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 Stay or Go Part 6: Taylor Hart to Donnie Jones

Eagles Stay or Go Part 6: Taylor Hart to Donnie Jones

In the sixth 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 6 is Hart to Jones.

Taylor Hart

Roob: No matter how hard the Eagles try, they just can't get rid of Taylor Hart. Chip Kelly drafted Hart in the fifth round in 2014 and then Hart began last season with Kelly in San Francisco before reappearing here later in the season. Hart is going into his fourth NFL season and has 15 games, 12 tackles and no sacks to show for it. He turns 26 next month and has never shown any signs of being a guy who can contribute in a 4-3 defense. I’m going to say he goes, but don't be surprised if he finds his way back onto the roster at some point. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Hart was with the Eagles last training camp but cut him on Sept. 4 and he was claimed by the 49ers and Chip Kelly. Then when the Niners cut him, the Eagles claimed him back and he spent the rest of the season watching the Eagles play football. He was inactive in all but the last game and in that one he didn’t play. Hart is a former fifth-round pick who just fits better in a 3-4. The Eagles already played undrafted rookie Destiny Vaeao over him, so it’s time to set him free. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Hicks
Cap hit: $796K

Roob: Whenever you blast Chip for getting rid of Shady, DeSean and Jeremy Maclin, you have to mention that he did draft Jordan Hicks in the third round. Hicks, in just 24 games, has become one of the most productive playmaking linebackers in Eagles history. With seven interceptions, he already has the 11th-most interceptions in franchise history by a linebacker, and he led all NFL linebackers with five INTs this past season. Only four linebackers in NFL history have had more interceptions in their first two seasons – Hall of Famer Jack Ham is one of them. But Hicks is more than a ballhawk. He’s a smart, heady linebacker who is stout at the point of attack and is already developing into a terrific locker room leader as well. The future is certainly bright for Hicks.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: He just finished his second year in the NFL, but Hicks is quickly becoming one of the biggest playmaking linebackers in the league. Through the first 24 games of his career, he has seven interceptions. In his first two years, he has 7 INTs, 4 FRs, 1 FF. He’s the fifth player in NFL history to do that in his first two seasons and he’s the only linebacker. That said, Hicks needs to get better against the run and he knows it. Now that he won’t have an injury to heal from this offseason, he plans on hitting the weight room to get stronger and better at stopping the run. He looks like a cornerstone of the franchise. 

Verdict: STAYS

Malcolm Jenkins
Cap hit: $7.5M

Roob: Jenkins had another good year in his third season with the Eagles, although not quite up to his Pro Bowl level of 2015. Jenkins, who turns 30 late next season, is on the books for another four years with some pretty high cap figures — $7.5 million in 2017, then $10 million, $9.75 million and $9.25 million. But as long as Jenkins continues to play at a high level, I don’t see him going anywhere until after the 2018 season at the earliest, when he would count just $3 million in dead money if he’s released. But Jenkins is a guy you'd like to see finish his career in Philly. Hope that happens. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s hard to quantify just how much Jenkins means to the Eagles or how much he’s worth. But it’s a lot. The last two seasons have been the best of his career and he’s shown no signs of slowing down. The best Jenkins stat is this: He’s missed just eight defensive snaps since arriving in 2013. Unreal. If the Eagles chose to play him at cornerback last year, he would have probably been their best one. 

Verdict: STAYS

Lane Johnson
Cap hit: $10M

Roob: If he goes, it’ll be because of a third positive drug test. Johnson’s play in the six games he was available to the Eagles was at an All-Pro level. But after two positive tests for banned substances and suspensions of four games in 2014 and 10 games in 2016, he’s now one positive test away from a two-year ban that would essentially end his Eagles career. My gut feeling is Johnson has learned his lesson and won’t take any more chances. That he understands what’s at stake here and isn’t going to risk his career by taking a supplement that hasn’t been pre-tested and cleared. Obviously there are other reasons the Eagles were 5-1 when Johnson played. Those five wins included games against the hapless Browns and Bears and a win against a Cowboys team that wasn’t trying to win. But that said, Johnson’s value is clear. He's a beast. It’s up to Johnson whether he becomes a Pro Bowl offensive tackle or a casualty of the NFL’s substance abuse regulations. I can’t imagine he’ll make the same mistake again.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: A lot was made about Johnson’s suspension voiding the guaranteed portion of his contract. And for a week or so, a bunch of fans were calling into talk radio saying the Eagles should cut him. That was laughable. Johnson is still the Eagles’ best offensive player and as long as he stays on the field and plays the way he did in 2016, he’s going to make most of the money in his contract. He obviously deserves plenty of blame for the way last season went, but he’s a big piece of the future. One more suspension and his career is basically over, so the Eagles just have to hope he doesn’t ruin everything.  

Verdict: STAYS

Marcus Johnson

Roob: Johnson is an interesting guy. Ran a 4.37 so he has wheels, but he didn’t have much of a career at Texas. Then again, Texas didn’t have a legit quarterback while he was there so maybe there’s a lot of untapped potential. The Eagles are so desperate for help at wide receiver they’ll take a good long look at everybody on the roster, even a guy who bounced off and on the practice squad last year. This Longhorn is a longshot to make the roster, but then again, if he catches the football consistently in training camp he’ll give himself a fighting chance.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The receiver was with the Eagles during training camp and flashed some before getting hurt. He joined the practice squad during the season and was there at season’s end. He’ll be brought to camp but is a longshot to make the roster. 

Verdict: GOES

Donnie Jones
Cap hit: $1.25M

Roob: At 36 years old, the greatest punter in Eagles history (sorry Mat McBriar) showed no signs of slowing down. In his 13th NFL season, Jones averaged 45.8 yards per punt with a 40.7 net – both above his career highs. The most amazing thing about Jones is his knack for dropping punts inside the 20 without hitting very many touchbacks. He had 21 inside the 20 this year with just six touchbacks, and in four seasons with the Eagles he has 117 inside the 20 with just 26 touchbacks. When you don’t have an explosive offense, field position is critical, and Jones is a human field position flipping machine. The Eagles signed him to a three-year extension this year, and he’s now under contract through 2019.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: At times during the last two seasons, Jones has looked like the offense’s best weapon. That’s not a good sign for the offense, but it is for Jones. He’s already the best punter in team history. He’ll be 37 by the time the 2017 season starts, but he just signed a contract and will be the team’s punter for at least a couple more years if everything goes to plan. 

Verdict: STAYS

Pro athletes react to Donald Trump's inauguration

Pro athletes react to Donald Trump's inauguration

A look at some of the reaction around the sports world as Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday:

Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Richie Incognito on Twitter
"Today is the first day on the road to Making America Great Again #Inauguration2017"

Memphis Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green on Twitter
"Hope these 4 years fly by ? #TimeToPray"

Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Huston Street on Twitter
"Today we start a new chapter, let's work together, and remember only saying negative without an idea is creating divide, it does not help US"

Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee on Twitter
"Inauguration Day.. Some folks happier than they've ever been.. some folks madder than they've ever been.. what a time to be alive"

Former USWNT soccer player Lauren Holiday , to her infant daughter, on Instagram
"I may not be the president, baby but I'll promise to be your Mom. I'll teach you that your brown skin is beautiful. I'll show you that being a girl and a woman is a privilege. How being incredibly powerful means serving those around you and fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves. I will tell you about Jesus and how he taught us to love unconditionally. We will have many talks about equality and I will always encourage generosity. One day if you ask me what you can be, I will smile and say absolutely anything. I'll tell you whatever it is you choose, be kind. I'll fight for you, I'll cheer for you and I'll love you along the way. But most of all, I'll make sure you're hopeful. So today, baby, I'll choose hope."

Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum on Twitter
"Appreciate you Mr. 44"

Atlanta Hawks guard Thabo Sefolosha on Twitter
"The only President my 2 daughters have known. Feels strange going from them to the new guy. Thanks for the class act Barack and Michelle !"

Former Texas and NFL receiver Jordan Shipley on Twitter
"Heard God's word in the inauguration speech. I care about our country being under God a lot more than I care about politics or parties."

Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul on Twitter
"Thank You!!! #44"

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady when asked on Friday if he called Trump to congratulate him.
"Let's talk about football."