The Eagles blew out an undermanned Colts team on Saturday night, 32-23, in a game that wasn’t close to being that close. The offense looked good, for the most part, behind the stellar preseason play of quarterback Sam Bradford. The first-team defense continues to look like something special under first-year defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Here are seven things everyone will be talking about at your Sunday brunch. Feel free to steal these quotes to sound like a genius in front of your in-laws. Also, order the huevos rancheros. I hear they are delicious.
“Sam Bradford is a preseason legend.”
Sam Bradford was 17-of-20 for 167 yards and two scores against the Colts defense that was missing roughly half its starters. He had three incompletions, one of which was a pass dropped by Brent Celek and another that hit Nelson Agholor in the hands (more on that in a bit).
Late in the game, tight end Trey Burton (more on him in a bit, too) told Eagles reporter Dave Spadaro, “Sam’s an unbelievable quarterback. We know if we can keep him healthy and keep him up without getting hit, he’ll put the ball exactly where you want it.”
Which begs the question: Can they?
Bradford missed two games last season, a year after missing the entire season in St. Louis. He’s played just 21 games since the end of the 2012 season and has suited up in only 63 of 80 possible games in his career. So it remains to be seen if 2016 Bradford will be Eli Manning — who has never missed a game in his career since becoming Giants starter — or Tony Romo — out for the first half of the year with a broken back from a hit he suffered this weekend, after playing just four games last season.
The Eagles surely hope Bradford is more like Manning this year…in a lot of ways.
“Nelson Agholor stinks.”
At this point, I’d cut him. And, sure, that’s perhaps a frustrated overreaction to a poor preseason for the second-year receiver. But if Howie Roseman can’t work a deal to trade Agholor for a future draft pick, the Eagles should seriously think about releasing him and giving his spot to someone who looks like he wants the ball.
3. “Mike Mayock said Dorial Green-Beckham is the next Randy Moss.”
No, NFL Network scouting and draft guru Mike Mayock did not call Dorial-Green Beckham the next Randy Moss. But he did say, “from a height-weight-speed perspective” DGB reminds him of Moss.
There have been a lot of physically-gifted players in the NFL who never amount to anything, but it almost felt like Mayock’s point was the opposite; that he genuinely believes DGB can become that good. Or, you know, he was doing a preseason game for the Eagles and pandering to the audience. Could be that.
Green-Beckham caught two balls on three targets, including the touchdown on Saturday. Expect him to get a lot of red zone looks this season, but before we crown him the next Randy Moss, let’s remember that as a rookie, DGB caught 32 passes on 67 targets, but only had nine targets and four catches, three for touchdowns, in the opponents’ red zone. He had just five targets and two catches inside the opponents’ 10-yard line.
And then the Titans, who were terrible last year, traded DGB for Dennis Kelly. Let’s remember that, too.
4. “If Mayock is in love with Trey Burton, then so am I.”
This is a line I may use myself today, as I have no idea if Trey Burton will be a big a part of the Eagles offense, but I know that Mayock is high on him, saying he thinks Burton could catch 50 balls this year.
Just 17 tight ends caught more than 50 balls last year, including Zach Ertz, who caught 75. Kansas City’s Travis Kelce caught 72 last season, and Doug Pederson does love to use his backs and tight ends in the passing game. But there just aren’t that many footballs to go around. The second-string tight end in KC last year caught less than five balls.
Sam Bradford lauded Burton’s skills, saying, “obviously Trey is a really athletic tight end and we feel like he can created some mismatches out there depending on if defenses consider him an actual tight end or a receiver. And so it’s just another added dimension we feel defenses have to prepare for.”
The Chiefs quarterbacks had 310 completions on 473 attempts last season. If Burton catches 50 balls, that might mean Darren Sproles gets fewer touches than we expect, or that the Eagles’ receivers are really, really going to struggle this season.
5. “Josh Huff kept his job Saturday night.”
As of Sunday morning, before anyone is cut this week, the Eagles roster has 10 wide receivers listed. Mayock said he thinks the team will only carry five receivers, and tabbed a guy like David Watford as a potential practice squad player. So that leaves nine guys for five jobs.
Jordan Matthews hasn’t played yet in the preseason but he is a lock for one spot. So, too, is Green-Beckham. The other three spots are up for grabs.
Now, if Agholor isn’t traded, it’s unlikely the team will cut their first-round pick from last year so soon. That leaves Josh Huff, Chris Givens, Rueben Randle and rookie Paul Turner fighting for two spots, with fellow rookies Marcus Johnson and Cayleb Jones likely looking to hook on elsewhere or on a practice squad.
Huff looked perhaps the best he has in an Eagles uniform, with four offensive touches for 70 yards and a score. He earned one of those roster spots on Saturday night.
Rueben Randle probably did not. Randle caught two balls on two targets with the second unit. Chris Givens, who started with the first unit, caught just one pass on one target, his only catch of the preseason so far. Turner caught two balls, with the second unit. After one grab, Mayock mentioned he was surprised Turner didn’t get more of a look with the first team.
“I feel like he’s earned an opportunity with the 1’s,” Mayock said, “but he’s 5’91/2 and he’s not fast, so he’s always going to get knocked for his size and speed.”
6. “Where in the hell was Darren Sproles?”
The third game is usually when the starters work the most in preseason, and while Pederson said he wanted to get certain guys into situations to give them a chance to stand out — he mentioned Josh Huff, specifically — Darren Sproles was missing in action against the Colts.
Surely that was by design, as Sproles only had one target and didn’t return any kicks or punts, while Huff, Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood combined to play the role many expect Sproles to play. It’s more important to see what Pederson has in those three players than a veteran like Sproles, but with a reworked offensive line, blocking for Sproles in the screen game is vastly different than for, say, Huff or Burton.
This is certainly nothing to worry about (now) but how many touches Sproles gets compared to those four players will be worth monitoring all season.
7. “The Eagles defense is going to be goooooood.”
“Did you see Fletcher Cox almost killed Andrew Luck?”
Check the time stamp on those tweets, and mine, then this one.
And this, below, is in the “tweet of the night” category.
It wasn’t just Fletcher Cox out there killing people, either.
The Eagles defense shut out an undermanned Steelers team last week and really did manhandle the Colts first offense on Saturday. The secondary is still a work in progress, as Jim Schwartz figures out who he has to play dependable cornerback. The rookie from North Dakota State — no, the other rookie — C.J. Smith got time with the first unit on Saturday and looked good. Nolan Carroll had another interception in the end zone working at the time with the second unit.
While the team figures out the cornerback situation, the front seven looks like it’s ready to go murder opposing lineman and quarterbacks. Blow them up. Destroy them, even. There will be multiple eviscerations this season, for sure.
The Eagles finish the preseason with a scrimmage against the Jets on September 1 in which none of the starters will play. Pederson said after Saturday’s game he hopes Carson Wentz can play, but he isn’t sure, giving fans absolutely zero reason to watch if the rookie isn’t in the game.