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August 24, 2018

What they're saying about the Eagles: Preseason has been uninspiring for Philadelphia

We're not exactly breaking any news by opening a story about the Eagles noting how out of sorts the offense has looked through three preseason games. When you fail to score a single point against the Cleveland Browns — or really any team in the league for that matter — no one should be surprised at criticism headed their way.

Results of the games aside, it's not how you would have expected the Eagles to begin their campaign as defending Super Bowl champs. Execution has been sloppy, and not befitting of a team with the talent and depth the Eagles have.

So the chatter surrounding the team on this beautiful Friday is less than positive. To the takes!

Eagles, Browns don't resemble their 2017 forms

Mike Jones | USA Today

The upshot of this article seems to be giving Cleveland a little too much credit for their performance on Thursday night. The team supposedly proving they're a different beast only put up five points against the Eagles, with two of those coming from a safety caused by Nick Foles tripping himself in the end zone.

But as it pertains to the Eagles, much of this is spot on.

Again, it’s important to remember that it’s the preseason, where teams do little game-planning and studying of an opponent, and play-callers keep their schemes simple. And five would-be starters (quarterback Carson Wentz, running back Jay Ajayi, receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor and left tackle Jason Peters) did not suit up. There was so much shuffling that left guard Isaac Seumalo also wound up lining up at center, left tackle and tight end during the first half. 

But it’s how the Eagles played — and have played throughout the preseason – that proved concerning and frustrating for Pederson. Tight end Zach Ertz said it best when he said, “everyone is pressing.” 

 That’s not good. Throughout their improbable run to the Super Bowl, the Eagles were as loose a team as the postseason has ever seen. They donned rubber dog masks, embracing their underdog billing. They danced, they rapped and sang, and on the field they flew around on defense and on offense. They generated fireworks, running all kinds of creative plays. 

But now that they’re pressing, the Eagles are playing into the skepticism that numerous league insiders had about them entering this season. 

How would this team handle prosperity? Will these players, most of whom had never experienced postseason success, manage to maintain the same kind of hunger post-Super Bowl? Can they maintain the same high level of play under the weight of expectations? 

Perhaps the Eagles will flip the switch once back to full strength on their Sept. 6 season opener against Atlanta. But much work — as much mental as physical — lies ahead in a short amount of time. []

10 observations from Eagles vs. Browns

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

There's only one set of observations you really need to be reading during and after games — ahem — but it's always good to get a fuller perspective checking out what other people think about the same games. That's why you watch and then read our work around here, after all.

From Frank's perspective, the offense is in pretty bad shape at the moment.

The Eagles wound up playing 14 drives with Nick Foles and the quote-unquote first-team offense on the field this preseason, and those drives netted zero points. Or more accurately, minus-two points, thanks to a safety when Foles was tackled in the end zone in the first quarter Thursday night. 

And I don’t care if it’s the Super Bowl, a preseason game or a midget flag football game at halftime, turnovers on four straight drives is unacceptable. Four turnovers, a safety, a failed fourth down, three sacks. I don’t want to overreact. I still think the offense will be fine come Sept. 6. But I have to admit, I’m not quite as certain as I was 24 hours ago. 

 2. Which brings us to Foles. How can a guy who was so brilliant in the postseason last year play like this? How can a Super Bowl MVP just stand there and throw the football to the other team? I can’t explain it. I can’t understand it. I know Foles talks about taking risks in practice and preseason games that he wouldn’t take in a real game, so maybe that’s part of it. He obviously misses his regular receivers. 

I still think if he has to start a game or two before Wentz is ready, he’ll be fine. And whatever happens, he’ll always be the guy who led the Eagles to the promised land. But there’s just no excuse for any veteran quarterback playing the way he did Thursday night. []

Without burying Foles too hard, it seems much more likely that the guy who washed out with several different teams is just not that good than any other outcome. No one can ever take away how well he played in the Super Bowl or the NFC Championship game, that doesn't change the overall body of work and league evaluation of him.

Sidney Jones separates himself from Avonte Maddox

Eliot Shorr-Parks |

I think it would be fair to say both of Philadelphia's young corners did their jobs well on Thursday night, with Jones showing out in the first half and Maddox coming up with a turnover in the second half. They both flashed during their respective opportunities, which is all you can ask for.

But given the pedigree of Jones and the fact that he was the one getting first-team nickel reps in the "dress rehearsal" game, it may be his job to lose at this point.

The Eagles' coaches were clear heading into Thursday night that the starting nickel spot was on the line. They were giving Maddox first-team reps at nickel cornerback fairly frequently over the last two weeks. Even cornerback De'Vante Bausby was getting reps at nickel over Jones at one point. 

