Eagles-Colts Instant Observations
INDIANAPOLIS — The Eagles beat the Colts, 33-23, to remain undefeated in the preseason. Here’s what we saw:
*First, injury notes: Both Wendell Smallwood and Chris Pantale left the game with head injuries, while Vinny Curry and Taylor Hart exited with knee injuries. We’ll provide updates when we know more.
*Perhaps the biggest first-half storyline is Josh Huff’s standout play. He caught two balls for 60 yards and ran for a 9-yard touchdown. Doug Pederson pulled out a jet sweep the Eagles have practiced a lot at the NovaCare Complex, and Huff uses his speed to get around the edge. It was a great play call by Pederson, and it allowed Huff to use his skills in space to reach the end zone on third down.
*Sam Bradford also turns in a good performance, completing 17 of his 20 pass attempts for 167 yards and two touchdowns. He threw an interception, but Nelson Agholor dropped the ball after it hit both of his hands. The offensive line consistently gave Bradford a pretty clean pocket to throw from, although the Colts were missing several defensive players, including six cornerbacks.
*Dorial Green-Beckham shows in one play why the Eagles traded for him. Bradford throws a jump ball to Green-Beckham on a fade route in the end zone, which the young receiver pulls down for a 4-yard touchdown pass. However, in the third quarter, Zach Ertz has to tell Green-Beckham where to line up on Trey Burton’s touchdown catch. Green-Beckham’s knowledge and comfort level of the playbook will be what holds him back entering the season.
*After Agholor’s early drop, Bradford doesn’t target him again for the rest of the first half. Agholor’s blocking is pretty good, particularly on Huff’s 38-yard reception, but he did give up a tackle-for-loss when he had to block a defensive end one-on-one — which doesn’t seem like the best play design.
*One relatively insignificant play was an 8-yard completion to Darren Sproles, but it was the kind of play Bradford will love to go to during the regular season. Sproles was matched up against the linebacker in the flat, which is an easy completion and a great way to make second or third down very manageable.
*Byron Marshall led the Eagles in rushing, totaling 40 yards on 10 carries. Kenjon Barner added 39 yards on six carries, while Ryan Mathews ran three times for 31 yards.
*Jim Schwartz has to be happy with his defensive line’s play in the first half. The Colts’ offensive line isn’t very good, but even the Eagles’ backups are creating disruption. Brandon Graham generates two quick pressures, while Beau Allen and Marcus Smith are making noise in the backfield. Connor Barwin gets a sack, and Taylor Hart appears to bat down a pass. Fletcher Cox also lights up Andrew Luck near the end of the second quarter by quickly beating the right guard, but Luck gets rid of the ball just before Cox makes contact.
*The starting linebackers also do a good job of stuffing several runs and not letting the Colts’ offensive line generate much movement. Nigel Bradham gets an early tackle, and he stays on the field with Jordan Hicks when the Eagles go to nickel. He also forces a Colts’ fourth down by tackling the ball-carrier short of the sticks on a third-and-short, which leads to a turnover on downs.
*Malcolm Jenkins shows why it may be better to have him at nickel corner sometimes instead of Ron Brooks. The play after Brooks misses a tackle, Jenkins makes a key stop in the box a few yards from the end zone.
*Rodney McLeod makes a big play in the red zone by breaking up a pass on third down and forcing the Colts to settle for a field goal. He came off a different receiver to bat the ball down after the defense had a short field following Bradford’s interception.
*In the third quarter, with the starters are still on the field, the safeties are doing a good job of bringing the ball-carriers down around the line of scrimmage as the defensive line wreaks havoc. McLeod is sticking his nose in the backfield and showing he can play in the box.
*Smith makes a nice run stop when he’s left unblocked on the backside. I wonder if offensive coordinators will change up the blocking scheme on those plays because of how aggressive the Eagles are off of the ball. Even if you’re running the ball away from the defensive end, leaving him unblocked can come back to bite you against Schwartz — and it has for both Indianapolis and Pittsburgh this preseason.
*Nolan Carroll misses a tackle, which sparks a 39-yard gain for Indianapolis, but he later makes up for it by intercepting the ball in the end zone. It’s unclear if there was a miscommunication or the Colts’ receiver simply stopped running his route, but it’s an easy play for Carroll. It also adds to the impressive number of red zone interceptions the Eagles have this preseason.
*Wendell Smallwood records a 30-yard return on the Colts’ first kickoff, which is the rookie’s first NFL touch. If Smallwood emerges as a good alternative to return kicks for the Eagles, Huff’s chances of making the 53-man roster shrinks.
*We didn’t get to see a good replay of the Eagles’ blocked punt that the Colts recovered for a touchdown, but according to Chris, Mike Mayock says on the broadcast that Ed Reynolds, the personal protector, is the one who missed his block.
*Cody Parkey misses an extra point, which strengthens Caleb Sturgis’ hold of the kicker battle even more. At this point, Sturgis could miss multiple extra points next week and it’d still be shocking if Parkey beats him out. Sturgis has been much more accurate throughout training camp, and he’s displayed a stronger leg as well.