10 observations from Eagles-Bears

ap-eagles-allen-barbre.jpg

10 observations from Eagles-Bears

CHICAGO -- There was some good. There was some bad. There was some really bad. And then there was Roc Carmichael.

It was certainly a tough evening for Carmichael, Jordan Matthews, Allen Barbre, Nick Foles and a handful of other Eagles Friday night in the preseason opener, a 34-28 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field (see Instant Replay).

But it was a good day for Mark Sanchez, Beau Allen, Zach Ertz and Vinny Curry, among others.

It’s the first of 20 (at least), so please welcome back … Roob’s 10 Observations!

1. Can’t say I’m concerned with Foles’ performance, but he was so bad — two interceptions in nine attempts, with a third INT dropped — that it does give the next two preseason games a little more importance. Foles wasn’t great last preseason — he didn’t throw a touchdown and went on to have one of the greatest seasons any QB has ever had. With the pressure of a QB competition off, Foles has the freedom to make throws he might ordinarily not make. It seemed like he was really focusing on getting rid of the ball quickly Friday night, and he got himself into trouble a few times with poor decisions.

2. I am a little concerned with Barbre, who is pegged to start the first four games at right tackle while Lane Johnson serves his suspension. Barbre got pushed around a little bit by the Bears, but this was his first real playing time at right tackle since 2009 with the Packers, so it shouldn’t be all that surprising. But keep an eye on him. He needs to be better.

3. First defense did some good things, but I didn’t like those two third-and-long conversions by the Bears on their second drive — a 3rd-and-11 and a 3rd-and-10 that led to the Bears’ first TD. Billy Davis wasn’t dialing up any exotic stuff, and there wasn’t a lot of pass pressure, but third-and-long was a problem last year. The Eagles allowed 18 conversions on 3rd-and-10 or longer last year, and only the Dolphins (20) and Vikings (22) allowed more. That’s got to change, so something to keep an eye on.

4. Saw some good things from special teams. Damion Square blocked a field goal, Alex Henery’s kickoffs all went into the end zone, and rookie Josh Huff looked fast and decisive on his explosive 102-yard kickoff return touchdown. The Eagles made a lot of changes on special teams this offseason, and it looks like they’re paying off. The return game was awful last year. If Huff can be a quality kick returner, that would really solve a huge question mark facing the Eagles.

5. Loved what I saw out of Beau Allen. It’s tough to evaluate the young defensive lineman, since the Eagles don’t do live goal-line or short-yardage anymore at practice. But Allen was very active in his NFL debut, stout against the run and got great push in the pocket.

6. Good stuff — as you’d expect — from Sanchez. Say what you want, he’s one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league. How many teams have a No. 2 quarterback who’s won four playoff games and has one of the 15 highest passer ratings in NFL postseason history? Put a smart, veteran QB in a preseason game against a second-team defense and you’re going to get efficiency, and Sanchez was sharp, completing 7 of 10 passes for 79 yards, with two touchdown drives. In 19 of the last 23 seasons, the Eagles’ No. 2 quarterback has started at least one game, so it’s a critical spot, and the Eagles are in good hands if Sanchez has to play.

7. Not an auspicious debut for Matthews, the rookie second-round pick. He had three drops in all. The first one was a tough catch, the next two are catches he has to make. Matthews finished with four receptions for 14 yards with a long of five. I’ve always said wideout is the toughest position for rookies to come in and shine. Matthews has all the tools, and I think he’ll be fine, but it’s not going to happen immediately.

8. Was good to see Jeremy Maclin play for the first time since 2012. Foles targeted him once, and he caught a 15-yarder. The Eagles were awfully vanilla offensively, and I feel like Maclin needs a good bit of work before the regular season. He’s been OK at practice but hasn’t flashed. He still looks a little rusty. Good start but a ways to go.

9. The Eagles have some crazy depth at running back. After Shady McCoy, Darren Sproles and Chris Polk, you have Matthew Tucker, who looked terrific Friday night (minus a fumble) and then you saw what David Fluellen can do, with six runs for 25 yards and an acrobatic 14-yard touchdown catch from Matt Barkley. Good production.

10. Was disappointed in Barkley. There’s been a lot of talk about how far he’s come and how much he’s improved, how he’s gotten stronger, healthier, but he just didn’t look sharp at all, going 7 for 16 for 73 yards with the one TD to Fluellen on a play that was really all Fluellen, and one interception. Was looking for a lot more.

