The opening preseason game of the Nick Sirianni didn’t exactly go according to plan. A 24-16 loss to the Steelers saw the Philadelphia Eagles struggle to stop the run in what became a pretty one-sided affair after the starters departed. There were plenty of things we learned, but here are five of the key takeaways from tonight’s matchup.
Quez Watkins could be dangerous
We saw flashes of how lethal Quez Watkins could be in the screen-game last year, with the most prominent being his touchdown against the Cardinals. Fans were reminded of his breakaway speed on Thursday night as the second-year receiver burst out of the gate for a 79-yard touchdown, catching a screen pass from Joe Flacco.
It was his only reception of the night, but Watkins built upon what has already been an impressive Summer in the best way possible.
Tyree Jackson has real potential
There was a lot of hype surrounding the former Bills QB coming into tonight after plenty of rave reviews during the opening weeks of Training Camp. Jackson delivered everything that was promised, as the 6’7 tight end hauled in a pair of passes for 32 yards, but should’ve easily had a couple more with a better-placed pass. A 19-yard reception saw him break off a tackle and drive upfield, showcasing his physicality.
The Eagles lack long-term options at tight end and Jackson could be a really fun one to develop over the next few years providing the team can keep a hold of him.
The battle for QB2 could be over
While we can’t give Flacco credit for Watkins’ 79-yard dash, we can absolutely commend the fact he completed 10/17 passes and was largely smart with the ball in his hands…unlike his competition. Nick Mullens completed just one pass on the night and turned the ball over twice, making a pair of errant throws and struggling throughout. In fairness, he did suffer front some torrid offensive line play, but even so, the contrast was night-and-day. Flacco was the smart, slightly more boring option…while Mullens brings the volatility.
Don’t be surprised to see some deep-bombs from him in the coming weeks in a bid to make up for this outing, but the scales might well be tilted back in Flacco’s favor.
Time to work on tackling
The run defense was absolutely abysmal tonight outside of Alex Singleton’s efforts. The young linebacker ended up getting a ton of reps (probably due to missing so much of training camp due to COVID protocol), but it wasn’t enough to make up for a barrage of missed tackles by his teammates. Away from the hard-hitting Anthony Harris and a suddenly surging Marcus Epps, the Eagles struggled to wrap up the ball-carrier in what looked like a really bad game of Madden at times. Expect plenty of tackling drills this week.
Jake Elliott steps up
After a bad 2020 season, Jake Elliott hit training camp with a refreshed mindset and renewed accuracy. That carried into preseason as he was perfect from 47, 47, and 50 yards…which isn’t exactly easy under any circumstance. It’s nice to see after his struggles last year, but the real concerns came with kicks from a shorter range, as we always knew he had the power. Let’s hope the trend continues and Elliott can keep the momentum rolling.
A star in the making
Milton Williams looked very impressive in his first outing in midnight green. The defensive tackle was used both inside and outside and brought plenty of explosiveness off the edge, knifing into the backfield on several occasions and making his presence felt. If the Eagles can find creative ways to use him during the regular season, he’s going to be a matchup nightmare thanks to his freakish athleticism.
Stop the drops
As far as Miles Sanders is concerned, there’s been a heavy emphasis on ball-security and receiving this offseason. Little did we know that the rest of the RB position would also struggle. Gainwell and Johnson struggled to even stay upright at times, before the former dropped key passes. Former RB Adrian Killins wasn’t exempt from this, and neither was Jason Huntley. There’s a clear issue that needs to be addressed and fast.
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