10 observations from Eagles-Patriots

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10 observations from Eagles-Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Curtis Marsh, Allen Barbre, Beau Allen, Brandon Graham, Alex Henery, Mark Sanchez and much more in 10 observations from the Patriots’ 42-35 preseason win over the Eagles Friday night at Gillette Stadium (see Instant Replay):

1. Yeah, I’m concerned about the starting defense. I know it was Tom Brady, and I know he does this to a lot of people, and I know the Eagles aren’t dipping too deeply into Billy Davis’ playbook. But still. Not good. I really would just like to see a higher level of competition from this group, especially on third down. Cary Williams’ INT was a good sign, but I just don’t see anything special yet in terms of pass rush, run defense or coverage. The first unit has been on the field for six drives in two preseason games and allowed three touchdowns. I expect the starters to play well into the third quarter next week against the Steelers, and they need to stop somebody and just put together a consistent game against somebody.

2. I still think the Eagles are going to be deadly on offense. Nick Foles, playing without either of his starting wide receivers, bounced back from that Chicago debacle with a crisp 8-for-10, 81-yard performance, including a touchdown pass. He looked really sharp. The first offense still lacks consistency, but I’m not concerned. They’ll be fine.

3. I am growing increasingly worried with Barbre. Based on the way he played against the Packers in place of injured Jason Peters last year, I thought he’d be performing at a much higher level. I’d consider getting Dennis Kelly some work at right tackle with the first group. I like the way he battled at the end of 2012. Barbre is scaring me.

4. Was encouraging to see Jordan Matthews really raise his level of play after a disappointing debut in Chicago last week. Matthews caught nine passes for 104 yards after a two-drop, 14-yard debut against the Bears. Matthews just didn’t look comfortable in Chicago, which is understandable considering it was his first NFL game. Looked like a different guy Friday night. The kid’s got all the tools. The kid is going to be special.

5. He’s the longest of longshots, but was really happy to see Henry Josey with a big game. The undrafted rookie missed all of 2012 at Missouri after tearing his ACL late in 2011 but bounced back with a big 2013 season. You always root for those kind of guys. Josey thought his career was over a couple years ago, but there he was Friday night with a huge game -- 8 for 56 rushing along with a shifty 27-yard touchdown reception. That’s 83 yards from scrimmage, all in the third quarter. With three other backup running backs hurt, Josey earned a long look, and granted it was against the Patriots’ backups, but he looked really good. Hey, get him on the practice squad. Keep him around. Maybe the kid can play.

6. Was just excruciating to watch Marsh. He has been better at practice this summer, but he looked absolutely lost out there against the Patriots, allowing three touchdowns (to three different quarterbacks) and committing two penalties. Got to the point where you just felt bad for him. I mean, he was worse than Roc Carmichael, and that’s not easy to do.

7. Let’s talk Allen. This kid shouldn’t just make the team, he should play. He’s a beast. He’s strong, tough, quick, physical. Every time I watch him, he’s blowing somebody up. Davis has to find a role for him.

8. It’s a shame that two of the Eagles’ best pass rushers -- Vinny Curry and Graham -- just don’t fit into Davis’ scheme. Graham isn’t going anywhere, just because the Eagles can’t afford to give up depth at outside linebacker. But it would be nice to see the Eagles trade Curry to a 4-3 team where he could really contribute. I would think he’s put enough good film together that a team would give up a conditional late-round pick for him. Curry can get to the quarterback, but he just can’t play in a 3-4. Hope he can find his way to a team where he’s a better fit.

9. He did have a bad interception Friday night, but overall I really like what I’ve seen from Sanchez in the two preseason games. With his 11-for-12, 117-yard, two-TD performance Friday night, he’s now a combined 18 for 22 this preseason for 196 yards. That’s 82 percent accuracy. And he’s generated four touchdowns in seven drives so far. He just looks confident, in control, accurate. If something happened to Foles, the Eagles are in good hands with Sanchez. He’s been impressive.

10. I wish I could tell you the Eagles will be able to find a better option that Henery, but they can’t. His miss Friday night was from 47 yards, and those are the tough kicks he has to make. He’s not the worst kicker in the league. He’s still 11th in NFL history in accuracy at 86 percent, and he’s 85 percent for his career in that key 40-to-49 range. The numbers look fine, but I don’t think anybody trusts him on a big kick, late in the game, beyond about 42 yards. I just don’t think there are any better options.

Eagles Injury Update: Mathews and Matthews to return to practice

Eagles Injury Update: Mathews and Matthews to return to practice

If you're searching for some good news following the Eagles' dismal 32-14 loss to the Bengals on Sunday afternoon, here it is. 

Jordan Matthews (ankle) and Ryan Mathews (knee) are going to return to practice this week, head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. 

Ryan Mathews, who suffered an MCL sprain against Seattle, has missed the last two weeks. The Eagles averaged just 77 yards rushing in those two losses, going with Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner. 

Jordan Matthews, who has been the Eagles' best and most consistent receiver this season, suffered an ankle sprain against the Packers and was inactive on Sunday against the Bengals. It was the first game he ever missed in college or in the NFL. 

Wideout Dorial Green-Beckham, who injured his midsection and got X-rays during the game, has an oblique contusion, according to Pederson. Green-Beckham is sore and will be held from practice on Wednesday, but Pederson expects him to be "OK" for the Washington game on Sunday. 

Pederson said right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai is "coming along," but isn't yet ready to return. 

"He's going to do a little more this week, not from a practice standpoint but from a rehab standpoint, and he's doing good," Pederson said. "But we'll see where he is again later in the week."

In Vaitai's absence, left guard Allen Barbre has shifted from left guard to right tackle and Stefen Wisniewski has replaced him at left guard. 

Doug Pederson admits 'not everybody' played hard in Eagles' loss

Doug Pederson admits 'not everybody' played hard in Eagles' loss

Doug Pederson’s press conference was humming along as expected on Monday morning, the day after the team’s 32-14 loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati. 

Like he did minutes after the game, Pederson again expressed the idea that the Eagles didn’t lose for lack of effort. 

“I didn’t see any quit in the guys,” he said several different ways throughout the 19-minute session with reporters. 

The effort’s there. There’s no quit. 

Those are the types of responses we’ve become accustomed to hearing from Pederson over the last couple of weeks after embarrassing losses. And it looked like that was how Monday was going to end, with that same message being repeated ad nauseum. 

Until Pederson made a shocking admission. 

Could he honestly say every one of his players played hard against Cincinnati?

“Not everybody,” he said. “Not everybody, and that's the accountability that I talk about. You know, I hold coaches accountable for that. I hold myself accountable for that because it all starts with me and I pride myself each week to make sure the guys are ready to go. 
 
“But at the same time, it comes down to a mentality by each individual player. You know, this is a business where we have to be ready to go every single weekend because every team in the league -- I mean, there's some teams that are better than others, obviously -- but for the most part, anything can happen each weekend.”
 
Not everybody. The admission of that fact is far more shocking than the reality. Fans who watched Sunday’s game will probably be able to pinpoint several plays where one or more Eagles might not have given full effort. 
 
But for a first-year head coach to come out and admit it in public is rare. Perhaps Pederson felt emboldened to say something because he’s been assured of his status within the organization (see story). On Monday, he said he “for sure” thinks his job is secure after this season based on reassurance from Jeff Lurie and Howie Roseman. 
 
While Pederson said it publicly, the conversation between him and his players about accountability will continue. It seems unlikely Pederson will take it a step further by cutting or benching players, but his team will definitely hear the message its head coach put out on Monday. 
 
While Pederson commented that “not everybody” played hard, it seems like he’s convinced that portion of the team is the minority. Overall, he’s still convinced that guys are buying in. The reason he gave was the feedback he’s been getting back from his leadership council (a group of veteran leaders he has depended on throughout the season). 
 
Earlier in the press conference, Pederson was asked about one play in particular, when Zach Ertz failed to block Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict as Carson Wentz scrambled for a 10-yard gain in the first quarter. The video shows Ertz making an effort to avoid the linebacker.
 
“Looking at the tape and watching where Carson was scrambling of course he was heading toward out of bounds and I think he just pulled off at that point,” Pederson said. “That’s all I can say. But I’m definitely going to ask him why.”

With a 5-7 record, the Eagles’ playoff chances are all but completely gone, so the last quarter of the season will be about effort, pride and finding out who wants to be back on the team in 2017. 

To end his press conference, Pederson was asked if this Eagles team needs to be “loved up” or if it’s time for some tough love.  

“I think it's both. I think it's both,” he said. “I think there's a level of that tough love. There's got to be that accountability that I was talking about. You know, I implore and I challenge the leaders of the football team to stand up and really not only hold themselves [accountable] but the rest of the team. Listen, it's not a panic move or anything like that, but just, ‘Hey, let's just make sure we're doing things right.’ Everybody just do things right, do their jobs, do their assignments, you know, and good things are going to happen. 

“Obviously, again, it starts with me, and I've got to make sure that I'm doing it right and I'm holding myself accountable, and as you mentioned earlier with Jeffrey and Howie, if they're holding me accountable and all that, that's where it starts, and then I relay that message to the assistants and on to the team.”