Before I get into my thoughts from the Philadelphia Eagles preseason opener, let me just preface this article by saying this isn’t a film review or even a stats review. These are all my immediate reactions to what I saw live. I’ll go back later in the week and evaluate what I saw on film. I like doing both because it gives you a two different views from the same game, which I think is even more vital during preseason.
This game really came down to do early forced turnovers by the Eagles deep in Tampa Bay territory that led to 14 early points. They rode that to a 17-9 victory, although the final score in preseason doesn’t matter that much.
Here is what I took way from this game:
First Unit- The first unit, at least together, usually doesn’t play more than a series or two in the first preseason game. This is especially true for the offense. It’s hard to get too excited from Sam Bradford in company as they had one quick drive that started out in the red zone. They finished it with a touchdown thanks to some dominant blocking up front, namely right guard Brandon Brooks and tight ends Trey Burton and Zach Ertz.
Speaking of Brooks, he left the game early with a biceps injury, but it sounds like it was more of a strain and is expected to practice on Saturday. It is not a tear and isn’t considered anything too serious. That’s a huge sigh of relief as Brooks is easily the most talented player the Eagles have on offense. Don’t take that as a knock against their talent, Brooks should be an All-Pro guard if he stays healthy this season.
Wide Receivers- I don’t want to bash this group too much because the wide outs who will make this roster player mostly with weak-armed Chase Daniel with a very vanilla playbook for preseason, but they were terrible today. They missed blocks, they dropped several passes and they struggled to gain much separation at all.
Nelson Agholor is going to get torn apart this week by the Philly media and it’s well-deserved. He was a first round pick last year so the expectations are higher for him than any other wide out on this roster outside of Jordan Matthews who didn’t play tonight. Agholor dropped a couple passes, showed no effort on a block on a wide receiver screen and couldn’t separate against first and second team corners.
Josh Huff caught a pass, but fumbled immediately after being touched and I mean touched. It wasn’t a hard hit at all. He’s an impressive athlete who makes more mental mistakes than any other third year player I can remember. Rueben Randle also struggled to separate and had at least one drop. He also battled Huff’s fumble out of bounds which was a penalty. Something a veteran player like him should know better than.
Paul Turner was probably the most impressive wide out from this game. He’s only 5’10, but has a quick first step and pretty good hands. He has a really good chance to play himself on this roster the next three weeks.
Chase Daniel- Daniel was absolutely terrible. I understand he had very little protection, but he played almost the entire first half and I don’t remember a single throw I would classify as good or even halfway decent. His timing was way off and he wasn’t accurate even when he did have time. He is far from a lock for the backup quarterback role. The only reason to keep him ahead of Carson Wentz right now is because the coaches want to protect Wentz, not because Daniel is any better right now.
Carson Wentz- At one point Wentz completed 7 out of his first 12 passes with 3 receiver drops and one throw away after a low snap got away from him. He made some good throws in the pocket in the face of pressure. He never got rattled and he didn’t force any throws. He didn’t lead any touchdown drives, but overall he played well for his first preseason game. They key over the next three games is growth.
He did have one interception in scoring territory. His arm was hit and the ball sailed above his receiver. It wasn’t a horrible decison, but he needs to be more aware of the pressure around him. It was the only play I can remember where the pressure surprised him, but it could have been the difference in the game.
Secondary- This unit was up and down all game. Playing without Malcolm Jenkins hurt a lot. At this point I think Ron Brooks and Leodis McKelvin, both former corners under Jim Schwartz in Buffalo, will start on the outside. They aren’t the most talented corners on this roster, but they know this scheme, they’re listed first on the depth chart right now and nobody else really stood out.
Jalen Mills gets really handsy when he gets beaten. If he isn’t careful he is going to get a reputation for that and he will get flagged for holding and interference often. He plays the boundary well, but outside of that he has to work on his technique.
Jaylen Watkins is the only corner who really stood out, though he is more of a slot corner and safety. He was everywhere tonight, breaking up passes and making tackles. I haven’t seen that Jaylen Watkins before but if he keeps showing up he will have a big role on this defense.
Chris Maragos was the MVP of this game with an interception and a fumble recovery on the opening kickoff. We already knew he was a special teams star, but he really proved that he is a quality backup safety in this league.
The important thing to keep in mind is that this is just the first preseason game. You shouldn’t get too down or too excited about a player just yet. For the players that struggle, you want to see how they respond. One bad game in August is one thing, especially with fewer opportunities than a regular game, but if you see it consistent through preseason then you have a problem.