Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Shaking off the rust

Posted by Eric Fisher On August 11

If it’s true that you learn from mistakes, the Eagles should become a very smart football team.

The Eagles made numerous mistakes during an inauspicious debut, dropping an ugly 24-9 decision to the host Packers in their preseason opener.

There were seven fumbles, two interceptions, dropped passes, missed blocking assignments and a missed field goal, but let’s be charitable in the first week by starting with the positives.

The first-team offense drove 60 yards down the field and scored a touchdown on its first possession. Carson Wentz, in particular, looked very good. The second-year quarterback completed all four of his pass attempts for 56 yards. The first three completions went to Jordan Matthews for 18 yards, including passes for first downs on third and fourth down to keep the drive alive. Wentz’s final completion was a 38-yard touchdown pass to fourth-round draft pick Mack Hollins, who stiff-armed two would-be tacklers on his way to the end zone.

Wentz was sharp and displayed good presence in the pocket. On the fourth-down completion to Matthews, who broke a tackle to make a first down on an earlier possession, Wentz bounced off the back of an offensive lineman, breaking away from a hand around his ankle in the process. On the touchdown pass to Hollins, Wentz had to avoid the rush of linebacker Clay Matthews before finding Hollins cutting right to left across the middle of the field.

The extra effort by Wentz and Jordan Matthews covered up what was an otherwise dismal drive. Before the touchdown pass, the Eagles had only progressed 22 yards in nine plays, and five of those yards came on an offside penalty that wiped out a 5-yard loss by LeGarrette Blount.

The offensive line didn’t distinguish itself blocking for the run or the pass. Wentz was sacked once and, as described earlier, and completed passes despite pressure. On the two plays prior to the touchdown, Blount lost yardage. On the first play, Blount lost a yard despite having 322-pound offensive tackle Dillon Gordon lined up at fullback, giving the Eagles a 572-pound backfield. On the next play, Blount lost two yards when safety Morgan Burnett raced unimpeded on his path to Blount.

Blount was stopped again on the 2-point conversion, but the Packers were called for holding. On the second attempt, Wentz’s pass bounced off Nelson Agholor’s hands and fell incomplete. The short pass had a lot of zip on it, but Agholor, who had problems with drops last season, could have caught it.

Left tackle Jason Peters and right guard Chance Warmack, starting in place of Brandon Brooks (strained ankle), appeared to struggle on the opening drive. Warmack remained in the game longer, but his results, particularly in pass blocking, weren’t good.

Oh, that’s right. We’re supposed to be focusing on the positives.

  • The first-team defense did not allow a point and produced a turnover.
  • Starting cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson were fine, although they were facing Brett Hundley instead of Aaron Rodgers. Robinson recovered a fumble – caused by Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks – and both Mills and Robinson made tackles on special teams.
  • Defensive end Derek Barnett, the Eagles’ first-round draft pick, made two sacks and had two “hurries” in his debut.
  • Hollins, whose reputation is as a terrific special teams player, made four catches for 64 yards.
  • Bryce Treggs, almost a forgotten man in the wide receiver competition, led the Eagles in receptions (7) and receiving yards (91).
  • Safety Terrence Brooks made some nice tackles throughout the game.
  • Quarterback Matt McGloin, who has seen extended repetitions in practice, completed 28 of 42 passes for 205 yards, taking advantage of the extra playing time created by Nick Foles’ lingering elbow injury.

McGloin wasn’t perfect. He completed his first seven passes, but threw an interception while under pressure in the second quarter. But he made a nice tackle on linebacker Joe Thomas after the interception, which saved a touchdown.

McGloin doesn’t have a big arm, but he made some tough throws to the sideline, displaying an accurate arm and enough zip to deliver the football in tight coverage. He also displayed poise in the pocket and, with the exception of the interception, good judgment. On the bad side, McGloin couldn’t lead the offense into the end zone.

By the time McGloin threw his interception, the Eagles were trailing 14-6. Trevor Davis put the Packers on the board with a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown with 11:50 remaining in the second quarter.

The Packers extended their lead to 14-6 just 3½ minutes later when, after recovering a fumble by Trey Burton, they completed a five-play drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Hundley to Jeff Janis, who beat cornerback C.J. Smith over the top down the right side. Smith, who was also beaten for a third-down pass for 10 yards two players earlier, endured a rough possession.

Burton and Smith, who later made a nice play to break up a pass, weren’t the only Eagles who had a rough night.

  • Rookie Donnel Pumphrey, a fourth-round draft pick, received a rough introduction to the NFL. He tried to return one punt on which he was hit immediately. Learning from that experience, he called for a fair catch on his next punt, but muffed the catch before somehow recovering it.
  • Pumphrey had such a rough night that we’re going to separate his offense from his special teams problems. He only gained 5 yards in four carries, fumbling the ball on his first carry (recovered by Warmack). He also caught five passes for 12 yards, never showing the moves in open space that made defenders miss in college.
  • Greg Ward Jr. attempted to catch a booming punt over his shoulder, like a receiver, but the ball hit him in the helmet instead. Somehow, Ward receovered the football.
  • The special teams woes, which included the punt return for a touchdown, continued with Caleb Sturgis’ 46-yard field goal attempt as time expired at the end of the first half. The kick hit the right upright, leaving the score 17-6.
  • Receiver Shelton Gibson, a fifth-round pick who has been plagued by drops during a poor training camp, caught two passes for 12 yards, but had a third-down pass bounce off his numbers.
  • The Eagles only gained 47 yards on 19 attempts. The longest gain was an 8-yard run by rookie Corey Clement during the third quarter. Their failure to establish a running game was a problem last season, leading to the types of pass-run imbalance evident again Thursday night.
  • Burton wasn’t the only Eagles tight end to lose a fumble. Billy Brown also lost a fumble.
  • Cornerback Ron Brooks left the game in the second quarter with a left hamstring injury. Offensive tackle Halapoulivaatai Vaitai left the game in the third quarter with left knee injury.

NOTE: Eagles safety Tre Sullivan delivered several hard hits, including a crushing blow to rookie receiver Malachi Dupre, a seventh-round draft pick playing his first NFL game. Dupre was taken off the field on a stretcher, but raised his thumb to the crowd on is way out and, according to a report later in the game, had movement in all of his limbs. Sullivan was not penalized on the play, and his hit on Dupre appeared to be legal, but he probably should have been penalized on a later hit on receiver Max McCaffrey after the pass had sailed beyond his reach.

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