The Eagles were defeated in the second game of the pre-season, 35-0 by the New England Patriots. Although you never want to see a drubbing like the one that took place at the Linc on Thursday night, there were a few things to takeaway from the game:
1) Jalen Hurts is needed (Sorely Needed).
One could feel the disappointment and deflation fans felt when it was announced that Jalen Hurts would miss the preseason game against the New England Patriots and his former Alabama teammate, Mac Jones.
Hurts seemed to be on course to start the game and play a couple series with the first team offense until shortly before kickoff, he was sent to the hospital with stomach pain and diagnosed with a stomach infection.
Throughout the course of the game, it became glaringly obvious just how important Hurts is to this offense and how his natural athletic gifts allow him to get much more out of it than say, Joe Flacco or Nick Mullens.
Flacco had a mediocre performance at best, completing 10 of 17 attempts for 83 yards with a sack and interception. Incredibly, his QBR of 46.9 was not the Eagles worst QBR of the night, that honor went to Nick Mullens with a rating of 16.7.
Jalen’s importance to the offense’s success cannot be overstated. The offense looks completely different and significantly more formidable with him under center. Although, I would have loved to see Hurts out there getting reps (specifically with DeVonta Smith), the reports of consistently strong play and decision making in joint practices this week are a positive sign for the season to come. Any conversation of a QB battle still going on with the national media was likely put to rest after the putrid performance by the Eagles’ second and third string quarterbacks.
2) DeVonta Smith is the real deal.
The highlight of the game for many was likely seeing DeVonta Smith in an Eagles uniform for the first time. Although his debut got off to a rough start with a series of drops, Smitty bounced back and showed why he was the first wide receiver to win the Heisman in 29 years and was the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft. His ability to create separation from his releases and at the top of his routes was obvious and exciting.
3) The WR competition is trudging along.
In limited action Quez Watkins did not show up on the stat sheet, however, he did seem to have a step on the corner in the red zone only for the ball to be underthrown just slightly by Flacco and be broken up.
Jalen Reagor was similarly quiet with one reception for 5 yards on three targets, however, throughout the game his routes looked significantly more smooth. Reagor is a special athlete and has the potential to be a special player, he just needs polishing…luckily it seems this coaching staff feels the same way and has been doing a good job of coaching him up. The effects have already started to present themselves with dominant practice outings for Reagor. Consistency in this is key and will unlock all of his potential.
The negative effect from all of their playing with Flacco instead of Hurts for all of the specialists cannot be overstated. The starting trio of Smith, Reagor, and Watkins could truly be formidable as they continue to grow together as a unit and with their quarterback.
The star of last season, Travis Fulgham, seems to have unfortunately come down to earth. After losing playing time to Alshon Jeffrey, reportedly due to work ethic issues, reports out of training camp have stated that he has been underwhelming and has suffered from drops throughout the preseason. Fulgham only saw snaps on offense in the second half and was playing special teams in the fourth quarter, which is concerning to say the least and is likely indicating that his standing on the team is not as high as it once was.
On the opposite side of the spectrum JJAW got reps with the first team offense and showed his regular prowess as a blocker. His move to the slot and into this offensive scheme seems to have allowed him to play significantly faster and more naturally than he has in past seasons.
4) Milton Williams’ ceiling is extremely high.
On the other side of the ball, rookie Milton Williams showed off the power and potential that made him a third round pick. Throughout the game, the power and strength he plays with were obvious as he exploded into offensive lineman, driving them backwards with ease. The player described as “not having a neck” by Alex Singleton did not show up on the stat sheet, save a QB hit. However, from watching the game, it could not have been more obvious that he was dominating his match ups and collapsing the pocket often. He was so active along the defensive line that he caused two holding penalties for the Patriots.
The learning by osmosis he is likely experiencing in the defensive line room is invaluable and will lead to him truly coming into his own as a player with some time. Williams is another player who with some polish and seasoning could be very special.
5) Linebacker….a positive???
Unlike any Eagles game in the past couple years, the best players on defense were the Eagles’ inside linebackers, TJ Edwards and Alex Singleton.
Both were flying around all night making plays. Singleton and Eric Wilson are expected to be the three-down-linebackers for the team along with a SAM hybrid-linebacker. However, with the emergence of Edwards there may be some base sets in which the three of Edwards, Singleton, and Wilson can be the linebackers on the field at the same time.
Although he was knocked for his pass coverage ability coming out of college, it seems as if Edwards has really sharpened that aspect of his game. In fact, he almost had a forced fumble that was ruled an incomplete pass and laid out for an almost-interception that seemed to just bounce off of his outstretched fingers.
Singleton and Edwards’ steady improvement is absolutely something to be excited about, especially with a vet, experienced in the system like Wilson, in the film room and on the field with them.
6) Nick Sirianni gets it.
Nick Sirianni’s press conferences and ability to communicate with players has been the majority of the discussion around him, however, what fans have yet to learn about is his game management style. After being spoiled with Doug Pederson’s “go for broke” mentality on fourth down, many fans are used to taking the risk of a big play or first down, instead of better field position for the defense or three points. So far, Sirrianni has been more conservative than most are used to.
Whether this is how he plans to handle similar situations in the regular season or it’s some kind of facade to maintain any competitive advantage prior to the regular season remains to be seen. He did send out the offense to attempt a 4th and 3 deep in Patriots territory.
Regardless of his aggressiveness on fourth downs, Sirrianni’s ability as a teacher is unmatched. The difference in accountability, and emphasis on fundamentals, could not be more different in comparison to the previous coaching staff. While Pederson and Co. brought this city a Super Bowl and will be remembered fondly for years, it really seems that this coaching staff is the right one to usher this team and this city into a thrilling new era.
Although it is only pre-season and the game did not nearly end as one would have wanted, the steps this team has taken as a whole have been encouraging and are setting Eagles fans up for an exciting season. As September 9th approaches, you can feel the energy throughout Philadelphia. Eagles football is back!
Cover Image Credit: itchell Leff/Getty Images