Philadelphia Eagles: 7 Observations from Preseason Week 1
One thing should be remembered when evaluating a team’s preseason performance: It’s only preseason. The games do not count in the official standings and neither do the statistics.
Then again, it’s the first taste of football Philadelphia Eagles fans have seen under Chip Kelly. A 31-22 loss to the New England Patriots isn’t as important as the individual results from the 87 players on the roster. All five quarterbacks got playing time, the Eagles rolled up more than 400 yards of offense, and the special teams unit had its fair share of fine plays.
However, the defense looked like a long season may be ahead. The Patriots scored five times in the first half and six times overall, racking up close to 450 yards without a turnover. Fortunately, it is still the preseason, and what’s more important is that the Eagles were able to finally implement their long-awaited offense at game speed.
The following is a list of seven observations from the Eagles' 31-22 loss to the Patriots.
Michael Vick Looked Better Than Nick Foles
Chip Kelly is intent on having a quarterback competition all summer. His official depth chart listed both Michael Vick and Nick Foles as the starters, and Kelly has even announced he will rotate his quarterbacks in the series throughout the preseason games.
As it turned out, Vick got the first two series, and he made the most of them. He was picturesque on his first drive, connecting with a 47-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson The pass was floated perfectly over the coverage from Aqib Talib, the best cornerback on the New England Patriots’ roster.
Vick averaged 18.8 yards per pass on his five attempts, finishing with 94 passing yards. By virtue of Foles’ lost fumble on one of his drives, Vick wins round one of the quarterback competition.
Jon Dorenbos Is Irreplaceable
Jon Dorenbos may just be a long snapper but he’s perhaps the most efficient player at his position in the NFL. Since 2006, Dorenbos has never had a poor snap with the club. Not once. The Philadelphia Eagles extended him in the offseason to a four-year deal, one that will keep him with the team through at least 2016.
Dorenbos left Friday’s game early with a head injury, and that pushed backup long snapper Brent Celek into a role with which he was largely unfamiliar.
That's the importance of Jon Dorenbos to this team. Thankfully, nobody appears to have been hurt on that poor snap by Brent Celek. #eagles— Ryan Messick 973ESPN (@rm973) August 10, 2013
The Eagles’ Run Defense Needs Some Work
The New England Patriots employed a fairly conservative strategy against Chip Kelly, starting the game with six consecutive runs. In all, the Patriots carried the ball 31 times for 248 yards and three touchdowns, averaging a ridiculous 8.0 yards per rush.
Among the highlights was a 62-yard run by Stevan Ridley to begin the game, one in which the Eagles’ defense essentially parted ways to make room for him. Mychal Kendricks and Nate Allen missed key tackles on the drive, but Brandon Graham outdid them both with his performance on a long run by LeGarrette Blount.
Graham got completely spun around, whiffing on Blount twice on a 51-yard touchdown run that looked like Reggie Bush’s days at USC. Hopefully, this was just the Eagles getting a bad day out of their system as opposed to a sign of things to come.
The Pass Defense Had No Chance Against Tom Brady
In two drives against the Philadelphia Eagles, Tom Brady led his offense to 14 effortless points. He completed seven of eight passes for 65 yards and a touchdown, barely breaking a sweat against a secondary that allowed a franchise-worst 33 scores a year ago.
To be fair, Brady is one of the finest to ever play the game. Plenty of teams have struggled against him, but still, it wasn’t a very inspiring performance by Chip Kelly’s defensive backs. It looked like a game in which Brady and Co. could easily have rolled up 50 points had they tried.
Matt Barkley Got Much Better as the Game Went on
Considering the circumstances surrounding Matt Barkley, he didn’t play too badly.
He was playing mostly with third-stringers in an offense he is still learning. And he started just 6-of-17 for 51 yards passing.
So his final numbers (11-of-22 for 103 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions) are solid. He also converted a successful two-point pass to Matthew Tucker, which means the Philadelphia Eagles did get touchdown drives from each of their main quarterbacks.
It won’t vault Barkley any higher in the quarterback competition, but it didn’t hurt his stock either.
Greg Salas Impressed, Ifeanyi Momah Did Not
With injuries to Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn, the wide receiver competition is wide open for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Greg Salas, a former draft pick of the St. Louis Rams, caught three passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. His finest play came in the waning seconds when he hauled in a 35-yard pass from G.J. Kinne, doing so with one hand. Salas may win a spot as the fifth receiver given his excellent skills as a possession receiver.
Meanwhile, fan favorite Ifeanyi Momah had a rough day.
Momah was targeted twice, finishing with no catches. On one play, physical play from cornerback Logan Ryan pushed Momah out of bounds, and the result would have been a perfect pick-six for Ryan had he caught the ball. And Momah was flagged for a false start, which is something you don’t see too often from a receiver.
The Return Units Could Be Special This Season
The 2012 Philadelphia Eagles were the picture of mediocrity when it came to the return game. New special teams coach Dave Fipp seems to be having a positive impact thus far, judging by the results against the New England Patriots.
The Eagles averaged 18.8 yards on five punt returns on Friday night, highlighted by Damaris Johnson’s terrific 69-yard return. On the kick returns, Brandon Boykin brought one back six yards deep in the end zone and got to the 27.
In all, Philly’s 26.0 yards per kick return and 18.4 yards per punt return would have ranked eighth and first in the league last year, respectively. Getting a spark from the return units will put less pressure on the offense to score points in 2013.