Wendell Smallwood 'really excited, ready to go' for NFL debut Saturday

Wendell Smallwood 'really excited, ready to go' for NFL debut Saturday

Eagles rookie running back Wendell Smallwood will finally make his NFL debut on Saturday. After missing out on the team’s first two preseason games with a quad injury, Smallwood can’t wait for his first action.

“I’m really excited, ready to go,” Smallwood said Tuesday. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in a game.”

Smallwood held out some hope that he would play against the Steelers, but said he never cleared the final hurdle.

“The trainers and coaches didn’t feel like I had my last burst,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was up to full speed, I was about 85 percent running. I didn’t feel like I had that last gear … this week, I’m back to full speed.”

As he discussed last week, Smallwood has maintained his focus and tried to learn from watching his teammates while on the sidelines. Given his desire to impress as a rookie and the fact that he’s never missed a game before in his football career, that’s obviously been a challenge. Running backs coach Duce Staley and veterans like Darren Sproles understand that and have paid close attention to Smallwood’s development.

“Darren talks to me all the time about it, he asks me every day how I’m doing and what I need to do,” Smallwood said. “I think just having him and the other running backs in my corner is definitely a positive.”

One facet that Smallwood has been constantly working on is his pass-blocking knowledge. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich on Tuesday stressed the importance of all his backs being strong in pass protection, and said he was encouraged by Smallwood’s progress in that phase of the game.

“Even though he was a great runner in college, you could see glimpses of him in the passing game, you could see him in protection, that he was a willing blocker,” Reich said. “And he had the aptitude when you talked to him in the interviews and when you watch film with him, you can see that he gets it and he processes it, and that’s a very important part of it. So his continued progress to get on the field is going to have to come in the passing game, as well.”

Smallwood is pleased with his understanding of the Eagles’ pass-blocking schemes, but he knows he always has to be on his toes, just in case a question flies his way.

“I think I’ve been progressing very well with [pass blocking,]” Smallwood said. “Just learning techniques and learning the system, all the calls the line has, and I think I’ve picked it up. Duce throws random questions at me and I’m right on time with them, so I think I’m doing very well in that area.”

On Saturday, he’ll be dealing with more than questions; Smallwood will have to pick up linebackers and safeties trying to hit his quarterback. He’s looking forward to it.

DL Martin (knee) day to day
Defensive lineman Mike Martin is another Eagle who has been frustrated by a lingering leg injury.

Like Smallwood, Martin has yet to play in the preseason. Since twisting his knee several weeks ago in training camp, Martin has mostly been on the sidelines. Now he’s back to practice, though Martin said he’s “just easing back into it, not trying to throw myself in there hard right off the bat.”

It seems unlikely that Martin will play against the Colts. While he classified his situation as “a day-by-day thing right now,” it’s hard to imagine him going from “easing back into it” to the heat of an NFL game.

While he’s been out, Martin, a third-round draft pick by the Titans in 2012, has aimed to learn as much as he can.

“Anytime you miss time and can’t be out there, it sucks, but I’ve been in my book and haven’t missed much on the mental side of it,” he said. “Every day I’m just trying to pick up where I left off.”

Once he returns, Martin can’t wait to play in Jim Schwartz’s defense and create chaos for opposing offenses along with Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and his other talented teammates on the defensive line.

“[This defense] is just an attack style, which is really great for me,” Martin said. “That’s the type of player I am and it fits me perfectly.”

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Stephen Tulloch walked out of the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday afternoon chatting with new teammate Brandon Graham, while wearing a crisp white No. 54 jersey for his first practice.

Jim Schwartz wasn’t sure if Tulloch would make it onto the field Tuesday because of all the “administration stuff” the linebacker needed to do, including putting ink to paper. But as the Eagles took the field at around 1:30 p.m., Tulloch joined them. He wouldn’t miss it.

After all, practice is where the 31-year-old feels most comfortable.

Schwartz on Tuesday morning recalled a story from training camp several years ago, when, as the head coach of the Lions, he wanted to give Tulloch a veteran day off. The coaches even told the training staff that Tulloch wouldn’t be participating that day.

“He came in my office mad as a hornet and was ready to practice,” Schwartz said.

Tulloch then told his head coach that he was ruining his streak. Forget games — dating back to high school, the linebacker hadn’t missed a practice.

Schwartz admitted he’s not one for compromising, but did make a compromise that summer day. Tulloch was allowed to practice, but his reps were cut down some.

“He knows how I am. I prepare,” said Tulloch, who remembered the story. “To me, practice is more important than that game. When you miss a rep, you miss something and you can’t make it up. I try to be present every day that I’m out here on this field. We’re playing a kid’s game. I’m 31 years old and to be able to come out here and play this game, it’s pretty fun.”

