While the Eagles’ first preseason game was far from perfect, many came away pleased with the team’s effort against the far-from-perfect Jaguars. Game 2 against a better Bengals team was expected to be a different story and it was.
The Eagles’ first team offense – at least on the passing end -- was able to gobble chunks of yards, but it stalled on several trips into Cincinnati territory and netted just six points in a half of play. The defense allowed 213 total yards in the first 30 minutes, but save for one long pass that set up a touchdown run, the unit fared OK.
There is reason for concern, but that’s why they call this time of year the preseason. Last year, the Eagles traveled to Indianapolis and stunk up the joint and how much did that matter when they trounced Carolina in the opener a few weeks later? So let’s back away from the ledge and take a closer look at how the starting defense performed in one half of play.
-- When I looked at the stat sheet I could not believe that Ernie Sims, “Mr. Shark in the Water,” recorded zero tackles. So I made a point, when watching the replay of the game, to zero in on the linebacker. I’m not sure if there is a pattern here, but Sims had a very difficult time fending off Cincinnati’s blockers – especially its offensive linemen. He’s so much smaller in comparison. Ten years ago, Sims is a strong safety in the NFL.
-- Except for the 43-yard reception he surrendered when he was covering Terrell Owens, Joselio Hanson had a decent showing stepping in for the injured Asante Samuel. He broke up a first quarter pass that was thrown slightly behind Owens and he later came up and made a nice stop on a short pass. But coming on the heels of last week’s game when he was burnt for a 73-yard touchdown, Hanson’s hiccup on the deep pass to Owens is a cause for concern. This time he was beat on the release and couldn’t catch up to Owens when Carson Palmer placed a perfect pass to his receiver.
-- Which brings us to Dimitri Patterson, who is virtually assured a spot on the 53-man roster. He was one of the only special teams coverage guys that came to play Friday night and he continues to make plays when he’s on defense (see: first quarter interception). I’d rather see Patterson on the outside as the third corner than Hanson.
-- Ellis Hobbs will do fine this season. He’s obviously far from Darelle Revis, but he’s also a capable cornerback in this league. In the first quarter he played too soft on Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham on third-and-six and had no chance to come up and make the tackle on the much-larger receiver, who picked up 10 yards and the first down. Hobbs would later help in run support with a nice take down of Cedric Benson at the line.
-- Benson ran over free safety Nate Allen in the first quarter, but Allen repaid the hit with one of his own in the next quarter. He knocked the ball loose, but Benson’s knee was down. Allen also made a veteran-like play late in the second quarter when Hobbs bit on a double move by Chad Ochocinco and the safety shielded the receiver from a deep pass.
-- The only real pressure the Eagles defense was able to generate was when it brought the blitz. For a unit that is trying to rely more on its front four in the pass rush, this wasn’t necessarily a good start. It’s too early to worry, however, especially with defensive end Brandon Graham getting better with each day.
-- The defensive line’s performance against the run was much better with Benson netting just 30 yards on ten carries. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson blew up a few plays, drawing a holding call on one try. On Bernard Scott’s TD run, defensive tackle Broderick Bunkley had a clear path to the running back, but he was sorta/kinda held and rather than keep churning held his arms up to try and draw a holding flag. I’m sure Bunk will get a scolding from his coaches for that effort.