Preseason Report: Eagles Defeat Pittsburgh in Entertaining Preseason Game... Really!

Preseason Report: Eagles Defeat Pittsburgh in Entertaining Preseason Game... Really!

The Good

Making a Good First Impression

Most of the rookies were impressive in their first NFL action, but none more so than Nick Foles. Normally when the starters come out of a preseason game, you can tune out and feel comfortable knowing you're not going to miss too much. With the Steelers leading the Eagles 13-0 going into the locker room on Thursday night, that was pretty much my mindset the rest of the game. Watch the second half casually, you can always go back and review it again later for your notes.

Wrong. Foles turned this into one of the most exciting Eagles preseason games I can remember.

The third-round pick entered the game in the third quarter, looking fairly crisp for two series, but to no avail. Apparently the third time is the charm for Foles. Following a Steelers punt, Foles dropped back on first down and scanned the field. With pressure in his face, he escaped the pocket, but was composed enough to keep his head up. It paid off with his first NFL touchdown pass.

Foles found Damaris Johnson wide open 45 yards away and connected, with Johnson running the rest of the way to complete the 70-yard scoring play. Following another punt, on his very next pass Foles went deep again, this time hitting Mardy Gilyard at the pylon for a 44-yard touchdown.

Just like that, the Eagles led 14-13. The action went back and forth the rest of the night until Alex Henery drilled a 51-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining to steal a 24-23 victory.

Foles stole the show, but the class of 2012 was on full display. While only credited with a tackle assist, Fletcher Cox looked strong, forcing a couple of runs to go east-west. Mychal Kendricks wasn't tested vertically, but showed tremendous instincts and wound up with four solo tackles. Vinny Curry looked strong against the run going against Pittsburgh's twos, notching five tackles. Brandon Boykin added a 46-yard kick return. And Dion Lewis may have some serious competition from Bryce Brown, who looks quick and powerful, finishing with 33 yards on three carries and two receptions for 16.

Opposing Quarterbacks, Beware

The Eagles were without Jason Babin and Trent Cole on Thursday night, a duo on the edges that combined for 29 sacks a season ago. No matter. The front four had little trouble getting pressure on Steelers quarterbacks, particularly defensive ends Philip Hunt, Brandon Graham, and Darryl Tapp. The three of them combined for 3.5 sacks, and generally harassed the passer any time he stood in the pocket for longer than two seconds.

It's worth noting the Steelers were starting a rookie left tackle, who Hunt abused for two sacks and a strip on his own. Regardless, those guys got the job done.

Wrapping Up

One more thing I liked about the defense was there weren't a ton of missed tackles by the first teamers. No doubt we could go back and find a couple, but generally speaking, when a defender had a clean shot at the ball carrier, he either brought him to the turf, or corralled him until the rest of the unit swarmed. There are obviously still a few kinks to work out, but that much was a good sign.

The Bad

I Don't Even Have Dish

Thanks to thunderstorms in the area, there was a roughly 10-minute interruption to my feed of the game, so I missed two series in their entirety -- including Vick's second act. What I saw of his first trip wasn't the worst. He checked down for a short gain on first down, then had to eat the ball on third. The Eagles were in max protection on the sack, but Pittsburgh didn't blitz, and it appeared Vick couldn't find anybody open.

I can't speak for his next outing, but obviously Vick injured his thumb on center Jason Kelce's helmet. X-rays are negative, which is positive, but that (injury) more than anything else is what we don't need to see from Vick.

This Run

I could drive my car through that hole. Went 33 yards, setting up Pittsburgh's first touchdown.

Still?

Three plays later, the Steelers scored easily when either Nnamdi Asomugha, Jaiquawn Jarrett, or Brian Rolle inexplicably failed to cover a receiver at the goal line. There was another long passing play earlier where it appeared Jarrett was left all alone by the sidelines to cover two receivers. There were a lot of excuses for confusion in the secondary last season, but it won't stand this year. Of course, this is what preseason is for, but they have to clean it up.

Jim Schwartz already gushing about Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod

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Jim Schwartz already gushing about Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod

Anyone who follows the NFL knows to avoid reading too much into spring workouts. You don't gain valuable insight into a player's game-day ability by observing his speed in shorts or run-stuffing technique when tackles aren't being made.

First-year Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz sidestepped several questions after Tuesday's OTA about how specific players are fitting into his defensive scheme, but he made an exception for one position group in particular: his starting safeties.

The Eagles this offseason spent $35 million apiece to extend Malcolm Jenkins and sign Rodney McLeod away from the Rams. Jenkins got $21 million guaranteed, McLeod got $17 million, and they rank fifth and ninth among NFL safeties, respectively, in annual average salary.

"That was money well spent," Schwartz said Tuesday. "I'm sort of violating my rule of judging too much into this time of year — saying linemen need the pads on before we can judge, rookies let's not judge yet — but both [Jenkins and McLeod] are veteran players. And you can see that right away that both are multi-dimensional. They communicate very well, cover a lot of ground. They can blitz, they can play man (coverage), they can play zone. I'd be very surprised as the year went along if they're not one of the better safety tandems in the NFL. They've been very impressive so far."

Jenkins, who has emerged as the Eagles' most vocal leader, is coming off two terrific seasons. He set career-highs last year in tackles (109) and forced fumbles (three), intercepted two passes and returned one 99 yards for a touchdown. He graded out as the best safety in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. 

