Eagles vs. Browns: Eagles' Biggest Winners and Losers from Preseason Week 3
Neither team really opened up their playbooks, but both teams played their starters for significant minutes. It wasn't a good barometer of what Week 1 will be like, but it gave us an idea of what each team needs to work on in the next two weeks.
The Browns started the game off right, driving down to the Eagles 2-yard line. A holding penalty followed by a sack and lost fumble doomed the Browns the rest of the night. The offense never really got going and the first-team defense struggled to contain an offense led by a rookie quarterback and a bunch of backups.
For the Eagles, it was mostly a positive effort. Still, there were a fair share of winners and losers Friday night. Twelve players stood out to me from Friday night, both good and bad.
Winner: Nick Foles
Nick Foles has officially graduated from a project quarterback. It is only a matter of time until Andy Reid announces that he will be backing up Michael Vick this season. You can't argue with his composure, footwork and his results on the field in general.
For the third straight week, Foles had himself a very impressive outing. He completed 12 out of 19 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. He was in complete control of this offense as he led them on three successful scoring drives.
This week, he faced the Browns starters and showed even more progress. He should go into the season as the Eagles backup quarterback, the most important backup role in all of football.
Loser: Michael Vick
Michael Vick hasn't had a backup quarterback that would make him look over his shoulder for most of his career. This season will be different. Nick Foles has been spectacular throughout preseason while Vick has struggled to do anything on offense.
This is why Vick is coming out of preseason as a loser. He is still the franchise quarterback, but his job is a little bit less safe now with such a promising young player nipping at his heels.
This preseason has been a disaster for Vick up to this point. He has done nothing on offense and has been knocked out of both games he played. The regular season just can't come soon enough.
Winner: Damaris Johnson
Damaris Johnson kicked open the door to the final 53-man roster Friday night. He had three punt returns of at least 10 yards, including a 30-yard return, and also had 58 yards receiving. He was a big part of the offense and was consistently great in the return game.
Johnson was an undrafted free agent who came in as one of the long shots to make the roster. It is safe to say he will be a part of this team in 2012. He is quick, dangerous in the open field and doesn't shy away from contact.
On his 13-yard reception, he cut inside instead of running toward the sideline. The most dangerous players after the catch are always the players who cut into the middle of the field. Most of the time that is where the big plays are. The sideline becomes an extra defender.
Receivers who stay away from the sideline take away that extra defender. It's great to see from Johnson in the preseason. Imagine what he will do once these games actually count for something.
Loser: Mardy Gilyard
Mardy Gilyard came into training camp with a shot at earning a roster spot as the fifth or sixth wide receiver who can also contribute in the return game. So far, Gilyard has been outshined by Damaris Johnson in both areas.
Gilyard is a nice receiver with plenty of experience on special teams. He is good enough to play in the NFL for somebody, but he hasn't been able to outshine enough people on the Eagles roster in order to make the team.
While Johnson was making plays for the Eagles on offense and on special teams, Gilyard had just one eight-yard catch and zero yards in the return game. It's a pretty safe bet that Gilyard will be looking elsewhere for work in the NFL this season.
Winner: Dennis Kelly
Dennis Kelly got his first start, at right tackle in the third week of preseason and fared pretty well for himself.
He didn't give up any sacks and he finished his blocks off in the running game. He got pushed backwards quite a bit in pass protection, but he never got beat.
Kelly is still pretty far from a finished project. The key for Kelly is progress. As long as he is getting better and getting more comfortable in Howard Mudd's blocking scheme, there is optimism.
Kelly is a load at 6'8, 320 pounds. He has potential to be a really good tackle on either side of the line and you saw a little bit of that Friday night.
Loser: Antonio Dixon
Antonio Dixon has yet to really impress me this summer. He has been really slow off the line and hasn't given much of a pass-rush up to this point. There was some doubt as to whether he was a good fit in the wide-9 scheme and he has done very little to erase that doubt.
