Eagles Observations: Preseason Week One (with GIFs!)

by: Ryan Waldis

The Eagles started the preseason out 1-0, defeating the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17-9 Thursday night. Below are some of my observations from the Birds first game in over seven months.

Chase Daniel (contrary to popular belief) doesn’t suck.

From the constant “we’re paying Daniel how much?” tweets to the “We Want Wentz!” chants at Lincoln Financial Field, I found myself getting quite peeved at a portion of our fanbase. Now, I’ll be the first to say that Daniel looked terrible. I’d like to point out, though, that Daniel’s dumpster fire of a performance wasn’t all his fault.

There were three main reasons why Daniel looked like a very below-average QB on Thursday:

  1. The offensive line that was tasked with protecting him looked terrible. (I’ll get to them in a bit)
  2. The receivers were gaining little to no separation from the defense.
  3. When they did gain separation, the receivers didn’t help Daniel out at all.

I’ll get to the offensive line in a bit, but here are a few examples of the receivers not helping out their QB.

DanielWR1

In this example, the Eagles ran a play-action shot play where the slot receiver (in this case, Chris Givens) is attempting to run all the way across the field. Givens, however, was not able to get open, nor was Josh Huff, who was covered well on the other side of the field. This led to Daniel taking a sack on his first play in an Eagles uniform.

DanielWR2

Towards the end of the first quarter, Daniel attempted a short pass behind the line of scrimmage to Huff. This play is dependent on Nelson Agholor blocking Lavonte David in order to get around the edge and pick up some yards. Surprisingly, Agholor seems to decide that he doesn’t want to block David, and Huff ends up getting blown up behind the line for a loss.

DanielWR3

On this play, the Eagles decided to go with a five-wide set. Unfortunately for Daniel, no one can get open, and Chase had to settle for a one yard scramble.

Daniel ended up completing just four of his 10 pass attempts for just 15 yards. He also took four sacks. However, I want you to realize that Daniel isn’t fully to blame for what happened against the Bucs. I don’t know if we’ll ever see the true Daniel in the preseason, but I’m confident that if Bradford were to go down at some point this season, Daniel could do an adequate job filling in for him.

The back-up offensive linemen, however, are not very good.

Oof. If Jason Peters (or any of the starting linemen, really) gets injured this season, the Eagles offense will not be very effective. Time after time we saw the second and third-string o-linemen get dominated by the opposition. I question the people chanting “We Want Wentz!” at the stadium, seeing as he would most likely get killed behind the line the Eagles had out there.

OL1

Here’s Andrew Gardner getting completely dominated by Howard Jones.

OL2

And here’s Akeem Spence getting to Daniel without any trouble whatsoever.

OL3

Wentz is in the game at this point, and while the line completely breaks down (Josh Andrews snapped the ball early, leading to some offensive lineman taking a second or three (ahem… Halapoulivaati Vaitai) to just get out of their stance. Credit to Wentz for making something out of nothing, but moments like that don’t inspire much confidence in the back-up linemen.

Rueben Randle showed why the Giants were content with letting him walk.

I regret my Randle optimism when the Eagles signed him this past offseason. I was hoping a change of scenery would do Randle some good. At this point, it looks like he might turn into Steve “The Other Steve Smith” Smith 2.0.

Randle1

Here’s Randle hitting the ball out of bounds to prevent the Buccaneers from gaining possession off of Huff’s fumble. Or, rather, here’s Randle getting a 10 yard illegal bat penalty. What is this, amateur hour?

Randle2

Here’s Rueben (fitting, since Philadelphia fans already hate one Ruben) forgetting how to catch a football.

Randle3

While I could continue on with the Randle GIFs, here’s the final one: Randle half-assing a route down the sideline (in one-on-one coverage, no less.)

Some people thought Randle might be a potential starter on the outside for Philadelphia this season. God help us if that turns out to be the case.

Catching the ball still seems to be an issue.

And not just with Randle! Dropped passes were a huge issue last year, and unless something changes, they’ll be an issue again this season. That’s not good considering this offense needs just about everything to go right if this team is going to win more than five or six games.

The special teams unit performed well.

I was really looking forward to seeing how the kickers would perform in the preseason. To this point, I’m happy. Seeing as teams will now start from the 25 instead of the 20 in the event of a touchback, I wanted to see if the Eagles kickers would continue trying to boot the ball out of the endzone, or if they would opt for a higher but shorter kick that would essentially force the returner to attempt a return.

I strongly believe that the players on the Birds special teams unit will be able to get to the kick returner before he reaches the 25 more often than not this season. Five yards might not seem like a big deal, but you never want to give the opposing team free field position.

Wentz isn’t close to being  NFL-ready, and that’s okay.

I’ll close out my observations with the Eagles QB of the future. Wentz completed 12 of his 24 passes for 89 yards, getting intercepted once. Some people thought he did really well considering it was his first taste of the NFL. I was not one of those people.

The line and his receivers didn’t do him any favors. I understand that. I thought that Wentz did a great job evading pressure on several occasions (a good example is that GIF above where Andrews snaps the ball early). He showed poise, he wasn’t afraid to take a hit and, while his stats might not show it, Wentz made some nice passes. Regardless, his interception really stuck out to me.

Wentz1

Here’s a look at Wentz’s pick. Paul Turner (the slot guy) was the intended receiver on the play. He starts off by running across the field, hesitating for a brief second before continuing onward. Turner actually fooled the linebacker, and was open, but Wentz overthrew him. One of Wentz’s biggest issues is throwing passes too high, which can lead to interceptions just like the one above. I can envision a scenario where one of the Eagles receivers has to jump just to attempt to catch one of Wentz’s passes, only to have the ball sail through their hands and into the hands of a defensive back. I’m not saying Wentz needs to start playing like McNabb and throw passes into the ground, but his accuracy is something that needs to be improved, which it probably will. Something else happened on this interception, though, that is noteworthy.

Wentz2

Look closely at his feet. Both are off the ground as Wentz is throwing the ball. You don’t have to be a coach, player, or analyst to realize that’s a big no-no. You might be able to get away with that in college, but throwing the ball with both feet off the ground in the NFL is never a good thing, and could definitely lead to trouble.

I suppose that just about does it for my week one observations. The Eagles play their second preseason game this Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers; I’ll have an observations post for that game up at some point over the weekend.

 

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