Observations and Notes from Eagles Preseason Opener vs. Steelers
The Philadelphia Eagles won their preseason opener in dramatic fashion when Alex Henery kicked a 51-yard field goal in the final seconds to give the birds a 24-23 victory. In a game that was dedicated to Andy Reid's son, Garrett, it was the backups who came through in the clutch.
First, it was great to see some actual football action after the long offseason. Preseason is mainly about the first team guys getting into rhythm and knocking the rust off as well as young guys trying to earn a spot on the roster.
Well, as it turns out, the Eagles' first and second-team players are more rusty than the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz after a decade in the rain.
Michael Vick and the first team offense went three-and-out on their only two series of the night. Vick completed three of four passes for exactly six yards and was sacked once.
Our other offensive star, LeSean McCoy, netted -5 yards on one rush and one reception. DeSean Jackson had one catch for five yards.
The first team offense netted a grand total of -3 yards on two possessions. Not exactly powerhouse numbers there, huh?
And to make matters worse, it took all of six plays to get our initial injury scare for Michael Vick. On his final pass attempt, he whacked the thumb on his throwing hand against the back of Jason Kelce's helmet.
Thankfully, the X-rays came back negative, and we saw Vick grasping a football on the sideline in the second half. However, this goes to show you just how injury prone Vick is and highlights the importance of the decision on his backup.
The first-team defense looked eerily similar to the 2011 defense—excellent pass-rushing but significant break-downs in the run defense and in the secondary. Juan Castillo should not have been proud.
All in all, the first-team offense was terrible, and the first team defense wasn't that bad, but they were not an improvement over last year's unit at this point.
The first and second team offenses left a lot to be desired. Between both units in the entire first half, they netted a grand total of 54 yards and zero points.
On the other hand, the third and fourth team offenses accumulated 284 yards and scored all 24 points.
Mike Kafka didn't help himself to keep his job as the No. 2 QB behind Vick when he threw a really boneheaded interception in the second quarter.
Kafka dropped back and turned around to his left and threw the ball before even surveying the field. If he did, he would have noticed a Pittsburgh defensive lineman standing right there for the easy INT.
Overall, Kafka completed five of nine passes for 31 yards and the only turnover of the game for the Eagles.
Well, enough of that, let's move on to my notes and observations from the game...
Players Who Stood out
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Nick Foles might be the second-coming of Joe Montana if you believed the hype he created by having an excellent showing in his first game as an Eagle.
Foles went six for 10 for 144 yards and two very impressive touchdowns.
On the first TD, the Eagles' first points of the game, he bought some time by rolling to his right and then finding a wide-open Damaris Johnson down the field. Foles fired a laser which Johnson caught and sped past the Steelers' defenders to the end zone to complete a 70-yard touchdown play.
On the second touchdown play, Foles did remind you a little bit of Montana by putting a nice touch on a 44-yard pass down the left sideline that Mardy Gilyard hauled in and crashed over the pylon to put the Eagles up 14-13.
Foles could not have asked for a better performance in his first game.
At this point, Eagles fans started going a little crazy over Foles. Hell, things went so far that Mike Florio over at PFT put up a quick post saying "The Nick Foles Era Begins."
Alright now Mike, let's just slow it down a little bit, okay? Foles looked good in his Eagles debut, but I need to see more—a lot more—before I'm ready to utter the words "Nick Foles era."
Based on just this game, Trent Edwards helped his chances of making the team. It has long been thought that it's just a matter of time before he gets cut, but now I'm not so sure.
Edwards out-played Kafka, to say the least. He went 12 for 20 for 106 yards and one touchdown. His stats should have been better if not for some dropped passes, particularly by Arena League call-up Tiger Jones.
Edwards showed some veteran experience in the way he ran the offense and led the team to a last second victory. At the least, his performance should give the coaches something to think about.
Damaris Johnson played a lot in this game. He got some time with the first team as well. He was the Eagles' leading receiver with four catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. He also flashed good ability in the return game, even though his best punt return was negated by a penalty.
Johnson is certainly on track to put Chad Hall in the unemployment line.
Phillip Hunt greatly helped his chances of making the roster again. He had two sacks in the game, multiple pressures and a forced fumble.
Cedric Thornton also improved his chances of making the squad. He seemed like he was living the Steelers' backfield and had one sack, multiple pressures and a great tackle for a loss on a big third-down run play.
