Preseason is finally in the books and we’re just days away from the dawn of a new NFL season. Before we get stuck into the nitty and gritty, it’s important to look back at the last four weeks and remember what we learned.
A is for Atlanta
After four long weeks and an offseason reminiscing, Eagles Football is back on the horizon. A clash with Atlanta will open the doors to the first ever Super Bowl defense for this team, but as we’ll later learn, it’s going to be a road full of twists and turns.
B is for breakout star
Shelton Gibson stole the hearts of Eagles fans everywhere this preseason, leading the team in receiving yards and hauling in two beautiful touchdowns on deep bombs from Nate Sudfeld. After spending a ‘redshirt’ year learning under the Eagles wideouts, he looks poised to play a major role in Pederson’s offense.
C is for culture
The ‘Super Bowl Champions’ banner has been ripped down, according to numerous reports. Doug Pederson hasn’t exactly looked happy during the last few preseason games, with his offense coughing and spluttering to a 1-3 record. Pederson cannot allow Complacency to set in and it appears as though he’s doing everything to fire his team up ahead of next week.
D is for dominant defense
The Eagles may have struggled during preseason, but defensively they were extremely solid. Allowing just 43 points and recording some hard-hitting sacks and athletic pass breakups and picks along the way, Jim Schwartz showed plenty of creativity when harnessing the potential of his defense…and the first teamers looked absolutely ruthless.
E is for Edge rushers
Talking of the defense, there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to defensive end. Derek Barnett had a couple of flashes during preseason, Michael Bennett looked good in the minimal snaps he played, but Brandon Graham’s contract extension has been avoided for yet another year. Time is running out and it’s not as if Josh Sweat showed the promise that many had pinned on his shoulders. The defensive ends should feast this season, but there are some longevity questions that may need answering by this time next year.
F is for Foles causes concern
The Super Bowl MVP looked rusty to say the very least in his preseason efforts and it’s caused quite the stir when it comes to thinking about who will play against the Falcons. If Carson Wentz isn’t ready, Foles will ride into next week on the back of two extremely wobbly performances. For some, this is a cause for concern. Will it be legitimized? Only time will tell…
G is for Goedert
The Eagles second round pick looked the part of an absolute nightmare for defenses during the preseason, showing a large catch radius, an ability to drive through contact for extra yards and of course proving to be a menace in the red zone, snagging a Sudfeld dart for a touchdown. The ceiling is very, very high.
H is for hanging in the balance
The Eagles had to make some tough decisions this weekend. Former fourth round pick Donnell Pumphrey and 2016 draftee Elijah Qualls are just two of the names who were cut on Saturday after failing to maximize the opportunities given to them. For many, this offseason has provided the perfect opportunity to carve a niche on the team and unfortunately, an inability to make the most of that has cost them dearly.
I is for injuries
Whether it’s Alshon Jeffery’s shoulder, the rehab of Carson Wentz, a torn ACL for Paul Worrilow or even the setbacks that have affected Mack Hollins, Brandon Graham or Chris Maragos, the Eagles have had their fair share of injury problems and those issues could well bite deeper into the teams veins as the new season draws near.
J is for Jernigan’s impact
Losing Timmy Jernigan was a massive blow for the Eagles and not one that many are paying attention to. Sure, Ngata can step up as a veteran, but he’s coming off of a season-ending injury and could be limited due to durability concerns. The depth defensive tackles will be so, so important next season, considering Beau Allen and Destiny Vaeao combined for 60% of snaps last year.
K is for Kryptonite
I wrote an article earlier this week talking about how Jim Schwartz may have found a way to make the new ‘helmet’ rule work in his favor. If you haven’t checked it out, you should!
L is for Linebacker limbo
The Corey Nelson experiment failed and the Eagles will go into this season with Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill splitting reps at weakside linebacker, but depth behind Bradham and Hicks is still paper-thin and we all know the injury history that is associated with ‘Simba’. The linebacker corps will be lethal in 2018, but one injury could derail it all.
M is for Magnificent Mailata
What more needs to be said? The early consensus was that Mailata was struggling to adapt to a sport he’d never played (shock) and was receiving some tough love from Jeff Stoutland, while seeing some extra tutoring from Jason Peters. After four preseason games, I think it’s safe to say that the ceiling for Mailata is higher than anyone could have possibly imagined.
