After a lengthy, back and forth preseason loss to the Chicago Bears, the Eagles flew back to Philadelphia International Airport with a lot on their plates. Though the team saw some bright spots, the coaches know they have a lot of work to do before the Eagles open the season against Jacksonville.
Offensivley, the biggest question mark was quarterback Nick Foles. His two interceptions ignited sparks back home in Philly; however, a majority of pundits, personalities, and sensical fans understand that one preseason game is just that. Anyone who is questioning Foles’ 2014 outlook is foolish, and should refrain from embarrassing themselves in public. With the offense trapped in 2nd and 20’s and 3rd and 30’s, Foles was forced to throw a downfield pass against a Bears defense selling out on the blitz. Since the deep routes needed time to develop, the usually accurate passer was left stranded to fire one deep. This recipe ended up in flames, as Foles left the field with a whimper. The resilient quarterback has something to reassure—if not to his teammates but himself—next week in both the joint practices and the New England game.
Otherwise, the offense appeared solid. Mark Sanchez looked poised and smooth, displaying some above-average athleticism on his rollouts. Zach Ertz, who led all receivers with four catches for 60 yards, showed signs of a big year to come. Jeremy Maclin seemed back to his old self, whileJordan Matthews seemed nervous, but played like a bigger, stronger, faster, and younger Jason Avant. Also, Chris Polk’s absence brewed an intriguing third running back contest between Henry Josey, Matthew Tucker, and David Fluellen. Chip Kelly revealed very little as far as sub packages go, sticking to a depth chart and a base three receiver set: seldom did he send McCoy and Sproles out together, or Celek and Ertz, for that matter.
Defensively, the first team showed promise. Malcolm Jenkins played well in deep coverage, and Nate Allen nabbed an interception as a single-high safety. The starters bended, but did not break despite the Bears’ consistent field position. Cary Williams flew around everywhere in coverage. The second team was highlighted by nose tackle Beau Allen, who stuffed the run and pushed the pocket from the inside. Rookie Marcus Smith showed flashes of competence in the defense, and made plays in coverage around the ball. Without Nolan Carroll, the cornerbacks were left thin and Roc Charmichael left beaten. The defensive back was torched on various occasions, and will find it hard making the team. Rookie Jaylen Watkins was beaten on a deep touchdown, but came back with an athletic interception later. Behind Williams, Brad Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, and Carroll, it’s likely Watkins steals the last roster spot.
Special teams looked miles ahead of the unit that ended 2013. The additions of Chris Maragos, Marcus Smith, Bryan Braman and Josh Huff improved kick coverage immensely. Josh Huff lacked decision-making skills needed to be a proper kick returner, but burned the Bears on a 102-yard touchdown. Darren Sproles influenced punt coverage, as the Bears suffered chunks of yardage in field position by kicking away from him. Overall, coordinator Dave Fipp must have felt the most satisfied after the performance.
It’s dangerous to read too far into one preseason game. Obviously, this makes the next two contests more interesting. Next up: a date with Tom Terrific and the “cheater” New England Patriot outfit.
Photo: Sporting News