10 Reasons Philadelphia Eagles Preseason Should Inspire Confidence in Fans

Randy JobstSenior Analyst IAugust 29, 2012

10 Reasons Philadelphia Eagles Preseason Should Inspire Confidence in Fans

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    The Philadelphia Eagles are one win away from going undefeated in preseason. What does that really mean?

    Well, before the Lions went winless in the regular season, they went undefeated in the preseason.

    Teams have great success in preseason and have great success in the regular season as well. It isn't an exact science. Preseason is really just a test of how deep your roster is. These games typically come down to which team's third and fourth stringers are better.

    Still, there is a lot to like coming out of the Eagles summer. Michael Vick may have struggled to move the offense before getting hurt twice, but the rest of the offense had great success.

    The defense has also been pretty solid. Just about every defensive lineman on the Eagles roster has looked phenomenal. There is real hope that the Eagles can make a run at the 1984 Chicago Bears' team sack record of 72.

    The Eagles were expected to make the jump to Super Bowl contender. Outside of the Vick concerns, the Eagles are right on pace to reach that elite level. Here are 10 reasons why Eagles fans should be optimistic coming out of preseason.

1. Quarterback Play

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    Usually, when your top two quarterbacks go down early in preseason, your offense becomes pretty dormant. Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg are the exception to that rule. They always get the most out of their quarterbacks, and this summer has been a perfect example.

    Nick Foles has completed 63 percent of his passes for over 500 yards and a quarterback rating of 112.2. He has also led the Eagles inside the 20 five times and led them to a touchdowns all five trips. Foles was supposed to be a project quarterback that would play behind Michael Vick and Mike Kafka on the depth chart. Now, he appears to be the top backup.

    Trent Edwards was awful throughout the Eagles OTAs. Then training camp happened and he got better and better. Edwards has completed over 66 percent of his passes for two touchdowns and no interceptions. He wasn't expected to be anything more than a roster filler, but he has become a serious threat to Kafka for the final roster spot at quarterback.

    Eagles fans might be a bit concerned with their franchise player, Vick, but at least they know they have plenty of depth behind him.

2. Running Back Depth

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    The Eagles kept just four running backs this summer, and all four backs made a serious case to make the roster. LeSean McCoy had the lowest yards per carry, but should still expect to put up monster numbers this season. Dion Lewis showed off his abilities as a runner and receiver, racking up 59 total yards and one touchdown.

    The other two Eagles running backs, who had to play their way onto this roster, have been very impressive. Bryce Brown is averaging 5.4 yards per carry and leads the Eagles with 102 rushing yards. Chris Polk had 51 yards on 13 carries with a long of 20.

    Brown is a special athlete, a big back with a lot of speed. Polk is a punishing back with great blitz pickup skills.

    The problem is, the Eagles most likely won't keep four backs on their roster. They barely know how to utilize two backs. I can't imagine them finding a use for all four backs.

    Still, it has been great to see four backs having a great preseason up to this point. Polk is probably the odd man out, but another strong performance in the preseason finale will do a lot to help his case.

3. Damaris Johnson

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    The Eagles have been looking for a quick playmaker that they can get the ball to in space. There was interest in Dexter McCluster back in the 2010 NFL draft, and they also tried to sign Darren Sproles last summer. Damaris Johnson is starting to become that type of player.

    Johnson is like a smaller version of DeSean Jackson at 5'8", 170. He doesn't have quite the speed Jackson does, but boy, is he quick in the open field. Johnson has been used on quick passes, slants and a couple of deeper routes. He has also been used as the primary punt returner. He has excelled in all areas.

    Damaris Johnson has really asserted himself as the fifth receiver. He has 166 receiving yards and is averaging over eight yards a punt with a long of 30. He should be a vital part of this offense this season.

4. Left Tackle

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    Left tackle has been all over the place in 2012 already, and the season hasn't even started yet. Todd Herremans started at left tackle in the final game of the 2011 regular season on January 1, 2012. Then, Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles last March, creating a major void at left tackle.

    Then, the Eagles re-signed King Dunlap and signed Demetress Bell. Bell was supposed to become a starter, but has struggled mightily in preseason.

    Now, Dunlap is the starting left tackle heading into the regular season. It has been a long summer for a player that was a key backup last season, to being thrown aside in the offseason and now will be blocking some of the best pass-rushers in the game.

    Bell is the better athlete and still has potential to become a starter on this line. Dunlap won the job because he is reliable. He isn't a dominant blocker, but he holds his own in pass protection. He isn't going to be a weak link on the line, but he won't be the strength either. He is the safe option.

    It's like ordering the same thing you have ordered at a restaurant before instead of trying something different. You know what you are getting, and there is no risk involved.

