What did it mean, playing 60 minutes of football against the Miami Dolphins, the teams combining for 69 points and 728 total net yards, that will apply to the Eagles on September 10 when they open the regular season at Washington? At the end of the day, the projected starters for this team emerged from three preseason games healthy and confident of what they can do when the games count in the standings. Final score of Preseason Game No. 3: Eagles 38, Dolphins 31.
"We have a chance to score some points and have a really good team," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "There's still practice ahead of us and to me, practice is more important than anything we do in the preseason. Getting those good reps in practice is so important. It's a good feeling. It's important to build on what we're doing, eliminate mistakes and move on.
"I don't want to speak too boldly, but we have high expectations in our room and we are excited to meet those expectations."
Smith was on the receiving end of a Carson Wentz touchdown pass in the first quarter, a 50-yard bomb that demonstrated why Smith was such an important acquisition in free agency. Smith beat the Miami zone defense and hauled in the on-his-fingertips throw, the first time Smith had been targeted in the preseason.
Touchdown. A preview of what's to come.
Wentz also tossed a red zone, 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery late in the first quarter to cap a nine-play, 93-yard drive, after which the starting offense (and the defense a moment later) was pulled and sent to the sidelines for the rest of the night.
There wasn't a whole lot that went according to script on Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field, but the Eagles came away feeling a few things were for sure as they split their focus – the starters and some reserves will begin preparations for Washington, while the deep reserves will get set to play the Jets on Thursday in the preseason finale – in the days ahead.
- One, the offense is going to benefit greatly from the weapons added in the offseason. There were some breakdowns on the four offensive possessions from the first-team unit – Wentz was intercepted and the ball was returned to the Eagles' 2-yard line – but the ability is there. Smith and Jeffery are huge additions, and the Eagles are very confident in the running game. The Eagles ran for chunks of yards early and LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood produced. Blount established himself in the north-south run game with 19 yards on four carries and Smallwood showed elusiveness and burst in his preseason debut, checking in with 28 yards on four carries.
* The defense had some breakdowns and they need to be addressed, but a first-possession sack and forced fumble (recovered by Fletcher Cox) by Vinny Curry set up the Wentz-to-Smith touchdown. Najee Goode started at middle linebacker in place of Jordan Hicks (quad) and Joe Walker and Don Cherry showed up with big plays once the starters departed. The Eagles are going to create pressure up front and they're going to take the football away.
* Mychal Kendricks again had a terrific game, intercepting a tipped pass on excellent coverage from cornerback C.J. Smith. Kendricks was around the football again. He rushed off the edge effectively, nearly sacking quarterback Jay Cutler. He covered. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will find a way to utilize Kendricks and put him in position to make plays.
gave up some big plays – a 72-yard jump-ball completion to wide receiver DeVante Parker and then Darby was called in the end zone for pass interference. Both plays led to Miami touchdowns. So work needs to be done. Teams are going to throw the ball up for grabs and hope bigger receivers can go up and get the football over the 5-11 Darby. How do the Eagles protect him in those situations?
For the first time in the preseason, the Eagles had their starting offensive line intact. Now, it wasn't perfect. Line coach Jeff Stoutland will find teaching points from that first quarter. The quintet needs to improve. With two-plus weeks remaining before the game at Washington, the offensive line has time to get its chemistry improved and its consistency where the coaches want it to be. This offensive line has a chance to be very, very good.
Corey Clement saw action as the third running back and again acquitted himself well with 42 rushing yards on nine carries. Has Clement done enough to earn a roster spot? It will be interesting to see how the Eagles handle the position as they think about the 53-man roster. Clement has made few mistakes in his time on the field in the preseason and he's been solid in practices. Donnel Pumphrey gained 37 yards on 12 carries.
Concerns from the third preseason game? Really not much of anything that is going to have an impact when the regular season rolls around. There are some roster battles still to be had at New York, but for the most part the roster is set. The Eagles are healthy. If they can stay that way for the regular season, the Eagles are going to make some noise.
A great crowd filled Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday night. The home folks won't see the Eagles again for exactly one month until the Giants visit. What happened on Thursday will matter then? Probably not a whole lot. But the Eagles know this: They made it through three preseason games with the starters healthy. That will have the greatest impact of everything that happened, and as the Eagles made the final turn in the preseason, they did so feeling extremely confident about what is ahead for this football team.