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.

NFL Playoffs: Falcons, Patriots win in routs to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Falcons, Patriots win in routs to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons (see full recap).

Brady, Patriots dominate Steelers in 36-17 rout to clinch Super Bowl berth
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Tom Brady redemption tour is headed to the Super Bowl.

After beginning the 2016 season suspended for four games for his role in the "Deflategate" scandal, the New England quarterback relentlessly carried the Patriots to an unprecedented ninth appearance in the title game, and his seventh. Brady threw for a franchise playoff-best 384 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-17 rout of the helpless Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in New England's seventh consecutive AFC championship game.

The Patriots are early 3-point favorites heading to face Atlanta in two weeks in Houston, seeking their fifth NFL title with Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick as coach. Belichick's seventh appearance in a Super Bowl will be a record for a head coach.

Brady was banned by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell when New England (16-2) went 3-1 to open the schedule.

Since his return in Week 5, the only defeat came at home to Seattle, and Brady, 39, had one of the best seasons of a Hall of Fame-caliber career. He punctuated that in dreary weather similar to the 2014 conference title game that precipitated the deflated footballs investigation by flattening Pittsburgh's secondary.

Chris Hogan was his main weapon. The previously unheralded receiver found open spaces everywhere on the field against a leaky secondary. Hogan caught nine balls for 180 yards and two scores.

Top wideout Julian Edelman added eight receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown as Brady tied Joe Montana's playoff record with nine three-TD passing performances. Brady also had his 11th 300-yard postseason game, extending his NFL record, completing 32 of 42 throws.

Pittsburgh (13-6) lost star running back Le'Veon Bell late in the first quarter to a groin injury. It didn't seem to matter much in a record 16th conference title match for the Steelers, who made mistakes in every facet of the game. The franchise that has won the most Super Bowls, six, and the most postseason games, 36, never seemed likely to challenge in the misty rain (see full recap).

Stay or Go Part 7: Jason Kelce to Byron Marshall

Stay or Go Part 7: Jason Kelce to Byron Marshall

In the seventh of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — part 7 is Kelce to Marshall.

Jason Kelce
Cap hit: $6.2M

Roob: I’ll start by saying that Kelce did not play as horribly this past season as some people make it sound like. He was inconsistent. He committed too many penalties. He got pushed around by some bigger defensive tackles. But he remains a very smart, very athletic center who got better as the season went on and was actually playing pretty good football late in the year. That said, Kelce turns 30 next season, the Eagles are trying to get younger and a 30-year-old center with a $6.2 million cap figure is a luxury the Eagles just can’t afford right now. They can save $3.8 million by releasing Kelce, and considering how Isaac Seumalo played when he was in there this past season, moving on from Kelce definitely has some merit. Seumalo comes with a $764,966 cap figure, he just turned 23 and he’s got tons of upside. It’s all about what the roster is going to look like in a couple years, when the Eagles should be in position to get into the playoffs and make a run. Do you want a 32-year-old center in his ninth season? No. This is the time to make the change. Get Seumalo as much experience as possible, as much work with Carson Wentz as possible. There’s no guarantee he’ll become the player Kelce has been, but he was a third-round pick and the Eagles need to find out if he's going to be the guy. And that $3.8 million in cap space is big too. Kelce has been a terrific Eagle for a long time, but it’s time to move on. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Kelce has become an unpopular player in recent years and it’s easy to see why. He’s slightly undersized center and just can’t take on nose tackles 1-on-1. But he’s still very good getting downfield to block and hasn’t been nearly as bad as you think. Throughout the season, Kelce was pretty honest when assessing his play and said he knew he needed to get better to stay in Philly. There have been reports the Eagles have been thinking about moving on from Kelce, and I see why that makes sense, especially with Isaac Seumalo waiting. But Kelce can be a constant for Carson Wentz, and it's all about Carson Wentz. 

