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August 08, 2019

Final observations: Titans 27, Eagles 10

They came, they saw, they got their butts kicked. But the 27-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans will not end up mattering at all to the Philadelphia Eagles in the big picture. What does matter is the injury suffered by Nate Sudfeld late in the first half, as it may complicate the backup picture behind Carson Wentz heading into the season.

Here are the observations from that snooze fest.

The Good

• If there was a single player who helped himself out the most on Thursday night, it was probably defensive lineman Daeshon Hall. It was ugly for the Eagles in the trenches throughout most of their preseason opener, but Hall managed to stand out from the rest by consistently causing problems for Tennesee in the backfield.

Hall's career journey to date has been quite erratic for a guy who was drafted in the third round as recently as 2017, and injuries forced the Carolina Panthers to move on quickly before the start of his second pro season in 2018. But after catching on late last season with the Eagles, Hall came out ready to prove something in the preseason opener, even forcing a fumble.

He's a big body with some nice physical traits to work with, and there may be a player in there yet. Hall flashed some talent in limited action with the Eagles to close the 2018 season, and building on that to open the preseason will get him in the good graces of the coaching staff.

Will he survive cuts? Maybe, maybe not, because there's a lot of competition ahead of him on the line. But he helped himself plenty on Thursday.

• L.J. Fort was another player who helped his case on Thursday night. While the Eagles' linebacking group was admittedly easy to stand out in, I thought Fort was probably the most impressive member of that core, and the athleticism that has helped him make an impact on special teams aided him in pursuit of the ball.

With Kamu Grugier-Hill's injury, there's a path for Fort to not only make the team but also potentially get some playing time early in the year. 

• Cody Kessler is not Johnny Unitas, but he didn't go out on the field and poop his pants in the second half, so that puts him firmly ahead of Clayton Thorson on the depth chart.

• Here's the best thing I think you could say about this preseason game: all of the guys you expected to look good (Dallas Goedert, Andre Dillard, Nate Sudfeld, etc.) went out and took care of business. Most of the Eagles' top-end players sat out of this game, and the guys slightly below that tier stepping up make you feel good about Philadelphia's depth at a lot of important positions.

• No one has to watch Clayton Thorson play for at least another week.

The Bad

• If there was a major disappointment in this game, it was Philadelphia's special teams unit. Traditionally, a lot of the players who are fighting for the spots at the back of the roster are guys who offer some sort of utility/value on special teams in addition to whatever depth they provide elsewhere. Logically, then, that unit should look relatively sharp during these games, even as starters rest on offense and defense alike.

But their coverage defending returns was pretty lackluster, Jake Elliott doinked a field goal off of the right upright, and they looked far from a well-oiled machine. This is probably the most anyone has ever written about preseason special teams, but it just wasn't great, Bob.

• All the beat writers who have been keeping people informed at training camp — including our own Jimmy Kempski — have been painting a pretty clear picture of Clayton Thorson's quarterbacking ability. As it turns out, the throws he kept missing during practices did not magically start being made when the lights came on, and he flubbed some borderline unmissable throws during his first opportunity to play.

If Thorson was just a body the Eagles had brought in for camp competition, nobody would care all that much, but since they spent a draft pick on him this spring (albeit a fifth-rounder), it makes his incompetence a little tougher to swallow. With Nate Sudfeld's health suddenly in doubt, can the Eagles really afford to use a roster spot on a project as their No. 3 QB who hasn't shown... anything yet?

Okay, this is all a little reactionary, but this is what happens when you force me to watch full preseason football games. But also, the numbers never lie.


• Hold on, I just realized we are going to see a lot more Clayton Thorson before the preseason is over. In the immortal words of Samuel L. Jackson...

• Not sure whether the pass rush or the lackadaisical secondary play is more responsible for the Eagles getting beat deep early and often on Thursday, so we'll chalk it up to both. 

The Ugly

• The worst part about Nate Sudfeld getting injured — aside from the pain for Sudfeld himself, the impact to the team, and all the other important subplots here — was watching people on Twitter talk themselves into a potential backup plan involving Sam Bradford. Obviously a much different set of expectations as a backup vs. when he was a starter here, but come on, guys.

• On a more serious note, the only thing that really matters is the injury Sudfeld suffered late in the first half. While plenty of players are fighting for roster spots and attention during these preseason games, we have all seen how important the backup QB can be in Philadelphia over the last few seasons. If Sudfeld's injury is at all serious, any other positive signs from this game are going to feel a lot less consequential. Hopefully the air cast he left the field in ends up being an over-the-top precaution.  

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