Eagles Solid In Win Over Colts
The Eagles had a strong outing on Saturday night against the Indianapolis Colts, resulting in a 33-23 victory. Aside from a late special teams blunder in the third quarter on a blocked punt ruled a touchdown (actually should have been a safety) and two garbage time touchdowns by the Colts against the Eagles third sting defense, this game was not close. Here are some observations of the third dress rehearsal of the season:
Doug Pederson stated throughout the week that the starters would get more work and they did. The starters, led by quarterback Sam Bradford played into the third quarter last night and played extremely well. The offense, which to date has been somewhat anemic in limited reps so far this preseason, shined last night. Bradford led the way, going 17-20 for 167 yards, two TDs and one interception. The interception was not even Bradford’s fault as a catchable pass bounced out of Nelson Agholor’s
hands (another story for another day) into the waiting hands of a Colts defender. Pederson’s offense judiciously spread the ball around to tight-ends, running backs and receivers within a traditional west-coast offense, using a combination at times of three tight-end sets. The combination of Bradford/Daniels finished the game 26-32 for 285 yards and three TDs. Bradford first TD came on a fade route to Dorial Green-Beckham in the red zone and the second on a 4-yard out to Trey Burton to push the lead to 24-3 in the 3rd quarter. Daniel struck in the 4th quarter on a 28-yard pass to David Watford making it 33-10. The running game combination of Ryan Matthews, Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood and Byron Marshall) gained 130 yards on 24 carries (5.4 average).
The first-team defense continues to dominate, holding Andrew Luck and the Colts starters at bay for through the first two quarters into the third. With constant pressure of the front-four (which is key in an attacking Jim Schwartz defense), the Eagles seemed to always be in the backfield and recorded 3 sacks to go along with 1 interception. The Eagles defense has 10 takeaways (8 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries) after 3 preseason games. If the Eagles are going to contend for the NFC East this year, the defense is going to be the catalyst for the team this year. If the offense can match the same intensity, the Eagles will silence a number of critics going into the 2016-17 season.
Vinny Curry and Taylor Hart suffered knee injuries during last night’s game and did not return. Didn’t appear to be serious, but it will be closely monitored throughout the upcoming weeks leading to the season opener against the Browns
Eagles will have some interesting decisions to make regarding roster cuts at both corner and wide receiver. Pencil me in that they will keep Nolan Carroll, Ron Brooks, Leodis McKelvin, Jalen Mills and Eric Rowe. It would be a shocker to me if Rowe did not make the team after being a high pick (2nd round out of Utah) in Chip Kelly’s last draft at the helm of the Birds. Rowe has not made a strong impression in adapting to Schwartz’s defense and the likes of UDFAs like CJ Smith and Aaron Grimes (from the CFL) are aggressively pushing for roster spots. On the wide receiver front, Jordan Matthews, Green-Beckham, Josh Huff (Huff finally showed up
last night with 2 receptions for 60 yards and 2 rushes for 10 yards and a score), Agholor and Reuben Randle. I’m not as sure about the Randle pick and he is actually in a battle for that 5th spot along with Chris Givens and UDFA Paul Turner. It would not shock me if either Givens or Turner end up beating Randle out at the end of the day.
All in all, the Eagles looked really good last night on both sides of the ball and appear to be ready for the opener in a couple of weeks. Look for Daniels and possibly Wentz (seems to be progressing nicely from the rib injury) to get the bulk of the snaps in the finale against the Jets on Thursday. Both coaches will be resting their starters for that game as they prepare for the games that really count.