Eagles Preseason Week 2: Who Stepped Up and Who Didn't
After being humiliated by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles were much improved in Week 2. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but the defense played with more cohesiveness and less confusion than it did in Week 1.
Many players impressed with strong play on the night, while a few have had better days. Here are four players who stepped up and four who did not have their best game. This list is not exhaustive by any means, but is merely a quick observation.
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Who Stepped Up: 1. Michael Vick
The best performance of the night may have been from veteran quarterback Michael Vick. After an outstanding performance against New England, Vick was even better against the Carolina Panthers. He completed nine of nine passes for 105 yards before tossing a Hail Mary up for grabs and being intercepted to end the half.
Stats never tell the whole story. This was certainly the case last night with Vick. The 33-year-old was calm and poised. He released the ball quickly, accurately and with great velocity. He led the Eagles on a 74-yard TD drive in just two minutes and seven seconds.
The veteran also showed that, at 33, he is still one of the fastest QBs in the game. He carried the ball twice, looking like his old Atlanta Falcons self, after so many believed he lost a step in 2012-13. He is clearly the team’s best quarterback and will give the Eagles the best chance to win this season.
Who Stepped Up: 2. LeSean McCoy
If you’re looking for a fantasy running back, you should take LeSean McCoy as high as the top five. In Chip Kelly’s run-based offense, McCoy is already thriving.
He rushed for 47 yards on eight carries, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. On one run, he managed to break two defenders’ ankles in open space before finally being taken down. He looks as elusive as ever and seems primed to repeat his 2011 season.
He is the Eagles’ best player and this offense will be explosive as long as he is healthy.
Who Stepped Up: 3. Bradley Fletcher
As in Week 1, Bradley Fletcher didn’t look like a shutdown corner. However, what he did do was play with invaluable consistency in pass coverage and in tackling.
He allowed a few receptions, but they were more because of good passes by Cam Newton and great catches by Steve Smith. His pass coverage was otherwise excellent. Once a catch was made, he quickly cleaned up the mess by bringing down the receiver.
He won’t be a shutdown corner, but Fletcher will be a physical player who will make few mistakes and play solid football, much like former Eagles CB Sheldon Brown. He could be the most underrated player on the team right now.
Who Stepped Up: 4. Fletcher Cox
After an excellent rookie season, Cox is primed for a breakout year this coming campaign. Cox consistently got to the quarterback and showed a formidable combination of speed, strength and tackling.
Most notably, on the Panthers’ first drive, Cox chased down a scrambling Newton and nearly recorded a sack, with Newton throwing the ball away at the last second.
Just to put things into perspective, Cox is a defensive tackle who is 55 pounds heavier than Newton.
The Eagles were wise to select Cox with their 12th overall pick a season ago. His freakish athleticism and football IQ will soon make him a household name.
Who Didn't: 1. Cary Williams
After criticizing the Eagles for their “soft defense,” Cary Williams did little against the Panthers to live up to those criticisms. Williams allows far too much cushion from his matchup.
The Panthers clearly did not fear him. They threw in his direction again and again. He consistently allowed completions and did not tackle as cleanly as one would like from a starting corner.
Williams probably still deserves to be a starter, but expect him to be more of a flashy, big-play defender, rather than a consistent shutdown corner.
Who Didn't: 2. DeMeco Ryans
Ryans did not play poorly, but he wasn’t great. After a season where he led the Eagles in tackling, Ryans managed just one assisted tackle last night.
He was impressive against the run. However, he struggled to get off blocks and was more of a decoy than a playmaker.
It looks like the move to the 3-4 will hurt Ryans’ productivity, as his natural position is to play middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense. Ryans won’t be a bad player, but don’t expect him to put up Pro Bowl numbers.
Who Didn't: 3. Ifeanyi Momah
After all the excitement generated by his 6’7” frame and 4.40 40-yard dash time, Momah has been a disappointment ever since the beginning of training camp.
His 40-yard dash speed has not shown up on the field and he struggled to get separation. He failed to haul in a single catch against the Panthers.
Momah also did not block well last night. Measurables are not everything and all the size in the world means little if you can’t get separation or set blocks.
The Eagles might put Momah on the practice squad in hopes that he may someday live up to his potential, but right now he does not deserve to be on the roster.
Who Didn't: 4. Nick Foles
Foles played well overall. However, like Vick, his stats were misleading. Despite completing six of eight pass attempts, most of Foles’ throws were high-percentage passes, such as short completions and screens.
And while Foles has a cannon arm, he does not throw deep as often as one would like. The interception he threw was inexcusable. He was being hit, but it was not a blindside hit and he clearly sensed the pressure.
When in field-goal range and on second down, you either decide to throw the ball away sooner or you take the sack. A second-year player like Foles should know better.
Foles also fumbled the snap twice (although he recovered it both times). With Vick’s outstanding performance, Foles is in a hole in the starting quarterback race that he may be unable to come out of.
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