Eagles vs. Patriots: Philadelphia's Biggest Winners and Losers
It was another rough start to a preseason game for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles were torched by the screen game early and lost Vick to another injury six plays into the game. The game settled down, and the depth of the Eagles took over as they beat the New England Patriots 27-17.
Nick Foles had a major coming out party in front of a national audience while the Eagles' run defense held the Patriots run game in check. Penalties and the ability to react to the screen pass will be the focus of practice this week. Outside of those two areas and the Vick injury, the Eagles had a lot of positives coming from this game.
This was the Eagles' dress rehearsal heading into the regular season. Their next preseason opponent will also be their first regular-season opponent. That has forced the Eagles to rest most of their starters in the final two preseason games.
Winner: Nick Foles
Nick Foles has been handed some serious opportunities already in his NFL career. First off, he was drafted by a flat out quarterback guru in Andy Reid. Second, he was coming into the perfect situation, where he could just develop behind two established quarterbacks in the offense.
Monday night, Foles was awarded with yet another golden opportunity. Mike Kafka was already out with a fractured non-throwing hand, and Michael Vick injured his ribs just a few plays into the game. Foles took over after the second offensive possession and lasted all the way through the third quarter.
He didn't disappoint as he completed 18 out of 28 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns. His footwork was flawless, and his decision-making was well beyond his years. He looked like a legitimate starting quarterback.
Most of his work was up against a lot of the Patriots starters. He did what Vick has failed to do in his four offensive possession in the preseason, and that is move the football.
Foles isn't going to challenge Vick for his starting job just yet, but he is going to challenge Kafka for the backup role. Actually, Foles is probably one more good performance away from earning that backup role. You can't argue with the results.
Loser: Michael Vick
Michael Vick is having a nightmare of a preseason, thus far. He lasted just six plays in each of the Eagles' first two preseason games before being knocked out. He didn't move the ball well in either game. His starting job isn't in any danger, but you can't help but feel a bit anxious about his ability to both lead this offense and stay healthy this season.
The important thing to consider is that this is preseason. Vick needs preseason more to shake the rust off than anything else. He is the starter and the franchise quarterback. Staying healthy is his No. 1 goal. It would be nice to see him actually look good leading the offense, but he is proven enough to believe that he will be fine once the regular season gets underway.
Hopefully, Vick will use the preseason as motivation to be smarter with the football. He isn't helping the offense with his need to try to turn every play into a big play.
Winner: King Dunlap
The battle for the left-tackle spot is in full swing, and King Dunlap did a lot to help himself Monday night. He wasn't dominant, and he doesn't get upfield as quickly as Jason Peters did or as quickly as Demetress Bell can, but he was stable.
The key for the Eagles at left tackle, especially early this season, is stability. They want a player at left tackle who they won't lose sleep over. He doesn't have to be great; he just has to be consistent and reliable. Dunlap was just that Monday night against the Patriots. He held his own, especially against rookie defensive end Chandler Jones.
Left tackle is far from being decided, but Dunlap did a lot to help himself.
Loser: Rest of the Offensive Line
The rest of the offensive line didn't fair as well as Dunlap did early on. They got torched on the play Vick was injured on. Mathis was blown by like he was a smaller running back trying to get a chip on the pass-rusher.
Once the game settled down a bit, the offensive line settled down. Still, it does cause some concern that a defensive line that was without Vince Wilfork would have so much success against a group that has so much promise going into the season.
Winners: Clay Harbor and Stanley Havili
Stanley Havili and Clay Harbor did a lot to help themselves Monday night, especially with their work at full back. Both players were used as lead blockers with the first-team offense, and both players had success.
Harbor finished the game with six receptions for 30 yards and two touchdowns. I didn't see him drop a single pass. That was huge for Harbor. He is trying to be a bigger part of this offense this season. He is already an outstanding blocker, now, he is starting to look like a really good option in the short passing game.
Havili wasn't in the game much, but when he was, he certainly made his impact. He took a trap run for 14 yards down to the 1-yard line and followed that play up by setting the block that sprung LeSean McCoy free on a one-yard touchdown run. That is exactly what the Eagles want out of their fullback, and that is what he should be able to deliver this season.
Both players should be a vital part of the offense this season and crucial to what the Eagles need to accomplish in the red zone.
Loser: Marvin McNutt
Marvin McNutt has been impossible to find during preseason. He has zero catches so far in preseason and has barely seen the field. The fact that Mardy Gilyard and Elvis Akpla have seen more action than he is in the first two weeks of the preseason is a really bad sign.
McNutt is a good run blocker and should be able to contribute on special teams as well, but he hasn't shown enough as a wide receiver to make the team at this point. Right now, he is nothing more than a practice-squad candidate.
He will have more opportunities in the final two preseason games with most of the starters being rested, but you can't like his changes up to this point.
Winner: Phillip Hunt
Phillip Hunt is having a monster of a summer. He came into minicamp as the fifth or sixth defensive end, just trying to secure a roster spot. After two preseason games, six solo tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles, it is safe to say he is here to stay.
Hunt has been the Eagles' most consistent pass-rusher to this point. He should be expected to be a vital part of the Eagles' defensive-line rotation this season.
Loser: Darryl Tapp
Darryl Tapp can't afford too many games like these. He is not only fighting for a roster spot with the Eagles, but also a spot with another team should the Eagles decide to cut him or trade him. Tapp had zero tackles and two personal foul penalties. He struggled to get any type of a pass-rush, but kept the Patriots' drives going with two real bone-headed plays.
Tapp is still a good player, but is clearly the sixth-best defensive end on this roster. Monday night's performance cliched that. He still will find a spot on somebody else's roster; it just won't be in Philadelphia.
Winner: Mychal Kendricks
Mychal Kendricks is quietly becoming an early favorite for defensive rookie of the year. We already knew he was a freak-athlete linebacker, but it has been his football instincts that are starting to set him apart from the field.
He sniffed out several screens against the Patriots Monday night and had six total tackles in the first half. He flew all over the field and seemed to always be around the ball. It's a great start for a very promising football player. The Eagles haven't had much at outside linebacker since Carlos Emmons.
Loser: Screen Defense
The fear with the Wide-9 scheme is that the aggressive play of the defensive line will backfire against screen passes and inside runs. That came full circle against the Patriots Monday night.
The Patriots threw screen after screen after screen at the Eagles. Early on, the Eagles were helpless to stop it. It took the awareness of Joselio Hanson and Mychal Kendricks to stop the momentum of the screen game. Screens and draws will be an issue for the Wide-9 scheme. It is the perfect counter to an overaggressive defensive-line scheme.
This will be something to watch all season long. Will the Eagles be able to contain screens and draws, or will it continue to be a weakness that the opposition can expose all season long?