Grayson’s Grades: Eagles at Patriots
The Philadelphia Eagles have yet to win a preseason game, but wins and losses in the preseason mean nothing at this point. What matters is how specific players operate in the constant battle to be ready for the season opener. Some players are battling for roster spots. NFL teams will need to cut their rosters down from 90 players to a max of 75 players following the next preseason game.
With all of that in mind, it is time to hand out grades following Friday night's 42-35 loss to the New England Patriots in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
WR Jordan Matthews - Matthews showed a huge bounce-back ability following a lackluster showing against the Chicago Bears one week earlier. He was targeted nine times by Eagles quarterbacks and caught all nine passes for 104 yards. Matthews not only made the catches but tacked on some solid yards after the catch and helped move the sticks. He showed why he was an early second round pick by the Eagles.
QB Mark Sanchez - Sanchez continues to look like a solid pickup by the Eagles. He completed 11 of 12 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Sanchez did a really nice job of moving the Eagles offense down the field on two scoring drives of 61 and 80 yards respectively. His only incompletion was an interception. It was the only blemish on an otherwise very solid performance. Sanchez appears to have a solid lock on the backup quarterback competition over Matt Barkley
CB Cary Williams - Williams did a nice job to end what looked like a typical Tom Brady drive by picking off Brady's pass in the first quarter and returning it 77 yards for a touchdown. Williams did not play the rest of the game due to a hamstring injury. That is the only reason he did not get an 'A', just not enough of a sample size in the game to warrant that.
QB Nick Foles - Foles did nothing really wrong in the game. He completed eight of ten passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. However, he still showed signs of holding onto the ball just a bit too long at times when the pocket collapsed and took one sack in the game. I didn't have a problem with his performance, but it was not spectacular enough to warrant an 'A'. Keep in mind Foles operated the offense without two of his starting receivers. Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper were both out due to injury.
TE Brent Celek - Celek looked to be the reliable target Foles enjoyed last season. He caught two passes for 45 yards. He earned a 'B' from me due to his ability to hold onto the ball despite some big hits, including one that took off his helmet when he was sandwiched by a pair of Patriots.
TE Zach Ertz - Ertz also did a nice job to hold onto the ball in traffic and added to the solid camp he has had so far. He caught the only touchdown pass thrown by Foles in traffic. Ertz finished the game with two catches for 26 yards, a 20 yard gain and the six yard touchdown reception.
WR Damaris Johnson - Johnson earned a 'B' in my opinion due to some of the shiftiness he displayed after the catch and his versatility to take some reps at running back. Johnson hauled in three passes for 30 yards including a touchdown reception from Mark Sanchez. With Running Backs Chris Polk and Michael Tucker out due to injury, Johnson also carried the ball seven times for 14 yards. Not too shabby when you consider the fact that he probably had little to no reps at running back in practice.
RB Henry Josey - I struggled with almost giving Josey an 'A'. His performance was that good and perhaps he deserved one. However, he did his work against a lot of second and third team defenders for the Patriots. Josey carried the ball eight times for 56 yards for an average of seven yards per carry. More impressive was his touchdown reception. The Eagles were facing a first and 20 from the Patriots 27 and Josey took the screen pass from Matt Barkley, read his blockers and finished off the run by staying in bounds and scoring.
LB Marcus Smith - Smith continues to look good through training camp and into the games. He played a lot against the Patriots. Smith did a nice job playing his position against the run and covering the flat. Smith needs to continue to improve and appears to be what the Eagles hoped for this season in terms of getting some snaps to help keep the other linebackers fresher later in the season.
Penalties - I wanted to throw the officials under the bus here, but they are doing what they are instructed to do and call the penalties as the league has asked. There is no question through two preseason games that all teams, not just the Eagles have a lot of work to do to be more disciplined and avoid giving up free yardage to the opponent. 21 penalties were accepted in this game for 169 yards. Even more were declined, so nearly 30 penalties were called Friday night. Chip Kelly had no problem with the calls saying, "The team that is the most disciplined will win a lot of games in the NFL this season." Players are frustrated but now clearly understand how tight the games will be called. Linebacker Connor Barwin said it is now on the players to adjust or risk really hurting their teams.
K Alex Henery - Henery missed a 47 yard field goal. It was wide right the moment it left his foot and never really had a chance to go through the uprights. Kelly said after the game that 47 yard field goals need to be made in this league. Henery also needs to do a slightly better job on kickoffs. He put five of six kickoffs into the endzone, but only three resulted in touchbacks.
Offensive Line - I use a 'C' grade as an average performance. The offensive line did a much better job than it did against Chicago, but needs to get even better. There were still too many holding penalties called and the line needs to free up more lanes for bigger gains on the ground. The longest rush in the game was 15 yards by Henry Josey. The line did a decent job in pass protection allowing just one sack and seeing Eagles quarterbacks hurried four times.
WR Ifeyani Momah - Momah has looked very good in training camp. So much so, that he earned a starting spot in each of the first two preseason games. That is certainly due to the absence of fellow receivers Jeremy Maclin sitting out Friday's game due to a hamstring injury and Riley Cooper missing time due to a nagging foot injury. Momah caught three out of four passes thrown his way for 28 yards, but he fumbled two of those three receptions. You can argue he should have caught a touchdown pass that ultimately went out of his hands and into Arrelious Benn's hands for the score. The two fumbles put Momah squarely in the 'D' range for this game. The staff will undoubtedly look to see how he bounces back from that performance Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
CB Curtis Marsh - Marsh had one of those nights that had to feel like it was never going to end. He came into the game following the hamstring injury to Cary Williams and Tom Brady started picking on him immediately. Marsh was called for several penalties and struggled to defend passes. He gave up some touchdown receptions too.
Run Defense - The Eagles had a very hard time stopping the run. The Patriots racked up 250 rushing yards and did it against the first, second and third team defense. They averaged more than five yards per rush.
3rd Down Defense - The Eagles had a hard time getting their defense off the field. The Patriots converted 10 of 15 third downs and ran 81 plays in the game. If the Eagles can't stop the run or get off the field on third down, it is going to be a very long season. That being said, Eagles defensive players were quick to point out after the game that they are not showing much of their defense in the preseason.