Dixon had zero stops against the Browns but did commit 20 penalty yards on the same drive. Penalties have already been a huge problem with this defense so far in preseason. Any player that isn't a lock to make this roster cannot afford to commit such costly penalties.
The only thing working for Dixon is the uncertainty of Mike Patterson. If the Eagles believe there is a chance that Patterson won't play football this season, then Dixon will become a much tougher player to cut. As it stands right now, he is right on the edge of getting the boot.
Winner: Dion Lewis
Dion Lewis is quietly having himself a very good preseason. You have to look beyond the stats with Lewis. Every time he runs the ball he is getting extra yards and is managing to fall forward on every carry. He has also looked really good as a receiver, both lined up as a wide out and in the backfield.
Lewis had four yards on the ground and 24 through the air. He was especially impressive on his touchdown reception where he lined up wide and ran a quick slant from the 2-yard line. His body position was outstanding for a running back.
It will be interesting to see exactly how the Eagles use Lewis in the offense this season. He can line up all over the offense and make plays as a runner and a receiver from anywhere. I fully expect a big season from Lewis in Year 2.
Loser: Brian Rolle
Brian Rolle had a rough night. He committed two offsides penalties on the first possession of the game and found himself consistently out of position. He is still the starting weak side linebacker, but he did little to help himself just two weeks before the regular season gets underway.
Rolle's biggest issues were over-pursuing and confusion in coverage. He is plenty athletic and physical enough to get the job done at linebacker. He just needs to get the mental aspects of the position down.
Winner: Phillip Hunt
Phillip Hunt has been a monster throughout preseason. He now has 3.5 sacks through three games and has been ultra explosive off the snap. Hunt doesn't look like a player who is competing for a roster spot anymore, he looks like next really good pass-rusher in the NFC East.
Hunt has a chance to rack up a lot of sacks this season. He will be a part of the defensive line rotation behind both Trent Cole and Jason Babin. That means when he comes into the game, he will be fresh and very hungry.
We saw flashes of greatness from Hunt at times last season. We should see that on a consistent basis this season.
Loser: Keenan Clayton
Keenan Clayton is a really good coverage linebacker. Outside of that, he hasn't been able to offer much for the Eagles. He doesn't stand up well against the run and his tackling his been a bit of an issue in the open field.
On a third-and-12 play, midway through the third quarter, Colt McCoy dumped off short to running back Adonis Thomas. Clayton was in position to stop him for a six-yard gain and force the Browns to punt.
Clayton led with his shoulder instead of wrapping him up and Thomas bounced off him and ran for another seven yards. The Browns got the first down and wound up scoring their lone touchdown later on that drive.
Open-field tackling killed the Eagles defense last season. I can't imagine that Eagles are going to keep a player on the border of making the roster or being cut who is a liability in the open field.
Winner: Phillp Thomas
The Eagles safeties behind Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen have had a pretty lousy summer.
O.J. Atogwe can't stay healthy enough to get on the field, Tom Nelson as a high ankle sprain and Jaiquawn Jarrett has looked completely lost at times. It's safe to say that the Eagles were dying for a backup safety to instill some confidence this preseason.
Phillip Thomas did a lot to help himself Friday night. He showed speed in coverage and always seemed in position to make a play. At the very least, he made himself into a solid candidate for the practice squad who could earn a full-time roster spot next season.
Loser: Kevin Thomas
Kevin Thomas was a third-round draft pick back in 2010, but has yet to look like a player that was worthy of being drafted.
Thomas has struggled in man coverage and has played mostly with the third-team defense. Thomas has the size you would want in a press corner at 6'0, 190, but has yet to look the part.
Thomas probably makes it through the first line of cuts on Aug. 28, but it would be a major upset to see him make the final roster. He lacks the ideal speed to stay with outside receivers while also struggling to stay on the same page with the rest of the defense.