Eagles Armchair: Young Guns Shine in Victory Over Jaguars

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Eagles second preseason game looked to be a disaster halfway through the first quarter.

Despite the Eagles still needing to decide how to proceed following that early play, the team got to see some really good things out of their bubble players.

The team once again suffered a major loss to injury, but the team got a lot of production from some of these roster battles. They may even have gotten enough that the Eagles’ decisions become that much more difficult.

Up-Down Drill

Up: Daeshon Hall and Shareef Miller

When Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry started the game, the Eagles defense was collapsing the pocket quickly. That didn’t stop when the pair left the game. When Shareef Miller was on the field with Daeshon Hall, the pair seemed to be almost unsotppable. The pair combined for six tackles (three for loss), three sacks and five QB hits. That doesn’t even mention Hall’s forced fumble.

Hall was clearly the leader of the two, coming away with two of the sacks and three of the quarterback hits, but it was interesting to see how much better the pair looked together as opposed to just one being on the field. They seemed to feed off of each other and read the other well so that when one forced the QB to move, the other was where the QB was forced to move to. Maybe that was just some luck, but it happened a few times and the pair looked extremely efficient.

Down: Deiondre’ Hall

The other Hall on the team did not fair so well. Deiondre’ came away from the game with four tackles, but he was victimized quite a bit in the game and he failed to keep receivers at a distance or location where he could make a play on the ball. There were a few plays where, if he had forced the receiver outside just a bit more, he could have pushed the receiver out of bounds for an incompletion. Or he could have played closer to the receiver to be able to get his hand on the ball rather than hoping hitting their back would stop the play. It was not a good game for this D. Hall, especially when you realize that it was the third-stringers for the Jaguars that were making him look bad.

Up: Miles Sanders

After a month of hype, Sanders was unable to show much on anything in the first preseason game due, in large part, to poor blocking. In the second preseason game, Sanders was able to show why so many reporters love him to the crowd, combining jump cuts with good reads to make big gains and avoid big losses. Sanders took just five carries, but managed 31 yards early in the game against some Jaguars starters behind an offensive line with only one starter on it. Sanders’ 6.2 yards per carry average was the highest of any running back to appear in the game.

Down: LJ Fort

Fort had a solid game, but solid isn’t what the Eagles are looking for from the veteran linebacker. If the team wanted solid play, they could keep Alex Singleton and TJ Edwards around for years on cost-controlled deals. Fort needs to be the leader and while he did make some plays, there were also quite a few where he failed to cover his man, failed to wrap up or was unable to get off his blocker.

Some of these plays manifested itself in Fort “slowing down” the defender, but the team wants to see more from him given that he could cost them a fourth round compensatory pick if he remains with the team. He needs to make himself an obvious upgrade over the other young guys to earn a spot.

Up: Greg Ward Jr.

Beside a 38-yard touchdown reception where he read the field well and got some big yards after the catch, Ward only posted one other catch for four-yards. What really made this a good game for the former college quarterback was his blocking. Ward had a few good blocks down the field and that, combined with special teams play, is among the most important things that a guy shooting for the fifth or sixth receiver spot can do.

Down: Andre Dillard

Overall, Dillard seemed to play a pretty good game. That said, he is to blame for the Eagles losing Cody Kessler as he failed to even touch the rusher. That just cannot happen. If he were to do that during the season and the Eagles lost Wentz, he could be soley responsible for the loss of an entire season for the franchise. After seeming like a world beater last week, the rookie has definitely lost stock.

Up: Clayton Thorson

Completing 16 of 26 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown may not be amazing stats, but it is a far cry from where Thorson was just 24 hours ago. The rookie quarterback appeared to be an easy cut decision last week as no one would dare to claim him off waivers. Now, with Thorson showing some promise, it will be more difficult for the team to sneak him onto the practice squad. He’s put himself in a far better position with his play last night.

Up: Jordan Mailata

Mailata played all of the second preseason game (100% of offensive snaps) and was only beat a few times. The times he got beat didn’t end up having much of an impact on the game either. He was so quiet that some thought he wasn’t playing. For an offensive lineman, that is good news. For the Eagles, that shows how much Mailata has developed. In just over a year, he was able to play an entire game with minimal mistakes and looked better than fellow 2018 draft pick Matt Pryor, who was drafted a round ahead of him.

Up: Alex Singleton

Singleton went pretty under the radar because he wasn’t on the field to start the game, but he seemed to be in position constantly. In fact, he lead the game in tackles with six and making one for loss. It’s a shame that Singleton didn’t get a seventh tackle that would have gotten him a ton of attention for stopping a fourth and goal situation from converting. He was in place and ready to make the play, but fellow linebacker Asantay Brown failed to contain the runner and allowed him to cut away from Singleton who was the last defender before the goal line.

Despite that, Singleton made a bunch of plays and didn’t have obviously blown assignments. If he can play like that the next two weeks, he’ll likely lock himself into a rotation spot on the Eagles 53-man roster.

Injury Report

In the first drive of the game, Dillard’s blown assignment allowed Cody Kessler, who was expected to open the season as the primary backup, to get obliterated. An official stopped the game to pull him off the field and Kessler is now in the concussion protocol. This is a huge blow for the QB and the Eagles as Kessler could be out of the protocol tomorrow or he could be in the protocol for months. He is also unable to practice while in the protocol, so he’ll have little opportunity to build any chemistry or further submerge himself in the offense even if he is able to return to action soon.

Game Notes

  • Hall was the the sixth defensive end when camp started, but following his performances in training camp and the first two preseason games, he has easily moved up to fourth. The team will face a tough decision with he, fourth-round pick Shareef Miller and 2018 pick Josh Sweat all competing for one or two spots and all performing enough that they might not clear waivers.
  • In a similar vein, Greg Ward Jr. stepping up makes it a three way battle for the final one or two receiver spots on the 53-man roster. Ward will be competing with Mack Hollins and Marken Michel.
  • While Clayton Thorson stepping up is huge, the Eagles will have just two receivers who were quarterbacks in college behind him until they sign someone or Kessler is cleared from the concussion protocol. Another roster decision for the Eagles comes into play with Thorson stepping up as he may no longer clear waivers now that he’s show some promise. Would the Eagles keep Kessler or Thorson around?
  • Charles Johnson seemed to be Thorson’s favorite target, but he dropped a deep ball and injured himself while catching only short passes.
  • JJ Arcega-Whiteside did not have a great game with just two catches on seven targets. For a guy who is supposedly excellent at going up and making contested catches, he has yet to do that in a game. All of the contested catches thrown his way seem to fall incomplete. Hopefully we see him make a couple contested catches next week.

    What’s Next

    The Eagles will play their third preseason game next Thursday when they host the Baltimore Ravens.

    The game could be a choppy one as the Eagles and Ravens will be practicing Monday and Tuesday.

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