Eagles, Wentz, Uneven After Preseason Debut
The Eagles scored a lackluster 17-9 opening Preseason victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night. They showed flashes on both sides of the ball, although the defense outshined their offensive counterparts during the course of the game. Here’s what we know after the first meaningless game of the 2016/17 campaign:
The Eagles defensive line is really good. The combination of Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham and the guys rotating in like Beau Allen provide consistent pressure on the Bucs QBs. The difference between a 6-10 and 9-7 team this year will be dependent upon this line’s ability to provide consistent pressure in the backfield and take some of the pressure off of a rather lackluster secondary. They forced the Bucs into 4 turnovers (5 overall when you account special teams recovery of a fumble on a kick-off in the first quarter).
The Offensive Line was downright offensive. Going into this season many felt, along with the d-line, this would be another strength of the team. Unlike during the Chip Kelly era, the Eagles invested draft picks and free agent signings to sure up this area. The Eagles offense only accounted for 188 yards in total offense during the course of the game and whether you were talking about the 1st, 2nd or 3rd string Bucs defenders, their presence was felt by sacks and QB pressures (just ask Chase Daniel). The pending (and imminent) suspension of Lane Johnson for a second violation of the NFL’s policy for approved substances will no doubt be a blow for the Birds going into the season.
Carson Wentz fared well in his debut. Although pedestrian numbers, going 12-24 for 89 yards with 1 interception, Wentz showed poise and athleticism, with the latter missing from both quarterbacks in front of him in Bradford and Daniels. On plays where his counterparts would more than likely be sacked, Wentz was able to elude oncoming defenders and extend plays with his feet. He did, not unlike any rookie QB, should inconsistency in terms of his accuracy, but overall, the Eagles and fans should be excited about the potential. Wentz did take some shots from the Bucs, including one hit where he was flipped over an almost landed on his neck. Unfortunately, word late Saturday afternoon is that Wentz suffered a hairline rib fracture and will be out a few weeks. Not good for a rookie quarterback that was not expected to play at all during the regular season and who could use the reps.
Eagles secondary is still a work in progress. Leodis McKelvin is not the player he was four years ago and subsequent to some injuries over the past two years. Although he is still serviceable, is he the answer as a starting corner in the NFC East, going against the likes of Dez Bryant, Desean Jackson and Odell Beckem, Jr.? He gambled badly on a play that ended in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston to Russell Shepard in the first quarter. Ron Brooks, although a disciple of Jim Scwartz’s defense in Buffalo, is no more than a slot corner and not a full-time starter in the National Football League. Unfortunately, Eric, the 2nd round pick from a year ago, has appeared to regress, at least early on in camp. The Eagles can only hope that young players like Jacorey Sheppard and Jalen Mills can step up and provide quality depth at that position.
Too many drops by the Wide Receivers. The Eagles WRs led the league in drops last season. Enough said. Aside from Jordan Matthews (who is nursing a sore knee), someone has the step up on this team. Will it be Nelson Anghlor? Reuben Randle? The jury is still out, but they have underwhelmed so far.
The Eagles are still a work in progress and the preseason is the perfect venue for Doug Pederson and company to work out the kinks and improve from week-to-week.