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August 10, 2018

What they're saying about the Eagles: Takeaways from preseason loss to Steelers

What's even better than watching an entire preseason football game? Reading all about what everyone thinks about it, of course! The Eagles got the first game of the slate out of the way as they begin their pursuit of a second consecutive Lombardi Trophy — what a weird sentence to type — so there are plenty of highlights and lowlights to weigh already.

Some work from the PhillyVoice crew you should check out first and foremost:

  1. Jimmy Kempski's 10 awards from the game
  2. Evan Macy on five players who impressed in the opener
  3. Jimmy once again on the Eagles' starting defense
  4. And yours truly with observations from the first half and second half 

Now that you're up to speed, here's a look around the city at the notes writers are passing around on Friday.

What I saw in the Eagles' preseason opener

Dave Spadaro |

In such abbreviated action it's hard to come away with a lot of concrete information, so these opportunities are tailormade for quick observations and musings vs. deep dives. Spadaro has you covered on that front.

One player he focused on was an offensive standout in his very first game: tight end Dallas Goedert. The rookie turned a few heads against Pittsburgh, and as Spadaro notes should make for an awesome partner with Zach Ertz.

Rookie tight end Dallas Goedert may very well prove to the be the real deal. He looked instantly comfortable in his debut, catching a 15-yard touchdown pass from Sudfeld among his four receptions for 66 yards. Goedert had a drop when he took his eyes off the football, but he came back strong. And he blocked well. It was a smooth start for Goedert, playing in place of Zach Ertz. 

“I thought it went pretty well,” Goedert said. “I felt good out there. It was like we were practicing, as far as the tempo. I had a chance to get some balls thrown my way. It was a pretty good first game. I have a lot of room to improve, though.” 

Know this: The Ertz-Goedert combination is going to be very effective for this Eagles offense. []

A solid debut for tackle Jordan Mailata

Paul Domowitch |

Mailata did not exactly get off to the greatest start in the world, giving up a sack and subsequent fumble on his very first attempt at pass protection. You can clearly tell he hasn't been around the block before.

But credit to the young man for keeping his head up and his spirits high, because he ended up having a decent night at the office for a guy who'd never laced a set of football cleats up before.

He had an early case of what he described as “jelly legs’’ and gave up a sack and forced fumble to Steelers rookie linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi on his third play from scrimmage. 

But after that, he settled down and turned in a surprisingly good performance, especially when you consider that, nine months ago, you could’ve fit everything the guy knew about the game of football on a Post-it note. 

“Having one of your first plays be a sack, that’s a massive learning curve,’’ Mailata said after the game. “But after I gave that sack up, I had that next-play mentality. I just focused on the next play. 

“The vets said, ‘You’re going to make mistakes. When you make them, just focus on the next play and we’ll fix it up the next day.’ That’s what I did. I learned from that and tried to play on and put up some good minutes.’’ 

Mailata received a lot of support from Stoutland and his teammates, particularly fellow tackles Jason Peters and Halapoulivaati Vaitai. 

“Everyone was helping me out after I effed that first one up,’’ the rookie said. “Excuse my language. I learned from my mistake.’’ []

He quite obviously has the physical talent, so if he can combine that with a competitive spirit and better understanding of the game, who knows.

Dallas Goedert has the Eagles excited about his future

Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Goedert was probably the No. 1 name being discussed after the game, and why not? Outside of a lone drop in the first half, he did an excellent job of living up to his reputation as a threat in the secondary.

Philadelphia's skill position group is crowded, but there's no reason to believe Goedert can't excel as a big piece of the machine.

Pederson said he made it a point to feature Goedert some in the early going of Thursday's game. He wanted the young tight end to get in a rhythm with Sudfeld. It certainly worked. 

This season, it’s hard to figure out what Goedert’s stat line might look like. After all, he’ll be sharing a field with some extremely talented players like Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor, Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, you get the idea. 

But it’s fair to think Goedert can definitely help the Eagles this year. He already showed signs of that Thursday, when he caught his first NFL touchdown pass. 

“It was really cool,” Goedert said. “The whole team was there really quick. The guy tackled me into the end zone and just celebrating with my teammates. Nate was pretty happy. And just celebrating with all the O-linemen, the receivers, Ertz and Rodgers and the other tight ends came and supported me. So that was kind of fun.” []

How did Eagles rookies handle their preseason debut?

