10 observations from Eagles-Packers

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10 observations from Eagles-Packers

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Perfection from Sam Bradford, production from Trey Burton, opposing penalties, the Cody Parkey mystery, rusty middle linebackers … you'll find all that and much more in tonight's edition of Roob's 10 Observations off the Eagles' 39-26 preseason win over the Packers at Lambeau Field Saturday night (see Instant Replay)

Here we go!

1. We have to start with Sam Bradford, and I’m not going to go nuts because it is preseason blah blah blah. But goodness gracious does he look sharp. Any tentativeness we saw Saturday night at the Linc vs. the Ravens was gone. Any jitters that were apparent in his first appearance in a year were nowhere to be seen. He used all his receivers, was remarkably accurate, made quick and smart decisions in the pocket and even threw a touchdown pass to Trey Burton while under heavy pressure from Packers safety Micah Hyde. Bradford played three series in his final preseason appearance, threw three touchdown passes and then gave way to Mark Sanchez. Add in his own series against the Ravens, and Bradford played four series this preseason and put up four touchdowns. His final numbers Saturday: 10 for 10 for 121 yards with three TDs and no INTs. Things aren’t going to come this easily in the regular season — I don’t think — but it’s hard not to be incredibly excited about where Bradford is and how far he’s come.

2. I didn’t like seeing the first defense give up two big plays to the Packers’ No. 2 quarterback, Brett Hundley. Both were really the result of poor tackling more than blown coverages. But any so-called X plays are unacceptable, and after last year — when the Eagles gave up more than any NFL team in a decade — they really do raise a red flag. The first defense has been very good this preseason, but they faced Andrew Luck for only a few plays, Joe Flacco for a quarter and Aaron Rodgers not at all. Those big plays are still a concern until this newly reconfigured defense proves it won’t give them up.

3. I’ve been saying this all summer, but I really like what Trey Burton brings to the offense, and Saturday night we saw a little bit of what we’ve been seeing every day in practice. Burton caught four passes, including two touchdowns, and he just looks quick when he gets the ball in his hands. Great athlete and if anybody can figure out ways to use him it’s Chip. Don’t be surprised if Burton is the Eagles’ No. 2 receiving tight end this year and Brent Celek is a blocking specialist. Burton intrigues me. Just another weapon.

4. It’s interesting to see how many penalties the Eagles’ opponents are committing. The Colts were 8 for 102, the Ravens 17 for 139 and the Packers 14 for 113. That’s 39 penalties for 354 yards in three games. That’s a lot of yards. And it’s not a coincidence. To a great extent, it’s a product of the tempo the Eagles operate at. It takes defenses out of their game, keeps them off-balance, wears them out, and this all takes defenders out of their comfort zone and puts them in position where they’re not using sound technique. That puts them in poor position, and that results in penalties. Crazy.

5. No idea what’s going on with Chip and Cody Parkey. Obviously, Parkey hasn’t been kicking well, but I don’t think anybody believes Kip Smith is a serious alternative. So why is he getting all the kicks? Parkey needs reps to try to fix whatever is going on, and he’s missing them in favor of a guy who isn’t really a threat to replace him. I don’t get this one. UPDATE: Kelly said Parkey has a minor groin injury and would have kicked had it been a regular season game.

6. I wrote last week I didn’t see how the Eagles could find a roster spot for Kenjon Barner, but the kid just keeps making plays, and he just might be making it impossible for the Eagles to not keep him. He had punt return touchdowns in each of the first two preseason games and a couple catches Saturday night, including a short pass that he turned into a 50-yard gain. He’s not the biggest or fastest, but he makes up for it with tremendous field vision, slippery moves in traffic and the toughness to break tackles. Raheem Mostert has been very good too, and he added a 67-yard kick return to open the game tonight. Does this team have running back talent or what? 

7. Fun to watch the Eagles’ run defense, isn’t it? It’s not much of a sample size, but Eddie Lacy — twice an 1,100-yard rusher — managed just two yards on four carries Saturday night against Bennie Logan and company. That group — Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton and Logan — has been together 2½ years now and is just so solid. You just don’t see many holes up front when the first group is out there.

