Revisiting Our “Six Things To Watch” In Last Night’s Game

Yesterday we outlined six things we would be looking at in the Eagles preseason game with the Browns. Today we’ll revisit that list and assess how things went.

Nick Foles

Not. Great. We were hoping to see a much crisper Nick Foles than the one we saw in New England last week, but those hopes were left unfulfilled.

Foles made two terrible decisions resulting in interceptions and once again failed to direct the offense into the end zone. In Foles’ two preseason appearances the Eagles offense has conceded more points than it has scored. In addition to the two interceptions, Foles also fumbled once and tripped over his own feet leading to a safety.

As Foles struggled, he was also hampered by a devastating fumble from Matt Jones as the Eagles offense was finally starting to generate some rhythm. Foles also deserves some slack as he was without his top three running backs, two of his top three receivers, and his hall-of-fame-bound left tackle, but none of those absences excuse his two interceptions.

While the interceptions were concerning, particularly the one in the red zone, it wasn’t all bad for Foles. He completed 13 of 17 passes for 127 yards and did a much better job when facing pressure. Still, it wasn’t the performance the Eagles were hoping for and it did little to ease concerns about Carson Wentz’s health.

Shelton Gibson

Meh. After scoring a touchdown in each of the first two preseason games and averaging 83.5 yards per game, Gibson was held to two catches for 28 yards, although he had a catch taken away after replay showed Foles was touched while down in the end zone. He did a nice job finding a spot to sit down against zone coverage for one of his receptions.

It wasn’t the explosive performance we had seen from Gibson so far this summer, but he didn’t make any egregious errors and did nothing to hurt his chances of making the team or to cause doubt about his ability to contribute.

Tackling

Also not great. Overall the defense played very well, only conceding three points while getting four sacks and an interception. But the tackling remained shoddy, as open-field whiffs allowed extra yardage and good defensive play calls were wasted by not finishing plays despite being in position.

It’s impossible to pick on the defense after Thursday’s effort, but tackling was an area we were focusing on and we continued to see some issues. Hopefully it gets cleaned up by September 6.

Linebackers

Overall the linebackers played well. Jordan Hicks was active with four tackles and a sack. Nigel Bradham chipped in three tackles including a very nice play for a tackle for loss. Kamu Grugier-Hill had four tackles while Nate Gerry added two. Most encouraging was Hicks and Bradham making some plays that popped.

Cornerbacks

Ditto for the cornerbacks. The secondary allowed just 120 passing yards and held the Cleveland quarterbacks to a 62.3 rating. Rookie Avonte Maddox secured an interception which he nearly returned for a touchdown.

The secondary also showed some improvement in an area that was a point of emphasis throughout training camp during a goal-line stand.

Jalen Mills suffered from some tackling issues but overall the secondary held the Browns’ passing game in check. Sidney Jones started as the nickel corner and seems like a lock to start the season in that position. All-in-all a good showing from this unit and from the defense as a whole.

Penalties

Flags were refreshingly sparse on Thursday night. The Eagles were flagged four times for 44 yards while the Browns drew just a single flag for five yards. One of the Eagles’ penalties was a questionable pass interference call, but the dreaded helmet rule wasn’t a factor.

Overview

Certainly not what Eagles fans were hoping for from the offense. Foles and the members of the first-team who saw action were able to generate a little bit more rhythm than a week ago but couldn’t manage to get out of their own way with costly turnovers. The return of Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Jason Peters (and hopefully Carson Wentz sooner than later) should make a world of difference, but for now the offense has done little to inspire confidence.

Meanwhile the defense played well, allowing just three points. In addition to Bradham, Hicks, and Maddox, Fletcher Cox, Haloti Ngata, and Steven Means all made plays. Josh Sweat made a nice play as well.

The Browns managed just 258 total yards and averaged only 3.7 yards per play.

All that stands between the Eagles and the regular season is the preseason finale against the Jets next week, that will largely be a parade of second and third stringers as players try to claim the few remaining roster spots. Meanwhile the offense will try to work out the kinks and the defense will look to build off Thursday’s strong showing.

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