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Spadaro: A stellar opening night for the starters

Dave Spadaro On the Inside 1920

Seven plays, 80 yards. A 22-yard play to finish it off when quarterback Jalen Hurts found tight end Dallas Goedert on the left side for the completion and Goedert did the rest, bouncing off Jets safety Jordan Whitehead and powering into the end zone as the Eagles completed their opening drive of the preseason with perfection.

Hurts was 6-of-6 for 80 yards on the drive, and it was just the greatest way to open the preseason Friday night at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles quickly jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and while the Jets came back to win the game, 24-21, the big story was the way the Eagles came firing out of the gates on both sides of the ball.

Hurts was brilliant on the drive, doing damage in a variety of ways. He rolled right on his first snap and completed a 28-yard shot to wide receiver Quez Watkins, who did a sweet pitty-pat to get his feet down on the right sideline. Hurts threw on the right side for running back Miles Sanders for a nice 12-yard catch and run. Then Hurts found tight end Jack Stoll over the middle for 6 yards and after a Lane Johnson false start, Hurts went to Watkins again for a 4-yard gain. On third-and-5, Hurts rolled right and eventually went out of bounds for no gain, but Jets linebacker Quincy Williams was penalized for a late hit and the offense had new life at the New York 20-yard line.

A short pass on the left side to Sanders gained 8 yards, and after left tackle Jordan Mailata was penalized for holding to wipe out a Hurts touchdown run, Hurts and Goedert connected and the Eagles were on the scoreboard.

"It was fun out there," Goedert said. "Everyone was flying around and Jalen did a good job of controlling everything. I think that's what we have in store for the season. We want to be a detail team with people in the right spots and it was a good start today."

Said Hurts: "I think it was good to get out there, get everybody involved, and have the opportunity to play. We've been working really hard and getting into the phases of things. Just to go out there and execute is really big for us. Good job to the guys out there. Good job to everybody that had the opportunity to go out there and play today."

That was it for the starting offense – which featured Cam Jurgens at center and Sua Opeta at left guard – and the starting defense took the field. On the fifth play, linebacker Kyzir White stepped in front of a Zach Wilson pass in the right flat, intercepted it, and returned it 27 yards to the New York 20-yard line. Seven plays later the offense, led by quarterback Gardner Minshew who completed 8 of his 12 passes for 81 yards, scored on a Jason Huntley 1-yard run.

It was the ideal way to start the game and the preseason. Here are some other observations from the preseason opener …

1. Injury update, in case you missed it: Offensive guard Landon Dickerson is listed as day to day with a foot injury and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave is out with a toe injury that the Eagles are treating cautiously so the injury hopefully doesn't linger into the regular season. And center Jason Kelce is recovering from his right elbow procedure and the Eagles, while there is no timetable on the injury, are hopeful he will recover quickly with fingers crossed for the regular season opener in Detroit.

2. Linebacker Nakobe Dean swarmed the football playing with the second-team defense, recording four solo tackles and an assist. He was physical, he got to the football quickly, and he tackled extremely well.

3. Defensive tackle Jordan Davis wasn't credited with a tackle, but he sure made an impression with the way he moved blockers and created lanes for other defenders to get to the ballcarrier. Good stuff from the No. 1 draft pick.

4. Center Cam Jurgens started and played with both the No. 1 offense and the second team and acquitted himself very well. Jurgens displayed his athletic ability, recognized what the Jets were doing, finished his blocks powerfully and was physical. It was an excellent debut for Jurgens stepping in for Kelce.

5. Defensive end Brandon Graham saw his first action since tearing his Achilles tendon in Week 2 of the 2021 regular season and made a big hit, had good explosion off the line of scrimmage, and played with his usual great energy. "It felt great to be back," Graham said, beaming on the sidelines. "That hit, woooo … I'm just so glad to be out there with the guys and helping this defense. I've worked so hard to get to this point I feel so good. Let's keep it going, baby."

6. It was a special night for White, who grew up outside of Allentown, Pa. He was drafted by the Chargers, so it was difficult for his family and friends to see him in the NFL the previous four seasons. But now that he's with the Eagles, having signed as an unrestricted free agent, the framily (that's friends and family combined, if you get it) enjoyed his preseason debut at Lincoln Financial Field. White responded with an interception of quarterback Zach Wilson on New York's first offensive possession. His 27-yard return to the New York 20-yard line set up the Eagles' second touchdown. "It was a dream come true, so many of my friends and family at the game," he said. "I wanted to go out there and put on a show and earn my respect. I had my mother, my father, my brothers, my sisters, my nieces, my cousins … It was hard when I was in California, so now that I'm here, they are front and center and I'm so glad for their support."

7. Wide receiver Zach Pascal had a couple of receptions for 41 yards, including a 32-yard catch and run for a first down. He finished off the run with power. All in all, a very good debut, especially for a player who lost 16 pounds with food poisoning and spent four nights in the hospital recently. "It felt great, coming off the illness I had, it was amazing being in front of the Philly crowd," he said. "Got the ball, had some touches, it felt good."

The Eagles hosted the New York Jets for a little Friday night football in the preseason opener at Lincoln Financial Field.

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