The Super Bowl Champion Eagles finally began their quest of defending their title with their preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field last Thursday. While a lot of big names didn’t play, there were still plenty of takeaways from the Eagles first game action since Super Bowl LII. Here are winners and losers from preseason game No. 1, which resulted in a 31-14 loss to the Steelers.
Fletcher Cox/Eagles starting D
On the second play, Cox easily went around Steeler’s All-Pro guard David DeCastro to sack Landry Jones. Cox then hustled to make a first-down saving tackle on James Conner two plays later. The entire starting defensive unit allowed only two yards on six plays.
Yeah, this kid comes as advertised when the Eagles traded up to grab him away from the Dallas Cowboys at No. 49 overall in this year’s draft.
Goedert finished the game with four catches for 66 yards and a 15-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter that helped give the Eagles an 8-7 lead. He also averaged 16.5 yards per reception. All night, you can tell the rookie out of South Dakota State quickly provided a security blanket for quarterback Nate Sudfeld.
He even had key block on the weak side that allowed for a decent gain on a Corey Clement run in the second quarter.
Goedert did have one drop on the second series, wide open, right in the breadbasket. That was one he’d like to have back. But hey, the kid’s going to be a stud.
Boy what a difference a year makes for the undrafted rookie free agent, now in his second season. After a rookie season to remember, Clement showed what more he can do out of the backfield.
Not only does he have his tremendous pass catching ability out of the backfield, but also showed he can run effectively in between the tackles and showed toughness. Clement also demonstrated his great cutback ability against Pittsburgh’s and Temple’s own Tyler Matakevich in the second quarter for a first down run.
After throwing an ugly interception on his second pass attempt, Sudfeld was able to bounce back to lead two good-looking touchdown drives.
His two best throws were both his touchdown passes to Goedert and Shelton Gibson. On the touchdown to Goedert, Sudfeld extended the play, squared his shoulders nicely on the run and hit his tight end in stride. On the touchdown to Gibson, Sudfeld showed he recognized man coverage and Gibson had a very favorable matchup and took advantage.
Sudfeld did have a second interception, but it may not have been his fault entirely, as it looked like a miscommunication with Bryce Treggs.
But overall, Sudfeld showed why the Eagles coaching staff has so much faith in him. He showed his mobility and a fairly strong arm, and the fact that he was able to bounce back from both interceptions, especially the first one, shows he has good mental toughness and leadership. That’s what was most impressive.
Gibson displayed some great kick returns as teams continue to figure out the new kickoff formation rule, then had a big 63-yard touchdown reception on a double move against Pittsburgh’s Dashaun Phillips late in the first half. Gibson led the Eagles in receiving with 77 yards on two catches and the touchdown. A very good start for a guy who came in as a “bubble” player to hold on to a roster spot.
It wasn’t a bad night for Douglas, but he missed some plays he should make, especially when he’s in a tight battle for a roster spot at cornerback.
Douglas didn’t play the ball well on a free play that resulted in a 71-yard touchdown to JuJu Smith-Schuster in the first quarter. It looked like he may have gotten caught taking the play off when the flag was thrown. Douglas also allowed a second touchdown to Pittsburgh’s Damoun Patterson, and though the coverage was better, Douglas still could’ve played the ball better if he played it with more depth. Then on special teams, he got caught flat-footed defending a punt return on the outside.
Douglas did come back with nice interception of Josh Dobbs late in the second quarter, a play after Sudfeld through a second interception. Douglas also had first-down saving tackle too. But overall, not a good start to the preseason.
Last year’s third-round pick is on the verge of becoming a major disappointment. After losing the starting left guard job when the Eagles coaching staff basically tried to hand it to him, Seumalo has struggled all camp now that he’s been moved to center, especially with snapping the ball consistently. Two high snaps really cost the Eagles in the game.
In another tight position battle, Qualls committed three penalties. He jumped offsides on the Smith-Schuster touchdown in the first quarter, then was called for holding during Pittsburgh’s second touchdown drive, and another in the third.
The Eagles were called twice for the new lowering the helmet rule. One was called on Sidney Jones that allowed a Pittsburgh drive to continue, which led to a touchdown in the first half. The second came in the second half against Richard Rodgers, which took off an 81-yard punt by Cameron Johnston. Both calls however, were perfectly legitimate.