McLeod ranked 10th, eight spots ahead of Walter Thurmond, Jenkins' partner last season.

"I think we all believe that," Jenkins said when asked about the safety duo's chances of being one of the NFL's best. "The way that practice has been going so far and just what Rodney adds to the secondary, I think we're real excited about that tandem and what we'll be able to do. Both of us are very versatile, both of us know the defense and can get guys lined up and can problem-solve. All the rest of it we can do, but when you have guys that can quarterback the defense and problem-solve, it gets you out of a lot of bad looks."

Jenkins had watched McLeod on tape so he knew the type of player the Eagles were adding. What stood out most to him was how "violent" McLeod played in St. Louis, how he played much bigger than his 5-10/195-pound frame. But what's impressed Jenkins most in OTAs with McLeod is how he sees the field and reads situations. Those instincts are what Jenkins thinks can make the pairing special.

"Now playing next to him, you really start to see the smarts and his football IQ, knowing different defenses, ways to adjust things, having the ability to use tools for different situations," Jenkins said of McLeod. "He's an extension of a coach on the field. Talk about a guy being able to quarterback your defense on the field, he's somebody who understands the totality of the defense and has that ability to communicate and get guys lined up. It's just good to have two guys back there now that can do that.

"I think from what he brings to the table and what I bring to the table from a football standpoint, I think our talent level can put us in that conversation (of the NFL's top safety tandems). But once we really get in tune with each other as far as calls, tools that we can use ... when you got two guys with high football IQs, you can really be special."

Jenkins and McLeod have been playing left and right safety interchangeably so far in practice. McLeod says that this voluntary workout period for the safeties has been about figuring out which of them does what better. He'll have a better idea of their specific roles once training camp comes.

Jenkins and McLeod were in constant communication on the sidelines after coming off the field for certain plays at Tuesday's practice. Jenkins was doing a lot of the talking and McLeod a lot of the listening. McLeod would explain what he saw and why he broke the way he did, and Jenkins would coach him up and advise him what to do next time they see a certain look. 

"Big competitor, man. Just from Day 1, offseason drills and things like that when we compete, even in the weight room you can just see how he gets after it," McLeod said of Jenkins. "It carries over into the field, big trash talker. He carries a swagger about him. Very smart and instinctive player.

"Me and Malcolm, I think we're gonna build something great here and you can see glimpses of it in practice now."

Sixers reportedly covet additional high first-round pick in 2016

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Sixers reportedly covet additional high first-round pick in 2016

The Philadelphia 76ers haven't found themselves in a position of power much on the hardwood over the past few seasons, but when it comes to the 2016 NBA Draft, the Sixers are in the driver's seat.

As longtime NBA reporter David Aldridge put it in a column on Monday, the Sixers are one of four teams that will "run the show" on draft night. The Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, and Phoenix Suns are all poised for a big draft night as well.

Not only do the Sixers have the first gigantic decision of the evening but they have a handful of assets, in the form of additional picks as well as moveable players, to make another big splash on draft night (Thanks, Sam Hinkie).

The first debate in Philly will clearly be Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram. Once that decision is made though, things could still be very interesting for Bryan Colangelo.

Aldridge goes on to discuss the logjam in the Sixers frontcourt that Sixers' observers have been talking about forever, but he also adds that, "There is strong support within the organization for Nerlens Noel, who provides defense and rebounding that none of Philly's other bigs provide."

Not only does Aldridge state that there is strong support for Noel, he also says that the team would like to get back up into the early portion of the draft.

Yet the Sixers already have Okafor at the four, and possibly Saric next year. Taking Simmons wouldn't make sense unless they were determined to trade Okafor, whose up and down rookie season hasn't adversely affected his value around the league. And trading Okafor would be the easiest and best way for Philly to get another high first-round pick, which the Sixers covet.

Coveting another high first-round pick and actually obtaining it are clearly different things. Unless the front office finds a way to put a package together involving the 24th or 26th picks this year and some sort of future considerations, the player who can certainly get you back near the front of this year's draft is clearly Jahlil Okafor.

The Sixers fan base is mixed on the idea of trading Jahlil Okafor. Boston seems like an obvious fit with their No. 3 overall pick being the prized target.

June 23rd will be a very interesting night to see how Bryan Colangelo, his father, Josh Harris, and his co-owners feel about such a deal.

Savon Goodman transfers to La Salle for 2016-17 season

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USA Today Images

Savon Goodman transfers to La Salle for 2016-17 season

Forward Savon Goodman has enrolled in graduate classes at La Salle and will play the 2016-17 season with the Explorers.

“Savon is the perfect addition to our team next year,” La Salle head coach Dr. John Giannini said in a statement released by the school. “He shoots a great percentage and rebounds and defends with a tough, athletic style of play. He was a key part of an Arizona State NIT team and has had big games against great competition.”

Goodman, a Philadelphia native, graduated from Arizona State and is not subject to transfer rules. 

He averaged 9.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in 28 contests as a junior in 2015-16. He shot 55 percent from the field overall.

In leading Constitution High School to the PIAA State Championship as well as the Philadelphia Public League title during his senior year, Goodman earned Public League MVP honors.