N is for Nickel
After an offseason of intense battles and training camp showdowns, we still don’t know who the starting nickel cornerback is going to be. But again, Jim Schwartz may have an ace up his sleeve…
O is for offensive woes
The Eagles offense was putrid this preseason. The offensive line struggled, running backs struggled to establish any kind of success and there were more errors and penalties than Pederson would’ve liked. Sure, there was no game planning and a lack of starters, but the starters who were playing didn’t fly the flag of a team ready to start a Super Bowl defense, for the most part. Something is going to need to change and for fans, it’s a case of trusting Doug Pederson to light that fire and rally his troops once again.
P is for Punting perfection
Cameron Johnston eats Areoplanes. There is literally no other explanation for strength in his leg that has sent punt after punt sailing deep inside enemy territory, despite having his back to the wall of his own. Life after ‘Donnie Longball’ looks safe.
Q is for Questions keep arising
From Foles and receivers to nickel cornerbacks and defensive tackles, questions keep seemingly popping up out of nowhere, as they do for most team. The problem is that none of them are being answered, leaving a cloud of mystery over the defending champions.
R is for Running back shock
Donnell Pumphrey had one shot to save his Eagles career after ‘redshirting’ last season and he failed to show any progress. Despite a few screen passes against the Jets, Pumphrey was largely silent throughout the offseason. Injuries impacted his career yet again and eventually, the front office had to swallow a bitter pill. The Pumphrey experiment had failed and with Sproles retiring next year, things will begin to get murky.
S is for Sudfeld’s supremacy
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this preseason has been the emergence of Nate Sudfeld, who didn’t just look good, but led the NFL in passing yards. The former Indiana quarterback settled down quickly after a couple of poor decisions in the preseason opener and never looked back. Sudfeld looked cool, calm and collected, threading darts and dropping bombs in the games that followed.
T is for Tight end focus
If the Eagles are going to be without Alshon Jeffery and potentially another receiver or two, expect a focus on the tight end position. Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert will have to pick up the slack for whoever starts under center, but that doesn’t mean things will end badly for Pederson’s unpredictable offense.
U is for Uncertainty
No Jeffery, no Wentz. That could be a scenario that Philly will have to face for up to 3 weeks in a worst case scenario. We’ve spoken about the amount of questions that keep cropping up, but there is a distinct level of uncertainty around this team that could come back to haunt them.
V is for Vaitai’s regression
Big V looked so, so impressive during the playoffs, silencing Everson Griffen and holding his own during Super Bowl 52. Conversely, preseason didn’t look pretty, at all. Has Vaitai taken a step back, or is this simply yet more growing pains for the TCU product?
W is for Wentz
The face of the franchise has been dazzling everyone in attendance of Eagles practices this offseason with the speed in which he’s recovering from his torn ACL. Although patience is key, Wentz is moving around comfortably and confidently in non-contact drills, even going as far as to fire the cannon before preseason games. When he returns however, is a massive unknown.
X is for X’s and O’s….
You thought I was going to say Xylophone, didn’t you? Mike Groh has already made his fingerprint on this offense clear with some very creative plays during the short four game span. The Eagles may have lost Frank Reich, but their offense remains just as dynamic and maybe, just maybe, a little bit more explosive thanks to the influence Groh has received during his career.
Y is for Yapping
The Eagles have done plenty of talking this offseason. The continued firing of shots into the path of the Patriots aren’t quite ‘Jalen Ramsey’ level, but there has been more than a few occasions where the Champs have been feeling it. They talk the talk, but they’re going to have to walk the walk while still dealing with disadvantages.
Z is for zero margin for error
Opening the season against Atlanta is no easy task, let alone on a shorter offseason and with a flurry of injuries to deal with. Pederson has been applauded as one of the most improved coaches in the NFL, but there has to be a real emphasis on smart coaching calls now. Without some of the most important weapons in the arsenal, Pederson may not be able tp play as aggressively as he’d like and the same goes for the defense. If the Eagles are going to make a statement and defeat Atlanta, it starts up top.