Instant analysis: With jobs on the line Eagles show heart in preseason loss to Jets

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It wasn’t pretty. The Eagles fell just short of the mark after one last 80-yard drive by Dane Evans and the Eagles offense stagnated inside the five-yard line. But like every preseason game, the one possession scoreline isn’t what matters here. Tomorrow will see a very difficult period begin for the Eagles front office as they trim the roster down to the final 53. Here are some key things to note after the curtain closes on preseason for another year.

 

The jury is still out on Pumphrey:
You can say it’s the line, you can say it’s poor passes, you can say it’s a number of outside factors. What you can’t say however is that Pumphrey has been productive this preseason. There’s no doubting the SDSU standout has the skillset to become the perfect mold of back that the Eagles need, but 6 rushing yards on 5 carries puts the cap on what’s been an underwhelming preseason.

To make things even more interesting, Pumphrey was evaluated for a head injury during the game, provoking the idea of an “IR stash” which would theoretically enable the Eagles to keep Clement who has been vastly superior in terms of production, although the two are completely different in style.

If you were to take the draft value away, Pumphrey has not impressed. Byron Marshall has arguably performed better…but it’s still way too soon to make a snap-judgement. Is the future now murkier for Pumphrey? Only time will tell.

 

Johnson solidifies his spot:
Marcus Johnson had a difficult first half against the first-team Jets Defense, struggling to gain any separation at all. He found plenty later in the game though as he exploded for a 41-yard touchdown, all but cementing his place on the roster. The former Texas Longhorn has had a stunning offseason and this was the Cherry on the Cake.

 

Special teams improve:
The Eagles special teams unit finally showed the tenacity and consistency it’s become renowned for. Allowing just one kickoff and one punt return all game, the team also helped Pumphrey to a 34-yard punt return that could have gone all the way if not for a diving tackle. Coverage was much better and so was the discipline so commonly associated. Mack Hollins did a fantastic job of punching a punt out of the endzone to back the Jets up deep inside their own ten-yard line, highlighting that it was all heart for the Eagles in the battle with New York.

 

Dexter McDougle adds late fuel to cornerback fire:
A big pass Defense late in the game was supported by a successful cornerback blitz and some impressive tackling security. All in all, it was a surprisingly strong night for the Eagles newest cornerback who filtered into the slot battle with ease. It didn’t take long for the former Jet to make an impact against his former team and it only elevated competition at the position.

With Jaylen Watkins moving to the outside, inside, and just about everywhere en-route to 5 tackles, it’s safe to say there was a sense of urgency surrounding the Eagles cornerbacks tonight. The former FSU product really stood out with near interceptions and big tackles.

Aaron Grymes took snaps at Safety as one of the team’s captains, showing great leadership on the field after each play. Leading the team in tackles isn’t a bad thing to have in your corner either. For both of these players, along with the likes of C.J Smith who was outstanding and Jomal Wiltz, the importance of this game was paramount and there’s no doubting that McDougle’s playmaking ability shined through in a unit where competition was already at an all-time high.

 

Are the Eagles comfortable in the trenches?
Trading away Allen Barbre may have seemed smart in terms of the returns and reasons why and the same can be said for Matt Tobin. For the players who are left, it means they simply have to step up as the next man. For former LSU TE Dillon Gordon, that means backing up Jason Peters. Against the first team Jets Defense, Gordon was undressed by Kony Ealy before giving up a sack much later in the game. Gordon was hardly filling Jeff Stoutland with confidence tonight and should Jason Peters go down, the Eagles are now very limited in terms of experience and reliability when it coms to depth at tackle. Is this something that needs to be addressed, or just another area where we needlessly bite our nails week after week?

 

Linebacker picture is no clearer:
The Eagles linebackers played as expected. Joe Walker was beyond consistent, Kamu Grugier-Hill continued to “pop” and as if there wasn’t enough to think about already at the position, newly signed linebacker Christian Tago recovered a fumble at the death of the game to throw his name into the mix. Mychal Kendricks didn’t play at all tonight, begging the question if he really is safe after all? And if he is, then how many of the productive four-core special team linebackers will the Birds keep?

 

All heart:
When it came down to it, the Eagles didn’t win. The Jets stupidly played their starters while the Eagles were getting one last look at their players ahead of roster cuts. But Dane Evans led his second-half Offense down the field on several occasions. Receivers fought with everything they had for extra yards, pass-rushers threw every pound in their body into the offensive lineman ahead, and cornerbacks were stretching out so far for passes at times that AC Joint injuries were a legitimate concern….kind of. You couldn’t doubt the heart of the players involved. Nobody viewed this game as pointless or boring. It was all or nothing, do-or-die. It almost feels like the end of a very short but exciting era…and for some it will be. But very few players can leave the Meadowlands disappointed with their lack of effort.

 

Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

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