The preseason opener is in the books as the Eagles defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 17-9. It was great to get the win, but the first-team offense was crisp in its one drive as running back Ryan Mathews scored on a 5-yard touchdown run. The defense forced four turnovers and the special teams took the ball away from the Bucs on the opening kickoff to set the tone for the game.
The players are off on Friday, as practice resumes at the NovaCare Complex on Saturday. On Sunday, join us at the Linc for the final Open Practice of Training Camp as we honor the men and women of the armed forces on Military Appreciation Day. Gates open at 5 PM, practice begins at 7 PM. Parking and admission are free.
For a recap of the big stories from Thursday night, here are the 5 Things to Know for Friday, August 12 ...
1. Carson Wentz Proved He Belongs
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft entered the game with 1:19 remaining in the first half to a roaring ovation from the fans at Lincoln Financial Field.
The stats weren't necessarily pretty, but quarterback Carson Wentz finished 12-of-24 for 89 yards with an interception. He led the Eagles on one scoring drive, a field goal, and engineered an 11-play drive into the red zone before throwing the pick.
"I thought some plays were made. I thought there were still some plays that needed to be made that were left on the field," Wentz said after the game. "The interception in the red zone is something you never want to do. That ball sailed on me, got away from me. But overall, there are a lot of good things to build on and I thought as a team, we're walking away with a win. At the end of the day, that's a positive."
And his teammates came away impressed with the rookie's debut.
"I thought Carson did a great job out there tonight," Bradford said after the game. "I thought he did a great job in the pocket with his movement. He looked athletic and made some tough throws. He made some really smart decisions to throw the ball away when it wasn't there. I was really impressed with the way he handled himself out there tonight in his first game."
2. Jaworski: This Is Why The Eagles Wanted Wentz
Eagles Hall of Fame quarterback Ron Jaworski was on 97.5 The Fanatic on Friday morning to offer his assessment of Wentz's performance.
Needless to say, he was not surprised by how Wentz handled the moment.
"I think last night was just a small sampling of what we can see long term from Carson Wentz," Jaworski said. "There's a certain charisma that he has. He can change the weather. He's got that kind of leadership. Now, did he make mistakes last night? Absolutely. I'm not glossing over those, but what we saw was the ability to throw the ball on a frozen rope, some really good anticipation throws, the pocket mobility, the ability to stretch the field with his running talent, all of those things.
"Finally, the fans saw why the Philadelphia Eagles wanted this guy so bad. The certain talent is there that will eventually come out on a consistent basis and lead this team to big things down the road."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traveled to Philadelphia as the Eagles kicked off their preseason at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles took home the victory 17-9.
3. Pederson Passes His First Test
Thursday night was not just the debut for Wentz, but also for Doug Pederson as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The longtime quarterback and assistant coach was helped out on the opening kick as linebacker Najee Goode stripped the ball from returner Kenny Bell and it was recovered by safety Chris Maragos.
The Eagles converted the turnover into a quick touchdown en route to the 17-9 victory.
"I felt really relaxed," Pederson said of his first exhibition game in his new role. "I was comfortable, at ease. I had a little bit of that nervous excitement towards the beginning of the game, but once it kicked off, football is football. It's just a matter of trying to control your emotions, but at the same time I felt really comfortable."
At the same time, Pederson understands that this is just the beginning for both he and his team.
"Overall, there are a lot of areas that we can continue to improve on," he said. "I thought to start the game with the special teams turnover and to score offensively was obviously a positive, and the way I think our first-team defense got after them a little bit was pleasing. After that, 11 penalties and things like that can't happen, even in preseason. Overall, I'm pleased with the win but we have a lot left to do."
4. Schwartz's Defense Leads The Charge
Late in the fourth quarter, the Bucs drove down the field with the chance to potentially tie the game. If Tampa Bay had scored a touchdown, would they have gone for the 2-point conversion to force overtime in the preseason?
Thankfully, we didn't have to find out.
Cornerback C.J. Smith, the "other" rookie from North Dakota State, picked off quarterback Ryan Smith in the end zone in the game's final minute to seal the win for the Eagles.
In all, the defense under new coordinator Jim Schwartz tallied three sacks, three interceptions and created four turnovers.
"I think we still have a lot of stuff to clean up. We always have room for improvement everywhere, including myself," said defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who had a strip-sack and fumble recovery. "As a unit, I thought we played well. You have one of the guys (rookie cornerback C.J. Smith) who ended the game on an interception so that's always good."
5. Encouraging Signs For The Red Zone Offense
After recovering the fumble on the opening kickoff, running back Ryan Mathews scored three plays later inside the red zone. Later in the first quarter, following the Cox fumble recovery, quarterback Chase Daniel ran the ball in from 3 yards out.
Two drives inside the Bucs' 20-yard line. Two touchdowns.
Last year, the Eagles ranked 15th in the league in terms of touchdown efficiency in the red zone, but actually finished 23rd in scoring efficiency (touchdowns or field goals).
Can Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich generate more points in the red zone? It'll be one of the things to watch early in the 2016 season.