Thursday, October 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Offensive breakdown: Avant, Maclin, the line

Yesterday we did the defense. Today we move to the other side of the ball.

Offensive breakdown: Avant, Maclin, the line

Yesterday we did the defense. Today we move to the other side of the ball.

Here are my observations on the offense after re-watching Thursday night's Eagles-Jaguars game:

** Let's start with the good. MTC has made no bones about it since last season. We are huge Jason Avant fans. In fact, if we gave out an award to an Eagles player who epitomizes the way MTC thinks the game should be played, Avant would be given the trophy. Here's what you know. Avant was the leading receiver for either team Thursday with five catches for 92 yards against the Jaguars. But that's not what stood out to us. Listen, Avant is sure-handed, runs good routes and reliable. He's never going to make a Pro Bowl and probably will never have a 1,000-yard season. But you win games with guys like Avant. On the Eagles' second drive, Donovan McNabb found Jeremy Maclin on a wide receiver screen. Avant, lined up on the same side of the field, took Jaguars cornerback Brian Williams to the ground with a textbook block to open up running room for Maclin, who picked up 9 yards and a first down. Avant gives full effort on every play and battles until the whistle blows. To steal Larry Brown's favorite line, he plays the game the right way.

** Jason Peters and LeSean McCoy also did nice jobs of cutting their men down at the line of scrimmage on the Maclin screen.

More coverage

** More on Maclin. I thought he delivered by far his best performance to date. I'm more encouraged that Andy Reid is going to find some creative ways to get him the ball this season. In the second quarter, with the Eagles facing a 2nd-and-10, he did a nice job of breaking a tackle and getting to the marker. Overall, four catches for 53 yards and some quality reps with the starters.

** Analyst Hugh Douglas was ripping Maclin for being a little tentative after absorbing a big hit. What do we think? Was he a little too harsh?

** I thought Peters played better. He has plays where he looks like an All-Pro, and he has plays where he looks like a rookie. Maybe that's to be expected, given his injuries and the fact that he's on a new team. I really wish Reid wouldn't have called him the best tackle in football. I'm holding out judgement until he plays in the real games.

** On the other side, I'm still not comfortable with Winston Justice starting at right tackle Week 1. Not sure how he avoided a flag after getting beat by Reggie Hayward and then nailing him in the back in the first quarter. He got beat again in the third quarter, but McNabb got rid of the ball just in time to avoid a sack.

** Thirty-six throws for McNabb in a preseason game? I'm going to have to look up if that's a league-high for attempts so far.

** I'm concerned about how this line will react when facing blitzes early in the season. You saw it against the Jaguars, specifically up the middle and from the cornerback position. McNabb took some hits. I didn't think Jamaal Jackson had a particularly strong performance.

** Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles both saw time at left guard with the first team. Reid will have to make a decision on who gets the nod before Week 1, now that Todd Herremans will miss that game.

** Not a good job by Cole on a third-and-two LeSean McCoy run in the first quarter. But luckily the Eagles got a generous spot to earn a first down.

** Let's make a deal, Andy. You remove every play that involves an overhand lateral, and we'll agree to not question your play-calling. At least until Week 2.

** McNabb missed some throws, but also made some spectacular plays to avoid pressure and pick up big chunks of yardage.

** Another concern. This offense is historically slow to get the play in to McNabb, and it's resulted in numerous penalties and wasted timeouts over the years. How are they going to avoid those mishaps when Michael Vick comes on to the field for a play here and there? You saw them have to waste a timeout in this very situation in the first quarter.

** Blocking does not appear to be a strength of Kevin Curtis, and it was quite noticeable on a couple occasions. Once on a screen to McCoy. And another time on a screen to DeSean Jackson.

** Speaking of Jackson, he does a tremendous job of avoiding contact and going down at the right time after the catch. Many questioned last season whether he'd be able to stay healthy given his size. But so far he's had no problems.

** McCoy was late to pick up a blitzer in the second quarter, but McNabb escaped and found Maclin over the middle.

** As for the run game, 19 carries for 66 yards is not very good, but it's unfair to judge that aspect with Leonard Weaver sidelined. That's how much of a difference I think he's going to make.

** Zero carries for Lorenzo Booker. And did you notice whose been one of the Eagles' best players on special teams coverage this preseason? That's right. Eldra Buckley.

** You may have noticed that this was a relatively Vick-free post. I figured his six plays have been analyzed already at length. But a couple quick notes. On his dart to Hank Baskett, the Jaguars only rushed three, and Vick did a nice job of being patient and making a perfect throw. The whole Vick-McNabb relationship intrigues me. I'll explain more tomorrow and hope to provide a different spin on it.

Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
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Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
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