The Eagles steamrolled the Colts defensively last night at Lucas Oil Stadium en route to a 33-23 win, sending the Eagles to a 3-0 preseason record under Doug Pederson. The team found a rhythm Offensively and were able to finally establish an identity last night, but there was much more than meets the eye. Here are ten takeaways from last night’s victory.
Bradford’s back to his best:
We expected this coming into the game, but the Eagles starter threw for 167 yards, 2TD and a pick, completing 17/20 passes. The interception fell on the shoulders of Nelson Agholor who tipped a pass into the air and the other incompletion came as a consequence of some sloppy route running from Dorial Green-Beckham. Bradford looked both comfortable and confident in Pederson’s Offense last night, making some great throws and standing strong in the pocket. A 114 passer rating and a night of sustained drives will sit very nicely with both himself and Head Coach Doug Pederson.
Defensive line dominance:
Three sacks, four tackles for a loss and a total of nine hits on the quarterback didn’t just highlight a huge weakness on the Colts Offense, but exactly what makes this Eagles unit so powerful. This is the third consecutive preseason game in which the line has run the show, dominating offensive line and forcing the quarterback into poor throws. Not only that, but the Colts only mustered up 39 rushing yards on 18 attempts. There is plenty to get excited about when it comes to the Defense this season.
Huff finds a home:
The Eagles coaching staff have seemed intent to find a way of implementing Josh Huff into the Offense. His inconsistencies receiving have chained him down to an extent, but a rushing touchdown on a Jet sweep and a reception followed by some extensive YAC saw Huff’s chances of keeping his spot on the roster rise considerably. The coaching staff may have finally found a way to get Huff the football reliably, a relief for them, Huff himself and fans alike.
Tight Ends are back on top:
It’s been a fairly quiet preseason in terms of receiving for Zach Ertz and Trey Burton, the two TE’s who had explosive Training camps in terms of making big plays..that all changed last night however. Burton was targeted more than anyone else on the team (5 times) and picked up 35 yards and an easy touchdown pass. Zach Ertz was also targeted five times, picking up 25 yards. It’s interesting that the pair combined for one less reception than the entire receiving corps combined. It’s music to the ears of Eagles fans who have been pleading to see Ertz and Burton demonstrate their playmaking ability in preseason. Both players caught everything thrown their way and considering that Pederson helped accelerate the rise to stardom Travis Kelce has experienced, it was encouraging to see the Eagles tight ends finally seeing the same treatment in the passing game.
Dorial Green-Beckham’s niche:
The moment that Dorial Green-Beckham lined up on the outside deep inside the redzone, the playcall to me became obvious. DGB caught fade passes in the endzone for two touchdowns and a 2-pt conversion as a rookie in Tennessee and given that the Colts had lined him up against a drastically undersized Mike Adams, it was clear that a few big steps into the endzone and a leap would prove to be the dream play for Sam Bradford. As predictable as it may have been, the Eagles crave redzone efficiency and having a 6’5, 237 pound receiver who doubles as a steady pair of hands is only going to be a positive for the birds. Expect DGB to see plenty of redzone attention as 2016 wears on.
We’ve spoken about the dominance of the Offensive line, but there were two situations where the entire unit came up big. The Eagles forced huge stops on 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1 after stopping the Colts from putting up six when inside the ten. It’s these kind of situations that can change the outcome of a game and situations where in preseason, the Defense has been near perfect.
The only real red flag that has persisted through all three of the Eagles preseason games so far has been the amount of penalties conceded. It’s something I’ve pointed out numerous times so far, considering that both Lane Johnson and Jason Peters were among the top 15 most penalized players per game last year and as a consequence, the team gave up over 200 Offensive yards due to penalties. Last night, the Eagles suffered heavily once again..being flagged a total of eight times and losing 64 yards. It’s not as severe as what we’ve seen in previous weeks but it’s something that still needs to be addressed.
Running back rotation:
I’ll have a full article on this and a theory as to why this happened a little later this afternoon, but it’s worth noting that in a game where the starters played the entire first half and the opening series of the third quarter, Kenjon Barner carried the ball more than Ryan Mathews. Darren Sproles lined up in the backfield and in the slot, but never carried the football. Is there a bigger plan being adapted to this backfield? It’s certainly possible..and something I’m going to delve into in a big article later today.
The sleeper emerges:
After an impressive display against the Buccaneers, undrafted cornerback C.J Smith seemed to fade back under the radar in week two. He saw plenty of action last night however..and made it count, leading the team in tackles (7). With Aaron Grymes sidelined due to a shoulder injury, Smith took full advantage of the extra reps and once again made his presence felt. Smith has outshined Jalen Mills in both games that the seventh rounder has played, but can he earn a roster spot?
The first round receiver continued to make his mountain even steeper to climb with yet another underwhelming performance. He was only targeted once, but failed to haul in the reception and instead tipped the easy grab up for an interception. Considering that Josh Huff found his stride and that DGB has already found a niche in the Offense, is it Nelson Agholor’s starting role that could be in jeopardy?
Mandatory Photo Credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America