Saturday, December 20, 2014

First Preseason Game, 2nd Glance

This is my piece for Sportsweek, which you should go out and buy anyway, 'cause it has lots of other excellent stuff in it.

First Preseason Game, 2nd Glance

“He has to learn from it and get better,” Andy Reid said about Jaiquawn Jarrett´s performance on Thursday. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
“He has to learn from it and get better,” Andy Reid said about Jaiquawn Jarrett's performance on Thursday. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

This is my piece for Sportsweek, which you should go out and buy anyway, 'cause it has lots of other excellent stuff in it.

Some rewindings and rethinkings in the wake of the Eagles’ preseason opener:

*Went through DVR of first half to make sure I hadn’t been unnecessarily harsh toward Jaiquawn Jarrett in my initial coverage. Nope. Holy bleep.

“He has to learn from it and get better,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said afterward. “When you come in with a shoulder as opposed to the arms, at this level, you have to bring all of it. You can’t grab with the shoulder pad. Those are things you’ll learn. The thing he’s doing is, he’s playing fast, so I think the rest of that will take place.”

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Reid did not address Jarrett’s cluelessness in coverage, which really shouldn’t have been the case after a full offseason of work in the Eagles’ defense. I have to assume the Birds will intently pore over other teams’ cuts at safety as the season gets closer.

*On the other hand, to me the DVR also showed that Mike Kafka really played OK, except for that one horrible decision on the screen, the throw that was picked off. Yes, that one pass was more than enough to raise questions. But still.

*Hadn’t noticed watching live that Phillip Hunt not only got consistent pressure, he got it from both sides. Dang.

“I worked hard all last year to prove myself,” said Hunt, who came to the Eagles from the CFL, labeled too short and too light at 6-feet, 248. The NFL had no interest in 2008 when he came out of Houston. “I still have a lot of proving to do, but I feel as though I know what type of role I can have on this team, and what I can do to make the team better.”

Hunt looks to me like a really good role player, a guy who can give you a dozen high-octane snaps a game. I don’t see the Eagles parting with him.

*When the drive started that ended with Michael Vick slamming his throwing thumb on Jason Kelce’s helmet, the Steelers had run 26 plays to the Eagles’ 3.

*Rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks actually looked pretty good in coverage. Got stiff-armed once on a run.

“He did some good things. He had a couple of plays where he learned,” Reid said of Kendricks. “There was a throw to the flat that he rallied to late in a short-yardage situation with an off-set back, back-tight-end-type-play. But he came back and he fixed that problem. They tried it again, and he made a nice play on it. It looked like he played fast, and I didn’t see any hesitation. I think he’ll continue to get better with every opportunity he has to play.”

*That Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie hit on Byron Leftwich is gonna draw a fine, for sure.

*The Wide 9 did much better against the run late last season, when the defensive lineman finally started caring about not leaving the linebackers to get steamrolled by unfettered o-linemen. We were back to Square One in the preseason opener. Everybody was in a hurry to impress Jim Washburn with their pass-rush skills. “Running backs? What are those? Does it count as a sack when you tackle one? If not, why should we care?”

Kendricks seemed to be saying guys were trying too hard to make plays, overpursuing, which was a problem last season.

“I think we have to working on securing our gaps instead of just trying to make every play,” Kendricks said. “We just need to take care of our responsibilities first. I think first game, guys go out there and were hyped up and we wanted to do more than what we should have been. All we have to do is do our job and not try to make every play.”

*Not sure how to grade Brandon Graham’s performance. Got pressure. Twice watched QB escape his pressure to complete big passes. But spent a lotta time in the backfield.

“I felt like I gave the effort I needed to, that coach Washburn wants,” Graham said. “Basically, everything else can be corrected on film ... I was coming off the ball, hitting my aiming points, basically trying to give ‘em a different move every time.”

*Vinny Curry’s effort stood out on the replay more than when I was trying to keep track of everything live. Boy, the Eagles have pass rushers.

*Good to see Alex Henery come through big on the game-winning field goal from 51 yards with 12 seconds left. Henery was 24 for 27 as a rookie, setting the franchise accuracy record, but he attempted only two 50-yard-plus FGs, hitting from 51 and missing from 63.

Henery said Thursday it was his first game-winner, in college (Nebraska) or the NFL. “I hit it pretty well. I knew right when I hit it that it was going in. I think Chas [holder Henry] was throwing up his arms before I even hit the ball,” he joked.

Henery spoke of earning trust, which can’t really come from practice simulations, it comes from situations like Thursday’s

*Damaris Johnson played with three of the four Eagles quarterbacks. Coaches clearly want to get as good a read as possible on the 5-8 receiver and returner from Tulsa, who sat out his senior year after unwisely collaborating with his girlfriend to get merchandise from the Macy’s where she worked at a fraction of its value.

Johnson hadn’t played in a game since the end of the 2010 season.

“Not really,” he said when asked if he’d felt rusty. “A little nervous, [particularly] as a specialist, going out there in the big stadium. Just a little nervous. But if you’re not nervous, you’re not having fun in the game.”

Johnson brought his first punt return back 55 yards, but the gain was wiped out by a block in the back.

Michael Vick was asked about Johnson. “He wants to make this football team. He’s very bright. He puts himself in the right positions and he does everything the coaches ask him to do, and that’s all you can ask for out of a young player,” Vick said.

Les Bowen Daily News Staff Writer
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