Winners and Losers From Philadelphia Eagles Fourth Preseason Game
Mercifully, preseason action is now officially over for the Philadelphia Eagles. The team’s fourth preseason game resulted in a 16-10 loss to the New York Jets, but the final score was entirely meaningless. The only thing that did truly matter was the chance for Eagles head coach, Doug Pederson, to make one less evaluation on the small group of players on the roster bubble.
Even though the score didn’t matter and the action was difficult to watch, there was still something to be gleaned from the final game action before the season. Here are the winners and losers coming out of the last preseason game.
Winner: Doug Pederson
It seems odd to have Pederson as a “winner” when his previously unblemished preseason record as a head coach went up in smoke. Running his second training camp, however, Pederson made it clear that his focus was on the season opener. His number one goal was to make sure that the team was healthy going up against Washington on Sept. 10. Well, by that measure, Pederson came out on top. The Eagles suffered no major injuries. Kudos, Doug!
Sure, nobody has any idea how well Carson Wentz will fit with new wideouts, Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith since the trio barely played together. And, yes, the offensive line looked out of sync during the brief period that we saw the starters on the field together. But, hey, they’re all (mostly) healthy.
Loser: The Fans
Of course, part of the reason that the Eagles suffered no major injuries during the preseason was because Pederson kept most of the team encased in bubble-wrap throughout August. With the NFL changing the rules from an initial cut down between the third and fourth preseason games, to just one giant release party on Saturday, there was a full complement of roster wannabes available for the final game.
The Eagles took full advantage of that by not only holding out the starters completely but also holding out most of the top reserves. Having to watch what was left try and make it through a game was the equivalent of watching a high school scrimmage. The only saving grace is that the game was played in New York, so Eagles’ season ticket holders at least didn’t have to pay for it.
Loser: Donnel Pumphrey
The Eagles fourth-round draft pick was already in a battle to make the team. It would be unusual for a team to give up on a fairly high pick so quickly, but Pumphrey has made a strong argument to be an exception. The all-time FBS rushing leader from San Diego State managed just 10 yards on seven carries. After struggling in the role earlier in the preseason, Pumphrey at least had a decent showing as a returner. He averaged 26.7 yards on three kickoffs and 9.6 yards on five punts, and managed not to muff any this time.
It’s a really bad look for de facto GM, Howie Roseman if a player whom he moved up in the draft to take is cut. It might be an even worse look if he stays on the team without merit. It’s a safe bet that the team is currently trying to convince the running back and his reps that he should spend the year on IR.
Winner: Corey Clement
The undrafted free agent running back from Wisconsin certainly looks like he’s made the team at this point. He started the game in the backfield and was pulled after rushing four times for 16 yards. He also saw his role on special teams increase, which is important for a player trying to make the back end of the roster.
Mostly, Clement has only looked good in comparison to Pumphrey, while averaging a scant 3.8 yards per carry. While he should make it to Sunday still on the roster, he shouldn’t get comfortable. Running back is the prime position that Roseman will be scanning the waiver wire for on Saturday night.
Winner: Chris Wilson
Wilson, the Eagles defensive line coach, has to be feeling pretty good. The Jets started their first team offense, and Wilson’s reserves kept that from being a big deal. Defensive tackle Beau Allen returned unexpectedly early from a torn pectoral muscle and looked good. Sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls was disruptive from the tackle position and firmed up his spot on the roster. All in all, the Eagles defensive line looks just as deep as everyone expected it to be.
Loser: Cory Undlin
By contrast, Undlin, the team’s defensive backs coach, has to be hoping that Roseman can help bolster his depth. In fairness, the Eagles held out almost every cornerback and safety who will play a significant role on the team against the Jets. Somewhat surprisingly, that included Patrick Robinson, who it appears will be the team’s slot corner this season. Given the nature of the NFL, though, team’s have to be ready to play a high number of defensive backs.
Dexter McDougle, who was just acquired from the Jets, looked understandably lost. C.J. Smith, whom many observers thought could be the Eagles top reserve on the outside, didn’t look much better. Worse, Undlin’s group made Christian Hackenberg look like an actual NFL quarterback. That can never happen. If the Eagles suffer injuries in the defensive backfield, they’re in a world of trouble.
Winner: Nick Foles and Darren Sproles
The plan all along was to save Sproles. The mighty mite running back is 34-years-old and deserves a break. Pederson gave him one by not playing the veteran at any point during the preseason. That was not the plan, however, with Foles. The backup quarterback was signed to a five-year, $27.5 million contract to provide insurance for Wentz. Foles has been on the shelf for most of the preseason with an elbow injury. That might be problematic from a roster standpoint, but good for Foles for getting a head start on doing nothing beyond carrying a clipboard.
Loser: Matt McGloin
Thanks to Foles’ injury and keeping Wentz out of harm’s way, McGloin had a chance to make an impression. The former Penn State and Oakland Raiders quarterback threw 109 passes throughout the preseason. That’s a ton, in case you’re wondering. He also completed 69.7 percent of his throws, which is pretty good.
However, McGloin has been wholly unimpressive at every turn. So much so that it’s actually made it hard to evaluate wide receivers on the bubble like Marcus Johnson, Shelton Gibson, and Greg Ward. He certainly got enough work so that every quarterback-depleted team in the league got a good look at him. Unfortunately for him, that might turn out to be a bad thing.
But, hey, if being an NFL quarterback doesn’t work out, maybe McGloin should consider a move to Westeros.
Matt McGloin rides off the field on a dragon while breathing fire after his magical FG drive in the fourth preseason game. pic.twitter.com/BnLIa89Kbg
— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) August 31, 2017
Loser: New York Jets
Yes, this is an article about the Philadelphia Eagles, but the Jets are so egregiously bad that they can’t be ignored. Head coach Todd Bowles decided to put his starters on both offense and defense on the field to start the game. That goes against what seemingly every other NFL team is doing this year.
That almost came back to haunt him when Josh McCown, who was named the team’s starter earlier in the week, went out with an injury. The quarterback was hit hard by Eagles reserve linebacker Joe Walker and left the field holding his ribs. In true Jets fashion, Bowles then put McCown back into the meaningless game a couple of plays later. New York won the game, but their starter’s performance against Philadelphia’s deep reserves did nothing to assuage the fears of Jets fans.