Sheil Kapadia | The Athletic

The focus on Sheil's end came, as it probably should have, on the aforementioned Goedert. Anytime you score a touchdown and serve as an obvious security blanket for your quarterback in the very first game, you're going to stand out.

What will probably be more important (or at least as important) for Goedert and the Eagles this season is his ability to contribute as a blocker. Replacing Brent Celek, who was essentially an extra lineman late in his career, with a rookie tight end has the chance to mess with the run game and pass-protection schemes.

He did well against Pittsburgh, all things considered.

Goedert looked comfortable blocking as well. He’s far from a finished product but has clearly taken positive steps in the spring and summer. The Eagles threw him right into the fire, asking him to “wham” unsuspecting defensive tackles — something he did not have to do in college.

“I never really whammed the three-tech defensive tackles in college, but we have it in this offense, and it’s something that I’m willing to do, able to do, so it’s kind of fun,” he said.

“I think I did pretty well in blocking. Like I said before, need to improve on it, but that’s kind of with everything in the game. After the first game, I need to see things a little bit faster, but I feel like I did pretty well.”

Bottom line: Goedert continued to build on his strong training camp performance with his outing against the Steelers. He’ll be used in two-tight-end sets and looks like a nice option should Zach Ertz suffer an injury. []

Winners and losers from the preseason opener

Benjamin Solak | Bleeding Green Nation

How much does winning and losing matter in the preseason? Not at all, at least at the team level. But the guys competing for roster spots or their place in the team hierarchy certainly care a great deal about how they perform before the regular season begins.

Solak placed Rasul Douglas in the "I'm not sure" category from last night along with Sidney Jones, and here was his explanation:

Honestly, I was fine with Rasul’s night. Doulgas also insisted during the post-game interviews that DB coach Cory Undlin was as well. Sul likes to attack the football and the catch point, and those plays typically dictate a boom-or-bust result. He got tripped when in the air on the initial long touchdown to Juju Smith-Schuster, and he was a fraction late getting his hand up on the touchdown to Flippy McFlip against the endline. 

He also perfectly split two routes on a Cover 3 responsibilities, which led to a big pick in enemy territory. That was a stellar play, and one he couldn’t and wouldn’t have made as a rookie. We all know Douglas as an up-and-down player, but I’d argue tonight had more up than you’d initially think. []

I probably fall more on the harsh side of Douglas judgment, even taking the nice plays he made last night into account. It's one thing to say a guy got a bit unlucky if he gives up a couple long gainers between the 20's. But when you give up two touchdowns, it's pretty difficult to get excited about the good plays and positioning otherwise.

10 observations from Eagles-Steelers

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

As it turns out, people like organizing their thoughts in abbreviated fashion these days. Who knew?!

Right at the top of the list for Frank is something Mr. Kempski pointed out this morning — the top defensive unit looked doggone good, even when you account for them playing against backups.

Honestly, I’m OK if the key guys on the starting defense don’t play again until Sept. 6. That won’t happen, but I just feel like this group is ready to go. I know the Steelers didn’t play several of their starters, including Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, but the Eagles’ first defense held Pittsburgh to two yards on two drives and then Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz correctly got it off the field just five minutes into the game. 

This front seven is lethal, and the secondary is stocked. The defense was very good last year, and it's even better now. There’s not much more I need to see before Sept. 6. []

Can't really disagree with any of that. Fletcher Cox came out looking like a man possessed last night, and I'm pretty sure he'll do the same on opening night regardless of whether he plays another snap in the preseason.

De'Vante Bausby joins Malcolm Jenkins in anthem protest

Daniel Gallen | PennLive

I'm going to let this one exist on its own without any additional commentary:

Bausby made it clear he decided to demonstrate individually. He and Jenkins said the Eagles don't discuss the national anthem because they don't want anyone to feel pressured into participating in something they might not necessarily be comfortable with. 

Bausby said there was no single event that pushed him into joining the national anthem demonstrations last season. Jenkins began demonstrating in 2016 after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling to bring attention to police brutality and violence. Jenkins has focused on a number of causes, including mass incarceration. Jenkins wore an undershirt with incarceration statistics on it before Thursday night's game. 

And while Bausby has made his decisions to demonstrate independent of Jenkins, the elder defensive back is helping Bausby become more involved in different causes. 

"I told Malcolm I'm interested in doing all the things he's doing off the field, so Malcolm brought me under his wing, and all the things he's doing, he's inviting me to," Bausby said. "It's a combination of everything. I don't want to go too much into detail about it." []

Have a good weekend, everybody.

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