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9 things we learned from the Eagles’ first preseason game

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Big takeaways.

Tennessee Titans v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

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

1 - The Eagles have to figure out their backup QB situation

The biggest win a team can get in the preseason does not involve winning the game itself. Rather, the best thing that can happen is escaping meaningless football activity without any meaningful injuries.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, they did not get so lucky. Nate Sudfeld suffered a broken wrist (non-throwing arm) on Thursday evening and now he’s out for an undisclosed period of time. All we know is that the team believes his injury isn’t season-ending, which is good in the vein that it could’ve been worse.

Sudfeld’s injury raises a lot of questions, though.

When exactly will he be ready to return? If he’s going to miss close to eight regular season weeks, should the team put him on injured reserve so he’s not taking up a roster spot? Should the Eagles sign a veteran backup to add to the quarterback room? Especially with Carson Wentz not likely to play much in the preseason and the combination of Cody Kessler and Clayton Thorson struggling on Thursday night? Are Kessler and Thorson even good enough to allow the Eagles to run some semblance of a functioning offense that’ll allow the team to evaluate other players?

Doug Pederson said the Eagles are sticking with Kessler and Thorson behind Wentz for now. I think the team should be looking to bring in a veteran to compete with them for the job as the temporary No. 2 until Sudfeld returns.

It’s really a shame Sudfeld got hurt because he was showing some encouraging signs. His 75-yard touchdown pass to Marken Michel was a thing of beauty. It’s great to see a backup play fearlessly like that. Sudfeld was also starting to put a solid two-minute drill together before a Josh Adams fumble killed the drive (more on that later).

This was supposed to be a big summer for Sudfeld. He was going to soak up some valuable preseason reps as he established himself as Wentz’s top backup. Instead, Sudfeld will be waiting to heal while the Eagles hope more than ever that Wentz does not get hurt.

2 - Clayton Thorson doesn’t belong on the 53-man roster

Thorson’s stat line from Thursday night: 2/9 (22.2%), 7 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 0.0 passer rating. Is that bad?

::checks to see if that’s bad::

It turns out that, yes, that is bad.

Thorson was BRUTAL to watch. With no pressure on him, the rookie quarterback missed a WIDE OPEN Donnel Pumphrey directly in front of him in the flat. Thorson failed to execute that same exact play in training camp practice last week. There were other plays where Thorson had all day to throw to an open receiver and he just couldn’t hit them with accuracy.

Pederson chalked up Thorson’s struggles to the rookie being nervous in his first NFL game. Maybe there’s some truth to that.

But I don’t know, man. Thorson just seems pretty bad to me. He’s really struggled during offseason practices and he was even worse in an actual game environment. Sometimes you just know that a quarterback stinks right out of the gate. Look no further than (former Eagle) Christian Hackenberg. Watching Thorson reminded me of watching Hack.

I’m really perplexed by what the Eagles saw in Thorson to select him with a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft ... in a year where the team only had five selections. He’s older for rookie standards (turns 24 this season), he has an injury history (torn ACL), and his college stats were bad (which historically doesn’t bode well for NFL success). The Eagles were very much betting on the exception by drafting Thorson and yet there’s nothing exceptional about him. The only thing I can think of when it comes to why the Eagles like him is that he’s tall/big. Great.

We’ll see if Thorson can make any progress throughout the final three preseason games. It should already be clear that he can’t be trusted to see regular season snaps for the Eagles, though. Using a 53-man roster spot on him just isn’t a good decision. Send Thorson to the practice squad. Who’s going to be in a rush to claim him off waivers?

3 - Andre Dillard passed the sniff test

The Eagles’ first-round pick has been looking good in camp and he didn’t get embarrassed in his first preseason game, either. Dillard’s not ready to overtake Jason Peters or anything but he’s inspiring confidence as an immediate backup and a long-term starter at left tackle. Encouraging.

While we’re talking o-line, I’ll also note that Jordan Mailata’s potential is still intriguing even though it’s clear he needs a lot more polish. Matt Pryor’s three-penalty performance was pretty disappointing. Run blocking was a struggle for the entire unit all night as the Eagles only gained 37 yards on 17 rushing attempts. They did only allow one sack, though.

4 - The Eagles could keep a sixth receiver?

We know Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside are locks to make the Eagles’ final roster. I’m also pretty confident Mack Hollinswho was working out before Thursday’s game and looks close to returning — is making the team. But will the Eagles keep a sixth?

