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Football is back in the city in Philadelphia as the Eagles and Patriots faced off Friday night in week 1 of the 2013 NFL Preseason and more importantly a new era of Eagles football is officially underway. In probably the most highly anticipated preseason game in over a decade in Eagles history, fans got a small sample of what to expect from new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly this season especially with so many questions being asked all offseason long. How is Kelly's up temp offense going to portray in the NFL? The revamp of the defensive side of the ball going from 4-3 to a 3-4? And most importantly who is going to run the ship to this offense and be the starting QB? The Eagles might of lost the game 31-22 and the jury is still out but we at least got a better idea what we have...
Observations and Notes
Vick vs Foles
-Chip Kelly said all week long that the media and fans shouldn't buy into it too much that QB Michael Vick is the starter for this week's game vs the Patriots and it doesn't mean he is the starter for the season. Well Vick made a strong case for Kelly to go with him. We saw the Michael Vick of 2011 when he was MVP runner up. A calm, cool, and collective QB that looked comfortable in the pocket and delivering the football with ease. Vick in 2 series(1 TD) went 4/5 for 94yds and a TD with a perfect QB rating of 158.3
I had my doubts with Vick being able to run this offense affectively and I know its only one preseason game and he only played 10 plays but he really showed me something. This is why you need a mobile quarterback to run this offense. He brings another threat for defenses to gameplan against. And it showed on a read option where he sold it so well and rolled out to complete to WR Riley Cooper for the 3rd down 1st down. And then on the TD throw for 47yds to WR Desean Jackson. He throws a perfectly placed ball where only D-Jack could get it realizing the one on one outside with his speed. He just made better decisions with the football and it showed what Vick can really do when receivers are getting open and has time to deliver the football. He steps up and can throw an accurate ball. If he continues to play this way all preseason, he will be your week 1 starter. I still want to see more of the read option from him because the biggest issue besides his accuracy and durability, his ability to hang onto the football.
-As for Nick Foles, I feel he played well. He finished the night 5/6 for 43yds with a QB rating of 96.5. He lead the Eagles on a TD scoring drive capped off by RB Bryce Brown 8yd run. He fumbled the ball and he has to do a better job hanging onto the football but poor blocking upfront thanks to Todd Herremans gave him no time to get the ball out. Otherwise he played well. He showed his accuracy is a strength of his with some nicely thrown balls hitting his receivers in stride and quick release with short intermediate passes to pick up first downs establishing a rhythm. One thing he ran well was the up tempo no huddle pace that Kelly wants to establish in this offense. He was effective and he even ran to move the chains but again his lack of threat on the ground doesn't make him a solid option in this offense. It just doesn't put that fear in opposing defenses. But he made a decent case tonight. Vick might be in the lead right now but Foles isn't far behind. He will have his turn to start first with the 1st time offense next week against Carolina.
-And Barkley showed why this competition is a 2 man race and needs time to grow and develop. He finished his night 11/22 for 103yds and eventually capped off his final drive for a 12yd touchdown to WR Greg Salas after he finally settled down. But he struggled for most of his reps. He was overthrowing wide open receivers, missing his reads, and just look anxious out there. I don't know if first game jitters but he defintely showed his rookie rust out there. He was just too erractic with the football. Many fans were calling for Barkley to be the Eagles starter week 1, this strongly puts those annointments to rest.
Defense Struggles Is A Understatement!
-We knew this defense was going to be bad but we didn't expect it to be this bad. The Patriots open up the game with a 6 play 80yd scoring drive that was capped off by RB Stevan Ridley 1yd touchdown without Tom Brady making a single attempt! Ridley busted out for 62yds on the first play from scrimmage! In the end the defense got gashed for over 248 yards in the game! They just gashed this defense with the two headed monster of RB LeGarrette Blount(11 carries 101yds 2 TDs) and Stevan Ridley( 8 carries 92yds 1 TD) Guys looked confused on their gap assignments and couldn't get off blocks to clough holes and make a play. They just really looked soft upfront. NT Issac Sopoaga really showed his age. The linebackers really didn't make an impact like we had hope but at least they aren't as bad as this secondary.
