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August 09, 2018

Handing out 10 awards from the Eagles-Steelers preseason game

The Philadelphia Eagles played their first game at Lincoln Financial Field since their romp over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game last year, and, well, they lost preseason game No. 1 to the Pittsburgh Steelers by the final score of 31-14.

As always, even in the preseason, we hand out 10 awards.

1) The 'Absentee' Award: Carson Wentz and Nick Foles

There was no need to play Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, and others, and so, they didn't play. While smart to keep them out, a quarterback duo of Nate Sudfeld and Joe Callahan wasn't exactly "must see TV."

2) The 'Baby Ertz' Award: Dallas Goedert

In the first half of his professional debut, Goedert had 4 catches for 66 yards and a TD. If you read our daily practice notes, we've said that Goedert just looks a lot like Zach Ertz, and you saw that tonight.

Goedert showed during training camp that he finds ways to get open and catch the ball. He most certainly got open, though he did have a bad drop. He also seemed to be reasonably effective as a blocker in the run game. All in all, it was a good first game for the Eagles first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

3) The 'Still a Beast' Award: Fletcher Cox

Fletcher Cox, by my count, played on three defensive series, and he was beasting like it was the Super Bowl. He exploded for a sack of Landry Jones on the first series, and absolutely destroyed a poor Steelers interior lineman when he put him on roller skates and pushed him right back in the quarterback. That was a ridiculous bull rush.

Cox wants to be the Defensive Player of the Year. If he plays like this all year, he'll have a shot.

4) The Big Balls Doug Award: Doug Pederson

Pederson was widely praised for his aggressive style a season ago, and in the Eagles' first preseason game, Doug went for two, twice, when Steelers penalties moved the ball to the one yard line. The Eagles converted one two-point conversion, and failed to convert the other. Keep it coming, Doug.

070318DougPedersonJimmy/for PhillyVoice

5) The 'Inconsistent' Award: Nate Sudfeld

Sudfeld has talent, as you saw on a deep ball to Shelton Gibson that he dropped in the bucket perfectly for a 63-yard touchdown. On his other touchdown throw, Sudfeld evaded pressure, and found Goedert for the score. On the downside, he threw a pair of interceptions that appeared to either be ill-advised throws, or misplaced ones. 

That's what he has shown all throughout camp. He has moments where you go, "OK, I see it," but those moments are often offset by inconsistency. This is Sudfeld's third year in the league, and he is going to continue to get better, but the mental side of the game needs polishing.

6) The 'Deep Threat' Award: Shelton Gibson

The Eagles drafted Shelton Gibson because they thought he could be a deep threat in the NFL. At West Virginia, Gibson had outstanding yards per catch numbers in his last two years there:

 Shelton GibsonRec Yards YPC TD 
 201537 887 24.0 
 201643 951 22.1 8 

Gibson had a terrible training camp a season ago, but the team kept him on the roster because they believed in his long-term ceiling. In the first preseason game, Gibson showed why the Eagles stuck with him, toasting the Steelers defense with the aforementioned 63-yard TD reception.

7) The 'Free Play' Award: Elijah Qualls and Aziz Shittu

Nothing gets Eagles DL coach Chris Wilson angrier than when one of his guys jumps offsides. Throughout training camp, whenever one of his linemen has been fooled by a hard count, Wilson has screamed "WATCH THE F****** BALL!"

In the first quarter, Qualls jumped offsides, and Landry Jones took advantage by taking a risk-free shot down the field that was hauled in by JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 71-yard score. Qualls is lined up right next to the football. Can't have that. 

Later, the Steelers got another big play after Aziz Shittu jumped offsides, emboldening Mason Rudolph to throw up a risk-free prayer that was answered for a big gain, eventually leading to a field goal.

Those two offsides penalties resulted in 10 points.

8) The 'Toasted' Award: Rasul Douglas

Though he did have an interception, Douglas also got beaten twice for touchdowns. On the 71-yarder, it looked like his misjudged the ball in the air and was unable to jump for it to break it up.

9) The 'Football Debut' Award: Jordan Mailata

It's pretty remarkable that a guy can be playing his first football game ever in an NFL preseason game, but that's what Jordan Mailata did Thursday night. You have to be an athletic specimen to pull that off, and Mailata is. 

Of course, he was beaten badly for a strip sack on the first pass play of his career, but he settled down and (mostly) held his own thereafter.

10) The 'TAKE THAT!" Award: Cameron Johnston

After facing criticism (by me) for a having a bad training camp, Johnston hit a moon ball that had incredible distance and hang time. After the roll, it had traveled a ridiculous 81 yards. I'm looking forward to checking his hang time on the re-watch. Unfortunately, that punt was wiped out by a penalty. On the next play, Johnston hit a 57-yarder.

The 81-yarder was one of the best punts I've ever seen in person.

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