Eagles — 3 Winners, 3 Losers from Week Two of the Preseason

Last night’s preseason game was an eye-opener for a lot of reasons, most of them bad. There are a chorus of Eagles fans who are acting as if the ship is sinking, and I can’t overstate how much of an overreaction that is—it’s the preseason, get a grip.

With some first-teamers sitting due to injury or other reasons, the lineup the Eagles rolled out was a patch-work of players who probably haven’t played together a whole bunch. So if you’re wondering why the team didn’t look “cohesive,” that’s why. Beyond that, the simplicity of preseason scheming can also explain the poor performance that we witnessed last night.

Suffice to say … r-e-l-a-x … relax.

Here are three players who’s stock improved, and three players whose stock plummeted against New England:


Nate Sudfeld

A week ago I wrote about the importance of Sudfeld having a strong preseason on the basis that it will allow Howie to be more comfortable in shopping Nick Foles. There wasn’t much to write home about against the Steelers—he was just okay—but last night was a different story.

22/39 for 312 yards, 3 TDs, and 1 INT is a stat line that speaks for itself.

Without a doubt there were some cringe-worthy snaps from Sudfeld here and there. I can think of a few instances where he appeared flustered, but considering the lack of protection and support from the rest of the offense, those plays don’t concern me. It’s unreasonable to expect your backup-quarterback to transcend a poor team around him—if that was the case, he wouldn’t be a backup.

All game long Sudfeld made the correct read and delivered a solid ball—not just in a clean pocket but also in the face of pressure. I know there are a lot of people who don’t want to trade Nick Foles because he’s a more-than-capable backup. Beyond the fact that it doesn’t make sense to let such an asset waste away and depreciate on your bench in the name of an insurance policy, it appears that Sudfeld may have what it takes to be a capable backup as well; clearing the way for a potential Foles trade before the season.

Shelton Gibson

Gibson is probably the biggest “winner” from last night’s preseason game. While wide receiver is the deepest group on the roster, it’s been decimated by injury over the past few weeks, clearing the way for Gibson to not only earn a roster spot, but to carve out a legitimate role in this offense.

Gibson was a 5th round pick last season out of West Virginia. He came out of school as a deep threat who needed to develop a more complete route-tree, and it appears that he’s done just that. Besides last night’s performance, Gibson has been making headlines all summer long, so it’s nice to see that hype validated in an actual game situation.

Behind Jeffrey, Agholor, and Wallace, the 4th spot on the depth chart is wide open and Gibson is the only player who seems deserving of it so far. It was long assumed that Mack Hollins would seize this spot, but he’s practically been invisible this offseason.

If Jeffrey or Agholor—both nursing injuries—miss any time to start the season, expect Gibson to get the first look at those snaps.

Ronald Darby

We knew that Darby was the most athletically gifted and technically sound corner on the roster, and last night’s performance emphasized that. He’s loose-hipped, fluid in his movement, and boasts solid ball skills.

There have been rumors circulating about the Eagles trading Darby—his contract is up at the end of the year and he figures to get big-money on the open market. With Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, and a few other young bodies in the cornerback room, it’s hard to see the Birds coughing up the money it would take to bring him back and that’s why you see the trade rumors.

But after his performance last night—combined with the decent, yet uninspiring play of the other corners on the team—I think we should reconsider Darby’s expendability. Our secondary simply won’t be capable replacing Darby’s production this season without a significant drop off, and with the team in obvious contention to repeat as Super Bowl champions I don’t see a reason to sacrifice a player of Darby’s caliber in the name of long-term planning. The time to go full-Hinkie isn’t during our championship window.


Nick Foles

While Sudfeld’s performance last night made a Nick Foles trade more plausible, Foles performance likely made it all the more difficult.

Plainly put, he looked bad. Granted, the 1st and 2nd teamers that made up the offense around him weren’t exactly stellar—in particular, the offensive line was porous—even more specifically, Vaitai was a full blown train wreck protecting Foles’ blindside.

I don’t place full blame on Foles because of the circumstances he endured, but his throws weren’t exactly sharp either. Personally, I don’t put much stock into the preseason, but last night’s performance won’t go unnoticed by any team that had Foles on their radar.

Matt Jones

I was rooting hard for Matt Jones last night. He was always impressive with Washington when he faced the Eagles, and I thought he would be a suitable candidate to replace the physical running-style of LeGarrette Blount—and to be fair, his physicality and ability to finish runs were on display last night, but it wasn’t enough to overshadow his multiple dropped passes and missed blocking assignments.

His first drop wasn’t all that bad; he was sort of off-balance, and the throw from Sudfeld was low (waist-high) and cuffed him. The second drop was right on the hands and in-stride—it likely would have resulted in a big gain.

Jones is competing with Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, and Donnell Pumphrey for the 4th running back spot on the roster. Beyond running ability, you want that 4th running back to contribute on special teams and as a pass-blocker/receiver. Jones has disappointed in all those areas. I won’t rule it out, but it’s hard to imagine him making the roster, especially after last night.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai

I already mentioned this earlier but Vaitai was absolutely horrible last night. A large part of the offensive struggles early in the game were due to Vaitai’s inability to block Adrian Clayborn.

Not to be dramatic or anything, but if the Patriots had a pass-rusher of Clayborn’s caliber in the Super Bowl, then they would have notched their 6th championship, and the Birds would still have zero rings. Anybody that hoped Vaitai was a long-term answer at tackle post-Peters ought to be disappointed.

Here’s to hoping that Peters plays all 16 games, because I’m not comfortable with Vaitai being responsible for protecting Wentz and his surgically repaired left knee.

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