What They’re Saying About the Eagles

Reactions from last night's preseason win over Pittsburgh and which free agents might be good fits for the Eagles?

Doug Pederson and Mike Tomlin. (USA Today Sports)

Doug Pederson and Mike Tomlin. (USA Today Sports)

Here are some of the top Eagles stories so far this week:

First, an update on Joe Walker:

The Eagles wanted to bring back Rasheed Bailey, who was released by Jacksonville last week, before the Chargers claimed him, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

There’s plenty of local reactions from last night’s 17-0 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jeff McLane of the Inquirer has 10 things we learned, including plenty about the wide receivers.

4. Eagles first-team receivers showed mild improvement. Nelson Agholor made a fine, leaping 22-yard grab on a high [Sam] Bradford toss. Last week, he couldn’t hang onto a similar pass by Carson Wentz. Rueben Randle caught two passes for 10 yards a week after he put up a doughnut. It might not sound like much, but on the heels of last week’s dismal outing, it was a positive for a group that has been (deservedly) maligned. But that was about as good as it got. Agholor followed up his one bright moment with a drop. The pass was thrown slightly behind him, but he has got to make that grab. Randle seemed all too concerned with running out of bounds after his catches. Josh Huff had another drop. He just isn’t a receiver. Why not move him to running back? Sure, he has trouble hanging onto the ball, but with Wendell Smallwood moving along slowly, there is an opportunity there. Chris Givens has yet to catch a pass this preseason. He has had just one target. The absence of Jordan Matthews has clearly affected the passing offense. But he won’t be an elixir – particularly when the Eagles need someone on the outside to make downfield catches and stretch defenses.

5. Dorial Green-Beckham isn’t Superman. To some surprise, the Eagles’ recently acquired receiver played six snaps and was targeted twice. He caught neither pass. The first was a corner fade from Chase Daniel that was underthrown. The second was a short toss by McLeod Bethel-Thompson that sailed through Green-Beckham’s hands. It was a minor miracle that he was even on the field, so it’s difficult to criticize Green-Beckham. But there will be a learning curve as he is integrated into the Eagles offense. He is far from a finished product, which is what makes Green-Beckham an intriguing prospect. The bet here is that he moves ahead of most of the outside receivers on the depth chart. A quick shout-out to Paul Turner. He has been arguably the Eagles’ most consistent receiver since training camp opened. He obviously has a steep climb if he is to make the roster. But the 5-foot-10, 193-pound receiver has earned mention as one of the few undrafted rookies who could sneak on. He caught three passes for 44 yards and made a splendid one-handed snag Thursday night. His first catch came out of the slot with the first-team offense.

After an impressive performance last night, Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice writes that corner Nolan Carroll could be a welcoming surprise to the cornerback unit.

During free agency, Carroll drew interest from other teams around the league, who ultimately passed on him due to concerns about his ankle.

“That was the main concern was how I’d come back,” said Carroll. “Would I be able to play football again? At the time in March, they had to guess and gauge, ‘Will I be alright’ (by training camp) and teams weren’t really sure about it, so it is what it is.

“They didn’t think I’d be ready for training camp.”

According to Carroll, those teams included the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, and Miami Dolphins.

As it turned out, Carroll was indeed ready for training camp, and has played well throughout camp and the first two preseason games. By my count, last night, Carroll was targeted three times, resulting in an impressive pass breakup down the sideline, an offensive pass interference call, and a pick six.

Carroll has all the attributes you want in a corner. He’s big (6’1, 205), fast (he ran a 4.42 40 during the pre-draft process years ago), he’s smart, and he’s a willing tackler in the run game. There really isn’t all that much not to like.

Jim Schwartz‘s defense has been a dominant force in the first two preseason games, pens Paul Domowitch of the Daily News.

Last season, the Eagles’ defense had only three interceptions in the final eight games. In their first two preseason games, they already have seven. It means nothing, and it means everything.

Schwartz has brought a new 4-3 scheme to Philadelphia, along with a new, aggressive mentality. Billy Davis‘s two-gap 3-4 was a read-and-react defense. Schwartz’s defense is all about attacking and being physical.

He brought in three former players – cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks and linebacker Nigel Bradham – to help instill that approach to the rest of the defensive players. It’s working.

“We’ve got to be the unit that takes over out there,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “We’ve got to be the guys who take over games.

“It’s basically about being disruptive. It’s going to create a lot of havoc. Getting after the quarterback. Stopping the run. It’s going to be a real fun year once we just get in that room together and believe in each other.”

Marcu Smith and Josh Huff, two guys that are fighting for roster spots, didn’t have a good game last night, opines Andrew Kulp of CSNPhilly.com.

Marcus Smith

Once again, the numbers might be deceiving. Officially, Smith racked up three tackles and even had a sack. Of course, that sack came at the expense of a third- or fourth-string talent who wasn’t even sure which position along the offensive line he was supposed to be playing.

The rest of the time, Smith didn’t account for much pressure on Steelers quarterbacks, or even much push for that matter. It wasn’t for lack of effort, and because he always stuck with the play, the Eagles’ 2014 first-round pick was able to clean up a few rushing attempts. Overall, it was not an especially eye-opening performance, his first at defensive end in a 4-3 defense. Considering how much Means has been able to accomplish in camp and during the preseason — even seventh-round rookie Alex McAllister flashed on Thursday — Smith has a lot of ground to make up to crack the rotation, much less make the roster.

Josh Huff

Not a good week for Huff, if for no other reason than the Eagles felt the need to go out and trade for DGB. That’s not a direct indictment of the third-year wideout, but dropping yet another perfect pass on one of his two targets was not a way to tell the coaching staff or front office their message was received. Even Nelson Agholor made a tough catch.

At this point, Huff probably is what he is, and harping over his inevitable miscues are a waste of time. It’s just disappointing, because he manages to create separation, and when the ball is in his hands, he can make things happen. The problem is Huff rarely executes, and while he caught a nothing five-yard pass short of the sticks on a third-and-long, he failed to haul in what would’ve been about a 15-yard gain down the sideline during a two-minute drill, a play that could’ve sparked a touchdown drive rather than the field goal it produced. Typical.

The Eagles are tied with the Cleveland Browns for second place in the toughest quarterback schedules in the NFL, from Mike Sando of ESPN In$ider.

T-2. Philadelphia Eagles

Opposing QB average: 2.35

Good news: The Eagles do not face the Cowboys until Weeks 8 and 17. The timing could benefit Philadelphia if Tony Romo fails to hold up for a full season.

Bad news: The Eagles, who will not face a fourth-tier QB after the season opener against Robert Griffin III, will play 11 games total against QBs in the top two tiers. That is tied with Washington for most in the NFL.

Along with Stephen Tulloch and Will BeattyJohn Clayton of ESPN In$ider says the Eagles would be ideal spots for free agent guard Louis Vasquez and wide receiver Brian Hartline.

3. Louis Vasquez, guard

I guess the guard market just hasn’t moved. Here’s a 29-year-old who hasn’t missed a start in four seasons. He has plenty of experience in a zone-blocking scheme. You would think something will happen soon.

Best fit: Philadelphia Eagles. After Philadelphia traded Dennis Kelly to the Titans, there could be an opening at guard.

7. Brian Hartline, wide receiver

Hartline had a visit with the San Diego Chargers, but they signed James Jones to replace Stevie Johnson, who is out for the season. Hartline is 29 and still has the skills to catch 60 passes a season.

Best fit: Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles. The Rams need more quality pass-catchers and the Eagles don’t seem happy with their wideouts.

The defense was a very bright spot in last night’s game, and can possibly help the team contend for an NFC East crown, opines Will Brinson of CBSSports.com.

1. There’s some good news for the Eagles

Namely the defense, which looked impressive for Philadelphia. If you’re holding out hope for an Eagles’ playoff run, the defense is the primary reason. Or it should be anyway — the defense recorded a ridiculous four first-half interceptions, including a pick-six from Nolan Carroll to put the first points on the board.

Pretty simple solution for producing wins, really.

That’s probably asking a bit much, but there are a lot of explosive playmakers on that side of the ball for Philadelphia. If the offense can avoid trainwreck status, the Eagles can make a move in the NFC East. — Will Brinson

Undrafted free agent Paul Turner is making a push for a spot on the 53-man roster, pens Chris Wesseling and Kevin Patra of NFL.com.

10. Undrafted rookie Paul Turner is making a push for a roster spot in Philadelphia. He led the team in receiving for the second straight week and has been the most consistent wideout in training camp (which tells us plenty about the Eagles receivers). “He’s really beginning to stand out,” coach Doug Pederson said after Thursday’s victory. said after Thursday’s victory.

The Eagles have the fifth best backup quarterback situation with Chase Daniel and rookie Carson Wentz behind starter Sam Bradford, writes Cameron DaSilva of FoxSports.com.

5. Philadelphia Eagles: Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz

The most interesting team on this list could very well have three different starting quarterbacks this season. Sam Bradford is the starter as of now, but Daniel and Wentz are coming for his job and could unseat him if he struggles or gets injured – neither of which would be much of a surprise. Daniel has experience in Doug Pederson’s system from Kansas City, which assures the coaching staff that he’ll be just fine if Bradford goes down. Wentz showed overwhelming potential in his preseason debut, and the Eagles will be hard pressed not to insert him into the lineup if Bradford gets off to a slow start. He has the most talent of the bunch, which is strange for a third-stringer but not for a No. 2 overall pick. Given that all three could be starting quarterbacks – and are being paid as such – the Eagles have a solid (and expensive) core of signal callers.

Everything you need to know about the Eagles, courtesy of Thomas Maney of Pro Football Focus, including the safeties making up for questionable performance at the cornerback positions.

3. Safeties make up for questionable CB depth.

Apart from receiver, cornerback is perhaps the most glaring position of need when looking at the team’s depth chart. Ron Brooks and Leodis McKelvin are the current projected starters on the outside, but both former Bills graded below-average last season, while the team’s top-graded CB (Nolan Carroll) ranked just 53rd in overall grade. Brooks has yet to put forth an above-average coverage grade in his career, while the Eagles are likely hoping McKelvin can regain the form of his 2010–2013 seasons. Fortunately, Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod form an excellent safety net, with Jenkins further helping with his ability to play the slot; last season, he was the second-highest graded safety overall, spending 47 percent of his snaps in the slot.

A strong pass-rush will also aid Philadelphia’s corners; only four defenses collectively graded better rushing the passer than the Eagles, and they return the bulk of that production in the form of Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Vinny Curry.

Finally, there is a Kickstarter started by two film makers for a movie based on the Eagles’ rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys, from The700Level.com.

A couple of local film makers are trying to take that concept, a video crew, and turn it into a documentary movie. And they’ve got a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds to make it happen.

“A Completely Biased documentary about the highs & lows of life as a Philadelphia sports fan, told through the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry,” is how they describe it.

And as you can see from their teaser trailer, they’ve got a handful of interviews with local personalties already in the can.

If this is something you feel the need to give your hard-earned money to make happen, visit their Kickstarter page right here. They’re currently about 3-4% of the way to their $100,000 goal.