After a lackluster preseason opener where the Philadelphia Eagles lost 27-10 to the Tennessee Titans, the Birds now head to Jacksonville Thursday to take on Nick Foles’ new team.
Although the Super Bowl LII MVP Foles is unlikely to play against his former team, there will be several Eagles I’ll have my eye on. Let’s take a look at them.
1. Andre Dillard
Dillard will see an uptick in competition after making mincemeat of the Tennessee Titans’ Kamalei Correa in the preseason opener last Thursday night. He’ll be squaring up against Yannick Ngakoue and fellow rookie Josh Allen, who was picked seventh overall by the Jaguars, this Thursday in Jacksonville.
Dillard’s pass sets were really clean last Thursday. He got into them very quickly and seamlessly. His feet are quick, his arms get extended, he changes direction easily and showcases fluidity and balance when mirroring pass rushers. The athleticism he possesses makes it tough for edge rushers to turn the corner on him in pass protection.
The knock on Dillard coming out of Washington State was his run blocking. The Cougars don’t tote the rock often and the tape on Dillard in that area was limited. What we saw out of his Thursday was encouraging, even if Eagles running backs gained only 21 yards on 11 carries. Look at the initial punch Dillard gets on the first run of the clip below. His arms are locked out, his hand placement is perfect, right on top of the 44 on Correa’s jersey and a hole was opened up.
The 22nd overall pick already looks like the real deal and I can’t wait to see more of him.
2. Josh Sweat
Sweat was underwhelming as a pass rusher last Thursday after receiving a plethora of Training Camp buzz. I know he was going against Taylor Lewan, I know Lewan is a three-time Pro Bowler, but for someone who received the adulation Sweat got, I wanted to see Sweat do a little bit more.
Sweat’s get-off is still noticeably slow. It got better as the game wore on, but there were three instances on the opening drive where he was the last one off the line by a wide margin.
With Chris Long retired, Sweat’s emergence will be vital if the Eagles want to have some depth at the defensive end spot. He was better as a run defender, pushing Lewan back five yards as he showed off his power on this particular play, leading to a tackle for loss.
Once Lewan exited the game, Sweat began to get inflict pressure on the quarterback with left tackle Austin Pasztor on him. A pair of long arm rushes from Sweat knocked Pasztor off balanced and allowed him to get some heat on Logan Woodside.
Sweat won’t have a three-time Pro Bowler on him Thursday, it’ll be Cam Robinson this time, let’s see him get after the quarterback more!
3. Miles Sanders
Sanders had been dealing with a foot injury in Training Camp and gained just three yards on three carries in Thursday’s preseason opener. I’m not sure how much we’re going to see of Sanders considering the Training Camp injury, but I’d like to see him get more than the six snaps he got against the Titans.
The second-round pick Sanders was my No. 1 running back heading into the NFL Draft and his ability to press the line of scrimmage, dart through the hole and make people miss on the second level was the reason why. I can’t wait to see some of this on display against the Jaguars on Thursday.
That Miles Sanders jump cut tho 👀 pic.twitter.com/6fI09Jmoag
— Gayle Saunders (@EagleSessions) August 5, 2019
I personally feel like Sanders is already the best back on the roster and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had the most touches among the running backs come Week 1.
4. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
Arcega-Whiteside was known for being a red-zone threat and a jump ball receiver at Stanford, but he made a pair of first down catches which caught my attention Thursday. He helped out his quarterback Nate Sudfeld on the scramble drill, darting towards the right sideline when Sudfeld was flushed that side and making a sliding catch. He also hauled in a 3rd-and-9 stop route and finding a spot in the zone.
Arcega-Whiteside has drawn rave reviews for his performance in OTAs and Training Camp, we’ll see what else he can showcase Thursday.
5. Marken Michel
Michel burned Titans starting cornerback Adoree’ Jackson for a 75-yard touchdown on a deep post route Thursday. Michel had a great spring, but was quieter during Training Camp. We’ve seen our Rasheed Bailey’s, Paul Turner’s and DeAndre Carter’s over the years and Michel seems to be everyone’s preseason darling in 2019, but can he actually crack the Eagles’ 53-man roster as the team’s sixth wide receiver? He’ll have a chance if he keeps making plays like this.