Eagles Bench Starters vs. Patriots, QB Depth Chart Implodes

DeVonta Smith

Getty Eagles rookie WR DeVonta Smith made his NFL debut on Thursday might against the Patriots.

The Philadelphia Eagles decided to sit the majority of their starters in the second preseason game. They had a productive week of joint practices with the New England Patriots, so they sat Jalen Hurts and started Joe Flacco at quarterback.

The Eagles also opted to give Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson the night off along the offensive line. Zach Ertz and Greg Ward remained on the sideline, too. The defensive side was even leaner. Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Derek Barnett, Javon Hargrave, and Darius Slay all rested.

Hurts was held out with a stomach bug after being rushed to the hospital for evaluation. Once that domino fell, then the veteran starters on the offensive line bowed out. It appeared to be an intentional decision to rest everyone by head coach Nick Sirianni. He has talked at length about taking a cautious approach with trusting the medical staff and letting guys rest their bodies.

Will that cause some guys to be playing catch-up on their conditioning come Week 1? Sirianni doesn’t think so.

“No, because every day we talk about the conditioning of our team and what we need to do,” Sirianni told reporters on Aug. 5. “That’s always a topic of conversation. Again, it’s availability. I have to make the decision of how to get the football team ready the best, too.”

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Final Score: Patriots 35, Eagles 0

There wasn’t much good to come out of the second preseason game. The Patriots outplayed the Eagles in every phase and walked away with a 35-0 victory at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday night. Here is the good, the bad, the ugly:

5 Stocks on the Rise

Alex Singleton: The stat sheet shows five total tackles for the former Canadian Football League star. Never mind. Singleton was everywhere, diagnosing plays at the line and making open field tackles. He might not be the flashiest player, but he’s a very smart player. And a tackling machine.

Miles Sanders: The starting running back only played two series on offense. That’s all he needed. Sanders carried two times for 13 yards, including a 10-yard romp for a first down on his first touch. His performance was even more impressive considering the makeshift offensive line he was running behind.

Jack Stoll: As soon as Jason Croom went down with an unfortunate knee injury, one of the backup tight ends needed to step up. Stoll, an undrafted kid out of Nebraska, hauled in a team-high four catches for 33 yards. Yes, the 260-pounder did let one bounce off his fingertips in the fourth quarter but Stoll played well. He has an opportunity to make the final 53.

DeVonta Smith: The rookie receiver finally made his NFL debut: two receptions for 19 yards, including a nine-yarder from Joe Flacco. The Heisman Trophy winner looked good despite dropping the first pass that floated his way. Outside of that, Smith was explosive off the line and generated separation on nearly every rep.

Shaun Bradley: The former Temple standout keeps making a case for a starting job. He’s always around the football, plus he knows how to lay the wood. No one wants to come over the middle if Bradley is there. He finished with four tackles.

5 Stocks on the Decline

Joe Flacco: The former Super Bowl MVP finished 10-of-17 for 83 yards, with an interception and fumble. The fumble came on a bad snap from backup center Nate Herbig, but Flacco should have jumped on the ball and covered it up. Instead, Jalen Mills recovered it. Flacco wasn’t terrible – hitting on some dink-and-dunk passing – but he’s no longer a starter in the NFL.

Nate Herbig: It’s hard to criticize a guy who is still learning the center position. The Eagles just started cross-training him there early in training camp. Herbig, a competent starter at guard, appears to be just a place-holder for second-round pick Landon Dickerson.

Zech McPhearson: The rookie cornerback started in place of Darius Slay and the Patriots picked on him in the first quarter. Jakobi Meyers beat him. So did Kendrick Bourne. It wasn’t all bad for McPhearson who did show great football IQ when he forced a play inside to keep the clock running at the end of the first half.

Matt Pryor: The 351-pounder started at right tackle for Lane Johnson and showed everyone why the Eagles might want to keep Andre Dillard around for depth. Pryor got beat consistently by speed rushers coming off the outside. Or, if he wasn’t thrown around like a rag doll, he got called for a penalty. Pryor gave up three pressures on one second-half drive.

Nick Mullens: Some people were willing to give the third-string quarterback a pass for his abysmal performance in the first preseason game. As bad as that was, Mullens was still learning the offense. He was still recovering from last season’s elbow injury. Well, the 26-year-old went 5-of-10 for 27 yards and one interception on Thursday. Welcome to the roster bubble.


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