5. Dennis Kelly

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    Dennis Kelly is a project at offensive tackle and wasn't a lock by any stretch to make this roster. He looked stiff early on at camp, and there were doubts about whether he was athletic enough to handle some of the best edge-rushers.

    Kelly has answered a lot of questions in the last two preseason games. He played right tackle with the second unit against the Patriots, and he played right tackle with both the first and second-team units against the Browns. He didn't dominate, but he certainly held his own.

    The progression Kelly has shown is key for the Eagles. We still don't know how reliable Demetess Bell would be as a backup. It's nice to know that the Eagles have another reserve tackle in Kelly that can step in and hold his own.

6. Phillip Hunt

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    Phillip Hunt was signed on last season from the CFL to add competition at the defensive end. He fought his way onto the roster and made a minor impact on the Eagles. This season, he was supposed to battle for a spot on the active roster this season, but he had other plans.

    Hunt isn't going to make a minor impact on Eagles this season; he is going to make a major impact in the pass-rush. He has demonstrated an explosive first step that has resulted in 3.5 sacks through the first three preseason games.

    Hunt has the potential to easily rack up 10 sacks this season. That is pretty remarkable for a player that won't be a starter this season. He will rotate at both defensive end positions behind Trent Cole and Jason Babin. His explosive first step will get him on the field during a lot of key third downs.

7. Pass-Rush

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    Phillip Hunt isn't the only Eagles defensive lineman having a great summer. Actually, the majority of the Eagles defensive line is having a great summer. Jim Washburn's wide-9 scheme is starting to come into place, and the potential of this unit is pretty scary.

    Darryl Tapp was supposed to be the odd man out at defensive end. After torching Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas last Friday, it will be hard to cut Tapp. Trading him for a late-round draft pick isn't that appealing either.

    The Eagles could opt to go with six defensive ends and use five on game days. Rookie Vinny Curry would be inactive until someone gets hurt or struggles.

    That would give the Eagles five defensive ends to play with each week and at least four defensive tackles. That gives the Eagles nine defensive linemen to rotate in and out on Sundays. You can't wear out a defense with that many athletes on the same line. It would be more likely that the offensive line would get worn out first.

8. Derek Landri

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    Mike Patterson's health concerns left a major void on the defensive line. A void that has immediately been filled by a player that nobody wanted during free agency.

    Derek Landri had a strong camp for the Eagles last season, but was cut regardless. He was brought back after Antonio Dixon was lost for the season and did a fantastic job. He was signed to just a one-year deal and received little attention during free agency. The Eagles eventually brought him back, and thanks goodness they did.

    Landri has been one of the defensive stars this summer. His quick first step made him a force in the wide-9 scheme. He ended the Browns' drive at the Eagles' 12-yard line last week because of his ability to burn an interior line and get into the backfield in a hurry.

    Landri isn't a great athlete, but he is quick and technically sound. You don't have to be a 330-pound monster or run a 4.7 40 to be effective in the wide-9. A quick step is far more valuable than overall speed, and well-polished pass-rushing moves will easily make up for a lack of elite strength.

9. Mychal Kendricks

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    Mychal Kendricks has the potential to be the best Eagles outside linebacker since the Buddy Ryan era. He may not have played a regular season game yet, but you can see the ability during preseason. He locks down his man in pass-coverage, he covers a lot of ground with elite speed and he has been a solid tackler. He really is the complete package at strong-side linebacker.

    The key for every rookie during preseason is progression. Kendricks missed a couple of tackles during the first preseason game, but has been outstanding since. He isn't missing assignment and has been a very dangerous blitzer.

    Kendricks isn't going to be a work in progress this season, nor is he going to be just a nice starter. Kendricks is an early favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He has to show it on the field in a meaningful game first, but he has off to an incredibly fast start.

10. Secondary

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    The Eagles secondary was supposed to be the strength of the defense last season. They had three Pro Bowl cornerbacks, but it didn't gel right. The coverage schemes didn't fit everyone and Asante Samuel was traded as a result. Now, the Eagles have two stud outside corners in Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromarite with plenty of depth behind them.

    We already know the Eagles have a great pass-rush. They racked up 50 sacks last season and are expected to put up even bigger numbers this season. A great pass-rush is useless if your pass coverage is weak. A great pass-rush becomes unstoppable when the secondary can lock down on receivers.

    The key for the Eagles pass-coverage is the press coverage they are employing. The potential for both outside corners and either Brandon Boykin or Joselio Hanson is the slot is truly great. They are all quick, physical and all three have great ball skills. How they fare in the season opener will give us an idea of how great they can be this season.