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Points allowed during 1st quarter this season by Penn State

With candidates to fill their head coaching vacancy dropping left and right, the Eagles decide to hire Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, a former Eagles quarterback and assistant coach who will be hired when the Chiefs are eliminated from the playoffs.

We provide five keys to whether the Eagles will have success or failure this season.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on expectations for the Eagles’ rookies, the fatal auto racing incident and Rickie Fowler making golf history.

Archive for August, 2017

Under deadline pressure, Eagles lose to Jets

Posted by Eric Fisher On August - 31 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

The preseason is over.

And not a moment too soon.

An Eagles comeback fell short Thursday night in a 16-10 loss to the host Jets that wasn’t decided until Dane Evans’ fourth-down pass fell incomplete in the end zone with four seconds remaining.

Despite the outcome being in doubt until the end, the final preseason game was a listless affair. Not only didn’t the Eagles’ first team play, but some of the veteran second-teamers didn’t play, either.

With a Saturday deadline (4 p.m.) for reducing the roster to 53 players looming, the next two days will be filled with more anticipation and drama than Thursday’s loss.

There were several interesting injuries which could have an impact on the Eagles’ roster decisions. Fourth-round draft pick Donnel Pumphrey, who had an unimpressive preseason, including Thursday’s outing (7 carries for 10 yards and 1 catch for 3 yards) against the Jets, left the game to undergo the concussion protocol. If the Eagles place Pumphrey on the injured list, they could keep running back Corey Clement.

Defensive end Alex McCalister, who seemed to be the odd man out at defensive end after Steven Means signed a 1-year contract earlier this week, left the game with a hamstring injury after a fairly strong first half. Jaylen Watkins, who is battling for a spot in the secondary, left the game with a left foot injury. The Eagles could use these injuries to stash players on injured reserve without losing them.

There remains a question about what the Eagles are going to do at quarterback. They’re not going to keep Evans, who, in a nice moment, ran down to get the football from the referee after making a nice play to find Marcus Johnson behind the defense for a 41-yard touchdown – the Eagles’ only touchdown of the game – with 7 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Matt McGloin completed 14 of 21 passes for 90 yards and, for the first time during preseason, did not throw an interception. McGloin’s fate may be tied to Nick Foles’ health. Foles did not play in a preseason game and barely practiced during training camp due to a sore elbow. If the Eagles aren’t confident that Foles is healthy, they may have to keep McGloin, who engaged in a battle of former Penn State quarterbacks with Christian Hackenberg during Thursday’s second quarter, as an insurance policy.

In the running back battle, Clement made his case with four carries for 16 yards during the first quarter. He has outplayed Pumphrey during the preseason and deserves a roster spot. The best numbers belonged to Byron Marshall, but, despite carrying 15 times for 56 yards during the second half, he has very little chance of making the 53-man roster.

Johnson caught the touchdown pass, but the Eagles’ leading receiver was Bryce Treggs, who made four catches for 41 yards. Fifth-round pick Shelton Gibson caught four passes for 40 yards, but also had one pass bounces off his shoulder pads. Johnson, Treggs and Gibson are battling for either one or two roster spots.

Defensive tackle Beau Allen, who missed five months during the offseason due to a pectoral injury, played well Thursday in his return. The Eagles must decide between sixth-round draft pick Elijah Qualls and Justin Hamilton – assuming they keep five defensive tackles. Both Qualls and Hamilton played well against the Jets.

Patrick Robinson didn’t play against the Jets, which probably means he has made the team as the slot cornerback. Dexter McDougle was good in coverage, but missed a tackle or two against his former team. He is competing with Watkins, Aaron Grymes and C.J. Smith, who had a solid game, for backup cornerback spots. Before getting injured, Watkins led the Eagles with five tackles, but he dropped a potential “pick 6” interception.

Middle linebacker Joe Walker made some nice plays, including a hit on Jets quarterback Josh McCown, causing McCown to leave the field with an injury and Jets’ fans to hold their collective breath until McCown came back on the field one player later. Kamu Grugier-Hill played aggressively, as usual. Villanova product Don Cherry was victimized in the passing game, but made a solid tackle on special teams, which might be his ticket to making the final roster.

After watching the Eagles fail to register a first down during their first six possessions of the second half, with the Jets only having one first down during the third quarter, perhaps the best thing that can be said about the preseason is that it’s over.

It’s time for the real games, with starters trading in their baseball caps and visors for football helmets, to begin.

Decisions, decisions

Posted by Eric Fisher On August - 30 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

It’s difficult to get excited about the Eagles’ preseason finale Thursday (7 p.m.) against the Jets. If fans wanted to be disinterested observers while players stand around in baseball caps, they would watch the Phillies. (I apologize for the cheap shot. I couldn’t resist.)

