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10 things we learned from the Eagles’ second preseason game

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Big takeaways.

Philadelphia Eagles v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles played a preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday evening. Here’s a look at some things we learned.

1 - The Eagles are down to just two healthy quarterbacks

Carson Wentz and Clayton Thorson are currently the only two healthy quarterbacks on the Eagles’ roster. Nate Sudfeld is still out for multiple weeks due to a broken wrist and now Cody Kessler is in the concussion protocol. Kessler must be cleared by an independent neurologist before he can return to football activity.

It’s not impossible that Kessler could return in time for the Eagles’ third preseason game but he very well might. It seems like he’s at least going to miss some upcoming practices, which is significant with the Ravens visiting town on Monday and Tuesday. The Eagles could be missing some valuable time to further evaluate Kessler.

Following Thursday night’s game, Doug Pederson didn’t indicate the team NEEDS to make a roster move at quarterback. But the Eagles could find themselves needing a camp arm to help fill some practice/preseason reps. If that’s the case, the team could look to bring back a thrower with some level of familiarity with the Eagles’ offense such as Luis Perez or Matt McGloin (please no).

Pederson noted that former Houston quarterback-turned-receiver Greg Ward is the Eagles’ emergency backup behind Thorson.

2 - Clayton Thorson could enter the season as Carson Wentz’s top backup

This seemed impossible a week ago after he finished his NFL preseason debut with a 0.0 passer rating but Thorson might actually make the 53-man roster after all.

I’ll be honest, it feels good to be dead right about Thorson. I always belived in him when no one else did.

Okay, just kidding.

Seriously, though, Thorson made a number of good throws tonight. He completed 61.5% of his attempts for 175 yards (6.7 average), one touchdown, one interception, and a 78.2 passer rating. Those numbers look worse than his actual performance due to multiple drops, including one by DeAndre Thompkins that caused Thorson’s interception. JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Charles Johnson both dropped Thorson passes that would’ve been good for chunk gains.

Thorson’s touchdown pass to Greg Ward drew some criticism for being underthrown. I think that’s silly. He’s a rookie quarterback who was facing a blitz and he ultimately gave his receiver a chance to make a play on fourth down. (Look at me, I’m suddenly a Clayton Thorson defender!)

Thorson looked much more composed out there tonight. The rookie was able to put his first game jitters behind him. It also helped that Thorson received good protection from his offensive line. He was only sacked once and hit twice.

If Thorson continues to show promise, the Eagles won’t risk exposing him to waivers by cutting him and trying to get him on the practice squad. They can just stick with him as Wentz’s top backup for a couple weeks before Sudfeld eventually returns. Kessler would obviously be the odd man out in this scenario.

Let’s see if Thorson can keep up the positive momentum in his final two preseason games.

3 - Andre Dillard doesn’t deserve blame for Kessler’s injury

Dillard drew criticism for allowing a free rusher to blast Kessler’s blindside but upon further review it doesn’t seem like it was the rookie’s fault. Doug Pederson put the burden on the quarterback:

Former NFL offensive lineman and current SB Nation contributor Geoff Schwartz weighed in:

So did Geoff’s younger brother and current Chiefs starting tackle Mitchell Schwartz:

This isn’t to suggest that Dillard had a perfect game. The rookie still has growing to do. But let’s not kill him for this play.

4 - Miles Sanders is good

He’s clearly got juice. I’ve already been saying it in my Eagles training camp practice notes but you could see it for yourselves, right?

The rookie running back finished with five carries for 31 yards, which is a 6.2 average.

Sanders was surely aided by good blocking but he also created some yardage on his own. He was first contacted around the 8-yard line on his 16-yard run but he fought through the defense to get to the 21-yard line.

Further, Sanders did a good job in pass protection on Thorson’s touchdown throw. Watch him take on the blitzing linebacker up the middle:

That’s the kind of thing that’ll allow the coaching staff to trust him with playing time.

Sanders is clearly the most exciting option in the Eagles’ backfield. Jordan Howard is going to have a role on this team and he did have a nice short-yardage conversion tonight. But he’s just not as threatening as the rookie and his preseason stats line up with that notion: seven carries for 23 yards (3.3 average).

