Preseason Takeaways: NFC EAST Week 1
By Josh Edwards
It's football season!* (*kind of)
NFC East writer Josh Edwards has been doing the dirty work so you don’t have to, pouring over game tape from each of the four NFC East teams’ first pre-season outings. All pre-season caveats and disclaimers in mind, here are 5 key takeaways from Week 1 of the pre-season in the NFC East.
1. Dallas Goedert breakout well and truly underway, Eagles deep at TE
Despite going against Tennessee’s starting linebacker group for most of his snaps, second year tight end Dallas Goedert was at times uncoverable. Goedert is not short of confidence. Earlier this week he made a bold statement that only 2 or 3 tight ends in the league were better than him. On Thursday night he started to back up the claim, catching 3 passes for 50 yards in a productive first half.
With Zach Ertz sitting out it was particularly promising to see Goedert so rampant. The Eagles will be licking their lips at having such a capable backup/replacement/supplement to Ertz’s perennial brilliance. It will be interesting to see how Philly uses both tight ends this season.
2. Eagles backup Nate Sudfeld breaks wrist, may force Philly to add another QB
With Carson Wentz sitting out the game Nate Sudfeld got the start. Sudfeld had an up and down outing, completing 10-of-18 for 177 yards. 75 of those yards came on a bomb to Marken Michel for a touchdown. More pertinent however was the injury Sudfeld sustained toward the end of the first half. It was later confirmed by head coach Doug Pederson to be a broken wrist.
After Sudfeld left the field, arm in cast, Cody Kessler and Clayton Thorson got some reps, and it was not pretty. Combined the two quarterbacks went 5-of-15 for 19 yards and an interception. It could have been worse as Thorson could have been picked off a couple more times. Their ugly showing will be cause for concern for the Eagles, who, despite putting faith in Wentz’s ability to stay healthy by handing him so much guaranteed money, will be worried about a serviceable backup with Sudfeld now out for an undisclosed amount of time.
3. Daniel Jones starts strong in attempt to silence critics, vindicate Gettleman
When the Giants used the 6th overall pick in the draft to select Daniel Jones, QB out of Duke, they were roundly castigated. It was a reach, everyone said. An even more laughable one at that given the Giants also held the 17th overall pick. Last night Jones made his debut in a storm-shortened outing against the Jets at MetLife stadium. In that outing he laid down the groundwork for what Dave Gettleman hopes will become ‘the house that Daniel built’.
Jones was perfect on his one drive. Even in a caveat laden pre-season environment (playing against backups, the Jets pass rush is non-existent etc.), Jones couldn’t have been better. He completed all 5 of his attempts, showing poise and patience and, on the touchdown throw to Fowler, showed beautiful touch to find the WR in the back corner of the endzone. There’s no quarterback controversy yet in New York, but Jones has put a stake in the ground and will be breathing down Eli Manning’s neck soon enough.
First series for Daniel Jones …
— ESPN (@espn) August 8, 2019
Just as promising for big blue were the performances of wideouts Russell Shepard, Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimer. In the absence of Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard, the replacements performed well. Combined, they pulled in 6 catches for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns.
4. Dallas big guns conspicuous by their absence
There is a recent trend, championed by Rams HC Sean McVay, of sitting key starters throughout pre-season. For the Cowboys, though, there are more pertinent concerns about the players missing from Saturday nights’ pre-season loss to San Francisco. These absences are more forced than by choice. Multiple key defensive starters are returning from injury, including DeMarcus Lawrence, Sean Lee and Byron Jones, none of whom suited up.
And, of course, Ezekiel Elliot continues to hold out. Though Jerry Jones is broadly correct that ‘you’ don’t need a star running back to win a Super Bowl, he’s egregiously wrong when it comes to his team. Dallas is built around Zeke and has repeatedly shown an inability to succeed in the controversial back’s absence.
Alfred Morris didn’t play last night but the veteran workhouse is unlikely to prove as dynamic nor as durable as the Cowboys would need if Elliot doesn’t play. On Saturday night four backups/roster hopefuls (Tony Pollard, Mike Weber, Jordan Chunn and Darius Jackson) rushed for just 55 yards on 17 carries. Watch this space, and, if you’re a Cowboys fan, pray for an Elliot signature sooner rather than later.
5. Dwayne Haskins is probably who we thought he was
Case Keenum opened up the Redskins pre-season game against the Browns but after a lukewarm showing Head Coach Jay Gruden gave Dwayne Haskins his chance on the first possession of the second quarter. In a mixed outing, Haskins cemented his ‘raw but talented’ status. His first play was a nicely designed bootleg where, with an effortless flick of the wrist, the big rookie hit Darvin Kidzy on a crosser. The next play Haskins botched the snap count as the clock ran down and the Skins took a false start penalty.
Bouncing back, he then threw a dart to Kidzy between corner and safety (which Kidzy subsequently fumbled). It was a beautiful throw, and one which Redskins quarterbacks of recent years have neither had the arm nor the moxie to pull off. Unfortunately, on the next drive, he unwisely attempted to hit his running back on a wheel route when linebacker Mack Wilson was in perfect position to pick it off and run it back to the house.
Haskins ended the contest with a very modest stat line, completing 8 of 14 passes for 117 but with two interceptions, the second of which was an overthrown ball down the field on a TE seam route. Despite the numbers, and the errors, there’s room for optimism. Haskins looked more mobile than many expected, sliding away from trouble on a couple of occasions and scrambling twice for gains when the pocket collapsed. He’s also mastered the slide, something that Robert Griffin III had trouble with. His arm strength is unquestionable, he throws with anticipation and he’s got all the physical traits to succeed. If the Redskins can coach the more egregious of errors out of him, there’s a lot of hope in D.C. Whenever Haskins takes the field as the starter, it’ll be roller-coaster ride.
Image Credit: USA Today