Philadelphia vs. New England: Report Card Grades for Each Eagles Unit
The Philadelphia Eagles lost a 42-35 contest to the New England Patriots, dropping Chip Kelly’s squad to 0-2 thus far in the 2014 preseason. The offense played much better than the previous week, particularly the quarterback position, where all three signal-callers turned in strong performances.
Again, it was the defense that came up short. The pass rush didn’t put a lot of pressure on Tom Brady and the other quarterbacks, but it was the secondary that was torched.
Fortunately, there were no serious injuries, and it was just the preseason. Here’s a postgame breakdown of the performances by each positional unit on the Eagles.
After last week’s debacle, Philadelphia Eagles fans had to be hoping for a much better performance from Nick Foles. They got it, as Foles completed eight of his 10 passes for 81 yards and a score. That’s a nifty 133.6 passer rating.
Mark Sanchez was just as crisp when he took over, going 11-of-12 for 117 yards and two touchdowns. He did throw an interception, but he posted a passer rating of 112.2. Matt Barkley closed the game out by completing 75 percent of his 12 attempts for 132 yards. All three Eagles quarterbacks posted completion percentages of at least 75 percent and passer ratings over 100.
Should Foles get injured in 2014, this bodes extremely well for the Eagles in that they have capable backups.
The Philadelphia Eagles had a trio of running backs inactive for this game—Chris Polk, Matthew Tucker and David Fluellen. With LeSean McCoy slated to play just the first half, that left a golden opportunity for undrafted rookie Henry Josey to win a spot.
Josey seized the chance, leading the team in carries (eight) and yards (56) and taking a screen pass 27 yards up the sideline for a nifty touchdown. Will he make the roster? Probably not, considering Chip Kelly will likely keep four running backs (McCoy, Darren Sproles, Polk and Tucker), and keeping five running backs is a rarity in this league.
Injuries to Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper opened the door for younger players to step up and produce. Rookie second-round draft pick Jordan Matthews redeemed himself after a brutal preseason performance last week, catching nine passes for 104 yards.
Josh Huff was injured and left early. Both Ifeanyi Momah and Jeff Maehl lost fumbles, which doesn’t bode well for their odds to make the 53-man roster. Arrelious Benn did help his chances, catching a deflected touchdown pass and blocking a punt on special teams.
Damaris Johnson also filled in at the Darren Sproles role, carrying the ball out of the backfield while catching underneath routes. Johnson finished with 14 yards on the ground and 30 receiving yards plus a touchdown.
A case could be made that the Philadelphia Eagles have the finest duo of tight ends in the National Football League. Maybe the San Diego Chargers (Ladarius Green and Antonio Gates) or Cincinnati Bengals (Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham) could challenge, but Brent Celek and Zach Ertz are at least a top-three unit.
Celek hauled in two catches for 45 yards, and Ertz added two catches for 26 yards of his own plus a touchdown. James Casey also caught two passes for 15 yards, and undrafted rookie Trey Burton added a reception for 18 yards. That’s over 100 yards from the tight end position.
It’s tough to evaluate how the offensive line did until game film can be watched. But the Philadelphia Eagles put up 413 yards and 28 points on offense (Cary Williams added seven with his interception-return touchdown).
The three quarterbacks were sacked just once and looked to have sufficient time to throw against a competent New England defense. The running game fared well, putting up 4.2 yards per rush on 21 carries. The only potential problem on the offensive line may have been right tackle Allen Barbre (filling in for the suspended Lane Johnson), who was beat badly by Rob Ninkovich on a pass rush.
By the numbers, the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line didn’t play well. The New England Patriots rushed for 250 yards and two touchdowns on 46 carries, averaging over five yards per rush. Former undrafted player Jonas Gray was the star, putting up 98 yards on 12 carries.
In terms of getting to the quarterback, the Eagles’ three-man front got a sack and tackle for loss from Alejandro Villanueva, the former Army veteran. Seventh-round rookie nose tackle Beau Allen also played well in the trenches, as did reserve end Brandon Bair.
In a 3-4 defensive scheme, the Philadelphia Eagles will need constant pressure from their pass-rushing outside linebackers. Annual camp star Brandon Graham added a sack, a quarterback hit, a tackle for a loss and five solo tackles.
Trent Cole and Connor Barwin had quiet days, finishing with four tackles between them. In terms of stopping the run, it was not one of the better days for this defense. The Eagles have a slew of reserve linebackers who could push for a roster spot, and no one stood out today.
Outside of Cary Williams’ 77-yard interception touchdown, it was a brutal day for the Philadelphia Eagles secondary.
To be fair, there were numerous injuries. Nolan Carroll and Jaylen Watkins did not dress. Brandon Boykin suffered an injury, as did Williams. But 2011 third-round pick Curtis Marsh will be lucky to survive the first round of cuts after the way he played.
At safety, Nate Allen led his positional group with four tackles, and Earl Wolff added three and a pass defensed. In all, the Eagles allowed four touchdown passes to the three New England Patriots quarterbacks.
It was an interesting day for the Philadelphia Eagles’ special teams. There were some highs, like Arrelious Benn’s blocked field goal—the second straight game the Eagles blocked a kick. Donnie Jones added a 57-yard punt. And the Eagles benefited from a Stephen Gostkowski missed field goal.
There were also some lows. Alex Henery missed a 47-yard field goal, one his head coach was not pleased about.
Chip Kelly on Alex Henery: Miss not indicative of what he's seen in camp, but "you got to make 47 yarders in this league." #Eagles— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) August 16, 2014
The return game didn’t really play a factor either way.