Four Downs: Kiko Alonso’s Debut
The Eagles fell to the Jets, 24-18, in the preseason finale. Here’s what we noted.
MOST TELLING STAT
162: That’s how many rushing and receiving yards Raheem Mostert combined for tonight.
Mostert probably won’t make the 53-man roster, but he has played his way onto an NFL team this preseason. He didn’t have great blocking tonight and had to make defenders miss in the backfield multiple times. It often took much more than one man to bring him down and he was shifty in the open field.
He also did a nice job of falling forward to pick up extra yards and covered a lot of ground after contact. He’s a weapon out of the backfield on both running and passing plays and adds some value on special teams. If no one else picks him up, count on the Eagles to bring him back on the practice squad.
DID YOU NOTICE?
Although Jaylen Watkins made an outstanding play on his interception—he showed great anticipation by jumping the short hitch route—he had several negative snaps as well. He gave up at least three big plays, including an 18-yard touchdown on what looked like a seam route in the slot. Watkins also didn’t look very smooth coming out of his breaks.
Despite those setbacks, Watkins still outperformed Eric Rowe. The rookie defensive back gave up a 21-yard reception on a deep crossing route and allowed his man to create a lot of separation, similar to the play he was beaten on (before forcing a fumble) in the preseason opener. He also relied on his hands too much and got called for an illegal contact penalty, and had bad footwork on one play at the line of scrimmage, before giving up a big play.
The bottom line is this: the Eagles’ options at the nickel are unimpressive. As I wrote yesterday, I think Rowe will develop and earn the job at some point during the season, but I doubt he’ll start to open the year. Watkins has missed some important tackles, and E.J. Biggers had a bad game last week, so it’s anyone’s guess as to which one of them will get the nod in Atlanta.
Matt Barkley clearly outplayed Tim Tebow through the air in the first three preseason games, but Tebow was far more impressive tonight. Tebow completed 11 of his 17 passes for 189 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Barkley completed just four of his nine passes for 45 yards and one interception.
However, Tebow was also better when looking outside of the statistics. He got into a good rhythm and released the ball quicker than he has in the previous three games. He also escaped pressure well, threw with better touch than Barkley and did a nice job of throwing the ball on the run. They both missed easy throws on swing passes behind the line of scrimmage, however, and made bad throws on their interceptions.
Barkley both underthrew and overthrew his receivers multiple times, although he did make a good throw to Trey Burton for a 21-yard completion while under pressure. I already gave Tebow the edge in the battle for the third quarterback spot, and this only solidified him in that position.
He only played eight snaps, and the Eagles’ defense gave up a touchdown in his only series, but Kiko Alonso played pretty well in his debut, particularly against the run. He did a good job of scraping across the formation and filling the holes. He also maintained good leverage against offensive linemen, meaning he made it tough on blockers to get in between him and the ball-carrier.
However, he took that to the extreme on one play and over-committed to where he thought the running back was going, before the ball-carrier cut back and gained several yards because of an open hole Alonso left behind. He was also consistently around the ball and recorded two solo tackles, in part because he took good pursuit angles and chased the ball-carrier down.
Obviously, we don’t have a huge sample size to judge him on and we hardly saw him in coverage (the Jets attempted just two passes on their first drive), but Alonso alleviated any concerns regarding his health or rust.