The Eagles held the Steelers scoreless last night in the team’s second preseason game, winning 17-0. A dominant display by Schwartz’s Defense was too much for the Steelers to handle as Doug Pederson’s Eagles career continues to start in the right way. But that doesn’t mean it was all sunshine and rainbows, here are ten takeaways from last night’s victory.
The Eagles came away with four interceptions last night in what was a rampant outing for the Secondary. There may have been a few broken tackles and poor reads along the way, but overall the depth at cornerback stepped up for the second consecutive week, making the CB positional battle all the more interesting to follow. Jalen Mills could only watch from the sidelines as Aaron Grymes came up with a huge interception, Eric Rowe showed more blanket coverage and Nolan Carroll reminded fans exactly what he brings to the table. We’ll be breaking down and grading each cornerback’s game as we did last week.
If you combine the passing charts of Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel and McLeod Bethel-Thompson, you see a direct contrast to what we saw in week one. The combined numbers would be 26/39. All three of the Eagles quarterbacks seemed comfortable in the pocket and were able to fire out short passes exactly as Doug Pederson intended. Considering that Chase Daniel was sacked 4 times in just 10 passing attempts seven days ago, this is a huge difference. A total of 207 passing yards and a high completion rate despite an abundance of drops show just how capable both Bradford and Daniel are of succeeding in the system.
With Sam Bradford only playing in one series last week, it was near impossible to tell if the playbook would differ depending on who’s at quarterback to fit the skill set of the signal caller. Bradford saw much more action last night and surprisingly, ran a variety of play-action passes and even scrambled at one stage. It’s not completely conclusive..but it was encouraging to see that the Eagles aren’t building their Offense around a specific quarterback, especially considering the short-term hopes rest on the shoulders of Sam Bradford who is a completely different QB to Carson Wentz.
This is something that I’ve spoken about extensively over the last few weeks but once again, the Eagles struggled when it came to penalties. They were penalized 12 times for a total loss of 96 yards last night, with most of the flags unsurprisingly coming on the Offensive side of the ball. This is something that simply has to be ironed out if the Eagles Offense is to succeed in 2016.
The Eagles may have amassed 302 passing yards over the course of the two preseason game’s contested so far, but are yet to score a passing touchdown. This isn’t unusual for Doug Pederson..he was the Offensive Coordinator at the Chiefs during their 2014 campaign in which not a single wide receiver caught a touchdown pass. I’m by no means saying that the Eagles are in THAT kind of situation, but with so many inconsistencies surrounding the wideouts partnered with a few bad throws, the Eagles passing attack is less than stellar regardless of the accuracy improvement.
With seven interceptions in two games, the Eagles Secondary is on fire..which means the cornerback competition is getting a little hot. Surprisingly, C.J Smith didn’t make an appearance until later on in the game despite his strong outing last week..but with the likes of Aaron Grymes, Randall Evans and Eric Rowe all showing signs of improvement, the competition over the final few roster spots is going to be vicious. The road darkened for Denzel Rice on the other hand. Rice struggled massively on special team’s and if he’s unable to make an impact there again a week from now, it could be the difference between making the roster and being cut. JaCorey Shepherd and Jalen Mills will have their backs against the wall when they play the Colts next week as they will be striving to make up the ground lost on the sidelines this week as the Secondary ran wild.
Offensive line much better in pass protection:
It may not seem like a big deal, but the Eagles Offensive line looked like a completely different unit last night..and arguably against a more intimidating front seven. As the rotation set in and the rookies had their snaps, the efficiency in pass protection did falter a little, but in comparison to the four sacks allowed on Chase Daniel last week, just one on Sam Bradford is a huge improvement. The Eagles doubled their amount of passing yards compared to last week and a lot of the success through the air can be put down to a much improved line. Sure, there we penalties and a few errors..but it was a big step forward.
Wide receiver woes:
Drops, miscommunications and some inconsistent route running plagued the Eagles receivers yet again. Dorial Green-Beckham made an appearance despite only recently signing with the team while undrafted rookie Paul Turned led the Eagles in receiving for the second consecutive week. A stunning one-handed grab saw the spotlight shift to the former Louisiana receiver, but it’s the likes of Agholor and Huff who need these kind of performances and just can’t seem to get it done.
If anybody is a winner after last night, it’s Jaylen Watkins. The Safety had another big game, this time hauling in an interception off of a play set up by Steven Means. Add this to his pass breakups last week and some great play last night and what you have is a player really making a case to take the reins of the backup Safety spot. Blake Countess left the game early which handed even more of an opportunity to Watkins. If he hasn’t secured the third Safety spot already, he can’t be far away from doing so.
The Eagles run Defense was impressive once again, allowing just 50 yards on 21 carries. The unit may not be the most dominant part of Schwartz’s scheme, but after the struggles faced in 2015..it’s a pleasant surprise to see the Defensive Line and Linebackers effectively able to stop the run and get into the backfield with ease. Something that’s going to be crucial in 2016.