He out-played Antonio Dixon and was actually the most impressive DT of the bunch last night.
Vinny Curry played very well last night. He didn't record a sack, but he had three tackles for a loss, showed great hustle in pursuit and was constantly in the backfield.
Brandon Graham parlayed his outstanding training camp to a good showing on the field last night. He had a sack and two tackles for a loss. Again, he was part of a defensive line that was getting tremendous pressure for most of the night.
Derek Landri showed why he's the guy who has replaced Mike Patterson in the starting lineup. He again showed excellent hustle and penetration while he was in there. He's a very disruptive player.
As a matter of fact, the defensive line as a whole played extremely well in notching seven sacks and constantly creating havoc in the backfield all night. And this was without starters Trent Cole and Jason Babin!
Joselio Hanson is really starting to separate himself as the slot cornerback. I thought he was going to be left for dead after the Eagles drafted Boykin.
Hanson made two excellent tackles on third-down plays that stopped the Steelers short of a first down. It's refreshing to see a cornerback who can make nice tackles!
Bryce Brown showed some play-making skills in rushing for 33 yards on just three carries. He looked impressive running the ball and may have separated himself from Chris Polk a little bit for a roster spot.
Alex Henery seems much improved to me over last year. Well, I'm particularly talking about his leg strength. He boomed two kickoffs through the back of the end zone, which was two more than all of last season.
He also came through in the clutch in crushing a 51-yarder to win the game. The kick split the uprights and had plenty of leg behind it.
The punt and kick return units look to be improved with Brandon Boykin and Damaris Johnson. Both showed flashes of exciting play-making skills.
Players and Things That Have Room for Improvement
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
The run defense again showed serious lapses and poor tackling.
On a 4th-and-1 play, Brian Rolle dove blindly over the line and didn't even notice that the running back was headed out to the left. Bad play by Rolle who didn't do anything to help his cause last night.
The starting secondary had two painfully obvious breakdowns in communication. On a 3rd-and-11 play, directly after a Darryl Tapp sack, the Steelers converted easily when Nnamdi Asomugha was left alone with two receivers in the open field.
Not knowing which one to cover, the pass was easily completed for a killer first down conversion.
Later, on a short touchdown pass by the Steelers' backup QB, Asomugha was victimized again because of an obvious miscommunication between he and Jaiquawn Jarrett.
Asomugha was expecting safety help, and Jarrett was late in getting there. Easy TD for Pittsburgh.
If it wasn't for Vick and the first team offense's dreadful performance, Mike Kafka would have stood out as the worst QB last night. I can't say he was terrible, but he certainly didn't do anything to help his cause.
Based on last night, he is now firmly implanted in the backup QB battle and is far from being guaranteed the job.
Mychal Kendricks had only a so-so game to me. Some folks thought he played well, and he did show flashes of his athleticism and speed and made a few nice tackles.
However, on the second play of the game, he was stiff-armed and somewhat embarrassed by Isaac Redman on an attempted tackle. It just wasn't a good initial impression.
A Couple of Other Random Observations
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie committed a killer penalty when he left his feet and launched himself when making a tackle. The penalty had no impact on the outcome of the play, but it gave the Steelers an automatic first down.
And, it just happened to be on a third-down play that this occurred. Instead of forcing a punt there, that gave the Steelers a first down; they ended up scoring a touchdown on the drive.
I wrote an article on this very subject earlier this offseason. It's something that needs to stop this season!
Did you catch LeSean McCoy's snub of ETN's Jeff Skversky? You know how the TV Network analysts interview players on the sidelines during the games? Well, that's what Skversky was trying to do with McCoy.
When he came on camera, he was about to ask McCoy a question, but LeSean had just walked away and left Skversky saying,"Hey, LeSean? LeSean?"
Trivial, but funny.
And how about DeSean Jackson jumping on Andy Reid and giving him a big hug after the game-winning field goal? That was just great to see; those two have a unique relationship that seems to go beyond football.
I'd also like to give a shout-out to all of the awesome Eagles fans who strongly showed their support for Andy Reid all night. Good job guys, I know Reid appreciates your gestures in his time of grief.
Anyway, that's about it for now. The Eagles' third and fourth stringers outplayed the first and second stringers and ultimately won the game that was dedicated to Garrett Reid.
Much work is left to do for Michael Vick and crew. Hopefully we'll see a better showing from them next week.