The Eagles ended up on top of what rapidly became a shootout last night. With a total of 69 points being scored, big plays were aplenty. But who on the Eagles roster was able to make the most of the high-scoring affair? Here’s a look at the five most notable standouts from last night’s game.
After a stunning Training Camp that saw Pumphrey used in all kinds of ways, preseason has been far less kind to the rookie…until last night. The San Diego State dual-threat rushed for 37-yards on 12 carries and went on to receive for a further 37 yards on 5 receptions. Pumphrey was targeted more than any other Eagles wideout and it was clear the team had one goal in mind; getting their rookie running back plenty of experience as well as building some in-game confidence.
Maybe the Eagles just didn’t want to give away their gameplan early on or want other teams to have tape on Pumphrey, but Pump would be receiving out of the slot for a first down one minute before rushing on the very next play. He was moved all around the line of scrimmage and that’s a huge boost for his stock after two weeks of underwhelming performances dampened by a porous offensive line.
The battle at defensive end between Steven Means and Alex McCalister has been exciting to watch to say the least. The duo have almost been playing a game of “anything you can do, I can do better” when it comes to blistering into the backfield. Last night however, it was last year’s seventh-round pick who arguably had the upper hand.
After countering inside and forcing a Brandon Doughton incompletion, McCalister went on to add 0.5 sacks to his preseason tally as well as two tackles. The Eagles are incredibly deep at DE and with Brandon Graham out, that depth was on show. But it’s likely only one of the duo will make the final roster and this was a big game for McCalister to get an upper-hand and some momentum behind him after Steven Means stole the show in the first two weeks.
Mychal Kendricks hauled in ANOTHER (yes, that’s three if you’re counting) preseason interception last night. It was admittedly tipped off of a C.J Smith deflection, but Kendricks solidified his strong preseason with a first half in which he was consistently in the opposing backfield and very nearly came down with a sack.
The reason Kendricks saw such little playing-time last year had to do with his lack of coverage ability. The linebacker is at his best when he’s rushing the passer and that’s exactly what Jim Schwartz allowed him to do last night. Regardless of whether Kendricks is making his case for a really strong resume or a future in the Eagles locker room, it’s safe to say he’s succeeding.
It’s been a wobbly preseason so far for Trey Burton. A fumble against Green Bay was followed by a game in which former Shepherd TE Billy Brown showed just how reliable his soft hands can be. Burton was only signed to a one-year tender, meaning that Billy Brown may have that swinging in his favor when breathing down Burton’s neck in the long-term but after last night it was clear that Burton is going nowhere anytime soon.
Not only did Burton showcase his athleticism by hauling in 4 passes for 43-yards, but he was an avid run-blocker, making some huge plays on outside rushers for the likes of Corey Clement to really shine. Blocking hasn’t ever been regarded as Burton’s strong-suit, although he once led the Eagles in preseason tackles. His specialty has always been versatility and athleticism…but this added element of vicious and reliable blocking have perhaps presented a sense of stability behind Brent Celek that otherwise was thought to be absent.
After transitioning to Safety last year and being called upon to play in over 40% of defensive snaps, Jaylen Watkins was signed to a one-year tender, but unlike Burton, his spot has continuously been doubted. First it was Terrence Brooks stealing the spotlight in Training Camp before the arrival of Corey Graham shunned Watkins out of the equation.
An impressive interception that was followed by a stunning open field tackle on Damian Williams to force a fourth down sent a strong message. Watkins has often been criticized for his unreliability in tackling, but his versatility and ability to play both CB/S may end up swinging his momentum back into the Safety fray after such a strong showing against the Dolphins.
To put it simply, Watkins needed a big game and he delivered. With only one more chance to make a statement, the pressure-cooker has been turned up to its highest temperature.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports