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August 17, 2017

First half observations: Eagles 13, Bills 6

Eagles NFL

On Thursday night, the Philadelphia Eagles are playing a football game at The Linc for the first time in 228 days, as they welcome LeSean McCoy and the Buffalo Bills to town for their second game of the 2017 preseason.

(Shady, for what it's worth, had an excellent social media day. Example 1 and Example 2.)

The Birds offense struggled in the first half, but the defense generally looked very good as the Eagles lead the Bills by a 13-6 score at halftime. Here's what I saw:

The good

• Jim Schwartz rushes four more than any defensive coordinator in the NFL, but a blitz worked out well on the Bills' first drive. Rodney McLeod timed a safety blitz off the outside edge perfectly, got a hand on a Tyrod Taylor pass that went straight up in the air and fell into the waiting arms of Mychal Kendricks. Trade value, up:

Even outside of the two picks, Kendricks has played like a man possessed in the first two preseason games.

• Schwartz is probably never "happy" in the traditional sense, but he has to like how his defense is playing. The Eagles first-team has looked dominant in their two appearances. In particular, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham bullied the Bills offensive line on a few occasions.

• It has to be a weird feeling for Ronald Darby, lining up against his team as of this time last week. The Eagles' new top corner made a great play to jump an out route intended for Anquan Boldin for the PBU.

The bad news is that Darby really should've had a Pick-6. The scouting report on the third-year pro is that his hands aren't very good, and you saw that there.

• Oops, scratch that:

That's it, Eagles win the trade.

• Hey, he caught one:

It wasn't exactly Terrell Owens' 2004 preseason debut, but Alshon Jeffery showed some life on the Eagles' third drive. And that is about it for positivity and the Eagles first-team offense.

• Matt McGloin and the second-team offense finally got something going late in the first half, as Nelson Agholor and Marcus Johnson made nice plays en route to this Corey Clement six-yard touchdown scamper:

• I kind of hope this turns into a meme:

The bad

• The Eagles' first drive was a three and out that mostly had to do with a loss of two for LeGarrette Blount on first down and an errant short throw by Carson Wentz on second down. Wentz got great protection on 3rd and 12 and threw just #ShortOfTheSticks to Zach Ertz, who couldn't pick up the first down.

I didn't think this was a particularly easy first play to make for Ertz, though.

• Wentz finally got things going on the Eagles' third drive, and he finished 6-9 for 56 yards passing. The second-year QB wasn't extra sharp, but the Eagles offense didn't give him much of a chance either. The promising fourth drive was cut short by a Blount fumble, and that was it for Wentz.

• There's not exactly Roberto Aguayo-level panic at the NovaCare Complex, but Caleb Sturgis has now missed 45 and 46-yard kicks this preseason. He did make two from 24 and 48, though.

The ugly

• For the second straight game, the Eagles first-team offense couldn't get anything going on the ground. Blount, who split his carries in the red zone and middle of the field, managed a grand total of eight yards on five carries. An above-average ground game in 2016, the Eagles have stumbled out of the gate in that regard this preseason.

They didn't get much through the air on their first few drives, either:

The Eagles first-team offense managed three (gifted) points on four drives. That group, the offensive line specifically, certainly has some areas to clean up going into the dress rehearsal game next week against the Dolphins.

• With Jason Peters not suiting up for tonight's game, Lane Johnson took over at left tackle. In theory, this should be a fairly smooth transition. Johnson is one of the best right tackles in the NFL and will likely protect Wentz's blind side for the better part of a decade.

Well, someone didn't tell Jerry Hughes all of that. Yikes:

• Ed Hochuli made it plenty clear that he was officiating tonight's ballgame.


Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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