The Eagles demolished another opponent from top to bottom in their 40-17 win over the Ravens on Saturday night. Yes, it was only the preseason, and there were still plenty of mistakes, but Chip Kelly’s troops have been sharp. Here’s what we learned:
1. Sam Bradford could survive a cheap shot. There’s still some discussion over whether Terrell’s Sugg’s hit on Bradford was legal or not based on the quarterback technically becoming a “runner” on the zone read. But the shot to the knee appeared to be deliberate. Bradford and Jason Peters thought so. Nevertheless, it was probably all for the best because it showed that he could take a blow to his twice-ACL-torn left knee and get back up. If other defenses are going to crash on Bradford like Suggs did, he could be in for a long season because the zone read isn’t going away. He took another shot in the pocket – a clean one – just after he threw a pass. Bradford slowly got up, but he remained in the game. “He bloodied his lip a little bit, so I don’t know what hit that came on,” Kelly said. “But he did get a couple hits. No worse for the wear. Good step for him.” As for his performance, Bradford completed 3 of 5 passes for 35 yards. Two of his incomplete throws were negated by Ravens penalties. The first came when he overthrew an open Riley Cooper deep. A few plays later, he connected with Darren Sproles for 8 yards on third down. He went back to Sproles a play later. The pass was a little hard and high, but Sproles should have caught it. He later hit both Josh Huff and Jordan Matthews on crossers. Bradford nicely led his receivers and they both picked up yards after the catch and first downs. The drive netted a 14-yard Ryan Mathews rushing touchdown and that was it for Bradford. Kelly said he was scheduled to play on 10-15 snaps. Bradford played 14. He should play more Saturday against the Packers unless, as Kelly jokingly pointed out, he got sick and had “Legionnaire's disease … I don’t know.”
2. Chip Kelly’s offense is worth the price of admission alone. The qualifier: it’s only the preseason. Kelly’s teams have similarly looked unstoppable at times before the regular season. The Ravens weren’t watching film and game planning for the Eagles this week. But the same could be said of the Eagles, and they put a 40-spot up on John Harbaugh’s squad. “We were really, really basic,” Kelly said of his offense. “I think we had four or five pass concepts in and we just ran two run plays. So it was a pretty simple game plan.” The Eagles have scored 76 points and totaled nearly 900 yards in two preseason games. Receivers got open – there were 14 different ball catchers -- and there was also plenty of room to run. The Eagles gained 263 yards on the ground and averaged 6.3 yards per carry. If they did that much damage off just two run plays, it’s scary to think how dominant the Eagles could be on the ground with DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles sharing the load this season. Again, it’s still early.
3. The offensive line has quietly been impressive. One of the big questions of the offseason was how the Eagles’ line would fare after guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans were dumped and essentially not replaced with new faces. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but so far so good. Allen Barbre looks much more comfortable at left guard than he did last preseason at right tackle when he was filling in for Lane Johnson. He had a key block on Murray’s 2-yard TD run. And Andrew Gardner continues to separate himself at right guard. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland “is pretty happy with him right now,” Kelly said. There was only a small sample of plays, but the first unit looked sound. Gardner also took snaps with the second unit alongside left tackle Matt Tobin, left guard/center Julian Vandervelde, center/left guard David Molk and right tackle Dennis Kelly. That group opened holes on the ground and gave Mark Sanchez a ton of time in the pocket. John Moffitt eventually replaced Gardner. He could still be rusty, but his struggles remained. I think he may have a hard time sneaking onto the roster.
4. Mark Sanchez looked more like Mark Sanchez, which isn’t such a bad thing. Sanchez shook off his shaky preseason opener and was much more efficient through the air. He completed 14 of 20 passes for 118 yards and the Eagles scored 10 points on his first two drives. He made two strong consecutive throws to Nelson Agholor for 14 and 20 yards. He had a touchdown pass to Matthews nullified by a Vandervelde hold. On the redo, Sanchez had Jeff Maehl open in the back of the end zone, but his pass was too far in front. The offense sputtered on Sanchez’ next three possessions. Bradford has clearly emerged as the starter, but this was an important game for Sanchez. He’s a very good backup, not much more, not much less. And considering Bradford’s history, there’s still a very good chance that the Eagles will need Sanchez at some point this season. He can win games (and he can also lose them).
5. Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow both showed why they should win the third QB spot and why they shouldn’t. Barkley got the nod once again after Sanchez sat. He completed 6 of 14 passes for 86 yards and took a sack. He didn’t have any turnovers. Barkley was up and down on his opening drive, but he advanced the Eagles deep into Ravens territory on 15 plays. Most of his completions were on throws underneath. A series later, he hit receiver Freddie Martino for 21 yards with a pass that had some zip. Barkley’s arm strength has improved this year, but it’s still lacking. He has to be precise with his throws and that often isn’t always the case. He doesn’t do one thing that’s special, which could be the knock against him when Kelly decides on his third quarterback. But he’s still miles ahead of Tebow as a thrower. Ultimately, that may not matter. Tebow can’t hit the side of a barn if it were 20 yards downfield, but he can handle the dink and dunks and he can, of course, run. He scooted 26 yards up the middle on a zone read keep. We haven’t seen a quarterback run that effectively for the Eagles since Michael Vick. But Tebow is still too run oriented. He had receiver Mike Johnson wide open in the back of the end zone on a roll out. He could have done three somersaults, a cartwheel and a spin and still had time to throw him the ball. But what does Tebow do? He runs for the pylon and glory. It was originally ruled a touchdown, but the replay showed that the ball didn’t cross the plane. Egregious.
6. Josh Huff isn’t getting enough opportunities. The Eagles act if Huff is some proven veteran with the amount of snaps he’s gotten the last two weeks. He played 14 snaps in the opener and 18 against the Ravens. I want to see more of Huff considering his inconsistencies last year. And I have still yet to see someone that warrants starting. He’s had some moments during camp and looks better than he did last year, but I want to see that translated to a game. Huff hasn’t been targeted much, which isn’t necessarily his fault. But shouldn’t that be reason to get him on the field more? He did catch one pass from Bradford for 12 yards, and should how he may be most effective – running after the catch. But he bobbled a perfectly-placed pass and nearly dropped it. Here’s hoping we see more of Huff at Green Bay.
7. So far, so good with the Eagles new cornerbacks. Nolan Carroll made the best play of the game for the Eagles’ new-look secondary. He ran step for step with Ravens receiver Kamar Aiken on a deep route and when Joe Flacco’s pass arrived, Carroll looked back and deflected the ball away. Trailing the play was safety Walter Thurmond, who caught the ball for the interception. A series later, Flacco airmailed a pass right into the hands of Byron Maxwell. The pick was a gift, but Maxwell had earned it with his coverage so far. The Eagles first team defense has played about only a quarter and a half so far, but they’ve yet to give up a completion over 20 yards. And we know how X-plays killed the Eagles last season. “I think they are lactose intolerant in terms of they do not bite the cheese in front of them,” Kelly said. “When they have a deep zone, they play the deep zone.”
8. Hold the phone on Ed Reynolds making the 53-man roster. Reynolds came very close to having his third interception of the preseason when a pass was tipped and hit him in the chest. He couldn’t hold on. Reynolds has made progress, so I don’t want to diminish his chances of making the roster, but they aren’t rock solid after the Eagles waived/injured Earl Wolff. Bill Davis wasn’t exactly effusive in his praise of Reynolds last week. He obviously still has things to work on. But he has to contribute on special teams if he wants to make the club, and when the Eagles’ kick cover team opened the game, he wasn’t on the field. Jerome Couplin was. Couplin is just returning after having an appendectomy. But the guess here is that if the Eagles are going to keep five safeties – presuming Chris Maragos and Chris Pronsinski make it after starters Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins – Couplin still has an edge on Reynolds.
9. Kenjon Barner pretty much has the team made. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have said the same thing before camp. Barner returned his second punt for a touchdown in as many games. I’m not even sure it guarantees he will handle punts on game days. I think the Eagles still want Sproles in that role. But Kelly has talked about giving Sproles a break here or there, and Barner could be that guy. He’s taken to the veteran. “I’m in Darren’s back pocket 24-7,” Barner said. “Anything that guy tells me, I listen to.” Barner has to be able to do other things on game day if he’s to dress, however. The Eagles can only dress 45 of 53. But Barner has the kind of talent you don’t want to let walk to another team. If one of the top three running backs were to go down, Barner would be a more than capable replacement.
10. And some leftovers. The Eagles’ top three inside linebackers didn’t play for the second straight game. Kiko Alonso is returning from concussion. DeMeco Ryans is presumably being held back because of his Achilles. And Mychal Kendricks has been held back by a hamstring injury, an NFL source said. They each practiced last week, but were limited. Kelly said that he expects to have all three back for the Packers unless that pesky Legionnaire's disease spreads. … Kelly said that he also held receiver Miles Austin out. He said he wasn’t injured, which is unlikely. Austin didn’t practice the last two days during the Ravens intersquad sessions. … Cooper injured his hand, but X-rays were negative. … Brad Jones and Vinny Curry got extended looks at outside linebacker with Marcus Smith (hamstring) sidelined. … Cody Parkey connected on field goals from 21 and 35 yards, but missed a 55-yard attempt wide left. He made all three PAT tries. Kip Smith, who is traditionally a punter, replaced Parkey and was successful from 30 and 34 yards. It wasn’t pretty, but he got the ball through the uprights. “I thought he did a great imitation of Tim Wakefield out there,” Kelly said of the former knuckleball pitcher.