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August 19, 2017

What they're saying: Eagles' biggest weakness, grades from Bills games, and fight week

The Eagles head into the third week of the NFL preseason with something special on tap – joint practices with the Miami Dolphins.

But before we get to that – and, trust me, we will – there's a more pressing issue at hand. What the hell is going on with the Eagles ground attack (or lack thereof)? 

That's where we start this Saturday addition of What They're Saying... 

Turning the corner

Andrew Kulp | The700Level

The Eagles solidified their weakest position last week by trading for CB Ronald Darby. Now, that's no longer the thing that should worry fans most as the regular season rapidly approaches. It's their inability to establish anything that resembles a running game, even with the addition of LeGarrette Blount and Donnel Pumphrey.

It’s only preseason, and the offensive line hasn’t done him any favors, but LeGarrette Blount has nine carries for 17 yards with a fumble in two games. Fifth-round draft pick Donnel Pumphrey – who the coaching staff seemed enamored with this spring — has 14 total touches for 34 yards. After a strong start at training camp, Wendell Smallwood has yet to play in an exhibition game due to a hamstring injury. And by now, everybody is aware 34-year-old Darren Sproles isn’t an every-down back.

The best any running back has looked in exhibition games is undrafted rookie Corey Clement, by far. Whether that’s a testament to his development or a commentary on the state of the backfield is a matter of perspective.  []

The Blount truth

Zach Berman | The Philadelphia Inquirer

When it comes specifically to Blount, he doesn't seem to be worried.

“You go back and look at my preseason performance and then go look at my regular-season performances, and you tell me,” Blount said.

In seven previous preseasons, Blount has rushed 163 times for 581 yards. That’s 3.56 yards per carry – nearly a yard worse than his career average of 4.4 during the regular season. But his most regular-season yardage came last year in New England, when he rushed for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns. That came after an impressive preseason in which Blount carried 25 times for 115 yards – a better average than his 3.9 during the season.  []

Pumphrey and Smallwood

It's really saying something when the running backs coach says the best camp performance goes to a guy who has been out with a hamstring injury...

As for the undersized rookie who set a new FBS career rushing record at San Diego State, it hasn't been the best start to his NFL career:

Speaking of Sproles 2.0, Pumphrey has been one of the guys returning punts during the preseason, a job that will likely return to the veteran back and special teams ace once the games actually matter... 

Clement Time?

Justin Grasso | Inside The Iggles

It hasn't been all bad for the Eagles running backs, as at least one guy seems to be interested in making the roster... 

Over the last two games, [Corey] Clement has 15 carries for 47 yards and one touchdown. Sure, he’s playing against backups, but keep in mind that he is also playing with backups. When the Eagles have a healthy offensive line, the sky will be the limit for the running game. There is no question that Clement could put up some decent numbers behind a first-string offensive line.

These next two preseason games could define the future of Clement. As Pumphrey keeps regressing and Smallwood sits out, Clement will prove himself to be the most reliable candidate to join the Blount and Sproles running committee. Clement’s undrafted mindset could be what motivates him to win a spot on this roster. The other two young guys need to realize that no roster spot is guaranteed in the NFL. Look out guys, because Clement is coming.  []

Making the grade 

PFF Analysis Team | ProFootballFocus

The defense, as we noted, stole the show on Thursday night against the Bills. So it should come as no surprise that Pro Football Focus's top five grades all went to members of Jim Schwartz's unit:


•  Edge Steven Means, 90.2 overall grade
•  DI Fletcher Cox, 86.0 overall grade
•  Edge Derek Barnett, 85.5 overall grade
•  CB Ronald Darby, 83.5 overall grade
•  S Rodney McLeod, 83.3 overall grade

One name I'm surprised not to see there? Mychal Kendricks... 

We’ve written quite a bit about two of the newest Eagles on this list – Derek Barnett and Ronald Darby – but here’s what PFF had to say about the highest-rated player, DE Steven Means:

Means absolutely tormented Buffalo’s reserve left tackles, finishing the night with a 92.2 pass rushing grade and a 20.5 pass rush productivity rating (PRP measures pressure created on a per snap basis with weighting towards sacks). Means tallied seven total pressures (including two sacks) – all coming from the right side – on 28 pass rush snaps.  []

Brawl so hard?

Adam Beasley | Miami Herald

I promised we'd talk about those joint practices with the Dolphins. And while Miami head coach Adam Game said Doug Pederson is in charge of the specifics for this week's practices, there are some things he likely won't be able to control... 

Brawls aren’t just possible. They’re nearly inevitable.

The Broncos and 49ers practiced together last week, and no fewer than three fights broke out on Thursday alone, according to the Denver Post.

Up in Jacksonville, Jaguars wide receiver Arrelious Benn threw a punch at Buccaneers linebacker Adarius Glanton, one of several skirmishes between those teams in recent days.

“There’s a game feel to it, and it is very competitive,” Gase said recently. “Really, the hardest thing is to just keep everybody focused on what they need to do in practice to get better because they do know there’s no flags, you’re not going to get ejected from the game or fined, and that’s where it can get kind of messy and guys get in fights. If you can keep your guys focused on what you’re trying to do, it’s great competition.”  []

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