The Philadelphia Eagles kicked off their 2022 preseason on Friday night at home against the New York Jets.
The Eagles were defeated by New York, 24-21. Jets backup quarterback, Chris Streveler threw the game-winning touchdown pass with 16 seconds remaining in the game. But the preseason isn’t about wins or losses, here are ten observations (5 on offense and 5 on defense) that you need to know from our very own Pierre Baptiste Jr. and Mar’Quell Fripp-Owens.
Offense – Pierre
1) Jalen Hurts looks comfortable and confident
Although playing one drive, the Eagles first team offense flowed smoothly and matriculated its way into Jets territory and into the endzone.
On the opening play from scrimmage, Jalen Hurts took the snap from under center off play action and was immediately pressured when Jets defensive tackle Quienen Williams beat Sua Opeta. He rolled right and fired a 28-yard completion to Quez Watkins.
Hurts looked calm and confident as a passer. His footwork was efficient and in sync with his upper body as he completed all six of his passing attempts for 80 yards and a touchdown. Hurts distributed the ball to all areas of the field, which was a point of contention all throughout the offseason whenever Hurts’ name was brought up.
2) The Eagles avoided catastrophe and Nick Sirianni
Philadelphia did avoid a potentially disastrous play involving Hurts. On the sixth play from scrimmage, Hurts scrambled to his right and headed out of bounds when Jets linebacker Quincy Williams pummeled him head first — Hurts was clearly out of bounds.
There was an audible reaction from the fans present at Lincoln Financial Field. Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson immediately raced to confront Williams and on the Eagles sideline, Nick Sirianni delivered an expletive-filled response in the direction of Jets head coach Robert Saleh.
Hurts hopped up, shook it off, and delivered a screen pass to Miles Sanders who gained eight yards.
After the game, Hurts was appreciative of the support he received from his coach and teammates.
“Yeah, I think that’s what we’re about,” Hurts said. “In the end, I think that’s us having each other’s backs. That’s Philly. That’s Coach Sirianni. That’s Jordan Mailata.”
3) Cam Jurgens looks the part
Cam Jurgens looked like a Jason Kelce clone in his first NFL game. Starting in place of the veteran who is dealing with an elbow injury, Jurgens looked every bit of the player both Howie Roseman and Jason Kelce envisioned when the Eagles selected him in last April’s draft.
Jurgens was active as a puller and in the screen game, getting up to the second level and demolishing defenders.
Jurgens was also very effective in the running game, opening up running holes for Jason Huntley on double-team blocks and one-on-one situations. He showcased his athletic ability and physical prowess in his first-ever NFL contest.
Jurgens saw a ton of snaps with the 1’s and the 2’s on Friday night, which is good. If Kelce does miss time, Jurgens showed that the transition from Kelce may be somewhat seamless. He showcased the same combination of athleticism, speed, power, and IQ that Kelce has shown throughout his career. Of course, it’s just one game, but the early results are very promising.
4) The Eagles offense has WEAPONS
Although the starters were only on the field for a drive, you could see the potential.
As stated, Jalen Hurts looked comfortable and in rhythm, but what we saw from the offense as a whole was very promising.
Whether it was Miles Sanders’ two catches for 20 yards, Zach Pascal’s 41 receiving yards on two catches, or Dallas Goedert’s 22-yard touchdown catch.
On Hurts’ touchdown pass, the Eagles ran one of their favorite concepts: sail. A.J. Brown ran a deep post, Dallas Goedert ran an intermediate in breaking route, and Miles Sanders ran into the flat. Essentially what this play did was split the field into three levels and make the flat defender choose who to cover.
The Jets were in cover 3 and the flat defender took Sanders. In turn, Hurts fired a nice touch pass to Dallas Goedert for a touchdown. This Eagles offense will have the ability to put defenders in conflict and feast off matchups. On this play, the presence of A.J. Brown created space for Goedert to operate. It boils down to a numbers game. The more defenders the Eagles can put into conflict due to the skillsets and respect they garner from opposing defenses, the more successful the Eagles offense can and will be.