Verdict: STAYS

Mychal Kendricks
Cap hit: $6.6M

Roob: Kendricks, on the other hand, may still have more value to the Eagles here than elsewhere. You could save $1.8 million under the cap by releasing him, and maybe they will. But, geeze, he’s still just 26 years old and still has the athleticism and tools that made him the 46th player taken in the 2012 draft. I’m not sure what happened to Kendricks. Somewhere along the line, all that potential just sort of stopped turning into plays. Kendricks had 12 sacks, three interceptions and six forced fumbles in his first four seasons but no big plays this past year as his playing time dwindled. I have to think Kendricks is worth keeping around for another year and trying to salvage something out of him on special teams if nothing else. Kendricks was drafted ahead of Bobby Wagner and Lavonte David. Do you just give up on him before his 27th birthday? And it’s not like the Eagles are exactly loaded with young talent at linebacker. So I think they try one more year with Kendricks. 

Verdict: STAYS 

Dave: What’s happened to Kendricks over the past few years has been wild. He went from ultimate fan favorite on the brink of becoming a Pro Bowler with a new contract to a complete afterthought. Kendricks barely played in 2016 and it was clear he wasn’t happy about that. Maybe he can make a difference in a different defense. He’s still young and athletic and could fit in another defense. The Eagles should try everything they can to trade him and get something out of him. It wouldn't save them a lot of money ($1.8 million), but it might just be time to cut ties. 

Verdict: GOES

Bennie Logan
Unrestricted free agent

Roob: I know it looks tough right now to imagine the Eagles finding a way to re-sign Logan, who is an unrestricted free agent and is going to get some pretty hefty offers if he hits the open market. But this is what Howie is best at. Finding ways to keep guys he wants to keep. The Eagles are not going to let a solid, consistent 27-year-old defensive tackle walk. General rule: When a team wants to keep a player and the player wants to stay, they find a way to get it done. By releasing and restructuring other guys, they’ll make room under the cap for Logan. I have a hunch he’s not going anywhere.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Logan is the Eagles’ biggest to-be free agent. He’s said he wants to be back in Philly next year and has talked about the friendships he has on the team, but this is a chance for a big payday – and you never know if one will come again. Because Logan has shown his ability to play in a 4-3 and a 3-4 defense, the number of teams interested in him won’t be limited. That will raise the price. And ultimately, it comes down to price. The Eagles already have a ton of money invested in their defensive line. Will they prioritize signing one more? 

Verdict: GOES

Rick Lovato

Roob: Lovato is one of the two-best long snappers the Eagles have had in the last decade. He got three games in after long-time long snapper Jon Dorenbos suffered a season-ending broken wrist, and he acquitted himself fine. But assuming Dorenbos wants to hold off on a full-time magic career and keep playing football, he’s the guy.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Sorry long-snapper Lovato. You did just fine filling in for Dorenbos, but it’s still the magic man’s job.

Verdict: GOES

Chris Maragos
Cap hit: $2.25M

Roob: With apologies to Kenny Rose, Quintin Mikell, Colt Anderson and Ike Reese, Maragos is the best special teams player I’ve ever seen wear an Eagles uniform. Maragos is 30 years old now, but he ceratinly showed no signs of slowing down. The Eagles did the right thing and locked him up for three more years. We probably don’t talk enough about Dave Fipp’s special teams units, but they have always been among the best in the NFL, and Maragos is one of the main reasons why. He’s one key guy the Eagles don’t have to worry about losing. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Maragos is no longer a defensive player and that’s just fine because he’s an absolutely dynamic special teams player. Really. It’s incredible to watch this guy play teams and there aren’t many who do it near as well. With a new contract, he’ll be around for a few more years and as long as he doesn’t show the signs of age, he will still be playing at a high level. 

Verdict: STAYS

Byron Marshall

Roob: Marshall, an undrafted rookie, got a chance to play late in the season with all the other injuries the Eagles’ running backs had, and he acquitted himself OK, especially in the Dallas game, where he ran 10 times for 42 yards. But the bottom line is with Ryan Mathews not likely to return and Darren Sproles a year from retirement, the Eagles really need to re-build their running back corps from the ground up. Whether there’s room for Marshall in that new-look running back corps remains to be seen. Marshall did enough to earn a look in training camp, but the practice squad remains his most likely landing spot. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Marshall, the undrafted running back from Oregon, got a chance to play toward the end of the season and did some nice things. He’s a shifty running back, so fans really seem to like him. Heck, everyone enjoys watching him play. But it took him all year to get a chance and the team doesn’t seem too high on him. He’ll be with the team during training camp but probably not on the roster after that. 

Verdict: GOES