem to be going away. It’s not physical; it’s mental: when contact arrives from the EDGE, Vaitai pikes into it by bending his upper half and leaning heavily on his hands. He lacks balance and is out of control, and Derek Rivers and Adrian Clayborn (two not-elite EDGEs) gave him fits last night. Just a very rough showing for an up-and-down player.

Taylor Hart

I’m not positive Hart is a better offensive tackle than Jordan Mailata right now.

I don’t knows

Destiny Vaeao

I want to be sold on Destiny Vaeao — really, I do. I preferred Qualls coming into this season, but clearly the coach staff prefers Vaeao, and he’s certainly played better than Qualls has thus far.

Vaeao has improved in terms of activating his hands in his pass-rush, and you even see improved hand strength and penetration ability in the running game. But he is a subpar athlete who does not bring much power or, in my opinion, effort to a lot of his reps. He doesn’t inspire much confidence in me; he’s a low-upside, rotational player. If he gets that DT4 spot, fine — but I doubt we see any impact plays from him moving forward.