McMullen’s Quick Hits: Eagles Dominate Colts in Dress-Rehearsal Game
(973espn.com) - There is something about Sam Bradford and Week 3 of the preseason.
The Eagles’ starting quarterback wasn’t “Green Bay good” but he just a notch below that while playing into the third quarter as Philadelphia earned a 33-23 win over Indianapolis in the all-important dress-rehearsal game.
Bradford finished 17-of-20 for 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Dorial Green-Beckham and Trey Burton. He also threw one interception but that was a perfectly-thrown ball that clanged off the hands of the struggling Nelson Agholor.
As we learned from the Week 3 game in Titletown last season, you always take what happens in the preseason with a grain of salt and the Colts were playing without seven significant defenders.
That said, you can only play who is put in front of you and the Eagles’ offense finally started to click as Bradford got the newly-acquired DGB involved as well as two of the team’s tougher matchups for opposing defenses, Josh Huff and Burton.
“We wanted to come out and execute tonight and look sharp,” Bradford said, “and I think we looked sharp. The communication was great tonight and the execution was even better.”
Philadelphia, which led 24-3 when the starters departed, scored on four straight possessions after the Agholor miscue and that was plenty for Jim Schwartz’s defense, which continued to dominate, holding Andre Luck to a 13-of-18 passing night for 134 yards.
“We are happy with what we have done so far and we want to continue to improve game by game,” defensive end Connor Barwin said.
HUFF-ING AND PUFFING TOWARD A ROSTER SPOT
You saw why Huff is making this team on the Eagles’ second possession when the underachieving third-year player generated a 38-yard chunk play. He then cemented his status early in the second quarter with a 9-yard TD run on a jet sweep. Other than Darren Sproles, there isn’t a better Eagles player with the ball in his hands and on a team that figures to struggle in the YAC category, manufacturing touches for Huff will be in the game plan just about every week.
Green-Beckham began to show his impressive skill set in the second quarter first catching an inside route and breaking a tackle for a first down and then showing off his 6-foot-5 frame and near 40-inch vertical leap by hauling in a Bradford fade for a TD. If the former second-round pick brings his A-game every single day, he will be Philadelphia’s WR1 very quickly because his raw physical skills dwarf even Jordan Matthews.
PULL THE PLUG ON AGHOLOR
The Eagles desperately wanted Agholor to take a huge step forward in his second season and become the team’s top complement to Matthews but his inconsistency catching the football doesn’t warrant playing time. In fact, take away his pedigree as a 2015 first-round pick and Agholor would likely be unemployed by next Saturday, that’s how bad he’s been.
His egregious drop on the first possession of the night resulted in a Bradford interception and set up the Colts on a short field en route to a field goal. With Green-Beckham mixing in, Chris Givens showing some life tonight and Huff the main option you want to manufacture touches for, its Agholor who is the fifth receiver on this team.
Many have rightfully speculated on the kind of year Fletcher Cox might have under Jim Schwartz but they should also add Brandon Graham to that thought process because the veteran defensive end is tailor-made for the defensive coordinator’s attacking scheme. Graham was a pass-rushing terror early on as he flipped from side to side and it was his push on Indy’s first opportunity that allowed Connor Barwin to record a sack. Later he raced around the right side to force Luck to climb the pocket before chasing the athletic QB down from behind.
Graham’s colleagues weren’t bad either, dominating the Colts’ rebuilt offensive line and putting consistent pressure on Luck, including sacks by Barwin, Beau Allen and Bennie Logan. At one point Schwartz had Cox lined up at defensive end and he hurried Luck. About the only negative all night was a couple of sprained knees as Vinny Curry limped off just before halftime and Taylor Hart was forced to leave in the fourth quarter.
FOUR TIGHT ENDS
Chris Pantale was on first-team kickoff return unit, along with fellow tight ends Brent Celek and Burton, another strong indication that the Eagles are ready to keep four on the final 53-man roster with the fourth obviously being the pass catcher, Zach Ertz.
