Pre-season Takeaways: NFC EAST WEEK 2

By Joshua Edwards

All eyes on NFC East quarterbacks

The second week of pre-season football is almost complete and in the NFC East there is plenty to talk about. Holdouts, injuries, officiating and promising rookies; who doesn’t love the pre-season, right? NFC East writer Josh Edwards has 5 key takeaways from Week 2 of the pre-season.

1. Philly backup spot seemingly cursed; Kessler in concussion protocol, Eagles sign Josh McCown out of retirement

Nick Foles and Carson Wentz reunited on the field before the game and both will have been glad not to have played behind the Eagles offensive line early in this contest. Cody Kessler was knocked out of the contest after a first quarter hit forced him into the concussion protocol. Just a week after backup Nate Sudfeld broke his wrist against Tennessee it is the last thing the Eagles needed. 

Clayton Thorson had a solid outing, completing 16 of 26 passes for 175 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception. However, Thorson played against a combination of Jacksonville’s second and third string defenders, and it would be unwise to jump to any conclusions about his suitability as a backup. Echoing these worries, Philly signed Josh McCown out of retirement on Saturday to a 1 year, $2m contract in an effort to shore up the quarterbacks’ room. The deal is incentive laden and McCown puts his ESPN broadcasting career on hold for 2019.

Wentz is wrapped in cotton wool before the opener against Washington but Eagles fans will need to get used to the new reality that there is no Nick Foles to save the day. If Wentz goes down, the team is now just like the majority of other clubs in the league. Highly unlikely to compete at a high level if their backup is called upon.

NFC East, Daniel Jones, Week 4

2. Manning, Jones both impress in win over Bears

Eli Manning has thrown five pre-season passes in two games. Against Chicago on Saturday night he went 4-4 on the opening Giants possession, capping it off with an 8 yard TD pass to Bennie Fowler before being taken out of the game; job done. Though talk of Daniel Jones causing a genuine QB controversy has been played down by the Giants, the organisation will be breathing a sigh of relief that Eli has looked sharp too this pre-season. Next week against Cincinnati we can expect more of a dress rehearsal for the regular season.

Jones was impressive as well 11-14 for 161 yards with one TD but fumbled twice, once on a botched snap and once whilst not sufficiently protecting the ball (two hands Dan, not one) during a sack. Though Shurmur admonished Jones for his two fumbles he will surely be delighted with both Manning and Jones thus far in the pre-season, as should Giants fans.

“There were definitely some ups and downs,” he told ESPN. “You’ve got to take care of the ball is the first thing, with those two fumbles, that will be something to focus on for sure. A lot of things to learn, a lot of things to build off of.”

Despite an offseason from hell on paper, fans of the G Men will do well to remember their recent history of Eli Manning backups. Geno Smith, Alex Tanney, Davis Webb, Josh Johnson, Ryan Nassib and Kyle Lauletta have not shown much. Daniel Jones so far looks like he could be much better.

3. Haskins grows despite uncertainty at wide receiver positions

Last week Dwayne Haskins threw two interceptions but flashed pro-level elusiveness and arm strength in his first start in the burgundy and gold. On Thursday night against Cincinnati, in his first game at FedEx field, the 15th overall pick in the draft took another step towards winning the starting job. Haskins completed 7 of 14 for 114 YDS and 1 TD, and the TD was a thing of beauty. On a 5 step drop Haskins hung in the pocket under pressure and stepped into a 45 yard bomb to Robert Davis, hitting the receiver in stride behind the defense for the score.

Unfortunately for Haskins (and Case Keenum) there are plenty of question marks at wideout. Robert Davis’s touchdown was his second in two weeks, though the strike last week from Keenum was a blown coverage by the corner expecting safety help. However, Davis will be confident of making the roster. Paul Richardson was again held out through injury, causing concern among Redskins fans. Many are already questioning his ability to be the consistent speed threat the team needs to open up intermediate routes. Given his injury history they have reason to be concerned. 

Josh Doctson still doesn’t have a pre-season catch after missing the first game and getting only one target against the Bengals. It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that the Redskins will look to part ways with the former first round pick, perhaps in a trade for as little as a late round conditional pick. Second year slot receiver Trey Quinn didn’t play at all as he recovers from a thumb injury. Finally, third round pick Terry McLaurin was held out with a tailbone injury suffered in camp in Richmond. The Redskins are being cautious with their receivers but as we roll towards the regular season the group looks like a team weakness and there is less and less time for the quarterbacks to build rapport. 

4. New pass interference rules already under scrutiny

Watch this video up until 00:20 and all is well. Receiver comes back to the ball, corner isn’t looking, contact is initiated and a flag is thrown. Now play the remainder of the clip and groan along with the rest of us. How on earth the refs 1) called this offensive pass interference in the first place and, 2) even more egregiously, denied Jay Gruden’s challenge that the call be overturned, is completely beyond me (and Joe Theismann, by the sounds of the call). Let’s hope the refs get this ironed out over the course of the

5. Cowboys more themselves, beat Rams backups in unfamiliar surroundings

The NFL hasn’t played a game at the in Hawaii since the Pro Bowl in 2016, so it was unsurprising that 49,000 people packed themselves into the Aloha stadium in Honolulu to watch two of the NFCs title hopefuls played their second games of the pre-season. Dallas sent more starters across the pacific than the Rams, who continue in earnest their ultra-conservative approach to pre-season football. 

The Cowboys will be particularly pleased with their opening drive, none more so than Dak Prescott, who was 5-5 for 64 yards on his only series. In the scorching heat it was an archetypal Dallas drive which went 12 plays for 97 yards, ending with rookie running back Tony Pollard scoring a 14 yard rush. The Memphis University product is being talked up by the Cowboys organisation which is to be expected during the Zeke Elliot holdout, but 42 yards on 5 rushes won’t hurt his stock.

Joshua Edwards