Eagles-Steelers Instant Observations
PITTSBURGH — The Eagles beat the Steelers, 17-0, in their second preseason game. Here’s what we saw:
*Sam Bradford completes 14 of his 19 pass attempts for 115 yards. The first-team offense plays for the entire first half, but they scored zero touchdowns. Chase Daniel follows that up by completing 10 of his 16 pass attempts for 82 yards. Kenjon Barner led all running backs with 41 yards on six carries (6.8 ypc), plus one touchdown. Paul Turner, meanwhile, led the Eagles’ receivers with three receptions for 44 yards.
*Your first-team wide receivers: Nelson Agholor, Chris Givens and Josh Huff. Not a good sign for Rueben Randle, while Jordan Matthews is out and Dorial Green-Beckham is waiting in the wings to take one of those five roster spots. Perhaps the Birds keep six wideouts, but even then, Randle wouldn’t be guaranteed that slot.
*The right side of the offensive line isn’t off to a good start, as Brandon Brooks is beaten on the first play of the first drive. Then, Allen Barbre is discarded by a defender, which sets up third-and-long. Bradford completes a five-yard pass to Huff, but that’s not enough.
*Unsurprisingly, Isaac Seumalo doesn’t look great in the first half. He’s beaten badly on at least three plays, and that’s only what’s obvious during the live action. If the Eagles remain steadfast and force him into the starting left guard spot in Week 1, he could very well be overwhelmed. The graduation rule has really hurt his development so far.
*Bradford audibles at least twice in the first half, the second of which resulted in a 17-yard completion to Brent Celek. If Doug Pederson doesn’t take too long to get the play call in during the regular season, that shouldn’t be an unusual occurrence.
*It’s only the preseason, so predictability doesn’t matter at this point because of how purposefully vanilla the play calling is, but Bradford takes a shot on a naked bootleg that the Steelers obviously saw coming. The result? A 12-yard sack, and Bradford probably wishing he had audibled.
*Nelson Agholor climbs the ladder to make an impressive 22-yard catch on third-and-12, but he follows it up the next play with a bad drop.
*The Eagles’ second-team offensive line (from left to right): Matt Tobin, Barrett Jones, Josh Andrews, Stefen Wisniewski and Lane Johnson. The second-team unit played for about a quarter and a half.
*Dorial Green-Beckham makes an appearance once the Eagles get to the 5-yard line early in the third quarter, and Daniel throws a fade. However, the throw was too short and Green-Beckham couldn’t make a play on the ball.
*The Eagles do punch the ball into the end zone, though, off some nice running from Barner. The 27-year-old carries the ball five times for 25 yards and one touchdown on the Eagles’ 15-play, 87-yard drive to open the second half. Barner made a defender miss on each of his last two runs.
*Daniel looks better tonight, and on one play, he stands tall to deliver a quick throw under pressure to pick up a first down. A miscommunication between Andrews and Wisniewski left a blitzing linebacker untouched up the middle. Later in the drive, the Eagles picked up another third-down conversion on a 23-yard connection from Daniel to Turner, who made a nice catch in traffic.
*The offensive line — as a whole — wasn’t great, but they did play better than they did last week, giving up just one sack, and far fewer quarterback hits.
*Green-Beckham makes an appearance with the bottom of the roster at the end of the fourth quarter, running wide open on the first play after McLeod Bethel-Thompson was inserted into the game. However, Bethel-Thompson doesn’t see him, and on the next play, Green-Beckham drops the ball.
*The Eagles allow 161 yards in the first half, but they force four turnovers and shut out the Steelers. Overall, an impressive showing by Jim Schwartz’s unit.
*Nolan Carroll is making a strong case to be the starting corner opposite of Leodis McKelvin. He starts off the first drive with a pass breakup, before jumping a curl route for a pick-six on the first play of the second drive. In the third drive, Carroll ran deep down the left sideline with Sammie Coates, and although he was about a step behind, he did a great job of squeezing Coates close to the sideline, drawing an offensive pass interference penalty.
*The Eagles’ defensive line is off to an impressive start, as Fletcher Cox is consistently blowing up the right guard. Vinny Curry has a couple of impressive rushes around the edge, drawing what should’ve been a holding penalty near the end of the first quarter. Bennie Logan also has a couple of snaps of penetration, forcing an off-balance throw on one of them.
*McKelvin is called for defensive pass interference to help the Steelers’ 71-yard drive near the end of the first quarter, but he’s later in great position and breaks up a pass in the end zone. Malcolm Jenkins comes over for the diving interception and doesn’t let the ball get away from him, which is something he says he’s been working hard on this offseason. If Jenkins can finish plays at a high level this year, he’ll be an elite safety in this league.
*Brandon Graham gets an easy tackle-for-loss, while Connor Barwin quickly gets into the backfield for a quick tackle earlier in the first quarter. However, they were both unblocked, and it’s unclear whether those were the result of missed assignments or a bad blocking scheme. Graham does cause a three-yard loss later on by pushing the right tackle a few yards into the backfield, giving the running back nowhere to go.
*Although I included Aaron Grymes as the sixth cornerback on my latest 53-man projection, I noted how he may have been losing ground to others — like C.J. Smith. However, he does a great job near the end of the second quarter, and comes up with an impressive interception in the end zone. He’s played well all throughout camp, and has been a pleasant surprise for the Birds’ secondary.
*Marcus Smith gets called for a neutral zone infraction before the end of the first half, followed by some great pressure from Steven Means, which forces an interception into the hands of Smith. Means also caused an interception last week, and recorded a strip-sack. If the Eagles keep Smith over Means, it won’t be because the former first-round pick is better.
*Smith, however, impresses in the second half and records two tackles-for-loss, including one sack. When Smith got to the quarterback, he perfectly timed the snap and showed good speed off of the edge. He and Means also combined for two tackles to kick off the defense’s first series in the second half.
*Destiny Vaeao picked up a sack in the middle of the fourth quarter by quickly throwing the right guard to the side and giving the quarterback no chance to escape. He also recorded a tackle-for-loss last week, and he appears to be a good candidate for the practice squad.
*Aziz Shittu makes some noise, and he seems like a strong contender for a practice squad spot as well. He records 1.5 sacks, and consistently causes disruption along the line of scrimmage.
*Bryan Braman almost blocked the first punt, but I wasn’t able to catch a replay. It appeared he may have quickly beaten the personal protector on a swim move, but either way, it’s an early reminder of Braman’s value to the team.