8. We talk a lot about the three-headed inside linebacker monster with Kiko, DeMeco and Mychal. But don’t forget Najee Goode. He’s not a bad inside backer either. With Ryans limited against the Packers, Alonso inactive and Kendricks clearly rusty in his first game back, Goode was very active and very good, save a third-quarter personal foul. If he’s your fourth inside linebacker, you should be OK at inside linebacker.

9. I like the way Bradford throws to the backs. Safe throws, quick throws. He’s relying on their speed and playmaking ability to produce big yards after the catch, like with a flip to Sproles that went for 33 yards. The Eagles didn’t throw to the backs enough last year, especially late in the season. LeSean McCoy is a fantastic receiver, but he only had 28 catches last year — only nine the last nine games. Sproles had his shares of receptions, but Bradford likes throwing to all the backs. Only makes a dangerous offense even more dangerous.

10. Was disappointed not to see Alonso out there. No immediate word from the Eagles why he didn’t play. He planned to. So they’ll go into Atlanta getting very limited preseason play in one game from DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks and no reps from Alonso. We’ve spoken a lot about those three guys and how potentially stout the Eagles can be up front with a three-ILB rotation. But Ryans and Kendricks both looked a step slow in their first game of the preseason, and we still haven’t seen Alonso in an Eagles uniform. That’s a real concern.

Sources: Eagles to sign former Villanova LB Don Cherry and former Alabama S Nick Perry

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The Associated Press

Sources: Eagles to sign former Villanova LB Don Cherry and former Alabama S Nick Perry

The Eagles have a serious depth problem at linebacker, and they're looking at a local prospect to try to fix it. 

The team will sign former Villanova linebacker Don Cherry on Sunday, pending a physical, a league source told CSNPhilly.com. ESPN's Adam Caplan first reported the deal.

Cherry, 21, first signed with the Bears after going undrafted in the spring, but was cut by Chicago in June. 

The 6-1, 240-pound Cherry was an All-CAA selection as a sophomore, junior and senior. During his time on the Main Line, he was credited with 331 tackles, 46 1/2 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, seven forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception. 

Even with Cherry, the Eagles are still light in the depth department at linebacker. After starters Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham, the team has Najee Goode, Deontae Skinner, seventh-rounder Joe Walker and a couple of other undrafted free agents. 

After cutting wideout Jonathan Krause on Friday, the Eagles had three vacancies on their 90-man roster. They're filling another of those openings with former Alabama safety Nick Perry, according to a league source. The perry deal was first reported by Al.com's Matt Zenitz. The 6-1, 211-pound Perry spent last season on the Ravens' practice squad after going undrafted in 2015. 

Eagles training camp kicks off Monday, and the first full-team practice is Thursday. 

Five Eagles with the most at stake during training camp

Five Eagles with the most at stake during training camp

Training camp officially kicks off on July 25, when rookies, QBs and select vets report. Three days later the Eagles have their first full team practice. 

For the weeks after that, the team will be formed, and we’ll finally get a better understanding of the 2016 Eagles. Some players will definitely make the roster. Some already have their starting positions locked up. 

Then there are the players with the most to prove during the few-week camp. There are way more than five guys who need to impress during August. There are players who will make the team and who will lose the team, who will win starting gigs and lose them. 

But here are five on the roster that I’ll be watching closely: 

Josh Huff
Huff is a curious case. He’s super talented; he really is. He just hasn’t figured it out yet, and it’s fair to wonder if he ever will. He’s going into his third season and has just 35 catches in his first two years. There’s a chance he could win a starting job. Then again, there’s a chance he could lose his roster spot, though that’s probably much less likely. In Doug Pederson’s offense, receivers get moved around a lot, something Chip Kelly refused to do. I’d like to see Huff be given a chance to play in the slot. Obviously, Jordan Matthews has shined in that position, but if he lines up outside, Huff might be a good fit. 

Chris Pantale
During the spring, Pantale often lined up as a fullback with the first team, which meant the Eagles want to see if he can be a lead blocker. But training camp is where they’ll find out. Can he take a hit? Can he deliver one to a linebacker? The coaching staff will be looking to answer those questions. If Pantale can prove he’s a capable fullback, he can earn a spot on the roster and force the Eagles to either keep four tight ends or cut Trey Burton, who will also be given a shot to prove himself as a fullback. 

