Just one more preseason game to go.
With the 2017 regular season rapidly approaching, the Eagles did some good things on Thursday night in the third preseason game. They also had things that didn't go their way in a 38-31 win over the Dolphins at the Linc.
The first-team offense was expected to play deep into the third preseason game but Carson Wentz and his unit came out after one quarter (see 10 observations). That started the Matt McGloin Show a little earlier than most people probably wanted.
Overall, Wentz and his unit did some good things despite shaky play from the offensive line. Two of its four drives ended in touchdowns; one ended with a punt and one an interception on a tipped ball.
On defense, new cornerback savior Ronald Darby had some struggles, Vinny Curry finally made a big play and rookie Derek Barnett started in place of an injured Brandon Graham.
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Once the starters left the field, everyone watching on TV became enamored with a squirrel that ran on the field (see story). Sometimes the preseason is nuts.
The Eagles are 2-1 heading into the preseason finale next week.
Toss it deep
The Eagles had a big problem going deep in 2016, but that might just change this year. They scored on a 50-yard bomb from Wentz to Torrey Smith in the first quarter. Smith beat Byron Maxwell and then the safety help came slow. Wentz didn't hesitate to launch a wobbler deep. Wentz has been on with his deep balls during this summer and finally hit one on Thursday. It was Smith's first catch of the preseason.
The new targets
A little later in the first quarter, Wentz hit Alshon Jeffery on a 15-yard slant pass to cap a long drive. That's the kind of production the Eagles wanted to see from their top two free-agent receiver pickups. It was the first touchdown for Jeffery and Smith in Eagles uniforms. Smith had just one catch; Jeffery had two for 35 yards. It looks like Wentz finally has some weapons (see story).
About that long drive, the Eagles got the ball on their own 7-yard line and drove 93 yards on nine plays (see story). Wendell Smallwood and LeGarrette Blount had big runs on the drive.
The Eagles' starters were expected to play into the third quarter on Thursday night. Instead of Wentz, fans at the Linc got a healthy (or not-so-healthy) dose of McGloin. Wentz played just one quarter and his preseason is now over. He finished 6 for 10 for 129 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating was 104.2.
For his preseason, Wentz went 16 for 23 for 241 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating was 125.2.
O-line looks shaky
The Eagles' first-team offense scored two touchdowns in four drives, but the team's starting offensive line didn't have a great night. It seemed like Wentz was under pressure for most of the night. Perhaps that's part of the reason he came out of the game with almost all of the second quarter left to play.
Running back battle
Fans who really wanted to see more out of Blount didn't until his last carry. He finished his night with four carries for 19 yards, but 16 of those yards came on one run.
Meanwhile, Smallwood carried the ball four times for 28 yards with a long of 10. He did struggle once in pass protection. Smallwood just looks like the better runner right now.
When Corey Clement came into the game later, he continued his impressive preseason. He carried the ball nine times for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Curry has had a pretty quiet summer and preseason. There has even been talk about when he'll lose his starting gig to rookie Barnett. Well, Curry responded to that talk by sacking Jay Cutler on the first series of the game. He knocked the ball loose and Fletcher Cox recovered to stop the Dolphins' drive.
Darby's not invincible
It's pretty clear that Darby is the Eagles' best cornerback, but even the good ones get beat sometimes. That's what happened in the first quarter, when Cutler hit DeVante Parker for what ended up being a 72-yard play. Darby had tight coverage but mistimed his jump, while Parker went up to get it. Jay Ajayi punched it into the end zone on the next play.
In the second quarter, Darby showed good recovery speed on a deep ball to Kenny Stills, but got his hand on his shoulder and was called for a 42-yard defensive pass interference, which set up a short touchdown. Darby gave up two plays that led to quick touchdowns. Not his best night.
Darby is aggressive, which will be fun to watch, but also could be frustrating for fans this season.
Mychal Kendricks will be getting measured for his Preseason Hall of Fame bust on Friday morning. The Eagles' disgruntled linebacker has been tremendous this preseason. On Thursday night, he picked off his third pass of the preseason and dove into the end zone for a touchdown. He also nearly had a sack earlier in the game. His trade value has never been higher.
A shiny new nickel
Ron Brooks is finally healthy but it appears he might have lost his job. Since the Darby trade, Patrick Robinson has been working with the first unit as the nickel corner and that didn't change on Thursday night. Robinson was in with the starters in nickel, while Brooks was dropped to the second team. Robinson was having a terrible training camp before the trade - in fact, if he wasn't the trade might not have happened - but seems to have a home in the slot.
A shot to the McGloin
After a rough start, McGloin actually settled in a little bit. He had a nice touchdown pass in the second half. He still doesn't have much of a shot to make the roster. It's crazy, but he has now thrown 88 passes in three preseason games.
Graham (elbow), Jordan Hicks (quad), Nick Foles (elbow), Paul Turner (shoulder), Josh Andrews (hand), Billy Brown and Destiny Vaeao all missed Thursday's game.
During the game, rookie outside linebacker Nate Gerry suffered a minor hamstring injury and the team listed him as questionable to return.
The Eagles have one more preseason game to go. They'll play the Jets in North Jersey next Thursday. After that, the regular-season opener on Sept. 10 in Washington won't be far behind. All NFL teams must cut down their rosters from 90 to 53 by 4 p.m. on Sept. 2.