Grayson’s Grades: Eagles vs. Bucs
PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia Eagles scored the first touchdown of the entire NFL preseason. Both of their first quarter touchdowns were results of turnovers by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That proved to be enough to deliver a win for Doug Pederson who served his first game as an NFL Head Coach.
Grayson's Grades are back for another season. With that in mind, here is the first report card following a 17-9 preseason victory over Tampa Bay.
Defensive Line - The defensive line may have been the best unit on the team. Connor Barwin said after the game that he is looking forward to the rotations the line will use this season. Barwin did his part in limited action recording two tackles and half a sack while also getting credit for one quarterback hurry. Bennie Logan got on Jameis Winston quickly in the first quarter and knocked the ball out of his hands. Fletcher Cox picked up that fumble. He also forced a fumble himself and was credited with a quarterback hurry, a sack and one tackle. Cox looked really comfortable in this defense. Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham each recorded one tackle in this game. The line was wreaking havoc on the Bucs starters and that was nice to see out of the 4-3.
Najee Goode - Goode earned a start at Linebacker in place of Mychal Kendricks who was held out due to injury. Goode made his presence known on the first play of the game when he forced a fumble on the opening kickoff. Later in the game, he delivered a hard hit on Bucs Quarterback Ryan Griffin resulting in an incomplete pass. Goode provides solid depth at Linebacker and is a quality special teams player. He finished with three tackles and a quarterback hurry.
Chris Maragos - Maragos is in competition for a backup safety spot. He had a solid night recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff. Maragos later made a nice interception when he had to leap to make the grab while taking a hit from the Bucs receiver. He also recorded two tackles in the game.
Doug Pederson - Pederson was either without or chose to not use some of his best offensive weapons. Darren Sproles did not play. Jordan Matthews was out due to injury and many of the starters were out after the first offensive possession. I liked his decision to put Wentz in at the end of the first quarter to get the experience of running a two-minute drill.
Jim Schwartz - The defense appeared to play with more urgency under Schwartz than it did under Billy Davis. The 4-3 was creating pressure and forced Bucs Quarterback Mike Glennon to throw off his back foot leading to an interception. Schwartz' defense got off to a solid start in the preseason. Linebacker Connor Barwin told me afterwards the gameplan defensively was extremely vanilla or plain. That is a great sign considering the amount of pressure they were able to get without dialing up any blitzes.
Jaylen Watkins - Watkins was around the ball quite a bit in this game. He was credited with one pass breakup. Watkins also recorded four tackles. There is a lot of competition for playing time at corner and Watkins did not do anything to hurt his chances for more playing time.
Ed Reynolds - Reynolds is among a group of players heavily competing for playing time at Safety. He took advantage of his playing time in this game to lead the team in tackles with seven of them. Reynolds also recorded a tackle for a loss. He looked to make few mistakes in this game and will need to build on that to rise up the depth chart.
Carson Wentz - Wentz was a little overexcited when he entered the game leading to a couple of high throws. He did a great job of stepping up in the pocket and firing a strike to Zach Ertz downfield for a 19 yard gain. Wentz also looked good rolling out to his right and hitting Paul Turner. Overall Wentz looked like a rookie. He had some open receivers and sailed it high. Wentz tried to force one pass in the red zone that was picked off. He also got lit up on a designed quarterback keeper resulting in the stadium holding its collective breath when he hit the ground. Wentz finished the game completing 12 of 24 passes for 89 yards and one interception.
Jordan Hicks - Hicks had a great rookie season a year ago before an injury cut that short. Now in a different system he is virtually a rookie all over again. I watched him closely when he was in the game. He appeared to be handling his assignments pretty well, but looked to be just a step slower than he was last year. I believe that is due to unfamiliarity within the defense and expect him to get faster as his comfort within it grows. Hicks recorded two tackles in this game. Linebackers are going to be key for this defense and he has a golden opportunity to establish himself, but he will have to show growth week-to-week throughout the preseason.
Tight Ends - I expect to see the tight ends playing a big role in the receiving game this season. Together they combined to pull in six receptions for 54 yards. Zach Ertz caught three passes for 26 yards including a 19-yard reception on arguably Carson Wentz' best pass of the night. Brent Celek hauled in one pass for three yards, MJ McFarland caught one pass for 16 yards and Chris Pantale brought in one pass for nine yards. Trey Burton has had a very good camp but did not make a catch in this game.
Kenjon Barner - Barner averaged five yards per carry and carried it more than any other player. With Ryan Mathews seeing just three plays in the game and rookie Wendell Smallwood injured, Barner had a golden opportunity to show the coaching staff what he can do. Barner did well and also took advantage of some opportunities on special teams returning a kickoff 47 yards. He finished with seven carries for 35 yards. Barner also added 19 yards on three punt returns.
Nigel Bradham - Bucs Quarterback Jameis Winston picked on Bradham's spot on the field during a touchdown drive. Bradham looked to overcommit on several plays vacating his spot on the field. He plays with a high motor but must be a little more patient before leaving his assignment to pursue the ball.
Leodis McKelvin - McKelvin looked to be a little late reacting in some of his limited playing time. He was a split-second too late on Jameis Winston's touchdown pass. McKelvin was picked on twice during that drive. Overall it was a very limited sample size in grading McKelvin, but enough information was there to warrant a D.
Chase Daniel - Daniel was unimpressive in his opportunities under center. He played all but the first and last possession of the first half. Daniel held onto the ball too long. He was late making reads and getting rid of the ball. Daniel appeared to stop looking downfield and instead watched the rush coming at him. He finished the game completing just four of ten passes for 15 yards to go along with a three yard rushing touchdown. Daniel was sacked four times.
Wide Receivers - This was a pretty unspectacular performance by the receiving corps. Nelson Agholor failed to come up with a catch in this game. He also failed to make a block on a screen pass. Reuben Randle dropped a pass right on his numbers. Josh Huff caught two short passes for eight yards. Chris Givens was targeted once but did not record a catch. This team struggled to stretch the field last year and did not do anything to change that perception in this game.
Backup Offensive Line - Andrew Gardner, Stefen Wisniewski, Josh Andrews, Dennis Kelly, Matt Tobin all failed to pass block well. Chase Daniel was pressured quickly and frequently. He was sacked four times and got to the point where he could not look downfield because he was so concerned with the rush.
I - Incomplete
Sam Bradford - Hard to give a guy a grade after taking just three snaps in the game.
Ryan Mathews - Hard to give a guy a grade after playing just three snaps in the game. On the plus side, Mathews averaged 7.5 yards per carry and scored a touchdown. On the negative side, it was too small of a sample size to warrant a grade.