First and 10: Eagles Outlast Bills on Late INT
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - A series or two for Carson Wentz turned into four as Eagles coach Doug Pederson forced his starting offense onto the field again and again during the first quarter of Philadelphia's 20-16 preseason win over Buffalo Thursday night.
The Eagles failed to pick up a first down on each of their first three possessions in the game, which included one starting point inside the Buffalo 10-yard line after a Rodney McLeod batted ball turned into a Mychal Kendricks interception.
Unlike last week in Green Bay when Wentz led the Eagles to six points on his only series, the Philadelphia offense was stymied while trying to get LeGarrette Blount and the running game going. Through those first three tries at it, Blount ran it four times and netted 0 yards while Wentz tried to locate Alshon Jeffery, making his Eagles debut, but failed on two targets.
As a unit, Wentz and Co. gained just five total yards on those first three possessions before Pederson sent them out one last time and kick-started things with tempo.
It worked a bit as Wentz connected with Jeffery on a quick hitch for nine yards and followed that up by finding Nelson Agholor for another seven, the first first-down of the contest. Wentz completed two more passes in a row -- to Jeffery and Blount -- before things eventually fizzled out at the Bills' 27 when Blount fumbled a dump-off pass.
The second-year quarterback finished his night 6 of 9 for 56 yards and an 83.6 passer rating. Blount had just eight yards on five attempts while adding 15 more through the air and Jeffery snared two catches on five targets for 23 yards.
The game was not secured until the final play when cornerback Mitchell White intercepted T.J. Yates at the goal line to secure things for Philadelphia.
AND 10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
-Kendricks may not be all that happy with his reduced role in the Philadelphia defense but the athletic linebacker showed up big in the first half tonight with the interception, an impressive tackle for loss when he sniffed out a screen to Charles Clay and a sack of Tyrod Taylor.
"I'm blessed and that's just the God's honest truth," Kendricks said. "There are so many things with this world today and so many things going on that you look at your situation and it's not that bad. I just try to approach every day with an attitude of gratitude and I keep balling."
-Part of the Eagles' issues on offense could be traced to the 'Lane' change on the offensive line where starting left tackle Jason Peters remained away from the team taking care of a personal matter and backup Halapoulivaati Vaitai was also missing with a knee injury forcing Philadelphia to shuffle things up front. Right tackle Lane Johnson flipped over to the left side while veteran Matt Tobin made the start at RT.
Johnson, who spent most of the spring on the left side while Peters stayed away from voluntary work and is the heir apparent to Peters, wasn't good against the Bills, getting caught by a Jerry Hughes spin move and also being called for holding by the always over-eager Ed Hochuli crew.
-Ronald Darby's debut was a spectacular one and he could have easily recorded two interceptions and a pick six but settled for one, returning it 48 yards inside the Buffalo 20-yard line. The corner flashed his impressive sub-4.4 speed on the return, zig-zagging through his old teammates.
On the first pass targeting him, Darby jumped an out-route to Anquan Boldin and nearly picked off the pass and went to the house.
-Wendell Smallwood better get out of the tub or Corey Clement's going to make the club. The undrafted rookie showed more juice running the football than any other Eagles running back to this point, ripping off a 24-yard run and punching it in from six yards out for Philadelphia's first TD of the night.
-Mack Hollins got a lot of pub last week for his amazing stiff arm against the Packers but the Eagles believe Marcus Johnson is the more polished receiver at this point. The second-year wideout, who missed last week's game with a hamstring problem, showed some of that when he got loose in the second quarter for a 38-yard catch and run.
-I put the over/under on Matt McGloin passes at 33 before the game and not one person replying on Twitter chose the under. Vegas would have won big tonight as the backup QB (with Nick Foles still nursing the elbow injury) was only 12 of 20 for 131 yards and an interception before giving way to Dane Evans. Overall the Eagles threw it 41 times and ran it 26 times. The balance was not quite as bad as last week but it's obviously still not optimal.
-Without Ron Brooks available, the Eagles went "big nickel" to start, sliding Malcolm Jenkins down in obvious passing situations while inserting Corey Graham at safety next to Rodney McLeod. It will be interesting to see what Jim Schwartz's preference will be once Brooks returns from a hamstring injury.
-Does Reggie White have a preseason sack record? Because Derek Barnett may get that one as well. The Eagles first-round pick got the quarterback for the third time in two weeks and nearly had a fourth sack. Vinny Curry has been solid at right end but Barnett is obviously going to push for playing time with that kind of production.
-Chris Long wrapped his left arm around teammate Malcolm Jenkins, who continued raise to raise his right fist in protest over racial injustices, during the national anthem. Long has been very vocal this week about the issues that divide our country since the events in Charlottesville, Va., his hometown, this past week.
"It's been a hard week for everybody," Long said. "...It's a tough week for America. I've said before that I'll never kneel for an anthem because the flag means something different for everybody in this country, but I support my peers. ...My thing is this, Malcolm is a leader and I'm here to show support as a white athlete."
-Shady's back. Chickie's & Pete's in South Philadelphia confirmed that LeSean McCoy ordered 200 cheesesteaks and the accompanying crab fries for his teammates to partake in after the game. During the game, McCoy showed that he was the same shifty back he was in Philly, carrying it four times for 21 yards, including a 13-yard gain on his first carry.
-Jordan's not back. Jordan Matthews didn't make the trip to Philadelphia after injuring his sternum during his first practice with the Bills. He's expected to miss the rest of preseason, according to the Bills' PR department.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen