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Instant Analysis: Grading the Eagles' preseason opener

Instant Analysis: Grading the Eagles' preseason opener

The Eagles fell 24-9 in their preseason opener to the Green Bay Packers, though the result on the scoreboard is of no importance. We'll come back with more in-depth analysis of the tape from the first exhibition game, but here is our instant analysis of how the team fared on Thursday.

Quarterbacks
Carson Wentz made a pair sensational plays, twice stepping out of sacks to complete third-down passes, the second of which wound up going for a 38-yard touchdown. Wentz connected on all four of his passes for 56 yards, though he sailed a two-point conversion attempt incomplete. Matt McGloin looked sharp — when he got his feet set. The Penn State grad completed 28 of 42 for 205 yards with an interception, and failed to move the offense across the goal line.

Grade: A-

Running backs
Tough to evaluate the backs, as they were given very little room to run. Donnel Pumphrey had a rough NFL debut. Pumphrey appeared to fumble on his first carry, but was ruled down, and the fifth-round pick may have run the wrong route on an interception. Undrafted rookie Corey Clement provided a late spark in the passing game with two receptions for 31 yards.

Grade: C-

Wide receivers
Neither Alshon Jeffery nor Torrey Smith played, and the receivers were still phenomenal. Fourth-round rookie Mack Hollins stiff-armed two Packers defenders on his way to a 38-yard touchdown, part of a four-catch, 64-yard debut. Bryce Treggs led all Eagles wideouts with seven receptions for 91 yards. Jordan Matthews played for one series, hauling in three passes, including conversions on third and fourth down. This was a promising outing from top to bottom.

Grade: A

Tight ends
Not a good night for Eagles tight ends. Zach Ertz appeared to miss several blocking assignments. Trey Burton and Billy Brown each lost fumbles.

Grade: F

Offensive line
First and foremost, the Eagles were unable to mount any type of ground attack, finishing with 32 yards on 17 carries — a 1.9-yard average. The unit's problems didn't end there, as the first-team O-line allowed a fair amount of pressure on Wentz as well, including a sack. To be fair, Green Bay was loading up the box and blitzing, but the offense still needs to be able to run the football and keep the quarterback upright. The reserves fared slightly better in protection, and no better at opening holes for ball carriers.

Grade: D

Defensive line
Tremendous debut for first-round pick Derek Barnett, who tormented Green Bay's second-string offensive linemen to the tune of 2.0 sacks. Brandon Graham stuffed a run in the backfield, and Fletcher Cox forced a fumble. But the surprise performance of the game goes to Alex McCalister. The 2016 seventh-round choice registered a sack and a pair of hurries after spending his rookie season on injured reserve. Good pressure throughout, not to mention Green Bay was limited to 45 yards on the ground.

Grade: A

Linebackers
Very active. Though he was not credited with a forced fumble, Jordan Hicks arrived on the scene to help jar a ball loose. Najee Goode had three tackles, including a stop in the backfield. Mychal Kendricks had two tackles and an interception. And rookie Nathan Gerry made three tackles as well, although he took a bad angle and missed one, too.

Grade: A-

Defensive backs
This was an uneven performance, as anybody following the team might expect. Jalen Mills was consistently tight in coverage. Terrence Brooks made two tackles for loss. Undrafted rookie Tre Sullivan was a physical presence. That was the good. Patrick Robinson got bailed out by a couple of dropped passes. C.J. Smith was less fortunate, getting torched for a 20-yard touchdown. Nobody made a case to win the starting cornerback job opposite Mills.

Grade: B-

Special teams
Uncharacteristically brutal. The Packers returned two punts for 94 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown. Pumphrey and Greg Ward each muffed a punt, though both were somehow able to recover. And Caleb Sturgis hit the upright on a 46-yard field goal to close out the first half. The kickoff coverage unit was solid, preventing this from being a total disaster.

Grade: D

Coaching
It's preseason. About the only thing to evaluate here was the usage of key players, and it was what it needed to be. Wentz played one series. Cox and Hicks were in for two. Jeffery didn't play at all. In short, no real complaints here.

Grade: NA

Kennett Square's Jack Regenye makes catch-of-the-year at Junior League World Series

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USA Today Images

Kennett Square's Jack Regenye makes catch-of-the-year at Junior League World Series

Sunday gave us the catch-of-the-year. And it didn't come from MLB, or the minors, but from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania's Jack Regenye in the Junior League World Series.

Just take a look at this. Then watch it again and again, trying to figure out how this is possible. 

After being initially ruled an out, the umps reversed the call, calling it a home run. After more deliberation, it was finally ruled an out because rules be damned, when a catch is that good, you have to count it.

Regenye's Junior League team (ages 13-14) went on to lose to Chinese Taipei, 12-1. 

With Odubel Herrera on the DL, maybe the Phils should give Regenye a call.

Eagles' latest Achilles heel emerges in preseason

Eagles' latest Achilles heel emerges in preseason

Right when the Eagles get finished plugging one potential hole, another springs up.

For months, cornerback was considered by far the greatest weakness on the Eagles' roster, but Howie Roseman appears to have taken care of that with the trade for Ronald Darby. Now, all of a sudden, the Eagles' secondary has the potential to be a strength in 2017.

Yet, just as the plan at corner is beginning to take shape, another concern is emerging halfway through the preseason, at a position many fans thought Roseman solidified in May. Running back looks like it could quickly become a serious problem for the Eagles if it hasn’t reached that point already.

It’s only preseason, and the offensive line hasn’t done him any favors, but LeGarrette Blount has nine carries for 17 yards with a fumble in two games. Fifth-round draft pick Donnel Pumphrey – who the coaching staff seemed enamored with this spring — has 14 total touches for 34 yards. After a strong start at training camp, Wendell Smallwood has yet to play in an exhibition game due to a hamstring injury. And by now, everybody is aware 34-year-old Darren Sproles isn’t an every-down back.

The best any running back has looked in exhibition games is undrafted rookie Corey Clement, by far. Whether that’s a testament to his development or a commentary on the state of the backfield is a matter of perspective.

Regardless, you could’ve seen this mess coming from a mile away.

The Blount signing was met with tremendous enthusiasm when it really should’ve been met with tremendous skepticism. Though he rushed for 1,161 yards and led the NFL with 18 touchdowns in 2016, Blount averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, sat by in free agency as the Patriots moved to replace him, and turns 31 in December. He’s never been a threat as a receiver, and even his gaudy numbers last season with the Super Bowl champions were an outlier compared to the rest of his career.

The reality is Blount is not a mortal lock to make the Eagles' roster. He likely will, because he still has value in short yardage and at the goal line, and most of all, because the competition hasn’t made enough of a push. However, releasing Blount would only cost the Eagles $400,000 against the salary cap, according to OverTheCap.com, while his age and the limitations of his skill set are worth reiterating.

The question is what then?

While the Eagles have toyed with getting Pumphrey and Sproles on the field at the same time, projections as to how prevalent those designer packages would be always felt ambitious as well. Listed at 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, Pumphrey has not looked like an NFL-ready player through two games. Even if he is ready to contribute, that is not an offense designed with running the football in mind.

The Eagles’ ability to let Blount go would seem to hinge almost solely on Smallwood. Of course, it was an unwillingness to rely on a second-year player with 83 touches that caused the club to seek veteran help in the first place.

Smallwood is not an unimpressive prospect. A fifth-round draft pick from West Virginia a year ago, Smallwood has the size and athletic ability to handle the bulk of the work. He was running with authority in camp. He simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy, which is his biggest shortcoming at this point, aside from inexperience. It’s impossible to tell whether Smallwood is in line to finish with the most touches in this backfield (regardless of Blount’s presence) or if he’s fighting for his job.

Clement is the bright spot in all of this and arrives as a more polished pass protector than Smallwood was as a rookie. Seeing as inexperience was one of the primary reasons the Eagles weren’t willing to entrust Smallwood as the primary ball carrier, it’s difficult to imagine Clement could be the guy the in September.

Again, some of the culpability for Blount’s struggles falls on the offensive line. Some. Blount’s last season in New England was far from the norm, and for most of his eight-year career, he’s been purely a situational player. Even under optimal circumstances, expecting him to recreate last season’s numbers, or come close, never made much sense.

And while it would be easy to chalk up the pitiful ground attack as a symptom of the preseason, the fact is these games have exposed a problem that’s been lurking beneath the surface. Blount is old and not an ideal fit for the Eagles' offense. Pumphrey is an undersized rookie. Sproles is Sproles. Smallwood is a mystery.

Up until a week ago, everybody was worried about the cornerbacks. Before that, it was the wide receivers, until the Eagles made significant investments in talent over the offseason. All along, there’s been an underrated need at running back, or at the very least, an uncertainty.

Try as he might, Roseman can’t seem to find a solution for every hole on the roster — and it’s beginning to look like running back is the spot the Eagles might spring a leak.