Eagles’ Positional Grades for Preseason Game 1

by Jeb Kush

Doug Pederson: C+

Pederson made a bad play call on the very first drive of the game. On 2nd down with inches to go, Pederson called a receiver end-around run. Nelson Agholor was stopped for a one yard loss on the play. Maybe Pederson simply made the call because it was a preseason game and he just wanted to run the play. But, if the play had been called on 2nd and inches during a game then Pederson would have undoubtedly received the criticism he deserved for the play call. On 2nd and inches a quarterback sneak, a quick throw, or even a run up the middle would have been more effective play calls than a run off the edge with a wide receiver.

The rest of the game went well aside from the fact that the Eagles were unable to establish any sort of running game. That could be a sign of poor talent which could be the GM’s fault, or it could be a sign of poor coaching which would be Pederson’s fault.

Quarterbacks: B

If Wentz was the only quarterback graded here, this grade would be an A+. Wentz completed every pass he attempted and made good reads during his limited action. Wentz broke out of sacks twice and made clutch throws immediately afterwards. The first sack Wentz broke was on 4th and 6. Wentz broke the sack and then threw an absolute strike to Jordan Matthews to convert the first down.

The second time Wentz broke a sack was perhaps the best play of the entire game for the Eagles. Wentz escaped a Clay Matthews blitz to find rookie receiver Mack Hollins for a 38 yard touchdown pass. The rest of the quarterbacks played slightly below average. Each backup QB threw an interception as well.

Tight Ends: C

The TE group looked as athletic as any TE group in the league in their debut. Trey Burton and Billy Brown looked like running backs when they had the ball in their hands, often showing off jukes and spins coupled with great ball-carrier vision and awareness. The only problem is Billy Brown and Trey Burton both fumbled against the Packers.

Two fumbles during a game is problematic for a team, and two fumbles from the same position group is downright unacceptable in the NFL. Additionally, Zach Ertz absolutely whiffed on some blocks early in the game. One has to believe that these sloppy errors will get corrected since this was just the first game of preseason. That being said, it was definitely not a great night to be an Eagles tight end.

Running Backs: D

Statistically, this group was horrendous. Although it is debatable whether the terrible statistics are the running backs’ fault or the offensive line’s fault. The Eagles leading rusher was undrafted rookie running back Corey Clement. He had 7 carries for 13 yards. Blount had 4 carries for 9 yards, and no Eagles rusher had a carry longer than 10 yards.

Also running back DJ Pumphrey–who has been lauded as a potential Darren Sproles replacement–looked out of place in his NFL debut. He failed to make a fair catch on his first punt return. On his second punt return he fumbled. Finally, he didn’t turn around in time for a screen pass that whizzed right over his head into the arms of a defender for an interception.

Wide Receivers: A-

The Eagles’ receiving corps played well most of the night. After Agholor got stopped for a loss on 2nd and inches, Jordan Matthews was thrown a quick hitch near the line of scrimmage on 3rd down. Matthews’ defender was right in front of him on the play but he quickly stiff-armed and spun away from the defender and got the first down. That is what good receivers do. They win their one on one matchups in key situations; however, that play doesn’t even matter that much considering Matthews was just traded to the Bills.

Aside from Matthews, rookie Mack Hollins looked promising in his debut. He is 6 foot 4, 220 pounds, and can flat out play. His touchdown catch where he easily stiff-armed two defenders was the highlight of the night. The other receivers performed their responsibilities for the most part. The only reason this grade is an A- instead of an A or an A+ is because of Nelson Agholor. With Matthews gone, reports are that Agholor is expected to step into Matthews’ slot receiver role. But there were no indications that Agholor can fill that role. During the game, Agholor failed to record a single catch, dropped a two point conversion pass, and got stuffed on an end-around. He ended the night with negative one yard(s) total.

Offensive Line: C+

The Eagles offensive line has received notoriety and praise this offseason. Many experts ranked the Eagles’ offensive line as one of the best in the league. Some experts even ranked the O-line as the best in the NFL. During the first preseason game, the Eagles offensive line was inconsistent. During one key 4th down on the first drive of the game, the Packers sent a complex edge blitz that was easily picked up by the Eagles offensive line and LeGarrette Blount.

The O-line picked up several other complex blitzes with relative ease. Despite the at times promising pass protection, Wentz and other quarterbacks were frequently pressured. Wentz was 4/4 passing with for 56 yards and a touchdown but he had to break sacks to complete two of those four throws. The Eagles were also unable to establish any running game throughout the contest. This is another negative sign for the offensive line. The Eagles’ leading rusher during the game had 7 carries for only 13 yards. Additionally, the Eagles only had 47 total rushing yards throughout the game.

Defensive Backs: B

If we are being honest, C.J. Smith and Jalen Mills are the defenders Eagles fans paid the most attention to. The Eagles’ lack of depth and talent at cornerback has been one of the major story lines the entire offseason. Reports have been coming out all summer of Eagles corners getting absolutely torched in practice. During the game, C.J. Smith lived up to those reports by getting beat on back to back plays against the Packers. One of those plays was a 20 yard touchdown catch by Packers receiver Jeff Janis.

Aside from Smith’s errors, the rest of the Eagles defensive backs actually had a relatively good game. The second string corners for the Eagles played well against the Packers second team. They

even got a strip and fumble recovery on the second drive when two Eagles defenders sandwiched Packers running back Ty Montgomery while another Eagles defender came in to strip the ball free.

Defensive Line: A

No complaints here. The defensive line played well all night. The Eagles D-line had a consistent pass rush, which is an encouraging sign considering a lack of pass rush was one of the Eagles’ major flaws last season. The unit ended the game with 5 sacks.

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