ReFo: Eagles @ Patriots, Preseason Week 2
The Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots concluded several days of joint practices last week with a preseason contest Friday night. The flags continued to fly in this one, with 28 penalties called between the two teams. Despite the poor pace of the game, the teams combined for nearly 900 yards of total offense.
Here are a handful of individual performances that stood out, for better or worse.
Philadelphia – Three Performances of Note
Matthews had a significantly better game this week than we saw in his debut against Chicago. The rookie caught all nine passes in his direction after dropping a pair last week, and was impressive with the ball in his hands. The Eagles seemed to be content throwing mostly screens and short passes to their second-round pick and letting him work in space (eight of his nine targets traveled less than 10 yards in the air). Of Matthews’ 104 yards, 81 came after the catch, and he broke two tackles in the open field.
The Eagles got mixed results from their backup outside linebackers. After a solid debut last week, first-round pick Marcus Smith had a tough time in this game. The rookie played 73 snaps, but earned a -5.5 grade after struggling mightily in run defense (three missed tackles) and making little impact as a pass rusher. Meanwhile, former first-rounder Brandon Graham continued to command more playing time. Graham was disruptive as a pass rusher and in run defense for the second straight week, converting 10 pass rushes into a sack and two hurries, and also tallied three run stops.
Effective Both Ways
Philadelphia’s offensive line was impressive in both pass protection and the run game. The Patriots totaled just four pressures on 34 passing attempts, and Eagles linemen combined for a +7.2 cumulative run-blocking grade. Backups David Molk (+3.8), Andrew Gardner (+3.5) and Matt Tobin (+2.6) were all standouts in the second half, doing a nice job of creating room for RB Henry Josey.
New England – Three Performances of Note
The Patriots used the game to test out different offensive line combinations in preparation for the regular season. Jordan Devey got the start at right guard, and was the only Patriot to play the full game on offense. Devey was solid in pass protection (three pressures allowed on 44 pass-blocking snaps), but finished with a -4.0 run-blocking grade. Nate Solder started the game at left tackle, but also played nearly twice as many snaps as fellow starters Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer. Though he saw time at tight end, where the team is thin, one still has to wonder if the coaching staff is unhappy with Solder’s camp so far. Backup linemen Braxton Cave (+3.0), Josh Kline (+2.3) and Cameron Fleming (+1.3) each impressed with their run blocking in the second half.
The Running Back Stable
New England was able to work on its rushing offense in this game, totaling 250 yards on 46 carries. In a familiar turn of events, Stevan Ridley fumbled in the second quarter, and did not see the field again, though he played well (forced three missed tackles, 2.9 yards after contact per attempt) before fumbling. Ridley is a talented back, but his inability to hold on to the ball has really limited his opportunities in the past. Rookie James White struggled to pick up blitzes, allowing pressures on both of his snaps in pass protection. Jonas Gray entered the game in the second half, and was the team’s most impressive back, finishing with a +3.7 overall grade. Gray forced five missed tackles, and earned 50 of his 108 rushing yards after contact.
Rookie Malcolm Butler was a surprise starter at right cornerback, and led the defense with 49 snaps. Butler impressed by forcing two fumbles, but was less effective in coverage than we saw last week. Eagles quarterbacks completed eight of nine passes for 101 yards in his direction, and Butler also missed a pair of tackles. The competition for the strong safety job took an interesting turn, as the team lined up with three cornerbacks alongside FS Devin McCourty in their base defense. Duron Harmon (+1.8) was solid in his 20 snaps, highlighted by an interception of Mark Sanchez in the third quarter.
– Jimmy Garoppolo was the first quarterback off the bench, and Ryan Mallett played the entire second half.
– Ifeayni Momah lost two fumbles courtesy of Butler, resulting in a -3.5 overall grade.
– The Eagles missed 20 tackles, compared to nine for the Patriots.
PFF Game Ball
Jonas Gray’s strong showing may earn him an extended look next week, as we saw with Butler after his impressive debut.