There was a lot to take away from the Eagles first preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday night. From the positive to the negative, the Eagles 28-27 win illustrated that the ‘Birds are still far from game-ready.
If the Eagles could work the west coast offense they did on the first drive, this is going to be a fun year to be an Eagles fan. First off, the Eagles scored on four of their first five drives. Quarterback Kevin Kolb looked relaxed in his completions to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin for big gains over the middle. The drive ended in a field goal, but that was due to a dropped touchdown pass by Brent Celek. DeSean Jackson was wide open on the side of the endzone and was probably a better option, but there’s no excuse for a drop like that in the red zone. Kolb went 6-for-11 for 95 yards on the night and still realizes there’s a lot to work on before the regular season.
Michael Vick on the other hand was full of ups and downs. He had a great vintage-Vick touchdown run, but also tossed an interception and missed a few crucial passes. His best pass of the night came on a 46-yard toss to rookie wide receiver Riley Cooper. I was surprised at the lack of Wildcat play-calling throughout the game. Maybe Andy finally got it through his head that it wasn’t fooling anyone.
The player of the game was 5-foot-8 wide receiver Chad Hall. Despite competing at the deepest position of the Eagles roster, Hall’s spectacular performance on Friday night may have solidified his spot on the 53-man list; whether that be as a wide receiver or return specialist. The rookie hauled in a 57-yard pass from Mike Kafka over the middle on top of a few large gains from end-arounds. Despite his tiny stature, his speed is unmatched by almost anyone on the roster. And we all know how much Andy Reid loves speed. Even if Reid decides to take four or five receivers, I can’t imagine he will pass up on Hall’s versatility and ability to be a kick/punt returner.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles first team was very strong in the first quarter. They didn’t see much action (6 plays to be exact), which is a positive considering they forced back-to-back three and outs. Because of that, there’s not much to report on rookies Brandon Graham and Nate Allen, who are two of the biggest question marks coming into the regular season.
The secondary saw the most action against the Jaguars. Seventh-round standout Kurt Coleman, who has opened eyes during training camp, was the Eagles most consistent defensive player on Friday night. Similar to Chad Hall, he may have secured a spot on the team with his performance, making a few big hits (most noticeably the hit on Mike Sims-Walker to break up a 4th down attempt) and pass deflections.
Veterans Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims, Broderick Bunkley, Asante Samuel, and Ellis Hobbs all played very well with the first team offense.
Cornerback Joselio Hanson was beat badly by Troy Williamson in the second half, which led to a 73-yard touchdown pass. Hanson is battling Dimitri Patterson and Trevard Lindley for the second cornerback spot on the depth chart and plays like that are certainly not going to help. Linebacker/defensive end Moises Fokou was called for illegal contact and failed to make up for it the rest of the night.
Overall, the most important part of the night was that the Eagles remained injury free (with the exception of Antoine Harris). Both the offense and defense showed a lot of bright spots, but more importantly left a lot of room for improvement. The next preseason game is on Friday, August 20th at Cincinnati.
Updates from Training Camp
-Jason Avant’s brilliant and unnoticed streak of catches may have ended today. Until the morning practice, Avant had not dropped a single pass during training camp and preseason (which according to Marty Mornhineg has been over 100 passes so far). Avant still claims it was a fumble and not a drop pass, jokingly adding, “I caught it and he poked it out. It was a fumble,” he said. The Eagles are lucky to have him as a slot receiver.
-The luck, or lack thereof, continues for running back Mike Bell. After sitting out for the last two weeks with a hamstring injury, Bell left the field this morning with a strained calf muscle. Let’s hope these nagging injuries end fast.
– The Eagles activated left guard Todd Herremans and center Jamaal Jackson from the physically unable to perform list. Herremans has not played with the team since early on during the spring practices and Jackson has been rehabbing a torn ACL that occured against the Broncos on December 26th. Center Nick Cole is expected to return later in the week after sitting out with knee swelling. Considering how well Mike McGlynn played in his debut as a starter against Jacksonville, it should make for a great position battle between Jackson, Cole and McGlynn.
– Harbor continues to practice with the first team. Ingram’s calf is still tender and he remains out of training camp while Harbor inches closer to the second spot
-According to the last reports from ESPN.com, it looks as though former Eagle Brian Westbrook is going to sign with the St. Louis Rams on Monday. Good for B-West.