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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Leaving an impression

Posted by Gordon Glantz On August 22

Glantz head shotTwo preseason games does not a season make.

Heck, the vaunted New England Patriots are notoriously brutal in the preseason while we in Eagleville have all had our expectation levels raised as high as our blood pressure on regular-season game days, only to have crash landings.

Just last year, the Eagles went 4-0 and then won their first three games before the bottom fell out like a Ryan Mathews fumble on the turf at Ford Field. The preseason is akin to girl-watching down the shore. You are not looking for a relationship, or even a conversation, but you still draw conclusions about what you have seen and let your imagination run away with you a bit.

Translation: It’s not about gazing at the scoreboard as much as it is the players. And here we have two distinct categories: Impressed and Not Impressed.

Impressed: Marcus Johnson and Bryce Treggs, wide receivers. I admit I was not banging the drum for either going into camp but one – or maybe both, depending on how many receivers are kept – have a real chance. Treggs, pretty much a “go deep and I’ll see if I can reach it” guy last year, seems to have added a whole new set of short- to mid-range routes to his bag of tricks. He stood out in Game 1. Johnson stepped out of the shadows in Game 2 and needed just one big catch and run to show why the Eagles brought him back in the offseason after cutting him last camp. Mack Hollins, a fourth-round pick brought in for special teams, has looked better as an allegedly raw receiver than as a coverage guy so far.

Not Impressed: Shelton Gibson and David Watford, wide receivers. Gibson was a fifth-round pick, but that shouldn’t earn you a roster spot without showing at least a pulse. We already have enough guys who are challenged when it comes to getting open catching the ball. One more is not welcome. I say cut him and bring him back for the practice squad to save some modicum of face. Nobody else will pick him up. Trust me. As for Watford, who parlayed a strong camp last year as a converted quarterback into a spot on the practice squad, he seems to have regressed. When he catches the ball at all, he does that double-catch thing that will get him killed (and he already had the ball swiped by a defensive back in Game 2). At this juncture, he has been outplayed by another QB convert, Greg Ward Jr. (and I don’t see Ward making the cut).

Impressed: Billy Brown, tight end. A dominant Division II wide receiver at a school called Shepherd, Brown looked like a klutz on the first catch (a fumble) of the preseason, but has been steady ever since. Steady enough – even as a blocker – to keep around for a future that will likely not include Brent Celek after this season.

Not Impressed: The whole offensive line. No second chance for guard Chance Warmack to resurrect his career. Lane Johnson needs to enhance his performance. Isaac Seumalo is as bad as his haircut and Jason Kelce is probably his barber. We’ll give right guard Brandon Brooks and third tackle Hal Vatai passes because they have battled injury but they better get healthy and, for my money, Stefen Wisniewski is my center instead of “Come Clean” Kelce. Dillon Gordon is a project and hasn’t looked awful. Ditto for Darrell Greene, but they are not 2017 solutions (unless you want to average 1.2 inches per carry and see Carson Wentz sacked 15 times a game). With Matt Tobin traded to Seattle – and it’s amazing they got more in return than an empty Gatorade bottle – the stage appears to be set to keep fewer than 10 linemen on the active roster. Nine seems likely, but eight, with two or three on the practice squad, wouldn’t surprise me.

Impressed: Dane Evans, quarterback. The Eagles will only carry two quarterbacks – Wentz and hopefully Nick Foles (pending good health) – on the active roster, so why not let the undrafted gunslinger from Tulsa earn a paycheck for a year?

Not Impressed: Matt McGloin, quarterback. I made a quip on Facebook during the last game that drew so many LOLs that it is worth repeating: I have seen drunks in bars make better passes than McGloin. And this does not come from a place of Penn State hate (see Wisniewski remark above as proof). It comes from a place of noodle-arm hater. McGloin had a chance to earn a shot elsewhere with a good camp. All he has earned is a one-way ticket home – a bus ticket.

Impressed: Corey Clement and Byron Marshall, running backs. Both won’t make the team, and there is a chance neither will (at least not the active roster), but they have each shown enough to make issuing pink slips difficult.

