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.

Doug Pederson Notes: Eagles' replacements on DL, West Coast, upcoming draft

Doug Pederson Notes: Eagles' replacements on DL, West Coast, upcoming draft

PHOENIX -- Doug Pederson, wearing a light blue golf shirt, walked up to the 10-seat round table full of Philadelphia reporters with a smile. 

He slowly sat down and waited. The breakfast and hour-long media session at the league's annual meetings was scheduled to begin at 8:15 a.m. at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel and he arrived at 8:13 and sat down at 8:14. 

He took a peak at the notebook belonging to the reporter closest to him to see the word "Mixon" scribbled in pencil. Eventually, another reporter lobbed in a question about Alshon Jeffery, but Pederson wasn't ready yet.  

The Eagles' head coach, who hadn't spoken publicly since the last day of the Eagles' 2016 season, looked down at his watch with a smile; it still said 8:14. 

But eventually, that minute hand moved and the hour-long session began. Pederson, entrapped by reporters and fresh fruit, answered around 63 questions, ranging in topics from Carson Wentz, to the team's free agent pickups and this year's draft. 

We already got into the looming competition at left guard, Pederson's view on the new free agents and his thoughts on Wentz's offseason, but there was plenty more during the session. 

Let's clean out the notebook: 

The Replacements
This offseason, the Eagles lost two of their four starters on the defensive line. Bennie Logan left for Andy Reid and the Chiefs during free agency, and the Eagles cut Connor Barwin in a cap-saving move before Barwin latched on with the Los Angeles Rams. 

For a team that entered last season thinking its defensive line was its strength, losing two starters isn't easy.

On Wednesday morning, Pederson was asked about the two guys -- at least before the draft -- who appear to be their replacements. 

The obvious replacement for Barwin is Vinny Curry, who signed a $46.25 million deal last offseason and didn't live up to the contract during the 2016 season. Curry was pegged as a starter during the spring, but Brandon Graham simply outperformed him and earned a starting role, becoming the team's best pass-rusher last year. 

Curry, meanwhile, managed just 2.5 sacks while playing just 43 percent of the team's defensive snaps. 

The Eagles simply need more out of him in 2017. 

"I love Vinny," Pederson said. "He's a tremendous leader. He’s good for our football team. We're excited to have him. With any player we have, though -- we're talking about Carson having a big year this year, and all of the guys. But Vinny’s a guy that’s going to come in and do what you ask him to do and compete. I think if you asked him, that’s probably his focus, is to come in and be that guy, be the guy that sort of takes that next step. You want to see steps being made, that they're performing at a high level. From that standpoint, expect him to come in ready to go in April."

As for Logan's vacated position, Beau Allen seems like the likely candidate to replace him. In fact, the Eagles' previous work on a contract extension for the former seventh-round pick signaled the end of Logan in Philly. 

Allen ended up starting three games in Logan's absence last year and ultimately played 28 percent of the team's defensive snaps, while Logan played 46 percent. Pederson made sure to mention that DC Jim Schwartz utilizes an eight-man rotation on the line, but Allen will need to be a big part of that. 

"Obviously, with free agency and Bennie not being here, yeah it gives him an opportunity to step in there and really show what he can do, if he can be the guy and compete and handle that load," he said. 

Kendricks still around? 
As of Thursday morning, Mychal Kendricks was still on the Eagles' roster. It just seems unlikely that's going to be the case in a few months. The team has actively been trying to trade Kendricks and he might bring in a slight return because of his age and untapped potential. 

Pederson, for his part, said he expects Kendricks on the roster to start the season. 

"For sure," he said. "Mychal's a big part of the team and I expect him there."

Until he isn't. 

A week out West? 
The 2017 NFL schedule hasn't yet been released -- that's likely to come in late April -- but we already know the Eagles' home and road opponents. And three of their road games happen way out west -- twice in Los Angeles against the Rams and Chargers and once in Seattle against the Seahawks. 

Because cross-country travel can be a pain, Pederson said the team has requested to have two of its West Coast games in back-to-back weeks so the team could stay out there and cut down on travel. 

"Yeah, looking at the schedule, one of the proposals was to try to stay out on the West Coast twice, or for two games," he said. "So we'll see next month when it comes out if we get it."

Oh yeah ... Mixon 
It didn't take long in the media session to get back to the word scribbled in that reporter's notebook. 

Joe Mixon, the Oklahoma running back, has been a hot topic around the NFL not just for his play on the field but because of a huge "red flag" that comes in the form of a video showing Mixon punching a woman and breaking her jaw. 

A team will draft Mixon in April and it will most likely be in a high round -- he's too talented to be completely written off. And, from a football standpoint, he would make sense for the Eagles. 

"As a player, I've watched him a little bit this offseason, and you know, talented player, very explosive," said Pederson, when asked to simply evaluate Mixon as a player. "He has good hands out of the backfield. You put him in there with a lot of these backs that are coming out. Dynamic, exciting back to watch."

