Eagles-Jets: What did we learn?

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- We didn’t learn much more about the Eagles starters, who got the night off. As far as the backups and who is on the roster bubble, though, the picture became slightly clearer after the Birds fell to the New York Jets, 27-20, on Thursday night. Here are some quick takes and observations after watching the first half and a few parts of the second (I was busy meeting the newspaper deadline for my column):

-- Nick Foles started, played a half and looked wretched. Chip Kelly didn’t fault his No. 2 quarterback, though. The Eagles coach pointed to the poor blocking of the offensive line and some drops from receivers, but there was no dressing up Foles’ numbers after the game: 6 of 17 passing for 63 yards and no touchdowns. He was sacked twice and fumbled once. The pocket often crumbled around him, but Foles appeared to be holding onto the ball one time too often. He wasn’t necessarily working with the best set of receivers, but he fared well with the same crew last week against the Jaguars. I’ll have to watch the replay to get a better read on Foles’ decision-making.

-- As for Matt Barkley, I didn’t get to watch much of his performance because I had to write for the paper. I'll get a better read of his play once I watch the playback. Kelly was positive after the game even though the rookie quarterback tossed a pick six late in the fourth quarter. "He's still up and down at times,” Kelly said, "but I'm excited about Matt's future.” Barkley completed 13 of 27 passes for 134 yards. He wasn’t sacked and, of course, had the one interception.

-- The second unit offensive line did not perform well, to put it lightly. I can’t say for certain who was most at fault, but right tackle Michael Bamiro, center Julian Vandervelde and right guard Danny Watkins seemed to have the most struggles. Matt Tobin and Allen Barbre started at left tackle and left guard, respectively. Barbre and Vandervelde appear to have spots on the 53-man roster, but it’s hard to say for certain. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles were already looking for another option at backup center. 

-- Watkins could be nearing the end of his woeful run with the Eagles. I had him on my 53-man roster prediction filed yesterday, but I’m a little nervous about that pick after hearing what Kelly had to say about the Eagles’ 2011 first round pick: “There’s always really some good out of Danny,” Kelly said, “but there’s also some mistakes out of Danny.” Oof. Kelly has no allegiance to Watkins. The guard is guaranteed $1.1 million this season, so the Eagles may decide to keep him around since they’re paying the fireman anyway.

-- Kelly said that there will be a number of undrafted rookies that should make the team and he singled out several names – Tobin, linebacker Jake Knott, defensive lineman Damion Square and wide receiver Russell Shepard. I had the latter three on my 53-man roster, but mentioned Tobin as a guy to watch. It sounded like he could squeeze Watkins out of a spot.

-- The lone starting spot that remained up for grabs heading into the game was at safety. The two main combatants, Nate Allen and Earl Wolff, started. Allen was solid, if not spectacular. I liked the way Wolff wrapped up even if he was beat for a short pass. I wrote more about the competition in my column here.

-- Emmanuel Acho cemented his spot on the team. The inside linebacker has been very solid this preseason and delivered the best performance on defense, aside from maybe outside linebacker Chris McCoy. Acho recorded 11 tackles, one sack, forced a fumble and had a quarterback hit. “I wanted 12 to 15 [tackles],” Acho said. He’ll be a strong first backup to DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks.

-- Knott will be the second reserve. I had Casey Matthews on my 53, but I think he’s a goner after the Jets game. He did not play well. He missed a few tackles and overran a few others. Matthews played for Kelly at Oregon, but the coach won’t play favorites.

-- McCoy was also likely already on the team before the Jets game, but he hammered his name onto the roster by recording two sacks, forcing a fumble and dropping a would-be interception. McCoy looks like the fourth outside linebacker on the team, after Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham, but he could easily move ahead of Cole and Graham if he keeps playing like he did against the Jets (albeit New York’s second team offense).

-- James Casey started at tight end along with Clay Habor, but left with a hamstring injury. Casey hasn’t played much with the first team during the preseason, but Kelly said that he was hoping to get more of him on tape. Casey left in the first quarter. Kelly confirmed that Brent Celek was the Eagles starting tight end.

-- With Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes out with fractured hands, the Eagles were down to three healthy cornerbacks that suited up. Brandon Boykin and Jordan Poyer started on the outside and Trevard Lindley replaced Boykin when he went inside in the nickel. Lindley left with an ankle sprain, though. Safety Kurt Coleman was playing outside corner when Boykin was given the rest of the night off, but he was called back out onto the field with Lindley left. Kelly was effusive in his praise of Coleman after the game.

-- The Eagles, overall, looked sloppy. A week after having three turnovers, the offense coughed up another two. Kelly summed it up this way: “Way, way, way, way too many mistakes,” he said. “Too many dropped balls for a fourth preseason game. Very shoddy in protection early.” The Eagles secondary was brutal, allowing Matt Simms to complete 33 of 44 passes for 285 yards. He was sacked seven times, though.

-- A few quickies: Brandon Graham forced Simms to ground the ball and take a safety in the first quarter. He was not credited with a sack. … Rookie tight end Zach Ertz had his third drop of the preseason. … The Eagles ended the preseason with a 2-2 record. … Final cuts have to be made by 6 p.m. Saturday. There’s a chance the Eagles may start releasing some players on Friday.