THE OTHER NORTH DAKOTA STATE GUY
With Carson Wentz still resting his fractured rib, the Eagles still repped North Dakota State well by giving undrafted rookie cornerback C.J. Smith some first-team reps ahead of both Jalen Mills and Eric Rowe. It likely would have been Aaron Grymes getting that work but the former CFL star injured the AC Joint in his shoulder last week in Pittsburgh. Smith acquitted himself well and has made huge strides since the beginning of camp and likely locked up a practice squad nod but Grymes had already done enough to capture the final corner slot as long as health isn’t an issue.
As far as formations go, the Eagles are back in calculus class under Doug Pederson as opposed to the basic arithmetic they ran for three years under Chip Kelly. The 13 personnel used on Trey Burton’s TD in the flat during the first possession of the third quarter was a perfect example of that. The Eagles used a double-rub route with Ertz trying to get DGB loose on the right side and Brent Celek succeeding in freeing Burton.
SPECIAL TEAMS BLIP
The Eagles special teams are usually a strength but the Colts’ first TD of the night came off a blocked punt in the third quarter as upback Ed Reynolds got caught flat-footed and missed his assignment, allowing Josh McNary to spike the punt. The good news in that Reynolds is not going to be in that spot during the regular season.
NICE KNOWING YOU, CODY
Donnie Jones’ errant punt off Caleb Sturgis’ unhelmeted head in Pittsburgh last week has no effect on the kicking competition as Sturgis made it back from concussion protocol to have a good week in practice before following it up with a lights out night indoors in Indy, which included a 47-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Cody Parkey, meanwhile, pushed one PAT wide right.
53-MAN ROSTER PREDICTION
The Eagles already started trimming their roster last week in advance of Tuesday’s deadline of 75. The final cutdown to 53 in then on Sept. 3. After the most important of the preseason games, here’s where we think the Eagles stand.
QB: Sam Bradford; Chase Daniel; Carson Wentz
-Out: McLeod Bethel-Thompson
RB: Ryan Mathews; Darren Sproles; Wendell Smallwood, Kenjon Barner
-Out: Byron Marshall (Practice Squad)
WR: Jordan Matthews; Nelson Agholor; Dorial Green-Beckham; Chris Givens; Josh Huff
-Out: Rueben Randle; Paul Turner (practice squad); Marcus Johnson (practice squad); Cayleb Jones; David Watford
TE: Zach Ertz; Brent Celek; Trey Burton; Chris Pantale
-Out: M.J. McFarland
OL: Jason Kelce; Isaac Seumalo; Jason Peters; Brandon Brooks; Allen Barbre; Matt Tobin; Stefen Wisniewski; Halapoulivaati Vaitai; Dillon Gordon
-Suspended: Lane Johnson
-Out: Andrew Gardner; Josh Andrews; Darrell Greene (practice squad); Barrett Jones
DE: Connor Barwin; Vinny Curry; Brandon Graham, Marcus Smith; Bryan Braman
-Out: Steven Means; Alex McCalister (practice squad);
DT: Fletcher Cox; Bennie Logan; Mike Martin; Beau Allen
-Out: Taylor Hart; Destiny Vaeao (practice squad); Aziz Shittu
LB: Jordan Hicks; Nigel Bradham; Mychal Kendricks; Stephen Tulloch; Najee Goode; Quentin Gause
-IR: Joe Walker
-Out: Myke Tavarres (practice squad); Don Cherry
CB: Leodis McKelvin; Nolan Carroll; Ron Brooks; Jalen Mills; Eric Rowe; Aaron Grymes
-Out: Denzel Rice; C.J. Smith (practice squad); JaCorey Shepherd; Randall Evans
S: Malcolm Jenkins; Rodney McLeod; Jaylen Watkins; Chris Maragos
-Out: Blake Countess (practice squad); Ed Reynolds; Nick Perry
P: Donnie Jones
PK: Caleb Sturgis
-Out: Cody Parkey
LS: Jon Dorenbos
-Out: John DePalma
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen