McMullen’s Quick Hits: Eagles Finish Off 4-0 Preseason
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Despite little help from the offense, the Philadelphia Eagles completed a perfect preseason under Doug Pederson, recording a 14-6 win over the New York Jets.
As expected the game was a sloppy one as the majority of the starters on both teams sat it out.
Chase Daniel got the start at quarterback in place of Sam Bradford, who was excused from the game after the passing of his grandfather. Meanwhile, Carson Wentz was again missing due to his fractured ribs leaving the heavy lifting to Daniel and camp arm McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
Neither was able to get the Philadelphia offense in the end zone but Paul Turner’s 71-yard punt return in the second quarter, coupled with Ed Reynolds’ 90-yard interception return in the third was all the Eagles needed.
Daniel got the entire first half under center and showed some signs early with Paul Turner and Dorial Green-Beckham at receiver. The veteran backup finished 14-of-22 for 131 yards but had two interceptions to stymie opportunities.
Bethel-Thompson was solid after intermission and outplayed Jets’ second-round pick Christian Hackenberg. He completed 13-of-16 passes for 82 yards.
New York’s only scoring play of the night was a 44-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Petty to Temple product Robby Anderson. Petty, however, injured his shoulder on the play and didn’t return, leaving Hackenberg to finish things out.
And the former Penn State star struggled badly, connecting on just 11-of-31 passes for 54 yards and the pick-six to Reynolds. He finished with a dismal 1.7 yards per pass attempt and a 30.7 passer rating.
The Eagles finished 4-0 in the preseason for the first time since 2012, Andy Reid's last season as the team's coach where the ultimate end game was 4-12.
"It means nothing," Daniel admitted when asked about the perfect prologue. "I mean you want to win all of them and we are very happy that we did but it really means nothing. You could go 0-4 and still feel the same way."
AS THE ROSTER TURNER-S
The undrafted Turner couldn’t have done much more to lock up his roster spot, catching six passes in seven targets for 66 yards and adding a 71-yard punt return for a TD, the Eagles only points in the first half. The Louisiana Tech product has the best hands on this team and proved he’s got more than enough functional-football speed on the return.
About the only negative on Turner’s report card was calling for a fair catch at his own 3-yard line while handling a punt early in the fourth quarter.
"I don't like to get into all of that stuff," fellow receiver Jordan Matthews said when asked about Turner making the team. "...I feel I can say I love having Paul in the receiver room and I love what he brings. He brings confidence and humility. He is a great player and he belongs in the NFL."
Lane Johnson was supposed to get the start at right tackle tonight because the original assumption was that he wasn’t going to be doing much for the next 2 ½ months. Johnson, though, was scratched with the intent he will be starting a week from Sunday against Cleveland as he continues to wait on his presumptive PED suspension.
Meanwhile, veteran Stefen Wisniewski, who was expected to start for the injured Isaac Seumalo at left guard was also given the night off. The starters from left to right were Matt Tobin, Josh Andrews, Barrett Jones, Darrell Greene and Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
Greene, the big money UDFA signing, got whipped by Claude Pelon on one play which helped cause Chase Daniel’s second interception.
Green-Beckham is quickly establishing himself as the most talented receiver on this roster, hauling in back-to-back passes during a short stint. The 6-foot-5, king-sized wideout flashed his athleticism on a shallow crossing route that went for 16 yards and followed that by using his frame on a quick slant that went for 15 more.
"Right now I feel real comfortable being around these guys for going on three weeks now," DGB said of his new teammates. "It has been real comfortable for me and I feel like in our position, we help each other out and we have each other's back. "
Byron Marshall arrived in Philadelphia as a versatile player who once had 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in separate seasons at Oregon. There was a thought he could push for a roster spot but that never really materialized.
With the main running backs all sitting, Marshall showed some of the elusiveness as a receiver that likely has him earmarked for the practice squad, first on a 12-yard swing pass and then getting open on a wheel route that would have been a huge gain had not Daniel overthrown him.
FOUR TEs REVISITED?
Pederson has intimated that he would like to keep four tight ends but the presumed fourth, Chris Pantale, continued to struggle, dropping three catchable balls. I don’t know how you can justify keeping Pantale after that performance.
SMITH VS. MEANS
Both Marcus Smith and Steven Means, believed to be fighting for the final defensive end spot, started and excelled. Smith, the former first-round pick, broke through for two TFLs, including one where he used a beautiful inside swim move on the left tackle.
"I just go out there and play," Smith said. "I'm just here playing the game I love. I just can't wait for Cleveland."
Means, meanwhile, continued to show up, forcing an intentional-grounding penalty from the left side and bulldozing the left tackle into the lap of Hackenberg on another. Maybe the solution is to keep them both.
"I really can't explain it," Means said of his stellar play. "And that's why I keep bringing up God. It's him playing through me. ...Whatever is going to happen is going to happen (as far as making the roster) and I will let the pieces fall where they fall."
Reynold's pick-six was the result of a tremendous pass rush by Bryan Braman and an awful decision by Hackenberg to throw the football on his way to the ground.
"It was a great pass rush. Bryan Braman coming off the edge making a disruption. I was playing two-weak (safety) and I was playing the route solid and I was like 'there is no way he's going to make this throw.' And he threw it and it just came to me. It was a great just team play overall."
THE ‘LONE STARTER’
The lone entrenched starter who was forced to play tonight was weak-side linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who played alongside the recently added Stephen Tulloch. Both were solid if unspectacular, although Tulloch got lost in zone coverage on one occasion.
CJ OVER JACOREY
JaCorey Shepherd finally got on the field for his first NFL game and the second-year player whose rookie year was wiped out by a torn ACL, got a right cross to the face when Temple product Robby Anderson beat him down the right sideline for a 44-yard TD from Petty.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen