The Chip Kelly era got off to its preseason start with a 31-22 loss to the Patriots on Friday night. The offense was good, the defense bad and the special teams improved. All in all, a positive start for Chippah. A closer look:
-- It was a small sample, but the Eagles quarterback competition is far from over based on Friday night’s performance. Michael Vick looked impressive on his two possessions, completing 4 of 5 passes for 94 yards and one touchdown. His 47-yard TD pass to DeSean Jackson was perfectly placed. He also hit Jason Avant over the middle for 22 yards on third down. It was a strong throw. On his second drive, he hooked up with Riley Cooper for 19 yards. There wasn’t much up-tempo when Vick was in charge, but he looked very confident in the pocket. A very good start for the veteran.
-- Nick Foles didn’t make quite the same splash, and he did have a turnover, but he bounced back and directed the Eagles on a 10-play, 66-yard drive that netted a Bryce Brown 8-yard TD run. First the good: Foles was efficient running the up-tempo on the second drive. He mixed up his throws to three receivers and even ran 10 yards when given the space. It’s notable that Foles was playing against the Patriots’ second team D, though. Now the bad, which really wasn’t his fault: Patriots DT Tommy Kelly seemed to blow by Todd Herremans and Foles had little chance as he tried to get a pass off. The play was initially ruled an incomplete pass, but was changed to a fumble after a review. Both quarterbacks played well, but Vick got the nod after preseason Game 1.
-- With rookie Lane Johnson starting at right tackle and Allen Barbre in for the injured Jason Peters at left tackle there was reason to worry about the general state of the offensive line heading into the game. But the starting unit more than head its own and (mostly) kept a clean pocket for Vick and Foles. Center Jason Kelce said that his knee felt fine after his first game action after tearing his ACL last September. Herremans had the slip up with Foles, but he and Kelce had strong blocks on Brown’s TD run. And Johnson and Barbre didn’t do anything to warrant a negative instant replay. I’ll have to check the playback tomorrow, but Johnson seemed to have a positive start.
-- Jackson has had the best training camp, in case you haven’t heard, and he followed it up with a spell-binding catch for the TD. Jackson’s trips into the end zone weren’t as frequent the last two years. He’s probably never going to be a superior red zone threat, but if he can get back to scoring the long ones, no one will care.
-- Chris Polk got the start ahead of Brown at running back with LeSean McCoy (knee) sidelined. Kelly said not to read too much into it. Polk and Brown are competing for the backup spot the same way Vick and Foles are battling it out at QB. Polk didn’t do much. He finished with only seven yards on four carries. Brown was better, tallying 22 yards on the ground on five totes plus the TD. We’ll see more out of the two in the next two preseason games.
-- Rookie quarterback Matt Barkley had a rough start, but he settled down for one drive that netted a touchdown. His final numbers: 11 of 22 for 103 yards and a TD pass to Greg Salas. Kelly noted afterward that Barkley is at a disadvantage because he’s playing with the third team, but there were a number of throws in which he had too much air under the ball. It’s early for Barkley. He’s probably not in the bigger competition, but he showed some poise Friday night.
-- It was a rough start for Bill Davis’ defense. Patriots running back Stevan Ridley gashed the middle of the D for a 62-yard run on the first play from scrimmage. Davis said a player fell and that’s why there was a giant hole, but it looked like defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was flattened. “You like that first play?” Davis joked. “How am I doing so far?” It remained pretty bad. The Patriots stayed on the ground on the next five plays and scored without Tom Brady having to even drop and throw. Mychal Kendricks missed a tackle on a short third down. “We got to eliminate big plays,” Davis said. “The effort to the ball, the tackling were key things coming in here that we wanted to make sure we got right. We had the effort to the ball, but we didn’t have the tackling.” For a team that gave up big plays and was terrible at tackling last season, the first drive wasn’t an encouraging start to Davis’ tenure.
-- Brady picked on cornerback Bradley Fletcher on the Patriots’ second drive. He’s hasn’t stood out in camp. With the injured Cary Williams out, Brandon Boykin was supposed to start opposite Fletcher. He did not. Brandon Hughes did. The pickings are slim at cornerback.
-- As poor as the Eagles first team defense looked, there were some positives down the depth chart -- if there is one. Vinny Curry was the breakout star on the defense. He was credited with three hurries and half a sack and did a fine job getting inside pressure out of the defensive end spot. Some wondered if Curry could transition from being an edge rusher. It’s early, but he may be a surprise contributor on defense.
-- Brandon Graham got into the backfield a few times when he was asked to pin his ears back. When he was asked to play in space, which wasn’t often, it was a little painful to watch. Graham is a fine pass rusher. The Eagles need to find a way to play to his strengths without asking him to drop.
-- The Eagles special teams already look improved over last year’s woeful, Bobby April-led unit. The cover teams did their job for the most part and Damaris Johnson ripped off a 62-yard punt return. The one major snafu was only because emergency long snapper Brent Celek botched a snap after Jon Dorenbos left with a concussion.
-- Quickies: If the Eagles are making their 53-man roster right this second, Salas would likely be on as the fifth receiver. He’s had a solid camp and made two great plays on Friday night. There was a 12-yard catch-and-run touchdown and an eye-popping one-handed grab for 35 yards near the end of the game. … Clay Harbor had three catches for 47 yards. … Donnie Jones had a beautiful 48-yard punt that was downed at the one. … Felix Jones dropped a pass. He has not impressed. … Outside linebacker Chris McCoy was credited with 1-1/2 sacks before leaving with a knee injury. He seemed fine after the game. … The Eagles forced no turnovers.
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