CB Cary Williams was inactive for the game(what a shock there!) So we got to see CB Brandon Hughes, Brandon Boykin and newly acquired CB Brandon Fletcher in various packages and Patriots QB Tom Brady(7/8 65yds 1 TD) knew right away where he was attacking. As he exposed Fletcher not once, not twice, but three times on a single drive to pick up big first downs to keep the chains moving. The new defensive back from what I saw played good coverage. He was with the receiver step for step but his inability to get in a better position to make a play on the ball made him a liability back there in coverage. S Patrick Chung is a prime example why the Eagles need to do live tackling in scrimmages in practice. There were plenty of times he needed to gang tackle the ball carrier. Not a good combination for new players on a new team, can't cover and can't tackle.
Standouts of The Game
-DE Vinny Curry: Despite the defensive issues against the run and defending the pass, there were a few bright spots to come away from the defense. One guy that stood out was 2nd year man DE Vinny Curry. Many considered him a natural 4-3 pass rushing defensive end in this league but he showed that he could make an impact and get a pass rush as a DE in the 3-4. 2 tackles, .5 sacks, 2 QB hits, and anytime the Eagles got pressure on the quarterback you always saw #75 around the ball causing havoc. He did a great job off the snap of the ball, getting penetration to close the pocket. It's nice to see a high former draft pick come around and he looks to grow and make a difference on this defense in his sophmore season.
-WR Desean Jackson: He might of only recorded 1 reception in the game, but it was an impactful one as he takes it to the house the touchdown making an incredible grab to put the Eagles on the board. Just a great route to get off CB Aquib Talib to get open down field and having the chemistry that he has with Michael Vick to know where the ball was going to be placed.
D-Jack has been getting a bad rap for a few years of not trying, not giving it his all, being afraid, always having a bad attitude. Well this could be the start of a new Desean Jackson. I expect Jackson to have a breakout season under Kelly's offense, not just in the passing game but return game, running game, etc. This is the D-Jack we have envisioned and this is just the beginning.
Offense:B: Both QB Michael Vick and Nick Foles were solid. Showed some promise that they can indeed be the man for Chip Kelly and run his fast pace offense. Offensive line looked strong even without LT Jason Peters besides a blunder by Todd Herremans that allowed Foles to turn the ball over. We need to see more of the running game as they only ran 9 times with RB Bryce Brown and Chris Polk in the absence of Lesean McCoy But overall hung onto the football, the offense was able to move the chains consistently even if they couldn't produce points and won the battle of field positon.
Defense: D: Eagles got shredded on the ground . Secondary needs a lot of work. Defensive Coordinator needs to put guys in position to limit the big plays. Too long runs including one that Blount brought back memories to 90s video game geeks of Tecmo Bowl with Bo Jackson running from sideline to sideline reversing field and taking it to the house! But we saw some nice things from the pass rush getting pressure on the quarterback. DE Fletcher Cox just destroyed Tom Brady on play which was his only incompletion of the game. Defense has some issues they need to address in the film room.
Special Teams: B+: The loss of LS Jon Dorenbos was a huge loss. Eagles don't have a backup LS on the roster. TE Brent Celek was thrown into the position and didn't have alot of practice as we saw a bad snap from him. But decent showing from the unit. Return man Leon Washington can really be a threat but they held him to an average of 19.5yds on kickoffs and only a 6yd punt return. Eagles return man Damaris Jonhson broke a punt return free for 62yds. We know fans complained saying if D-Jack was back there he would of took it the distance but still a solid return and gives the Eagles flexibility in the return game so they don't have to overuse Jackson.
Overall: B-: Only game 1 of the preseason but we saw a decent showing from the squad. I like the competition which is bringing out the best in players and pushing them to perform. Nothing too surprising or unexpected. We knew the defense was going to have issues and we knew sort of what this offense can be. Heck this was a "vanilla" gameplan according to Michael Vick that we have only seen about 1/3 of what Chip Kelly wants to run. If that is the case, we could see some prolific numbers from this offense which they are going to need because they are only winning games if they are shootouts from the looks of this defense!