Isaac Seumalo
Through no fault of his own, the rookie offensive lineman is behind. The third-round pick was stuck at Oregon State because of the arcane NCAA graduation rule and missed all of OTAs. “I definitely think that will be tough for him,” Allen Barbre said when asked about Seumalo’s catching up this summer. For now, Barbre is the starting left guard, but Seumalo — along with Stefen Wisniewksi — will have a chance to challenge him for the position during camp. 

Eric Rowe
During OTAs and the mandatory minicamp, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks were the Eagles’ two starting cornerbacks, and Rowe came on the field as an outside corner in the nickel package, while Brooks slid into the slot. That means Rowe isn’t really a starter after he came on strong as a rookie a year ago. He’ll have to have a good camp to retake his starting job.  

Kenjon Barner
Barner looked pretty good this spring. In fact, he even took some first-team reps at running back. But that doesn’t mean he has a job locked up. Last season, he was the fourth running back behind DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. This year, with Murray gone, he’s in the mix with Mathews, Sproles and rookie Wendell Smallwood. Will the Eagles keep four backs again? If they do, Barner has a very good shot to be on the team. But if the Eagles keep three, they might elect to keep a promising fifth-rounder in Smallwood over him. 

NFL Notes: League to review domestic violence allegations against Ezekiel Elliott

NFL Notes: League to review domestic violence allegations against Ezekiel Elliott

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The NFL says it is reviewing domestic violence allegations against Dallas Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott.

A police report says Elliott denied allegations that he assaulted his girlfriend early Friday in Columbus, Ohio, causing bruises and abrasions. The report says he wasn't arrested because of conflicting versions of what happened.

Three witnesses told police they didn't see Elliott assault the 20-year-old woman. Elliott says the woman got the bruises and abrasions in a bar fight.

The player's father, Stacy Elliott, said in a statement Friday that the claims are "completely false" and that his son has cooperated with the investigation.

Ezekiel Elliott is a running back who played at Ohio State. He turned 21 Friday.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says the allegations will be reviewed under the league's personal conduct policy (see full story).

Colts: NFL suspends Art Jones for 4 games
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Arthur Jones has been suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Jones has struggled to stay on the field since signing a five-year, $33 million contract in 2014. He missed seven games in his first season with Indy with an injured right ankle. He missed all of last season with an injured left ankle he sustained during the preseason.

Jones won't be eligible to return to the team until Oct. 3 but will be allowed to participate in training camp and preseason games.

His brother, Jon, a UFC fighter, also has run afoul of that league's anti-drug policies.

Vikings: Ribbon cut at new $1.1 billion stadium
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph spent his first three seasons playing in the Metrodome, a cramped, dingy noise box that tested the patience of fans and players alike.

The home locker room only had five bathroom stalls for 53 players and dozens of coaches and support staff. So when he walked around U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings' new $1.1 billion stadium that is set to open this season, he said comparing the two was like "ground chuck and filet mignon."

The Vikings held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday to mark the official beginning of life in their new home. The celebration featured current coach Mike Zimmer blowing the gjallahorn -- a huge horn used in Viking lore -- with coaching legend Bud Grant by his side and fireworks after a host of speakers praised the new stadium.

With a cutting-edge design that includes a translucent roof to allow in the daylight, a wall of glass with 100-foot doors that open to let the autumn breeze in and a locker room that is twice the size of their former home in the Metrodome, U.S. Bank Stadium has thrust the franchise into the 21st century (see full story).

Bears: Charles Tillman retires with Chicago
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Charles Tillman is officially retiring as a member of the Chicago Bears.

The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback signed a one-day contract and called it a career with the team that drafted him in 2003 on Friday.

He had announced Monday on Twitter that he was retiring. The 35-year-old Tillman, known for his "peanut punch" after forcing 44 career fumbles, spent his first 12 seasons with the Bears and went to two Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl with them.

He started 12 games last season with the Carolina Panthers before suffering a season-ending knee injury and missed the team's run to the Super Bowl.

Chicago also terminated defensive back Omar Bolden's contract on Friday.