5 - Daeshon Hall is pushing to be the fourth defensive end

Hall needs to at least make the 53-man roster. He’s straight up been wrecking shit in these preseason games.

The stats don’t lie: eight total tackles, five quarterback hits, four tackles for loss, three sacks, and two forced fumbles. Total beast.

I’d argue that Hall is one of the best four defensive ends on the team right now. He should be the fourth pass rusher in the rotation behind Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, and Vinny Curry. That’s not to slight Josh Sweat, who has also done some good things this summer. But Hall is clearly outperforming Sweat.

It’s not that crazy to see Hall having success with the Eagles. He was originally a third-round pick (one round higher than Sweat) by the Panthers in 2017. Hall flashed in limited playing time with Philly last year. Also, his athletic profile is intriguing:

I know the Sweat hype train is popular but count me in on the Hall hype train. This guy can ball.

Regardless of who ends up being the fourth defensive end, it’s great to see the Eagles boasting quality pass rush depth in the preseason. Hall, Sweat, and even Shareef Miller have all notably flashed. The Eagles might just have to keep six at that spot.

6 - There’s competition for the fifth (and sixth?) wide receiver spot

Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside are roster locks. But who’s the fifth guy? And might the Eagles keep a sixth?

It’s an interesting thought right now. Several contenders are making their case.

Greg Ward has had a good camp but was quiet in the preseason until his touchdown catch tonight. Keeping Ward would give the Eagles depth at both slot receiver and punt returner (and quarterback!).

Marken Michel showed off good YAC ability on a 12-yard reception tonight after previously torching Adoree’ Jackson for a 75-yard touchdown last week. Keeping him could give the Eagles some DeSean Jackson insurance as a speedster type.

Mack Hollins finally played in a game tonight. He hasn’t really made much of an offensive impact since returning from injury but he did have a couple nice plays on special teams tonight. As a gunner on punt coverage, Hollins drew a block in the back penalty in addition to almost causing the Jaguars to muff a punt. Special teams impact isn’t something to be scoffed at when it comes to bottom of the roster guys.

So, the Eagles will have an interesting decision to make here. It’s my belief that Hollins is going to make this team. Then maybe one of Ward and Michel as well? Or neither?

Let’s see how the final two weeks of preseason go.

7 - Sidney Jones has cooled off

Jones has a great start to camp but he’s been much more quiet since then. He allowed a reception in the Eagles’ game aganst the Titans last week and he gave up multiple catches against the Jaguars. Jones also had a bad training camp practice on Tuesday.

Jones did have a good open field tackle in run support, so that was good to see.

I’m still not completely sold here just yet, though. Still wanting to see more from Jones. I trust Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas, and Ronald Darby more than him right now.

8 - The Eagles’ offensive line can mash

The Eagles didn’t just do a strong job in pass protection. They also ran the ball down the Jags’ throat at will, especially late in the game. That 8-play, 75-yard touchdown drive where they ran the ball on every snap was just pure dominance up front. Boston Scott and Donnel Pumphrey both had a lot of room to work with. Jeff Stoutland deserves a lot of credit for developing some real quality offensive line depth.

9 - Jake Elliott bounced back

Elliott made a 53-yard field goal last week before then doinking a 40-yard kick off the right upright. Elliott bounced back tonight by drilling a 52-yard attempt — while kicking in the rain — right down the middle. That kick looked like it could’ve been good from 62. Elliott has also converted all four of his extra point attempts.

10 - Challenging pass interference is now a thing

In case you forgot, the NFL passed a rule change this offseason allow coaches to challenge pass interference. It stemmed from Sean Payton being a giant baby about the Saints losing in the NFC Championship Game despite getting the ball first in overtime at home with a Hall of Fame quarterback.

Doug Pederson took advantage of this new rule by challenging a Thorson target for Carlton Agudosi that was knocked down in the end zone. As it turned out, Agudosi’s defender was clearly illegally grabbing his jersey before the ball arrived. The Eagles won the challenge.

This new rule is going to feel great when it helps your favorite team but boy oh boy is it going to suck when it comes back to hurt them.