With the starters sitting out to avoid injury Thursday’s game won’t be particularly interesting, but it will be meaningful to players fighting for roster spots.

The Eagles must reduce their roster to 53 by Saturday’s deadline. They cleared up some of their roster questions by trading long snapper Jon Dorenbos to the Saints and releasing cornerback Ron Brooks. But there are still plenty of decisions to be made before Saturday.

The following are 10 questions to consider during Thursday’s preseason game against the Jets:

Who will start the season at slot cornerback?

With the release of Brooks on Thursday, it appears that Patrick Robinson has the inside track to being the slot cornerback, with Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills starting on the outside. It will be interesting to see if Robinson plays against the Jets. If he doesn’t play, he’s got the team made. If he plays, that could mean he’s still competing for playing time – or even a roster spot.

Which cornerbacks will make the 53-man roster?

Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills and third-round draft pick Rasul Douglas are the only safe bets to make the final roster. Dexter McDougle, acquired from the Jets earlier this week in exchange for safety Terrence Brooks – it was a bad week to be an Eagles defensive back named Brooks –will receive an opportunity to prove he belongs while facing his former team. Jaylen Watkins’ bid to make the team is helped by his ability to play safety, but he certainly isn’t guaranteed of a spot on the team. Patrick Robinson, C.J. Smith and Aaron Grymes are in the mix for roster spots.

Is there any chance that fourth-round draft pick Donnl Pumphrey won’t make the team?

Not only did the Eagles select running back Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round, but they traded up to get him. That makes it extremely unlikely that they would release him. On the other hand, if Corey Clement (9 carries for 42 yards against the Dolphins last week) continues to have a strong preseason and Pumphrey fumbles during another unimpressive outing, how could the Eagles justify keeping Pumphrey and cutting Clement. And that assumes that LeGarrette Blount’s roster spot is safe, creating an interesting dynamic with Wendell Smallwood and speedy Darren Sproles. Byron Marshall is playing for a spot on the practice squad, or he could view Thursday’s game as an audition for another team.

Which receivers will make the final roster?

Veterans Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith are safely on the roster, as is former first-round draft pick Nelson Agholor, despite barely being noticed during the preseason games. Rookie Mack Hollins will definitely make the team. That leaves Marcus Johnson, Bryce Treggs, fifth-round pick Shelton Gibson and Greg Ward to battle for one or two roster spots. Gibson could be released or placed on the practice squad, but he should not make the final roster. Paul Turner is injured, so he could be placed on injured reserve. Keep an eye on Treggs, Johnson  and Ward against the Jets. They’re playing for their NFL lives.

Will Matt McGloin stay healthy?

Aside from friends and family, nobody has been concerned with quarterback Matt McGloin’s health. With Nick Foles’ lingering elbow issues, though, there should be some concern that McGloin, coming off his best performance of the preseason (22 of 26, 155 yards), remains healthy. If McGloin were to get hurt, the Eagles would be hurting for a reliable backup if Foles’ elbow continues to bother him.

Will Rick Lovato make accurate snaps?

With long-time long snapper Jon Dorenbos traded to the Saints, one of the last things the Eagles would want to see Thursday would be an off-target snap from Lovato on a field goal or punt.

Will Beau Allen do enough to start the season on the 53-man roster?

Allen returned to practice this week after missing five months with a pectoral injury. If Allen does enough against the Jets to convince the Eagles he will be ready to start the season, that would be one less roster spot for a group that includes Justin Hamilton, Destiny Vaeao and Elijah Qualls. It’s not certain that the Eagles will keep more than four defensive tackles. They certainly wouldn’t keep more than five.

Which defensive ends will play?

Brandon Graham is injured, but he wouldn’t play Thursday even if he were healthy. There’s no point in having veteran Chris Long play. He has made the team, so there’s no reason to risk injury. But the Eagles need someone to play defensive end. Will Vinny Curry, who made a big play last week, play against the Jets? What about first-round pick Derek Barnett? The Eagles don’t want to risk an injury to Barnett, but the alternative is to let Steven Means and Alex McCalister play nearly the entire game as they battle for a roster spot.

Which linebackers will earn roster spots?

The Eagles are so depleted by injury at linebacker that they signed a pair of players on Wednesday. But injuries to backups Nathan Gerry and Najee Goode open up playing time for Joe Walker, Don Cherry and Kamu Grugier-Hill against the Jets. Watch closely to see which linebacker stands out.

How long until the regular season starts?

The Eagles open the regular season against the Redskins 10 days after Thursday’s preseason finale. Thankfully, there’s no need to watch preseason football after Thursday’s game.

Carson Wentz owes Jake Elliott some money