Not Impressed: Donnel Pumphrey, running back. As excited as I was to see the Eagles move up on Day 3 and draft the record-breaking mighty mite out of San Diego State, I am as disappointed now to see him do barely anything – save an occasional tackler whiffing on him in the open field on a swing pass – in Eagle green. The fact that he is wearing jersey No. 34 is more troubling because all that he is failing to do as a Darren Sproles understudy was already known to be doable by the former No. 34, Kenjon Barner (now with the Chargers). While Clement is a different style of runner, he has been more impressive as a receiver than anticipated, while Marshall is more polished as an all-purpose back. (Pumphrey is learning on the job as a return man.) There is some talk of cutting veteran LeGarrette Blount – who led the league with 18 rushing touchdowns last year, albeit with the Patriots – but his lack of preseason yardage is more attributable to the aforementioned offensive line. He’ll be here. Unfortunately, so will Pumphrey. Add in Sproles and the talented but oft-injured Wendell Smallwood and there is not much room for Clement and Marshall – although Clement could make a case for the practice squad, and Marshall could get a crash course as a slot receiver.

Impressed: Pretty much the whole defensive line. There are going to be some tough cuts, which is why they may borrow a roster spot from one line – the offensive (in more ways than one) line – and use it here. Inside, Timmy Jernigan seems a better fit next to Fletcher Cox than was Bennie Logan. Even though third tackle Beau Allen is unlikely to start the season due to injury, sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls – along with Destiny Veaeo and Justin Hamilton – also look like keepers (even though both won’t be kept). At defensive end, first-round pick Derek Barnett appears to be as good – or even better – than advertised and Brandon Graham has picked where he left off last year, when he was selected second-team All-Pro. Meanwhile, Steven Means has been a beast and second-year man Alex McAlister, the poster child for concocted injuries to bulk up (take note, Pumphrey fans) has also played well.

Not Impressed: Vinny Curry, defensive end. Although he hasn’t had many snaps yet, Curry remains the invisible man. Starting to wonder if he’ll ever fit with the Jim Schwartz scheme.

Impressed: Mychal Kendricks, linebacker. You could say it’s a fluke that he was around the ball so much in the first two preseason games, intercepting a pair of passes, but it seems Kendricks has put any ill feelings aside – if only to improve his trade value. And if that trade were to happen, rookie linebacker Nathan Gerry has been a pleasant surprise while second-year man Joe Walker seems solid after tearing up his knee last preseason

 Not Impressed: Najee Goode, linebacker. Never got it, never will. Soon to be investigated for theft of a NFL paycheck. Not sure how much the Eagles would save if Goode were to be cut and his roster spot filled by Kamu Grugier-Hill and/or Don Cherry, but it’s a safe bet that Howie Roseman has those numbers pre-crunched.

Impressed: Ronald Darby, cornerback. I wasn’t immediately on board when Roseman swapped reliable receiver Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick for the former second-round pick, and I couldn’t help but wonder why Buffalo would give up on Darby so fast, but he looks like the real deal. If the Eagles can fill the receiver gap, more than likely with Hollins than Nelson Agholor, it’s a win. And it had better be, because there is a whole lot of nothing behind Darby right now. Jalen Mills is starting at the other corner and Patrick Robinson is getting a look in the slot, but they are there by default more than any other reason. Third-round pick Rasul Douglas will make the team, but he looks exactly what he is: a guy who started one year in college.

Not Impressed: Pretty much all the corners on the back end of the roster. Watching the second halves of the early preseason games have been painful but we can, like a mantra, keep reminding ourselves that these pieces of burnt toast won’t be here when it counts.

Impressed: Tre Sullivan, safety. While the Eagles are pretty much set at safety, with starters Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, rookie free agent Sullivan – a college teammate of Brown at Shepherd – hits anything and everything that moves. He sent one Green Bay Packer off on a stretcher (and it was a totally clean hit). Sullivan won’t make the roster, but he has definitely made a name for himself. When you are coming out of Division II, that’s all you can do (note: even Mike Mayock admitted on the air that he hadn’t heard of Sullivan before asking Roseman about him).

Not Impressed: Special teams. I know Dave Fipp’s coverage units will be fine. I mean, Bryan Braman could not have meant that much, right? Darren Sproles, who sits out most of the preseason, will be fielding punts and they will find two guys to run back the three or four kicks that are actually returnable this season. Caleb Sturgis has struggled a bit in games, but he is reportedly making everything in practice and those in-game struggles are likely due to backup snapper Rick Lovato and holder Cameron Johnston getting reps.

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