Philadelphia Eagles: 8 Things We Learned Through Week 3 of Preseason
The Philadelphia Eagles are three weeks into the preseason, and things are starting to settle into shape for this team. Well, most things.
But a number of other battles on the team are still undecided, such as defensive end and safety.
Fans also really have no idea what to expect from the Eagles this season. They could be a surprise postseason team, or they could stumble and win just four games all year.
The following eight slides will highlight things we've learned about the team this season, in no particular order.
1. Secondary Is Atrocious
The Eagles had one of the worst secondaries in the history of the NFL in 2012, and unfortunately, that's not even an exaggeration. They allowed 30 passing touchdowns and intercepted just eight passes (and in the final 15 games, they allowed 30 touchdowns and intercepted just four passes).
This offseason, the Eagles added free-agent signings Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung, and all were expected to be starters. Three of those will make the team, but veteran Phillips was cut on Sunday following knee issues all summer, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via NFL.com's Chris Wesseling).
It could be a long season for the secondary. Again.
2. Bryce Brown Hasn't Changed
Last year's rookie Bryce Brown exploded onto the scene, carrying 115 times for 564 yards and four touchdowns.
But he had some big issues with fumbling, coughing up the football four times in limited action.
Those problems returned against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third preseason game. He looked like a stud running the ball, carrying 11 times for 92 yards and a score. But he had an embarrassing fumble on the 1-yard line, which cost the Eagles a scoring opportunity (and almost cost them the game).
Brown is one of the most talented backup running backs in the NFL. But he will not play if he can't hold onto the football.
3. Jason Avant Is Still Jason Avant
There were reports a few months ago that veteran slot receiver Jason Avant would be cut this offseason.
After all, Avant is 30 years old and can't keep up with the modern slot receiver, a player like Percy Harvin or Victor Cruz, who can actually run with the ball after the catch.
CSNPhilly's Reuben Frank thinks that Avant will increase his receptions total for the eighth consecutive season.
4. Lane Johnson Hasn't Struggled
Lane Johnson hasn't looked like a rookie. That's a very positive sign for the Philadelphia Eagles.
The pressure is on for him, as the fourth overall draft pick will spend the season as the blindside blocker for Michael Vick.
The Eagles have one of the most athletic lines in the league, with Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans and Johnson as the five starters. If they can stay healthy, they will also be one of the best lines in the game.
5. Brandon Graham Hasn't Built Off 2012 Success
Brandon Graham was the best defensive player on the 2012 Eagles, even rating as the second-best 4-3 defensive end in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
But he hasn't stood out this preseason, as the Eagles switched to a 3-4 defense a few months ago. He's likely to enter the season as a backup at outside linebacker behind Connor Barwin and Trent Cole.
He's still just 25 years old and figures to have a solid career in an Eagles uniform. But at this current time, he doesn't project to be a standout player in 2013 like he was in 2012.
6. No True Nose Tackle
The Eagles made the decision to switch to a 3-4 defense this offseason. And two weeks before the start of the season, they still don't have a legitimate starting nose tackle.
Veteran Isaac Sopoaga was signed from the San Francisco 49ers this offseason, but he's going to be 32 this year and is clearly on the decline. Don't expect him to play more than 15 to 20 snaps per game this year.
Rookie third-round draft pick Bennie Logan is an option to earn a starting spot at nose tackle. He's versatile enough to play all three spots on the defensive line, although he isn't an ideal nose tackle.
And veteran Antonio Dixon likely won't be on the team in 2013. He hasn't stood out in the preseason and isn't a true nose tackle either.
7. Cedric Thornton the Other Starting Defensive End
Last year's rookie first-round draft pick Fletcher Cox is clearly one of the two starting defensive ends this season.
The other spot has been completely up for grabs. Cedric Thornton has been solid this offseason and has the upper hand on the other starting spot.
Expect Vinny Curry, who has also played very well over the past month, to be in the rotation, as well as Bennie Logan.
8. Nick Foles Is a Solid Backup
Veteran Michael Vick won the starting job this offseason in a heated battle with sophomore Nick Foles.
But Foles has played out of his mind during the first three preseason games. He's completed 21 of 25 passes. That's 84 percent. He led the Eagles to scoring drives in each of the games he's played, including a sensational 99-yard, game-winning touchdown drive against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night.
If and when Vick suffers an injury—as he undoubtedly will—Foles should be able to play well as his replacement. In fact, don't be surprised if he thrives.