Just keep reminding yourself of two things: 1) Most of the starters didn’t play, and 2) It doesn’t count.
The Eagles rested most of their defensive regulars and a good chunk of their starting offense Thursday night, and with Jalen Hurts ill, according to the Eagles, there weren’t many familiar names on the field when the Patriots – outplayed Monday and Tuesday in joint practices – demolished the Eagles’ backups 35-0 at the Linc.
It was horrible. And if you watched the whole thing you’re a glutton for punishment.
Let’s get to our 10 Observations
1. Here’s what bothers me about the starters not playing: How about announcing that on Tuesday so fans can decide if they really want to come down here to see Genard Avery, Matt Pryor, Raequan Williams, Josiah Scott, Brett Toth and JeQuan Bailey? If you don’t want to play your starters, fine, don’t play your starters. But don’t play games with fans who are spending a lot of money to come down here and park and buy food and who knows what else only to find out that most of the starters aren’t even going to get on the field? I don’t get why it has to be a secret. It’s hard to imagine Nick Sirianni didn’t know before practice Tuesday – the last time we talked to him – that this was going to be a game for the backups. Just say, “I’m not going to give you the rotations, but most of the starters won’t play.” Simple. I just think the franchise owes it to the fans to at least give them a general idea what they’re going to see if they come to the game.
2. As for Jalen Hurts, if he truly was sick, you hope he gets better quickly. And it was reassuring to hear his illness is not COVID-related. But it’s definitely weird learning when the game began that Hurts was too sick to play when he was seen dancing on the field during pregame warmups 45 minutes earlier. How can you possibly go from boogying on the field to unable to play less than an hour later? What disease strikes that fast? Maybe he really was ill, but I really need to hear an explanation for this.
3. In any case, Hurts has now played only 10 snaps this preseason, and he needs reps before the opener in Atlanta in 24 days. I want to see him play three series against the Jets a week from Friday in the Eagles’ final preseason game, and I want to see him work behind the starting offensive line and run the offense efficiently and complete some passes to DeVonta Smith and mix in the run and get the ball in the end zone. Treat the first half vs. the Jets like a real game. Yeah, Hurts has been good in practice, and that’s encouraging. But games are different than practice. He needs to play.
4. It was fun seeing DeVonta Smith out there running around just two days after his first practice following an injury layoff. He had a couple 1st-quarter drops – neither was a very good throw from Joe Flacco but they were both passes Smith would tell you he should have caught. He bounced back with catches of 9 and 10 yards in the second quarter. It wasn’t a lot and you’d like to see him catch those first two, but considering that the kid just missed 2 1/2 weeks of practice it was a positive just to get him in his first NFL game, bounce back with a couple receptions and then get him out of there healthy. Next week I want to see more.
5. Joe Flacco was brutal, and that’s concerning. He was 10-for-17 for 83 yards, a bad interception and a 46.9 passer rating, and his longest completion was a 12-yard catch-and-run by running back Kenny Gainwell. He held onto the ball too long, missed open guys and at times looked lost out there. Flacco targeted his WRs eight times and completed three for 24 yards. He had a backup o-line but starting WRs and just couldn’t get them the ball against an assortment of Patriots starters and backups. The ball just wasn’t going where it was supposed to. I get that the Eagles are going vanilla here, but this was ugly. Oh, and Nick Mullens might be worse.
6. I didn’t like what I saw from the Eagles’ 2nd defense, which includes some guys who are going to have significant roles during the regular season (and some guys who definitely won’t). Only Eric Wilson, Alex Singleton and Steve Nelson started among the 1st group, and only Singleton played extended reps. But you still don’t want to see your 2nd group trampled. I did think Milton Williams again stood out from that group. He drew two holding penalties and is just a tough matchup with his strength and power. And Zech McPhearson at least showed a willingness to tackle and be physical, so there’s that.
7. It’s a credit to Kenny Gainwell that in the midst of this wretched unwatchable slop and working behind a train wreck of an offensive line, he still found a way to be productive. The rookie 5th-round pick from Memphis was 5-for-21 rushing and 3-for-23 receiving, and 44 scrimmage yards in limited action considering what he had to work with is impressive. I really like this kid.
8. How concerned should Eagles fans be after this? Not much. In addition to Hurts, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson didn’t play, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Javon Hargrave didn’t play, Darius Slay didn’t play, and most of the regulars who did play – Miles Sanders, Steve Nelson, Anthony Harris, Dallas Goedert, Jordan Mailata, Isaac Seumalo – only played a handful of snaps. The regular WRs played the first half, but Flacco couldn’t get them the ball. You don’t want to look up at the scoreboard and see 35-0, but in the big picture it doesn’t mean much.
9. Goodness gracious, why on Earth is Matt Pryor on this football team?
10. OK, let’s get to the important stuff. Let’s talk halftime show. The Frisbee dogs were incredible. All the dogs caught just about every deep throw and showed tremendous explosion and make-up speed when it appeared the Frisbee was beyond them. There was only one botched rep, and that was when the dog that was on the way back to the thrower distracted the dog that was running a pattern, and that dog followed the returning dog instead of finishing its pattern. But other than that, they showed a lot of crispness, discipline and determination. The pups are ready for the regular season.
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