I was going to write a notebook-type item on the Eagles' offense after re-watching yesterday's game, but when I was finished taking notes, I realized I had something to say on pretty much every guy. So we'll do it player-by-player:
Donovan McNabb - He played well, completing 10 of 18 passes for 79 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. McNabb also ran four times for 27 yards and a score. On the shovel pass to Brian Westbrook, it looked like McNabb changed the play at the line of scrimmage. The receivers did not help him out early. I counted at least three dropped passes in the first quarter. Now we wait and see when he can get back on the field.
Kevin Kolb - I'm going to write a separate post later this week breaking down Kolb's performance, but to me, it seemed to be more of a timing issue than anything else. He comnpleted 7 of 11 passes for 23 yards, and the offense seemed out of sync when he was in the game. A fumble by DeSean Jackson, a poorly thrown wide receiver screen, miscommunication with Hank Baskett. These seem like things that could be improved with a week of practice with the first team. Kolb made a couple nice throws when he rolled out to his right. His strength is still intermediate passes. The one shot Kolb took deep was ugly as Jackson had to break up an interception.
Leonard Weaver - He actually missed a block on the Eagles' first offensive play of the game, forcing McNabb to scramble. I don't remember seeing that happen once during training camp. Weaver did a good job as a blocker, specifically on Jackson's run out of the Wildcat, and he even had a nifty 11-yard run on his only carry. He's going to prove to be a great addition to this offense.
Brian Westbrook - His performance was one of the most positive things to come out of this game. Forget the job he did running the ball. With 53 seconds left in the first quarter, Westbrook gathered both the offense and the defense on the sideline. The Eagles were off to a sloppy start -- missed tackles, dropped passes, penalties. And from the view on TV, it looked like Westbrook was rallying the troops. The Birds went on to score 28 unanswered points. Look, I'm not saying Westbrook's speech was a direct cause of that, but with Brian Dawkins gone, it was nice to see him assume the role for the entire team. As for his performance on the field, Westbrook carried 13 times for 64 yards. He had a 6-yard run near the Panthers' goal line that showed just how healthy his knee and ankle feel. In fact, if he's ever injured in the future, the coaching staff and trainers should just ask him to replicate that run to see how close to 100 percent he is.
LeSean McCoy - Nine carries for 46 yards. Not a bad debut at all. McCoy also made a great one-handed catch on a pass from Kolb. He only picked up a yard, but it showed a glimpse of what we can expect from him in the future.
Brent Celek - Led the Eagles with six catches for 37 yards and a touchdown. Good toughness on the score to take on two Panthers at the goal line and barrel into the end zone. I know he's been working on it, but Celek has a ways to go as a run blocker.
Alex Smith - Did not make a catch in his debut, but was in the game. He lined up in the slot on one play and was used as a blocker on a wide receiver screen in the first quarter to Jackson, which was incomplete.
Winston Justice - I've been hard on Justice in the preseason, but he played well against the Panthers. Give the coaching staff (Andy Reid, Marty Mornhinweg and Juan Castillo) a ton of credit here for putting him in a position to succeed. I only counted four or five plays where they left Justice completely alone on a pass play. Most often, it was Celek helping Justice out before going out in his route. However, on the occasions where he was left by himself, Justice did a good job. He also made multiple good blocks in the run game. One helped spring Westbrook for an 18-yard gain, and another on a 7-yard run by McCoy. You can't kill Justice for the play where Kolb was sacked and fumbled. He really held on to the ball for a long time there. Definitely a step in the right direction for the big fella.
Stacy Andrews - It looked to me like he probably was the least impressive of the Eagles' offensive linemen, but let's cut him some slack and remember he had offseason knee surgery and is playing on a new team. Andrews got beat a couple times on pass plays, once for a sack in the fourth quarter.
Jamaal Jackson - He really stood out when I re-watched the game this morning. Jackson leveled a defender on the 25-yard end around to D. Jackson and did a nice job throughout.
Nick Cole - He also was very good. Did a nice job when the Eagles ran the Wildcat with Jackson and also opened up a hole for a 17-yard Westbrook run. On Westbrook's TD, Cole got just enough push up the middle to allow No. 36 to get into the end zone. He also created space on Weaver's lone carry.
Jason Peters -- He got off to a rough start with two false start penalties early, but Peters made up for it. He manhandled linebacker Thomas Davis on a 17-yard Westbrook run and displayed the athleticism that had Reid so excited when the Eagles traded for him. One more thing I really liked to see from Peters. When McNabb was intercepted by Jon Beason, Peters was the one hustling to bring down the Panthers linebacker.
DeSean Jackson - His big play came on the 85-yard punt return. Jackson had two catches for 9 yards and a couple carries for 33 yards. He also dropped a ball on the offense's first possession. The Eagles didn't really take shots deep down the field. I'll explain why later.
Jason Avant - Just one catch for 18 yards, but it should come as no surprise that it was an 18-yard pickup on third down.
Kevin Curtis - Two catches for 26 yards. He also dropped a pass from McNabb. Curtis is probably the team's weakest blocking receiver. It seems like any time a cornerback is making a play in the run game downfield, it's Curtis' guy.
Hank Baskett - One catch for 6 yards. But he did make a nice block to give Westbrook room to pick up a first down on a toss in the third quarter. Looked like Baskett and Kolb weren't on the same page on a play in the second half that was incomplete.
And some more notes that I couldn't fit in above:
** Nice design on the play-action pass touchdown to Celek. The Eagles run play-action so much that you wonder how much it really fools defenses. But the entire line, Westbrook, McNabb and even Celek, sold the run.
** There was some confusion in our chat about the celebration penalty after the Celek TD. The Eagles' tight end handed the ball to J. Jackson, who spiked it for him. D. Jackson then fell to the ground, as if it were an explosion. He was whistled for the penalty.
** With 4:48 left in the second quarter, Panthers defensive tackle Damione Lewis brought McNabb down on a pass play to McCoy. As both players got up, Lewis slapped McNabb on the helmet, a gesture of sportsmanship. Why do I bring this up? Lewis is the guy who hit McNabb in the end zone and fractured his rib. I really don't think it was a dirty play. A late hit? Quite possibly. But not a dirty play.
** How did the refs initially call a fumble on McCoy? It didn't really look close. But did you notice Westbrook talking to the rookie after the play? Probably instructing him to hold on to the ball no matter what.
** The Eagles used their timeouts on defense near the end of the first half so that they could get the ball back. So why did they then call a running play to Westbrook from their own 26 with 1:18 left?
** Did McNabb take a shot deep at all while he was in there? Kolb took one. Again, good game-planning by the coaching staff to put their offensive line in a position to succeed.