The New England Patriots square off against the Philadelphia Eagles for the second week of the preseason and we spoke with Brandon Lee Gowton of BleedingGreenNation.com to get the inside scoop ahead of the game.
1. There are four former Patriots players on the Eagles in Chris Long, Kamu Grugier-Hill, D.J. Killings, and DeAndre Carter. How have they all been playing and what are each of their odds of making the team?
Chris Long - Incredibly valuable as a rotational pass rusher off the bench. Long played 48.1% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps last year, which was right behind “starting” defensive ends Brandon Graham (64.6%) and Vinny Curry (56.1%). I imagine he’ll play a similar role this year with Graham and offseason acquisition Michael Bennett (and/or Derek Barnett) ahead of him on the depth chart. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz really loves to rotate his pass rushers and I have no doubt Long will continue to be an important part of that rotation. He’s a lock to make the team.
Kamu Grugier-Hill - Grugier-Hill has mostly been a special teams player to this point. I’d argue he’s working his way up to being one of the better ST guys in the league. He certainly drew attention for his ability to fill in as an emergency kickoff specialist last year when Jake Elliott got hurt. He was even kicking touchbacks! In addition to his special teams works, Grugier-Hill has a chance to be the Eagles’ starting weakside linebacker this season. Now, that’s not a huge role for the Eagles since they line up in nickel way more than they do in base. But Grugier-Hill has looked good; he always seems to be around the ball. Whether he “starts” or not remains to be seen but he’ll definitely make the roster.
D.J. Killings - First of all, I’ll never not point out that Killings has an awesome name. The UCF alumnus has had a solid offseason for himself. He’s not competing for a starting role in the slot but he could be a depth player there. Killings is very much on the roster bubble as it stands right now. I’d currently project him to spend another season on the practice squad, assuming he doesn’t get claimed on waivers after final cuts.
DeAndre Carter - Carter’s been a pleasant surprise. Usually the unestablished guys that get signed during training camp are just warm bodies to fill practice reps. Carter probably isn’t going to make the roster but I think he’s deserving of catching on some team’s roster as a fifth/sixth receiver. Or on somebody’s practice squad.
2. Here’s Bill Belichick’s advice to teams that just won the Super Bowl. What’s your response to his advice?
Thanks for sharing. Hadn’t seen that before.
I’m certainly under no delusions that it’ll be easy for the Eagles to get back to the Super Bowl. Much more importantly, the team seems self-aware when it comes to handling the challenges of success. Doug Pederson has preached the idea of “The New Normal” — he’s challenged the team’s commitment by asking who’s going to start taking it easy now that they’ve won. He’s also come up with “Embrace The Target” in contrast to their underdog mentality from last year. He’s making it clear that teams will be giving the Eagles their A-game every week. They’re not going to be slept on like they were in the playoffs.
Of course, talk is cheap. The on-field results will tell us how the Eagles are battling against complacency. When it comes to that aspect, I think the Eagles might be uniquely qualified to sustain success. They have a group of key players who didn’t play in last year’s Super Bowl: Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Jordan Hicks, Chris Maragos. Those guys just so happen to be some of the biggest leaders on the team. I don’t think they’re going to allow this year’s team to be complacent; they’re itching to get back to actually play in the Super Bowl themselves.
3. What Eagles players will you be most excited to watch against the Patriots?
2017 second-round pick Sidney Jones is one of the Eagles’ most intriguing young players. There was thought he could be a top 15 pick if he hadn’t torn his Achilles at his pro day. Jones has been working with the first team defense as a nickel corner. He’s also been getting some time on the outside with the second team.
It’s possible Jones doesn’t start in the slot this week, though, since 2018 fourth-round pick Avonte Maddox has been taking first team nickel corner reps in practice lately. I’m curious to see if his late emergence in the nickel battle could translate into him being “the guy” there.
Elsewhere, it’ll be fun to continue to monitor the progress of 2018 seventh-round pick Jordan Mailata. The Eagles traded up with the Patriots to get the Australian rugby league player. Mailata wasn’t a total disaster in his first football game EVER when the Eagles played the Steelers last Thursday. At 6-8, 346 pounds, Mailata certainly has left tackle size. It’s just a matter if he’ll ever be able to learn the game enough to where he can be counted on in game action.
4. Are there any Eagles players that you think are NFL quality, but you think won’t make the team for one reason or another? Who are they and what’re their strengths?
Matt Jones and Wendell Smallwood are veteran running backs who might catch on if a team is looking for backfield depth. Jones has talent and Smallwood is “versatile” in the sense he can do a lot of things, although none of them especially well.
The aforementioned Killings could be a decent backup nickel corner.
Billy Brown or Joshua Perkins could make for a third tight end on a team that needs bodies at that position.
I don’t think Chance Warmack is very good but you could probably do worse at backup guard.
Bryce Treggs could be a fourth or fifth receiver in my eyes. He has some speed.
5. What’s your score prediction?
I’m gonna say it’s a high-scoring affair with a lot of bad defense. I’ll go with the Eagles winning by a score of 41 to 33.