But the evaluation of Mixon can't end there. A decision to bring in a player like Mixon would need to come from the top. In this case, it would have to be decided by owner Jeffrey Lurie, who was also asked for his thoughts this week (see story)

So how does Pederson weigh talent against character concerns? 

"It's a fine line. It's a fine line," he said. "And it's tough. It's tough, because again, you're looking for guys that can fit into your system, and you're always looking to add talent to your roster, but at the same time you have to make sure you're doing your homework on these players, again, whether it's free agency or the draft that they're the right fit for you."

Need for speed
The Eagles improved at the wideout position this offseason by signing Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, but those contracts shouldn't stop the team from taking a receiver high in the draft if it wants. 

One of those guys is a pretty intriguing prospect: John Ross. Ross is the fastest player ever at the combine. He ran a 4.22 earlier this month and isn't just a speed guy. He's shifty and extremely talented. 

While Ross has some medical red flags, Pederson said he isn't concerned about Ross' injury history. It sure seems like the speedy Washington wideout could be a possibility at 14. 

"Well, a guy like that, he's dynamic, has good speed, elusive, quick, short-area quickness is the things you see on film with him and on tape," Pederson said. 

"He's a guy, I think, wherever he ends up, could potentially be a difference maker because of the speed and that elusive quickness with the ball in his hand."

Sorry, old school guys
It doesn't look like Pederson wants to use a roster spot on a fullback. 

While he came up in a traditional West Coast system that used the dying position, last year Pederson elected to use offensive and defensive linemen and tight ends in that lead blocker spot. 

That doesn't look like it's going to change in 2017. 

"The game has changed. If you're not adjusting to the times, those positions can sometimes be filled by other role players. That's something that we'll look at, that I'll look at. ... You're seeing the game a lot more in the shotgun, the backs are offset. Pistol formation. I might be leaning toward using that position a little bit more differently."

With future tethered to Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson not in complete control of QB

With future tethered to Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson not in complete control of QB

PHOENIX -- During his hour-long media session at the NFC coaches breakfast on Wednesday morning in Arizona, Doug Pederson was asked a simple question. 

Where is Carson Wentz right now? 

"I don't know where he is right now," Pederson said, surrounded by a pack of both national and local reporters. 

Pederson was joking. The question from a national reporter wasn't about Wentz's location, but rather about where the young quarterback is in terms of development and the head coach had some fun. 

But Pederson's answer seemed fitting. Because of league rules, coaches have to be hands-off with their players until April 17. That has to be difficult for Pederson, whose success is so greatly connected with the progress of his young star quarterback. 

"It's always the head coach and the quarterback, right? At this level?" Pederson said. "So I think that answers it. The ... success of Carson, then we all have success."

That seems to be pretty true. For now, though, Pederson simply doesn't have any control over Wentz, who has worked with private quarterback guru Adam Dedeaux this offseason. 

While Pederson didn't come out and say it on Wednesday, it would be understandable if he wasn't too thrilled about the idea of Wentz's working with a private quarterback guru on mechanics. Coaches normally like to be in control of everything -- in this case, Pederson is completely powerless. 

What changes does he expect to see in Wentz's mechanics upon his return to the NovaCare Complex in April? 

"Probably not much really," he said. "It'll be interesting when we finally get him in here to talk to him and just see how he felt about that. We just can't wait to get our hands on him, too, to begin and continue to work."

Pederson has not spoken to Dedeaux and has "no idea" about what Dedeaux and Wentz have worked on. 

When asked if he specifically told Wentz that he needed help with his mechanics, Pederson said he did not, but said he encourages all his players to develop their talent, "and if they seek out help, then they seek out help." 

Is Pederson concerned that this outside instruction could undo some of the teachings from the Eagles

"I'm not concerned with that at all," Pederson said. "I know Carson. I know his confidence, his makeup. He's got a lot of confidence in Coach (John) DeFilippo and Frank (Reich), so I'm not concerned about that."

Either way, this offseason will be much different than the last for Wentz. This time last year, the quarterback was finished with the combine and his pro day and was eagerly waiting to find out which team would draft him. The Eagles didn't even have the No. 2 pick by this point in the offseason. 

This year, Wentz is not just on the team, but is a starting franchise quarterback and the face of the entire organization. He's the focal point of everything the team now does in an effort to build around him for the future. 

"So now for him, just to be able to exhale, catch his breath and come into this offseason, knowing that he's the starter, not having to guess if he's going to be the starter is big for him," Pederson said. "It's part of his maturity, it's part of his growth at that position. We definitely want to see incremental progress. I mean, it's not going to be an overnight change, obviously. But ... each day we've got to make sure that we're getting him ready to go for Day 1, for opening day. And I know he's excited to get back, all the guys are excited to get back."

The Eagles' offseason program will begin on April 17, the first day allowed for teams with returning head coaches. At that time, Pederson will finally be able to talk to Wentz and discover what he's been up to for three and a half months. 

Until then, the head coach won't know where he is.