For the first time since they won Super Bowl 52, the Philadelphia Eagles took to Lincoln Financial Field. After a shorter-than-usual offseason for the Birds, they lost their preseason opener 31-14 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here are a few quick takeaways from this game:
1. It is just the preseason.
For many fans, myself included, it can be easy to freak out and jump to conclusions after the day this team was soundly beaten by the Steelers. However, this is just the preseason. When looking at who played in tonight’s game, it’s key to remember that the Birds didn’t have Wentz, Foles, Jeffery, Sproles, Wallace, Agholor, Jernigan, and many other normal contributors playing for them. Everything will be alright with this team.
2. The energy and attitude of the team was great.
For a team that just won the Super Bowl, many would expect the Eagles to be complacent and sluggish when it came time for them to take the field. However, it was quite the opposite. Before the Eagles took the field, the energy could best be described as electric. The team kept with their tradition of playing “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B while they warmed up, and every player on the field, whether they were playing or not, was focused. While this was a preseason game, it sure didn’t feel like one. Another note on the attitude of the team, in the 3rd quarter, Avante Maddox gave up a long completion to fellow rookie James Washington and on the sidelines, Fletcher Cox was visibly upset by this play. Seeing Cox’s emotions like this is a welcome sign for the fate of this team this year. If the Eagles want any shot at repeating as Super Bowl Champs, the competitive energy needs to come from the veteran plays like Cox.
3. Nate Sudfeld and Joe Callahan were OK.
For those of you who thought that this game would be the big coming out party for either one of these backup QBs, you can keep waiting. Neither of them did much of note with Sudfeld going 10/14 for 140 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs. Callahan went 8/18 for 91 yards with no TDs or INTs. While both of these guys can be serviceable, they will not play to the same level that Foles and Wentz can.
4. Dallas Goedert is pretty freaking good.
How did this guy fall to the second round? It’s always hard to judge rookies when they play in their first preseason game, but, man, Goedert isn’t like most rookies. Coming from South Dakota State, the biggest thing that critics would say about him was that he would have a big learning curve from the FCS to the NFL. However, it looks like that curve is non-existent. Goedert caught 4 passes for 66 yards and 1 TD. Time and time again he showed great route-running prowess, patience, and great hands. His touchdown in the first quarter showed all of these things in one play. Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert are going to be a problem for NFL defenses, write that in ink.
5. Matt Jones and Donnel Pumphrey’s absence from tonight’s game doesn’t bode well.
One of the most competitive races on the Eagles roster right now is that for the fourth Running Back spot. After Ajayi, Clement, and Sproles, there is a four-man race between Matt Jones, Donnel Pumphrey, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams for this one spot. However, Jones and Pumphrey didn’t play tonight, which is not a good look for them. Jones is coming off of bouncing around after a breakout season with the Washington Redskins and Pumphrey is trying to a rookie season that saw him placed on IR. In this game, Smallwood rushed for 21 yards while Adams co-led all Eagles backs with 30 yards. While neither back had explosive performances, they were at least on the field.
6. Doug Pederson’s as bold as ever.
Going for two twice in a preseason game? Glad to see that Dougie P still has the brash confidence that was a staple in the Eagles’ Super Bowl run.
7. Sidney Jones looks great, when he’s on the field.
Probably the most anticipated part of this season was finally getting to see Sidney Jones in a game, and he looked all the part of the gifted player that the Eagles took out of Washington last year. While on the field, Jones seemed self-assured and confident in his abilities. However, in the second quarter, he left the game with an apparent ankle injury. If Jones can stay healthy, a secondary featuring him, Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Malcolm Jenkins, and Rodney McLeod could be one of the best in football.
8. Corey Clement looks better than he did a year ago.
Clearly, Clement has been working to improve on what was a great rookie year. The undrafted running back from Wisconsin showed up and played hard whenever he was in the game. He co-led all Eagles running back with 30 yards on 5 carries as well as chipping in 2 catches. Clement looks the all the part of the versatile running back that endeared himself to Eagles fans last year down the stretch.
9. Shelton Gibson showed why the Eagles drafted him.
Gibson only had 2 catches in this game, however, his two catches totaled 77 yards and 1 touchdown. After an incredibly frustrating rookie season that saw him suffer drop after drop in camp, Gibson appeared to get his mind right in the offseason and has flashed why the Birds took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. He showed his ability to take the top off of the defense on his touchdown, which was a result of a perfectly placed bomb from Sudfeld. Here’s to hoping that Gibson becomes the latest player that the Eagles’ patience pays off for.
10. The new helmet rule will be a point of ire for much of the season.
This could’ve been seen coming from a mile away, however, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. In the second quarter, Sidney Jones made a clutch tackle on 3rd down to stop the Steelers drive, however it was called back right away. Jones led with his head on the clean hit. As a result of being flagged, the Steelers went down and scored on that drive. I understand that the rule is necessary for the safety of players, but, the new rule has already led to much confusion for players and coaches and it seems like it will be a point of contention for much of the season.
All in all, the defending Super Bowl champs got a chance to play again for the first time in months and while it was still the preseason, it was good to see them on the field again. While they have a lot to work on, this game was an exciting look at what is possible for the 2018 Eagles.
GMU ’19 – Trust The Process – Praying for Shake’s Back and Landry’s Ankle – follow me on Twitter: @LukeHellyer and @lukessportstak1