The Eagles lost to the Titans in the preseason opener a week ago, 27-10. While the final score and stat sheet weren't impressive, the Eagles got some positive answers to big-picture questions.
One of the biggest issues with the team is whether Nate Sudfeld is truly ready to be the primary backup quarterback. Sudfeld has played well in practice for a couple of years, but hasn't gotten on the field much.
Sudfeld played well in the opener. He showed good touch on downfield throws. He just missed connecting with rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on the opening drive. The pass was just a bit too far out in front. Later on, Sudfeld hit Marken Mikel with a great touch throw for a 75-yard touchdown.
Plenty of quarterbacks can plant their foot and throw the ball 50 or 60 yards down the field. Good quarterbacks can throw deep with touch and accuracy. That's where you get big plays. Sudfeld did that on both throws.
Sudfeld showed what an underrated athlete he is with his ability to move around and even throw on the move. Some big, tall quarterbacks are statues in the pocket. Not Sudfeld. He was able to escape pressure on multiple plays and buy extra time. I was impressed that he kept his eyes downfield while he was on the move. Some quarterbacks will turn into runners. He was moving to give his receivers more time to get open.
Arguably the most important trait for quarterbacks is accuracy. Sudfeld was good in this area as well. He put the ball where his receivers could get to it and the defenders couldn't. His passes also had good velocity.
The obvious problem is that Sudfeld got hurt late in the first half. He's going to miss the rest of the summer and possibly some regular-season time. That's an especially tough blow because Sudfeld played so well before the injury. He showed NFL talent and made me feel more comfortable with him as the backup quarterback.
Dallas Goedert had a sensational spring, but has been a bit quieter in Training Camp. That changed against the Titans. Goedert looked like the best player on the field. He got open, caught the ball smoothly, and broke tackles after the catch. Goedert would be a good starter for most NFL teams.
The starting offensive line sat out the opener. That gave the backups a lot of snaps to show what they could do. First-round pick Andre Dillard played left tackle. You can absolutely see why the Eagles moved up to get him. Dillard is a gifted athlete with very good feet. The best compliment I can give him is that he just looks natural at left tackle.
Dillard played very well in the opener. He shut down edge rushers, over and over. He did give some ground when they used power moves, but Dillard even handled those pretty well.
Jordan Mailata is in his second year. He played left tackle last summer. The Eagles moved him to the right side this year. Mailata has been up and down in camp, adjusting to the right side and still being early in his football education.
I was impressed with what I saw from Mailata in the game. He's far from being a finished product, but you can see the potential. He wins with size, strength, and natural ability right now. He is still learning the actual skills needed to be a good NFL blocker.
Mailata's kick slide shows real promise. He moves well for a big guy. When he gets his hands cleanly on a defender, it is over. Mailata is going to win that battle every time. He's still learning how to read pass rushers and to know how to deal with them. Mailata can be sloppy with his hands at times and be too upright in some situations. The talent is there. He just needs more work.
There were a lot of backup defensive linemen in the game. Josh Sweat is trying to solidify a spot as a backup defensive end. He looked great at times, but is still more inconsistent than the coaches want. He is incredibly powerful and moves very well. Sweat just doesn't win enough one-on-one situations right now. He's got all the talent in the world. He did get better as the game went along so that was encouraging.
Daeshon Hall stood out to me. He was consistently disruptive. Hall showed the ability to win with power and speed. He had a sack and got his hands on the quarterback a couple of other times. Hall won with skill, size, and athleticism. He really jumped off the tape. The coaches had to love this. Hall and Sweat will push each other to see who makes the team and/or gets on the field. There is real competition.
I love the Eagles' defensive tackles. We all know Fletcher Cox is a stud. Malik Jackson only played a few snaps in the opener, but just missed a strip-sack on the initial third down. He was brought to Philly to get up the field and hit the quarterback. You can see he's going to be perfect for this scheme.
The Eagles traded for Hassan Ridgeway on draft weekend and talked about how much they liked him. He stood out in the spring and at Training Camp. Ridgeway played well in the game. He can be quick off the ball and get into the backfield. He is also powerful. Ridgeway was able to hold his ground against the run and disrupt plays. You can see why Eagles scouts were so high on him.
Treyvon Hester also had a strong showing. He was quick and disruptive. Hester blocked a kick on special teams, just like he did in the playoff win over the Bears. The Eagles sure look like they are loaded at defensive tackle.
Linebacker Zach Brown has been mostly quiet since the Eagles signed him, but he came alive in the game. Some veteran players are like that. They are OK in practice, but games bring out the best in them. Brown showed why the Eagles signed him. He was good against the run and also covered well.
The linebacker who really flashed was L.J. Fort. I knew he was athletic, but Fort looked really athletic. He flew around the field. He showed great change-of-direction ability. Fort had a big hit in the passing game. Fort had four solo tackles and really opened my eyes. The game certainly brought out the best in him.
The starting trio of corners played well. Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones were on the outside, with Avonte Maddox in the slot. Jones looked smooth. Maddox gave up a couple of catches, but he was all over the receiver and gave up very few yards. He looked quick out there. I also love his instincts.
The Eagles have plenty to work on, but if you focus on the big picture, they got the right answers against the Titans. There was good line play on both sides of the ball. The Eagles have a strong set of both offensive and defensive tackles. They saw real growth from the young pass rushers. Maybe most importantly, the Eagles saw Nate Sudfeld play well. The quarterback situation will be tricky for the next month or so, but Sudfeld will return and give the Eagles quality depth for the 2019 season.