First and clearly foremost, Andy Reid received the support he deserved from Eagles’ fans throughout the game; starting with a we love you Andy chant and ending with an emotional long embrace from DeSean Jackson after Alex Henery’s game winning field goal. That hug was obviously about much more than a preseason victory. Reid was holding tears back during the embrace.
Even though this game was more about Reid doing whatever he can to resume a normal life, there was a football game that was played. I’ll start breaking the Eagles first preseason game down by grading my what to watch for from my preview.
The Return Game: B+
Brandon Boykin averaged just under 30 yards per return last night. Did Dion Lewis have one return go that far last year? All kidding aside, if Boykin can keep that average up and take one to the house, he will be among the best in the league as a rookie. Even though it is an extremely small sample size, his average return yardage would have put him second in the league last year. It’s early, but these are all good signs.
Damaris Johnson also played well on returns. He only had one real shot at a punt return and he took it back about 40 yards and was a shoe-string tackle away from taking it to the house. Unfortunately for him it was called back for a block in the back that did not have effect the play. Again, super small sample size (how’s that for some alliteration), but he looked like DeSean Jackson circa 2010.
The interior OL rook… I mean Sophomores: D+
Danny Watkins was terrible giving up one sack and plenty of other pressures on very limited action. He looked like he reverted back to his confused early rookie form. It was a very disheartening performance.
Jason Kelce was not nearly as bad, but only mediocre. I was looking for major strides forward, but he looked exactly the same. Extremely disappointing to say the least.
An Accurate, Intelligent Vick: D-
Just take a look at his stat line: 3 of 4 for 6 yards and a sack. He looked confused at some very vanilla defensive play calls. Plus he nearly broke his hand and he was out there for less than ten plays. This was the most disheartening performance of the game and it stung even more because he needs to be the best player of the field every game.
The New Man Press-Coverage Scheme: N/A
This is a difficult one to grade because they played less man coverage than expected. Furthermore, when they were in man, it was rarely press coverage. Well, at least not with the starting defense. They played much more man, press-man, with the second – fourth string teams. It was quite the head-scratcher. The lone highlight was Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie aggressive play. Overly aggressive? Perhaps. However, I wanted to see aggressive corners. He will probably receive a fine for launching himself at Byron Leftwich. I really want to see Eagles GM Howie Roseman sign him to a contract extension before the season.
The Pass Rush Depth (both line positions): A
Fantastic. Spot-on. Scary. The defensive line performance was almost at the level of Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight (which he won an Oscar for). If this game is any indication of what to expect from the D-line this season, Gang Green will be back in action. Brandon Graham, the star of training camp, pressured the QB on virtually every play and notched a sack. Phillip Hunt, the former CFL all-star, probalby had the best game of the D-line gaining 2 sacks and a TFL. Rookie Vinny Curry had several hurries and three TFLs. Everyone on the the D-line from 1st round pick Fletcher Cox to Frank Trotter made at least one stand out play.
The 3 back-up running backs: B+
The contingency of Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk all played very well. Lewis had four carries for 22 yards with some nifty inside moves. Brown showcased his cheetah like acceleration and speed with one of his carries going 33 yards. Polk didn’t carry the ball well (more due to poor blocking than his own fault), but had three receptions for 28 yards and a handful of nice blitz pickups. God forbid Shady goes down, the combination of these three guys will be a tough 3 headed monster.
And last, and unmistakably most important, support for Andy Reid: A++
In my preview I stated that I really wanted a win for Reid. The Eagles players fought hard for it. The Eagles fans cheered passionately for it. It was closer to a playoff atmosphere than a preseason one. The aforementioned DeSean Jackson and Andy Reid embrace said it all. Everyone in the Eagles organization really wanted this win for the entire Reid family.
- With Jeremy Maclin hurting his hamstring in warm-ups, Damaris Johnson started – Not Marvin McNutt. Johnson is by no means a lock to make the roster, but with a 70 yard touchdown bomb from Nick Foles, he is certainly making great strides to do so. I love that kids attitude.
- LeSean McCoy had one carry and one reception for -5 yards. No, you should not be worried about him. He is still an elite halfback.
- Derek Landri played well as a starter at defensive tackle. Casual fans tend to forget he started all 16 games for the Carolina Panthers in 2010.
- Phillip Hunt made highly touted prospect Mike Adams look like an average high school player. The young defensive ends on this team have to make Eagles nation Giddy.
- Alex Henery has a stronger leg than last year booting every kickoff at least 5 yards deep in the endzone. He crushed the 51-yard game winning field goal. Not only was it dead center, it would have been good from at least 60 yards. You can’t tell me there was not loads of pressure to make that kick for Reid and Eagles nation – clutch kick. If he continues to improve on this path and has a ten year career he will be worth much more than the highly criticized 4th-round selection in the 2011 NFL draft.
- AFL star Tiger Jones played well except for his last drop. His most impressive play was his pass breakup to prevent an interception on the game-winning drive.
- Mardy Gilyard showcased his speed on a long touchdown pass from Nick Foles.
- Speaking of Nick Foles, outstanding performance. His deep ball is clearly much better than backup QB Mike Kafka. If he continues to play like this through the preseason he could push for Kafka’s job.
- The second best QB performance was 4th string veteran Trent Edwards. Everyone, including myself, thought the QB position was set in stone with Edwards being the odd man out. However if he plays like that for three more games he could sneak onto the roster. Remember he was a starter in the league for a few season with the Buffalo Bills.
- Mike Kafka had a terrible night. 5 for 9 with an interception. He moved well in and out of the pocket with the O-line playing poorly, but his embarrassing arm strength hurt his performance. If he trends like this for the next few games and the other two backups continue to shine, Kafka could be cut or traded. With that said, Kafka is still securely in the driver seat.
- Neither fullback, Stanley Havili or Emil Igwenagu, showed much of anything. If either want to make the roster, they need at least one stand out play.
- Brett Brackett had two great catches and one terrible drop. If he can show any positive improvements in blocking, he will make the final roster.
- Jamel Hamler was very impressive on a 4th-down play juking two players for not just a first down, but a touchdown giving the Eagles their first lead. He has a long uphill battle, but his first game was a solid start.
- Jaiquawn Jarrett gave up a touchdown and played an overall poor game. Not one positive wow play, but several negative ones. He blew another opportunity and is looking like a 2nd round bust for the Eagles in his second season.
- Backup safeties, Oshiomogho Atogwe and Phillip Thomas each displayed very nice tackling with the latter stopping a short yardage situation for no gain.
- Joselio Hanson, at 180 lbs, had two bone crushing hits. Although he is a popular cut among Eagles beat writers, he is still a great slot corner which are in high demand. Could the Eagles receive worthy compensation for him in the form of a draft pick?
- Cedric Thornton will play on an NFL roster this year if he doesn’t crack the Eagles roster. He made several plays last night.
Overall the Eagles’ first team offensive was anemic and the defense still couldn’t get off the field on third down. It look frightfully like last season. Hopefully this will be the only time Eagles fans have to witness such a lackluster performance.
That’s a wrap folks. How do you think the Eagles played?