The Philadelphia Eagles were absolutely dominated by the New England Patriots Thursday night, losing by a score of 35-0. It’s an ugly score, but the Eagles didn’t play many of their starters, including quarterback Jalen Hurts.
The starters that did play didn’t play past the second series. The Patriots, however, clearly wanted to see more out of their starting units in Thursday’s contest.
Ultimately, the score doesn’t matter. What matters is how individual players performed. It’s the preseason after all.
Here are five observations from preseason Week 2.
DeVonta Smith’s debut
Easily the most exciting part of Thursday’s exhibition game was the debut of first-round pick DeVonta Smith. He played a total of 26 offensive snaps, hauling in 2 receptions for 19 yards on 4 targets. It was a small sample size, but all the things we expected out of Smith in his rookie season were evident.
His crisp route running, ability to get off press coverage, and natural catching ability were all present Thursday night. Yes, he did drop his first target. But he’s a rookie, he was probably a little over excited at that moment in the game.
We released a full breakdown of his performance just moments after his final snap last night, so to check that out, click here.
The Eagles don’t have good backup quarterbacks
Howie Roseman and the Eagles front office often place a lot of value in the backup quarterback position. Based on the team’s history at the position, it’s not hard to see why. But they clearly don’t have any good ones this year.
Joe Flacco is washed up and a brick wall in the pocket. He has no mobility whatsoever and that’s been evident through two preseason games. Nick Mullens, well, just sucks. Granted he’s exclusively running with the third stringers, but he’s been unable to muster much of anything while he’s been on the field this preseason.
Hurts didn’t go last night due to a non-COVID illness. Adam Schefter reported it was a stomach infection and that he’ll need to rest for a few days, so it shouldn’t threaten any Week 1 availability. But man, I do not want to see this offense with Flacco or Mullens under center. Even if they’re surrounded by starters.
Against New England, the two QBs combined to go 15/27 for 110 yards with 2 interceptions and an average passer rating of 31.8. Pretty bad!
Alex Singleton and linebackers impress
On the defensive side of the ball, they had trouble stopping New England’s attack all game. It seemed like the one position group that showed up to play Thursday night on the Eagles defense was Alex Singleton and his fellow linebackers.
Singleton finished the night with 7 combined tackles and 1 tackle for loss after playing nearly the entire second half. He had a handful of great plays, including a few stuffed screen passes.
Singleton has been impressive in both preseason games and seems to have taken a big step forward after his breakout campaign last season.
As for the other linebackers, I saw nice things out T.J. Edwards, Eric Wilson, and even Genard Avery. Edwards had a few nice tackles in the running game, and he had a beautiful diving PBU. Wilson made some plays in pass coverage, and Avery had a really nice blitz up the A gap to blow up a running play in the first half.
All in all, a really great outing from this linebacking corps Thursday night.
Milton Williams was the only defensive lineman that showed up
On a night where none of the Eagles starting defensive lineman suited up, rookie Milton Williams carried the load. He didn’t record any sacks, but he seemed to be the only one creating any kind of push. He forced two holding calls, which goes to show he was being disruptive.
He was a bit more impressive in game one, and I’m sure when he’s playing next to guys like Fletcher Cox, he’ll provide more production.
I’m anxious to see how Jonathan Gannon utilizes Williams in the regular season. He’s primarily played on the edge in these two preseason games. He’s a natural tweener who can be a headache from any position along the defensive front.
Zech McPhearson struggled
With Darius Slay on the sideline, rookie fourth-round pick Zech McPhearson got the start opposite of Steven Nelson Thursday night. He finished the night as the leading tackler, but that was mostly because he allowed so many catches.
Cam Newton targeted him three times on one drive, completing each pass with relative ease. McPhearson also seemed to have a miscommunication with K’Von Wallace on the touchdown to Jakobi Meyers. Overall, not a great night for the rookie corner, but that’s to be expected.
Watching him struggle was rough, but knowing he won’t be forced to start in meaningful games this year is a sigh of relief. Having McPhearson learn behind Slay and Nelson will be invaluable for the young corner. He’s not ready to play every snap at the NFL level just yet. But with more preseason reps and time to learn, he has the physical tools to be a solid starting corner in this league.