Foles Falls Flat Again as Browns Whitewash Eagles
(973espn.com) - Nick Foles talked about the first-team offense needing a rhythm during Thursday's dress rehearsal preseason game between the Eagles and the Cleveland Browns.
Turns out the sloppiness was amped up to a new level with Philadelphia's first-team offense unveiling a Keystone Cops routine with its last five possessions of the preseason ending with a safety, fumble, interception, fumble, and interception in what turned out to be a 5-0 setback.
The starters are not expected to play in next week's preseason finale, meaning the final tally for those "starters" in August is 14 drives and no points, dismal production in the modern NFL under any circumstances.
There is context as so many players have sat out due to injury or precaution at times plus there is no real game-planning in the preseason but calling this anything other than a poor summer for Doug Pederson and his new offensive coordinator Mike Groh is hard to do.
Pederson was fuming after watching the first-half performance telling FOX's Erin Andrews "No, I'm done I've seen enough," when asked if Nick Foles would see action in the third quarter. "I thought he would settle in," Pederson continued, "Not the case."
The absence of Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement and Jason Peters on Thursday means it's not time to push the panic button over the Eagles' offensive struggles but the theme of poor play by Foles and left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai continued against the Browns, who were 0-16 last season.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP was a turnover machine in the first 30 minutes with two awful interceptions, a fumble and a safety after tripping over himself in the end zone. Meanwhile, Vaitai continued to struggle at left tackle, this time with the ultra-talented Myles Garrett, who registered two sacks and the safety for Cleveland.
Foles led 10 of those 14 drives for the first-team offense during a 0-3 preseason start and the Eagles offense was actually outscored 9-0 with the veteran at the controls.
Interestingly, the only players proving to be a silver lining during the first half were running back Wendell Smallwood and receiver DeAndre Carter, reserves pushed into action due to injuries.
Smallwood likely wrapped up the RB4 spot with 12 carries for 53 yards while Carter is making the final choice at receiver difficult by snaring four catches for 73 yards and also returning two punts for 29 yards.
Overall, the Philadelphia offensive line allowed seven sacks in the game.
"When you don't score and you play the way you play on offense, and being an offensive guy, I'm not very jovial in [the locker room]," Pederson said. "I'm not patting guys on the back. Praised the defense -- I think the defense played lights out."
EAGLES PRESEASON STOCK EXCHANGE
-Wendell Smallwood - Josh Adams also looked good in the backfield but that was against the Browns' deep reserves and Smallwood also offers a special-teams acumen that the former Notre Dame star can't match.
-DeAndre Carter - Late signings don't usually make a lot of noise in the NFL but the undersized Carter has been really solid in practice and that carried over as he was given first-team slot work ahead of Greg Ward and made the most of it. The Eagles might not even keep six receivers and if they do they could be looking at insurance for Alshon Jeffery, who has still not been able to practice, something that would put veterans like Kamar Aiken and Markus Wheaton, who both missed tonight's game with injuries, in the conversation. Either way, Carter has made the decision difficult.
-Sidney Jones - We told you on 973espn.com that Jones was going to be the guy in the slot earlier this week and he delivered, providing excellent coverage when he was on the field.
-Nick Foles - Watching Foles right now makes the Super Bowl run seem even more amazing. And oh yeah, Howie Roseman should have taken those two second-round picks.
-Halapoulivaati Vaitai - It was the second straight game Vaitai was dominated, this time by Garrett, who had his way with both the bull rush and the speed rush. The regular-season opener and Jason Peters at left tackle can't come soon enough for the Eagles' QBs.
-Matt Jones - A week after taking himself out of the roster conversation with three drops against the Patriots, Jones cemented a short stay in Philadelphia with a fumble on his first touch.
-Jake Elliott - The strong-legged kicker continued to struggle with his short game, missing a 33-yard field goal. Elliott was an impressive 18-of-20 from 40-plus yards and 6-of-7 from 50-plus yards last season yet he still missed five extra points and three field goals from inside 40 yards.
-Howie Roseman and Groh were spotted watching Carson Wentz closely during the QB's pre-game work and are likely crossing their fingers that the medical staff clears him in time for Sept. 6.
-Lost in the offensive struggles was the fact that Jim Schwartz's defense produced with four sacks (one each by Haloti Ngata, Fletcher Cox, Jordan Hicks and Steven Means), an Avonte Maddox interception, and an impressive goal-line stand.
-In a bit of a surprise Kamu Grugier-Hill was the starting Will linebacker ahead of Nate Gerry, who started the first two preseason games. Destiny Vaeao also continued to start at defensive tackle ahead of Haloti Ngata.
-Mike Wallace, Shelton Gibson and Carter were the starters in 11 personnel without Jeffery, Agholor, Mack Hollins, Aiken and Wheaton available.
-Jeff Stoutland often talks about the versatility of Isaac Seumalo, who played four positions in the first half: center, left guard, left tackle and tight end due to minor injuries that knocked Jason Kelce, Vaitai and Stefen Wisniewski out for short periods.
--There were no helmet-rule penalties after the league added new language to the controversial rule earlier this week telling teams and officials that “The [competition] committee also determined that inadvertent or incidental contact with the helmet and/or facemask is not a foul.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen