Wake-Up Call: Reviewing Eagles-Steelers Film
Unfortunately, no All-22 film is available for preseason games, but we can re-watch the television broadcast. Here are some additional takeaways from the Eagles’ 17-0 win over the Steelers after reviewing the film.
- Nelson Agholor’s drop immediately after his leaping 22-yard grab definitely put a damper on his night, but he was much better against Pittsburgh than he was against Tampa Bay. He blocked better, his effort was better and his routes were better. He had nowhere to go but up after the first preseason game, but let’s see if that energy he played with on Thursday night was a short-term reaction to the Dorial Green-Beckham trade or if he can play with that every single snap.
- Kenjon Barner’s 6.8 yards per carry is an accurate reflection of how well he played. He made defenders miss both as a runner and as a receiver, and his shiftiness helped him on his 5-yard touchdown run. He also continued to play well on special teams.
- I’ve written before about how I expect Doug Pederson to not be as bland of a play caller as many expect, and I counted more than a dozen run-pass option packaged plays from the Eagles on Thursday night. A few had a zone-read option built into it, which could suit Carson Wentz well, but the most popular iteration was some kind of inside or outside zone out of shotgun with the receivers opposite of the run action orchestrating a bubble screen. At one point, the Eagles ran a run-pass option play three snaps in a row.
- Brent Celek was a very effective run blocker, particularly on wham blocks, producing one pancake. The Eagles also tried out Dillon Gordon at fullback for three plays, and he helped spring Barner for a 14-yard gain the first time. The 322-pound Gordon has played offensive line, tight end and now fullback for the Birds, and I’m curious if they’ll continue to deploy him out of the backfield.
- The offensive line play was much better as a whole, and even though Isaac Seumalo had a few bad plays, he took a big step forward. Allen Barbre was sufficient at right tackle, while Brandon Brooks did a good job of throwing his weight around to open up holes.
- Josh Huff showed his ability as a gunner in punt coverage, once again flashing his special teams value in a variety or roles, but he also had a bad drop.
Now compare that to Paul Turner’s one-handed grab.
Yeah, I’m including Turner in my next 53-man roster projection.
- The Eagles’ starters played opposite of the Steelers’ third-string quarterback and third-string running back, so take the shutout with a grain of salt. Still, the first-team defensive line — particularly Fletcher Cox — did a great job of penetrating and wreaking havoc along the line of scrimmage. Cox only finished with one tackle, but the replay showed how he pushed the right guard back a couple of yards on almost every snap and constantly took away running lanes.
- Brandon Graham generated some buzz because of his pair of tackles, including one in the backfield, but his most impressive plays were when he didn’t get to the ball carrier. On one play, Graham did a great job of setting the edge by pushing back a double-team, leading to an easy tackle-for-loss for a teammate.
- Vinny Curry also quickly beat the right tackle around the edge multiple times, forcing a Steelers offensive lineman to hold him at least twice. The referees didn’t call either one, but I expect Curry to continue to do that in the regular season.
- Malcolm Jenkins and Ron Brooks both played the run well close to the line of scrimmage. Jenkins was superb in that area last season as the nickel cornerback, but Brooks appears to have the ability to have success there as well.
- Steven Means forced another interception by quickly getting around the edge and hitting the quarterback as he released the ball. Marcus Smith played well, too, while Taylor Hart played better in the game than he has during practice.
- Among players at the bottom of the roster, Don Cherry turned in a nice effort. He had multiple tackles in punt coverage, and he stopped one run play for a 2-yard gain. Stephen Tulloch will immediately take Cherry’s place as the backup middle linebacker with Joe Walker out for the season, but Cherry seems to have a penchant for being around the ball.
- Eric Rowe had a pass breakup in the second half, but one of my favorite plays of the game was when he flattened a gunner on a punt return. He’s not making much noise as a cornerback, but at least he’s making plays like this on special teams.
WHAT YOU MISSED
The Eagles reportedly signed linebacker Stephen Tulloch to a one-year deal worth up to $3 million.
The Eagles also released T.J. Graham, Bruce Johnson, Cedric O’Neal and Xavier Rush from the roster.
“The problem here is that the Redskins have little proven depth at the running back position.” NFC East Roundup.
Jordan Matthews may miss the remainder of the preseason, but he’ll “for sure” be good to go for the season opener against Cleveland.
“I feel like he’s getting better with every snap and with every rep.” Isaac Seumalo will start at left guard on Saturday against the Colts.
Joe Walker will miss the entire 2016 season with a torn ACL he suffered against the Steelers.
“He just isn’t a receiver. Why not move him to running back?” What They’re Saying.
“Some of the things we have to clean up are the penalties. You’re killing some explosive plays offensively.” Although the starting offense did not score at all in their time out, Sam Bradford is not worried about the unit.
“It’s not over, and you still got to do the little things right.” Dorial Green-Beckham hopes for a fresh start to his career in Philadelphia.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice sees many similarities of Jason Peters in undrafted free agent Dillon Gordon.
“We have very similar backgrounds, playing tight end in the SEC, switching to offensive line in the league, and he also tore his Achilles like I tore my Achilles,” said Gordon. “He really took me under his wing from the very beginning. He’s just been teaching me things every day just to better my game. I’m just taking it all in, trying to learn from the best.”
Tight end is the only position Gordon has ever known on the offensive side of the ball, from high school through his time at LSU. Like Peters, Gordon didn’t set the stat sheet on fire. For his career at LSU, Gordon was mainly used as a blocking tight end, as he had just 7 catches for 96 yards and no TDs from 2013-2015.
The Eagles made the decision to not only convert Dillon to the offensive line, but to also try to make him into a left tackle, the hardest and most important spot on the line.
“I think just being such an athlete who can play multiple positions, you have to be athletic to play that left tackle position,” said Gordon.
Is Doug Pederson sending the right message to problem players? Jeff McLane of the Inquirer explores that question.
But [Andy] Reid would have never brought [Michael] Vick, [DeSean] Jackson, or [Terrell] Owens into the fold during his first season. It’s doubtful he would have felt confident enough in his culture that he would have traded for a Dorial Green-Beckham as the Eagles did last week.
“As a player, I know that first year a lot of players were gone . . . and he was trying to bring in the players that he wanted,” Pederson said of Reid. “A lot of these players on this football team he drafted, and so I lean on those guys because they know the culture and they know what to expect going forward.”
But the head coach needs to lay the groundwork. And it’s difficult to say where Pederson has drawn his lines. During his first training camp, Reid, famously, had George Hegamin stay after practice and drive a blocking sled as punishment for skipping a team meeting. He rode the sled and barked commands as the guard pushed it. Hegamin was cut the next day.
Pederson has seemingly taken the opposite approach – one more hands-off. When Nelson Agholor was accused of sexual assault in June, the coach said he hadn’t spoken to the receiver as of the start of camp in late July. Agholor was eventually cleared, but Pederson’s response to the player’s putting himself in that situation was that “we all make mistakes.”
Doug Pederson addresses the media at 10:30, while practice begins at 1:30.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.