Marken Michel did his best to make his case on Thursday night by burning Titans starting cornerback Adoree’ Jackson for a 75-yard touchdown. That was impressive.

Michel was one of the Eagles’ standouts from spring practices. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

Michel — brother of New England Patriots running back Sony Michel — has camp darling potential written all over him. He caught a lot of balls during spring drills. Michel flashed deep threat ability, which lines up with the 17.0 yards per reception mark he posted in the CFL. He’s also in the mix at punt returner. Michel likely needs to have a strong summer just to make the roster as a sixth receiver. Maybe he can be this year’s DeAndre Carter.

Michel hasn’t been so active during training camp but he seems to have some legit field-stretching talent. Wouldn’t be the worst guy to keep around as depth for DeSean. Michel can return punts as well.

I enjoyed this quote from Michel after the game:

“It’s been a long road. It’s been long. I feel like I put in a lot of work. Definitely the work is not over. Only the people that’s closest to me know the things that I’ve been through to get to this point and to get that touchdown. For me, that touchdown wasn’t six points. It was way bigger than that.”

Cool stuff.

Derrick Gunn notes that the coaching staff really likes Michel. We’ll see if the former CFL product can continue to show up in the preseason.

5 - Josh Adams can’t be trusted

I’ve previously stated that I can’t see Adams’ path to making the roster. Now I really can’t see it with the Eagles’ 2018 leading rusher proving to be very untrustworthy when it comes to fumbling in key spots. Adams also had a costly fumble against the Jaguars last season and he put the Eagles in jeopardy with a lost ball during the Texans game as well. On Thursday night, Adams’ fumble killed what was looking to be a promising two-minute drill for the Eagles. Barring multiple injuries, there isn’t a place for Adams on the roster.

6 - There’s reason to feel good about the Eagles’ defensive line depth

Saw a lot of good things from Philly’s defensive line on Thursday night.

Malik Jackson had a good quarterback pressure early in the game. Good to see from him after not being super noticeable in camp.

Joe Ostman’s injury could open the door for Daeshon Hall to make the roster. Hall was wrecking shit out there with six total tackles, three tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, one sack, and one forced fumble. Hall was close to getting another strip sack at one point. He’s got some juice.

Josh Sweat drew a tougher matchup than Hall since he had to go up against Taylor Lewan. Sweat didn’t do enough to justify the hype he’s been getting but he did had some good moments. He logged a quarterback hit and he deserves credit for generating pressure on the play where Hall logged his strip sack.

Backup defensive tackles Hassan Ridgeway, Treyvon Hester, and Bruce Hector all had good moments. The Eagles are pretty deep at that position.

7 - Some linebacker options are more inspiring than others

L.J. Fort isn’t getting cut to preserve a compensatory pick. The Eagles’ free agent signing was flying around and making plays last night. He looks worth keeping as a backup piece/special teams contributor.

Zach Brown popped like he used to when I’d watch him play for Washington. He’s a real good run defender.

Nathan Gerry ... I really just don’t see it with him. I think he makes the roster because the coaching staff likes him and he takes a lot of first team reps. But he just doesn’t do much to inspire confidence out there. It doesn’t feel like the Eagles’ plan to convert him from safety to linebacker is working out despite being three years into the transition. It’s easier to feel better about Fort and Brown than Gerry.

8 - Andrew Sendejo isn’t getting cut

The Eagles’ third safety made some nice plays while lining up with the “first team” defense on Thursday night. Sendejo showed his value as a veteran backup behind Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. He’ll fill the Corey Graham role for this year’s Eagles squad.

While we’re on the topic of safeties, it’s worth noting that Blake Countess was playing across from Sendejo. That shows he’s notably ahead of Tre Sullivan (and Johnathan Cyprien and Deiondre’ Hall) on the depth chart. Countess had to leave early with an injury and the severity was unclear. If he’s healthy, though, Countess should be making this roster. He certainly won’t be beat out by Sullvan, who really struggled.

9 - The regular season can’t come soon enough

I’m a little depressed we have to watch three more of these meaningless games before the real action starts on September 8. After watching some real bad football last night, I’m ready for the regular season to be here. I want to see Carson Wentz throwing touchdowns to DeSean Jackson. I want to see Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox sacking Dak Prescott over and over. I want watching football to be fun!