On Thursday night, the Philadelphia Eagles stepped onto the field for the first time since knocking off the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Here are some takeaways from the Eagles first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a 31-14 loss:
Philly found a good one in Dallas Goedert. Outside of a drop because of turning upfield too quickly, the rookie showed reliability and a knack for creating space. Goedert seemed to be open every time Sudfeld looked at him. On their touchdown connection, Sudfeld extended the play and Goedert slipped between two defenders to get open. On top of all this, he had some really nice blocks in pass protection.
Speaking of Nate Sudfeld, he bounced back from a bad early pick to have a solid overall performance. He displayed an ability to hit on medium and deep balls, as well as extend plays. Sudfeld’s 63-yard TD bomb to Shelton Gibson was absolutely gorgeous. If Foles ever moves on to another team, the Eagles will still have a solid backup QB.
Shelton Gibson showed his speed when he burned a Steelers corner for a deep 63 yard TD. Gibson also looked good returning a couple kickoffs; he might share some kick return duties with Sproles.
The running backs who played (Sproles didn’t) impressed. Jay Ajayi broke a bunch of tackles on his few runs. Corey Clement has gotten even shiftier and better at finding holes. Wendell Smallwood looked solid outside of a bad fumble, but Josh Adams is gunning for that 4th RB spot. Adams looked good against the bottom of the Steelers depth chart and should get more preseason opportunities moving forward.
Rasul Douglas had an up and down first half. At his worst, Juju Smith-Schuster absolutely torched him for a 70+ yard TD. At his best, he broke on a route from about seven yards out of the play and made a great interception on the sideline.
Kamu Grugier-Hill had a couple of really nice chase-down ankle tackles, including one that prevented a touchdown. Although Corey Nelson and Nate Gerry were the favorites, Grugier-Hill looks like he has a shot to steal the 3rd linebacker spot.
The refs enforced the new lowering of the helmet rule on a play where Sidney Jones drove his head into Steelers QB Joshua Dobbs. He lowered his crown into Dobbs’ upper body and was called for roughing the passer.
Earlier in the game, Jones left the field with an ankle injury, but was sent back into the game later. He had it checked out since he was out all of last season with an Achilles injury.
Cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who has been battling Sidney Jones in training camp for slot corner, played well. He was strong in coverage both in the slot and outside, with impressive pass breakups and reliable tackling.
Roster projection after Eagles first preseason game:
QB: Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld
Sudfeld showed in the preseason opener why Eagles players and coaches have been raving about him.
RB: Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood
Wendell Smallwood has been healthy and playing well, but Adams probably has more upside than both him and Donnell Pumphrey.
WR: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, Markus Wheaton
The first four are locks, but Gibson is turning into one with his play in camp and preseason. While Wheaton is the favorite for the last receiver spot right now, Bryce Treggs has a shot to take it away.
TE: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers
The NFL better get ready for this dynamic duo of Ertz and Goedert.
OT: Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jordan Mailata
Mailata is still adapting to the NFL, but his athletic potential makes it a big risk to place him on the practice squad. Philly could keep him for week one while Bradham is suspended and then IR him with a fake injury.
OG: Brandon Brooks, Stefan Wisnewski, Matt Pryor, Isaac Seumalo
Brooks and Wisnewski are the starters, but Pryor has been a revelation. If he continues playing the way he is, he’ll be the primary backup.
C: Jason Kelce
Seumalo is the backup center.
DE: Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Steven Means
The Eagles are so deep at defensive end it’s not even funny. Sweat has played well enough to be in the defensive line rotation, at least until Timmy Jernigan is back from injury. Means, the sixth defensive end, (if the Eagles keep six) would be getting playing time on many other teams.
DT: Fletcher Cox, Haloti Ngata, Destiny Vaeao, Elijah Qualls
Tim Jernigan will be out for a couple months, which hurts the Eagles DT depth. They could play Bennett at DT part time until he comes back, but hopefully Ngata still has something left in the tank.
LB: Jordan Hicks, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, Corey Nelson
Hicks and Bradham are the normal starters. The WILL spot in base package was thought to be between Gerry and Nelson, but Grugier-Hill has been outperforming both of them.
CB: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, De’Vante Bausby, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox
These six will make the roster, but the rotation is still in the air. Darby is the top outside corner. Jalen Mills is probably the number two, but Sidney Jones is still getting some reps there. Jones is also in a competition with Bausby for nickel corner. It’s possibly they rotate four or five of these guys in and out during the season because they’ve all been playing well.
S: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, Tre Sullivan
Earlier this week Philadelphia re-signed Corey Graham, who was a key part of their Super Bowl run, to be their third safety. Tre Sullivan, known as a big-hitter, could get some playing time.
LS: Rick Lovato
K: Jake Elliott
P: Cameron Johnston
Had a 81-yard bomb called back against the Steelers, but is still working on directional accuracy. Probably a keeper although it’s possible the Eagles re-sign Donnie Jones instead.
Featured image by NBC Sports
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