Although it is hard to imagine they would have actually benched Jones for Maddox (or Bausby) they were at least sending the message over the last two weeks they were open to it. 

Jones got that message and responded in a big way -- and said he is only getting more comfortable in his new role as nickel cornerback. 

"Definitely," Jones said. "All the practice reps I am getting from the spring to now, it is a big difference for me." []

DeAndre Carter keeping his dream alive

Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Carter's play on the offensive side of the ball was one of the lone positives for the Eagles Thursday night, with the 25-year-old receiver making the most of additional reps created for him by injuries. It's still a bit of a long shot for him to make the roster unless the Eagles carry six wideouts, but he's at least making Philadelphia's brain trust think about it.

And given the lingering health concerns for top wideouts like Alshon Jeffery, maybe he has a chance to sneak on the 53-man roster.

“Any opportunity you get is a blessing from God and you have to go out and take full advantage of it,” Carter said. “Gotta let it all hang out. Never know, it might be the last opportunity you get so you gotta try to make the most of it.” 

 For anyone who has watched training camp this summer, Carter’s rise on the depth chart shouldn’t be surprising. He made plays every day at the NovaCare Complex; now he’s just making them in games. 

 He called his extended reps Thursday night “a big vote of confidence” from the coaching staff. But he’s earned it. 

 “I think DeAndre played really well,” Nick Foles said. “He’s played well throughout the preseason, for a guy who is newer to the team. I think he does a lot of great things. He has a wide range to catch from, he uses his hands well, runs well and I’ve been really impressed with how he’s played.” []

Eagles shouldn't be surprised by Nick Foles' preseason

Shannon Sharpe | Fox Sports 1

This one is of the video variety, so you'll have to watch that yourself to get the full picture of what Sharpe thinks of Foles' play this preseason. The abridged version? This shouldn't be a big shock.

The Eagles should be concerned, but they shouldn't be surprised. Nick Foles is what he is, this is more of who Nick Foles is, not the guy who played arguably the greatest conference championship and Super Bowl in NFL history. Here's what we know: there's a reason why the Eagles said, 'Nah, we good.' There's a reason why the Rams said, 'Nah,' there's a reason why Kansas City said, 'Okay, go ahead bruh, handle yourself.'

Let's be real, what we're starting to see is if teams can get pressure on Nick Foles, he's below average. Nine possessions this preseason, zero points. That's not good enough. And for me, I try not to put a whole lot of stock in the preseason, but what I'm looking for, is that a guy [like] Nick Foles — if Baker Mayfield makes those mistakes, I can live with it because he's a rookie. A guy that's six or seven years deep in the NFL cannot make those. []

Reasons to panic following Eagles vs. Browns?

Sheil Kapadia | The Athletic

There are plenty of things to dismiss as "red flags" following preseason losses, especially when you're missing a lot of the weapons that make your offense hum. But with an older Jason Peters attempting to recover from another major injury, the play of his presumed backup at left tackle is a major concern.

And Sheil dove right into that situation out of the gate in his latest article:

The good news: Jason Peters is going to be the starting left tackle in Week 1, and Vaitai won’t have to play unless Peters suffers an injury. The bad news: Vaitai had his second awful game in a row. The previous week against the New England Patriots, Vaitai struggled throughout. The hope from the coaching staff (and from Vaitai) was that it was just one bad game and he’d bounce back vs. the Browns. That didn’t happen. Granted, he was going up against a talented player in Myles Garrett, but Vaitai had issues all night. He was called for a holding penalty on the first possession. Later, Vaitai got bull-rushed into Nick Foles’ face on a play that resulted in a sack fumble. And Vaitai later gave up another sack. 

 “He had a couple plays tonight that I’m sure he’d want back,” Doug Pederson said. “But he’s another one that we’ve just got to build confidence in. We know what type of player he is and we’ve got to continue to get him the reps and work that he needs in practice to be ready to go.” 

 This isn’t one to sweep under the rug with the “it’s only the preseason” caveat. Peters is 36 and coming off of a major injury. At some point, Vaitai will likely need to play. During last year’s Super Bowl run and earlier this summer, he was playing well. Vaitai needs to rebuild his confidence and work on his technique with Jeff Stoutland so that he’s ready when his number is called. []

Your daily reminder the preseason isn't everything

And before we throw the baby out with the bath water, a kind reminder that results in the preseason aren't everything.

That said, it's how they've looked that should scare Eagles players and coaches a little bit. Results are what they are, but when even the silver linings are hard to point to, that's when you feel a bit nervous.

Have a good weekend, everybody.

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