Tulloch was 28 during the 2013 training camp and went on to play and start all 16 games in the 2013 season. In 2014, he played just three before tearing his ACL, but returned to play in all 16 last year.

Tulloch told Schwartz he has been working out twice per day while unemployed this summer. “Guys like that, they know how to get themselves ready,” Schwartz said.

“I have tremendous respect for guys that get 10 years in the NFL because you can’t make 10 years on talent alone,” Schwartz said. “You can’t make 10 years by being a try-hard guy. You gotta have a great combination of things and also in 10 years, you’re going to be working with different coaching staffs in 10 years. You gotta have the ability to work in a lot of different schemes, whether you’re an offensive player or a defensive player. I’ll bow down to guys who play 10 years in this league because that’s tough business.”

Tulloch has been a starter in the NFL for years but likely won’t have that role in Philly. The Eagles have a starting linebacker group of Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham. Doug Pederson said Tulloch will compete at the middle linebacker spot, but Hicks is still the starter for now (see story).

For a long time, Tulloch was very good. He's one of just nine players in the league to have five interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries since 2006. And he’s played six of his 10 NFL seasons under Schwartz, who already has three of his former players in prominent roles this year.

Schwartz said Tulloch is “not here to replace anybody,” but added that a rotation isn’t out of the realm of possibility. The defensive coordinator, citing an analogy in which everyone brings something different to a party, said it’s important to accentuate each of his players' strengths.

Despite starting for most of his career, Tulloch in 2016 will likely be a backup, which includes playing special teams. Earlier in the week, Pederson said he wants to get Tulloch on at least one special teams unit. The veteran linebacker on Tuesday said he hasn’t played special teams since 2006 or 2007.

“Whatever’s asked of me, I’ll do,” Tulloch said.

Tulloch was informed of his release from Detroit in February, but he wasn’t officially cut by the Lions until July, after he healed completely from a minor ankle surgery. He said he felt good a long time ago, and had a couple other teams interested in him. Ultimately, though, he decided to join the Eagles and reunite with Schwartz, for whom he has great respect and whose defense he feels most comfortable in.

Even if Schwartz tries to make him take a day off.

“I just love football,” Tulloch said. “I think this is my 26th, 27th year of playing football. I started back in 1991 when I was five years old. It’s just a way of life for me. It’s something I do. I have a passion for practice, I have a passion for the game. I play hard, I work hard, I take care of my body. I do what I have to do.”

NFL Notes: Cowboys WR Dez Bryant out after concussion in practice

NFL Notes: Cowboys WR Dez Bryant out after concussion in practice

FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant will miss the next preseason game after sustaining a concussion in practice.

Coach Jason Garrett said Tuesday that Bryant was hurt a day earlier when the receiver's head hit the shoulder pads of safety Barry Church. Garrett says Bryant was held out of the rest of that practice and will not play Thursday night at Seattle.

On his Twitter account Tuesday, Bryant promised Cowboys fans that he is OK.

Garrett said Bryant seemed "much better" Tuesday, and the coach doesn't think there is a long-term concern.

Bryant had four catches for 74 yards in two preseason games. He had a touchdown catch in each game.

Patriots: Brady ready after 'silly accident' with scissors cuts thumb
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady says he's ready to play after a "silly accident" cut his right thumb with a pair of scissors before the Patriots preseason game against the Bears last week.

Brady says he missed the first two practices this week for personal reasons, but he's available and ready to play as New England prepares to play at Carolina.

He says the accident with the scissors occurred when he was trying to get something out of his cleats and the scissors slipped and cut his thumb. Brady said he wanted to play, but coach Bill Belichick made the decision he'd sit out.

Brady has yet to appear in a game this preseason. He's got two remaining opportunities before the start of four-game regular-season NFL suspension for what the league says was his role in "Deflategate."

Bills: Receiver Marquise Goodwin sustains possible concussion
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin is being evaluated for a possible concussion sustained during practice on Tuesday.

Coach Rex Ryan would only say the player was placed in the NFL's concussion protocol, which makes it unlikely Goodwin will play in Buffalo's preseason game at Washington on Friday.

The fourth-year player was hurt when the back of his head slammed against the turf while attempting to make a catch in the end zone during a red-zone drill.

Ryan says he didn't have an update on the status of right tackle Jordan Mills, who hurt his knee and did not return.

Ryan expects Watkins and linebacker Manny Lawson to make their preseason debuts Friday. Watkins has practiced the past two weeks since recovering from surgery in April to repair a stress fracture in his left foot. Lawson missed the first two weeks of training camp with a partly torn chest muscle.