First and 10: Eagles Get Offensive Against Dolphins
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The dress rehearsal lasted all of 15 minutes but there was plenty to take away from an offensive standpoint, namely touchdown strikes from Carson Wentz to the Eagles' two high-profile free-agent pickups at receiver in the offseason, Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery.
Ultimately it was a 38-31 win for Philadelphia over Miami on Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
First, the speedy Smith took advantage of a miscommunication on Miami's back end as former Eagles' bust Byron Maxwell tried to hand off the veteran wideout to safety Reshad Jones in coverage. Either Maxwell shouldn't have done that or Jones was unaware he was supposed to give help because Smith just ran past both and Wentz hit him for a 50-yard touchdown.
"I had him covered," Maxwell said. "I should've just stayed on the post but your eyes play tricks on you. You think you see a little, you see a lot and sometimes it just doesn't work out."
"It was pretty cool," Smith countered. "I'm just glad we were able to connect. It's something we have had success in practice with but to have it happen in a game setting is always fun."
Later in the quarter, Wentz found also Jeffery with a brilliant second-window throw for a 15-yard score. and there were plenty of other positives for the offense as well. Wendell Smallwood was back on the field and gave the running game some juice while tight end Zach Ertz caught all three of his targets and even had some yards-after-catch.
There were plenty of other positives for the offense as well. Wendell Smallwood was back on the field and gave the running game some juice while tight end Zach Ertz caught all three of his targets and even had some yards-after-catch.
Things didn't go quite as well for the defense which played without left end Brandon Graham (triceps) and middle linebacker Jordan Hicks (groin).
Miami moved the ball on the ground and through the air with an impressive group of playmakers. Running back Jay Ajayi ran in nine times for 53 yards and two TDs while DeVante Parker went up over Ronald Darby to collect a 72-yard reception that set up one of Ajayi's scoring runs.
10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
-The Eagles' first-team offensive line was shaky again and that's a concern because the starters were all together for the first time. Meanwhile, projected swing tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai was exactly stellar when he came in at right tackle, drawing a ton of yellow from John Hussy and his crew.
Vaitai did settle down a bit and was given reps on each side in an effort to get him ready for his role.
"We better get ready," right tackle Lane Johnson said. "...We wanted to emphasize the run game and obviously, anybody can say that we can improve on stuff, keeping Carson more clean but I'm fine where we're at."
"It still could have been better," center Jason Kelce admitted. "It's still a little bit sloppy and a little bit of not all being on the same page. We need to start preparing for opponents throughout the week and start getting used to the blitzes and the different things that they have to offer and that will just clean everything up."
-Mychal Kendricks continued his strong preseason, netting his third interception in three games, this one a 31-yard pick six off a C.J. Smith PBU. Kendricks is clearly the third man in a two-linebacker setup but he provides impressive depth behind Hicks and Nigel Bradham. Even though he's unhappy and would like to play more, Kendricks is such a professional he'll be ready if called upon.
"Like I said it's about taking the opportunities given," Kendricks said. "It's simple but people try to make it so complicated but it's just simple."
-The Eagles are so happy with Corey Graham as the third safety that Jaylen Watkins is back taking reps at corner which is not a great sign for the latter when it comes to making the final 53. Watkins, however, is versatile and did come up with a big interception of a Matt More pass in the end zone while safety Terrence Brooks took a big step back by missing a tackle on a long TD by Dolphins WR Jakeem Grant.
-After missing the first two preseason games with hamstring issues Smallwood returned to show you why he is a lock for this roster running four times for 28 yards and also serving as the lead kickoff returner. Frank Reich mentioned last week that Smallwood has become a better three-down back than he ever imagined but he still needs significant work when it comes to pass protection.
-It's interesting that Darren Sproles is the one healthy veteran who was put into bubble wrap for the entire preseason. With this likely, his final season in the NFL, perhaps the Eagles are considering going with Sproles as the team's lead back. Meanwhile, Rashard Davis and Donnel Pumphrey continued to be an adventure on punt returns so Dave Fipp will be thrilled when the regular season gets here.
-Rookie Derek Barnett got the start at left end in place of Graham even though Chris Long has spent most of the time in camp as the backup there with Barnett spelling Vinny Curry on the right side. Doug Pederson had mentioned after last week's game that he needed to look at the first-round pick against better competition.
-With Hicks sitting, Najee Goode not only got the start at MLB, he also was in on the first-team nickel with Bradham. It's clear when you add Goode's versatility to play any of the LB positions to his special-teams acumen that the veteran will again be part of this roster this season.
-Curry didn't show up much in the first two preseason games but with Barnett breathing down his neck, the Marshall product showed up in a big way by giving Dolphins' left tackle Laremy Tunsil fits, including a strip sack of Jay Cutler.
-Darby got beaten badly twice, on Parker's 50/50 ball win as well as a 42-yard PI call when he got caught up of position and ran through Kenny Stills in the end zone. Both miscues led to Miami TDs.
"I feel like I didn't do as well as I wanted to," Darby admitted. "I'll be watching this film for the next few days to see what I did wrong."
-For the back-end receivers, the biggest standout was Mack Hollins, who snared five of eight targets for 44 yards but the rookie is not on the bubble. Of the guys who are, Marcus Johnson showed up by drawing a PI in the end zone and following that with a nice route to get loose in tight quarters for the TD.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen