Clayton Thorson steps up after Cody Kessler goes down, leads Birds to 24-10 win

Ed Kracz

The Eagles defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, 24-10, on Thursday night in the second preseason game, raising their record to 1-1 with the Baltimore Ravens up next in a week.

So many takeaways, so let’s get started:

  • The Eagles have to sign another quarterback to get them through the rest of the preseason.

They rolled the dice hoping they could survive with just two – Cody Kessler and Clayton Thorson.

It didn’t take long before that plan went up in smoke when Jacksonville’s Datone Jones came unblocked over the left side of the Eagles’ line and belted an unsuspecting Kessler in the back. The blow forced Kessler into the blue medical tent on the sidelines where he spent several minutes before walking to the locker room, not to be seen again.

He is in concussion protocol and who knows when he will be able to return to the field again?

The injury happened on just the sixth play of the game.

Enter Thorson.

  • Thorson looked like a completely different quarterback than he did in the preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans. He completed 16 of 26 throws for 175 yards with a touchdown and an interception that wasn’t entirely his fault, with the ball bounding off a hand of DeAndre Thompkins for the pick.

The obvious play he made came on fourth-and-four on Jacksonville’s 38. His pass went to Greg Ward, who snared it around the 16 then turned into a running back, cutting back into the middle of the field and, picking up a nice block from tight end Joshua Perkins, raced into the end zone.

But Thorson looked more comfortable, and one throw I particularly liked was a third-and-seven throw he completed on a quick slant to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside deep in Eagles’ territory. The throw had to be delivered with velocity between two defenders.

The QB also converted another fourth down play in the third quarter, this one a fourth-and-three, again from the 38, that covered 26 yards to tight end Will Tye.

  • Several positions get murkier each week, as far as who will be kept on the 53-man roster.

Start at receiver. Ward’s 38-yard touchdown was electric, just as Marken Michel’s 75-yard TD last week was eye-popping. Ward, who had two catches for 42 yards, and Michel, who made one catch on a receiver screen that he turned into a first down thanks to a nice downfield block from Halapoulivaati Vaitai, have been two of the better receivers in camp. Carlton Agudosi has been solid, too, and he did some nice things in this game.

The question is: Have any of the three done enough to make the Eagles think of cutting Mack Hollins? Hollins saw his first game action since his rookie year in 2018. H was targeted twice and caught one pass for five yards. I don’t think it’s out of the question that he could be released. Some may say, well, he’s good on special teams. Ward and Michel can be good on those units, too.

  • The defensive end play of Daeshon Hall and Shareef Miller makes one wonder who will be the fourth, and maybe fifth, DE the team will keep after Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, and Vinny Curry. Hall had two sacks, forcing a fumble with one of them. He had six tackles and a sack against Tennessee. Miller has had a sack in both games, and had two QB hits against the Jags with two tackles for loss.

Then there’s Josh Sweat, who hasn’t really stood out, yet. He also appeared to suffer a hand injury that was looked at on the sidelines.

What to do, what to do?

  • Finally, the linebackers. T.J. Edwards really flashed in this game, showing good speed to cut down on ball carrier and making a tackle for loss. I’m still not sold on L.J. Fort, though he was in on a fourth-and-one stop near midfield that gave the ball to the Eagles. The Birds could keep six here, but which six? And where does Alex Singleton fit? He didn’t stand out as much as he did in the opener, but he’s still someone that cannot be discounted for a job.
  • The running game was a highlight, with Josh Adams and Boston Scott each scoring 1-yard touchdowns. After picking up just 37 yards on the ground in the opener, the Eagles rolled up 139 yards, with Boston Scott (seven carries, 49 yards) and Donnel Pumphrey (5-29) doing most of the damage in the second half.

Starters Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard looked like the 1-2 punch the Eagles hope they will be when the games start to count, with Sanders carrying five times for 31 yards and Howard getting four runs for 15 yards.

  • Graham and Malcolm Jenkins played most of the first quarter after going to coach Doug Pederson and asking to play. The coach obliged them.
  • The Eagles’ second scoring drive of the night required two challenges from Pederson, both successful. The first was to overturn a catch by Agudosi that was initially ruled out of bounds. Agudosi, though, was able to keep both feet in while stretching for a catch near the sideline to convert a third down. The bigger challenge came on what looked to be pass interference against Jaguars cornerback Josh Robinson guarding Agudosi. Robinson was tugging on Agudosi’s jersey, but none of the officials saw it. The Eagles did and challenged. It was ruled a PI and gave them the ball at the 1, first-and-goal.
  • Third-down defense remains a concern, with the Jags converting seven of 17 of them. Last week, the Titans were 11-for-19 on third down.