5) The Eagles like Jason Huntley…a lot…and Kennedy Brooks may be the power back they need
Jason Huntley was the Eagles bell cow in Friday night’s matchup. The third-year back carried the ball 16 times for 48 yards and a touchdown. Huntley was also active in the return game, returning two kicks for 61 total yards.
The Eagles clearly lacked a physical presence in their run game, until UDFA Kennedy Brooks entered the game and added 26 yards. Brooks’ physicality stuck out early as on his first carry, he pushed the pile forward a few yards. It will be interesting to see if the Eagles decide to use Brooks as a power back or look to the free agency or trade market to bring one in.
Defense – Mar’Quell
1.) The Eagles have linebackers!
We’ve spent a long time watching the Eagles decline to allocate proper resources to the linebacker position. Yet through five minutes of action in one preseason game, all of that waiting seemed worth it.
During the Jets’ opening series, quarterback Zach Wilson attempted a pass to wide receiver Corey Davis where new acquisition Kyzir White read the quarterback’s eyes jumping the route for an easy interception.
Not too long following the impact of White, we had the opportunity to see third-round pick Nakobe Dean making plays all over the field, including an instance where he initiated contact with the blocker so hard, that the guard tripped his own running back for a minimal gain. It will be interesting to see how Gannon will deploy his new and improved linebacker unit this season, be the early results have to be encouraging.
2.) Jordan Davis will make life easy on just about everyone
The Eagles linebackers were able to have a great day much in part to the presence of first-round draft pick Jordan Davis. While Davis didn’t come away with any production statistically, it was easy to see why the Eagles selected him, what his role for the season will be, and how dominant he already is at said role.
It was pretty encouraging to see Davis wreck havoc, creating lanes for those behind and beside him to make plays. While early in the game he was one on one matchups against center Connor McGovern, he dominated to the point he was frequently double and/or triple-teamed and still relentless at the point of attack.
Clearly, the UGA pipeline is alive and well and will look to bring its disruptive defense and winning ways to Philadelphia.
“I’m always excited to have Nakobe behind me,” Davis said after the game. “If I mess up he’s going to clean it up and always having him behind me I can do no wrong, but obviously I love playing with and just having Nakobe there.”
3.) 2nd Team cornerbacks
It seems as if the formidable duo of Slay and Bradberry saw short work in week one of the preseason. In their place were second-year cornerback Zech McPherson and… rookie Josh Jobe?
That’s right the former Alabama standout was the first one off the bench as the second-team cornerback. As you would expect Jobe had an up and down performance, there was one-third and short where he had the opportunity to help end the drive with an open field tackle but whiffed on the opportunity. However, it was good to see Jobe use the physicality he made a name for finishing the night with five tackles, and showed a nose for the football and being around it at every opportunity.
As for McPherson, he continues to impress, as he continues to make strides in his development. He was active around the football when it came his way, and looked generally good which is bright considering much of which came against the Jets’ first-team offense.
4.) Brandon Graham is back and he bought Taron Jackson with him!
It was awesome to see Eagles veteran EDGE, Brandon Graham, back in action following an achilles injury that sidelined him much of last season. While Graham didn’t see much game action and only produced one tackle on the day, getting him back on the field will be big for Philadelphia this coming season.
“It felt good being with the guys,” Graham said following the game. “Just being in the locker room before the game, it was just that feeling when you know you’re going to play the game.”
While Philadelphia is glad to see the longest-tenured athlete in the city return to action, they got a glance at what the future could possibly hold, as Taron Jackson’s great camp has rolled over into pre-season action. On a night that saw him produce a QB hit, a pass deflection, and a couple of tackles. Jackson was able to leave his mark on the game, in what many hopes are the early signs of a breakout season.
5.) Where in the world is Derek Barnett?
While the Eagles depth along the defensive line was on full display last night, one could not help but wonder where was Derek Barnett?
There was no listing of injury heading into the game, and while there was much of an expectation that the team and he would suffer a split this off-season, Philadelphia decided to bring him back. It was certainly a strange sequence of events, but it will be interesting to see if this was a one-time thing or if Barnett is more of a reserve option heading into this season.
Cover Image Credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images