Well, that was a little underwhelming. The Eagles defense started out red-hot, but the team ultimately suffered a 31-14 loss at the hands of Pittsburgh, marking their first home loss in the preseason since 2014. But preseason is a lot less about the score and a lot more about what we see on the field. Here’s what we learned:
Shelton Gibson gets the weight off his back:
Let’s start with the big one. What a night for Shelton Gibson. The second-year receiver may have only caught two passes, but one just so happened to send him into the end zone for his first ever Eagles touchdown.
AND THERE IT IS.
Shelton Gibson's first touchdown as an Eagle was a home-run hit! pic.twitter.com/xDptUF2LIC
— Philly Sports Network (@PhiladelphiaSN) August 10, 2018
That’s going to do the world of good for Gibson’s confidence, there’s no doubt about it. The WVU product was a force to be reckoned with at WVU and this was the first real glimpse we’ve seen of his potential at the NFL level. The question now becomes, ‘can he build on that?’
After throwing a poor interception very early on, Sudfeld quickly settled down and impressed as he has all offseason long. Two beautifully placed touchdowns were followed by some strange checkdown decisions and another pick that wasn’t really his fault. This is what we can expect from a QB3 who is still developing. A lot of those mistakes will be rectified with experience at the NFL level and as of right now, Sudfeld doesn’t have very much of that. The early signs of a future backup to Carson Wentz are there however.
It was a bumpy night for Rasul Douglas in a game that should have been an opportunity to shine and really steal the spotlight. Giving up two sloppy touchdowns was tough, but he made up for it with some stellar coverage and a beautiful break on the ball to intercept Josh Dobbs. Douglas experienced everything a corner would experience over the course of a game in around 20 minutes, but he kept that one-play mentality and came back swinging, which is all you could ever ask.
Fletcher Cox seems to already be in mid-season form and within a few snaps had already sacked Landry Jones and then made a huge effort to follow a running back and make a tackle in the open field. The pass-rush looks relentless and the secondary looked sound, even if it was only for a series or two.
The Eagles punter was another player who faced a topsy turvy night. AN 81-YARD PUNT GOT CALLED BACK which must be absolutely heartbreaking. Although again, there were some wobbles, Johnston showed that he still has elite range by pinging a 57-yard effort deep into enemy territory.
This hashtag will be iconic by season’s end, mark my words. Goedert exploded in his first taste of NFL action, catching his first ever NFL touchdown (in the red zone, might I add) and proving to be just too unstoppable for the Steelers defense. You can only be impressed by his catch radius and athletic ability.
It was a tricky night to gauge the running back room. Clement and Ajayi did their thing as expected, but Wendell Smallwood kinda did his too. The third-year running back made a sloppy mistake, fumbling the football and averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, while Josh Adams had a much better night, breaking off a 15-yard run. The future isn’t looking too sunny for Smallwood so long as Adams can continue to bear down on him.
Nate Gerry and ‘KGH’ split weak side snaps for the most part, with Grugier-Hill leading the team in tackles and ultimately making the bigger impact. Although Gerry brings a different skillset to the table, Grugier-Hill’s sideline-to-sideline speed was on show throughout as he continued to wrap up ball carriers securely.
The Eagles may have lost two key figures in their offensive coaching tree in Reich and DeFilippo, but the Eagles offense hasn’t lost a step. The creativity when running the ball and finding new ways to catch the defense off guard remains as exciting as it ever has. You can see Mike Groh’s handprints on the playbook already and there’s going to be plenty more of that as the year progresses.
Isaac Seumalo at Center? Check. Isaac Seumalo sailing snaps over quarterback’s heads? Check.
The transition to center was thought to be an encouraging move for the former third-round pick, but it appears there’s still plenty of growing room.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports