10 Notable Eagles from the win

Damaris Johnson returns a kick against the Steelers on Thursday at the Linc. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

The first preseason game is tailor-made for rookies to show why they’re in the NFL. They get the bulk of the playing time, affording them their best opportunity to make a first impression.

The Eagles rookies didn’t disappoint, as five of them were among our 10 standouts from the Eagles’ 24-23 win.

Quarterback Nick Foles: The only person not completely enjoying Foles’ third-quarter success may have been backup quarterback Mike Kafka. (Is that former backup? “Whoever is playing the best is going to play,” Reid said.)

Foles completed 6-of-10 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns in one quarter of play and directed two one-play touchdown drives. How many of those will the Eagles have all season?

His 44-yard touchdown to Gilyard occurred because, “We liked the matchup he had,” Foles said. “I’ve thrown it to him deep in camp and he has the speed. So I wanted to throw it up there and let him adjust and make a play on it.”

Wide receiver Damaris Johnson: The undrafted rookie free agent was unexpectedly a starter when Jeremy Maclin tweaked his hamstring before the game. All Johnson did was lead the team in receiving yards with 85 yards on four catches, including a 70-yard touchdown reception from Foles.

“It felt surreal” to score,” said Johnson. “It felt great, but it felt unbelievable to score a touchdown in an NFL game.”

Defensive linemen Phillip Hunt and Derek Landri: Hunt played the first quarter like his career depended on it—and maybe it did. He had a hustle pursuit tackle on a short pass, and two plays later followed with a sack of Ben Roethlisberger. He later picked up a strip-sack of Byron Leftwich and finished with four tackles. 

Landri contributed to a combined sack by Darryl Tapp and Brian Rolle when he flushed Roethlisberger toward the line. Landri also stuffed a running play late in the first half for a nine-yard loss.

Backup running backs Dion Lewis and Bryce Brown: Lewis showed quick feet and nifty moves on two inside runs that showed he’ll be able to fill in nicely when LeSean McCoy needs a break.

Brown continued to impress with his speed and power. He hauled in a 16-yard catch-and-run from Foles to start the third quarter, and later broke off a 33-yard run that showed his elusiveness and strength.

Kicker Alex Henery: All he did was repeat exactly what he’s been doing all training camp at Lehigh—except this time in a real situation with the game on the line from 51 yards. No problem. “That was quite a kick,” said Reid.

“It’s always good to get those,” Henery said. “It’s good to get practice in and I’ll know how to handle a situation like that.”

Kick returner Brandon Boykin: Not returning his first potential NFL kickoff was not an option. Standing eight yards deep in the end zone, Boykin fired out and raced to the 38-yard line for a 46-yard return. He averaged 29.7 return yards on three kicks.

“I wanted to take it,” Boykin said. “My mind-set was to take it out and it worked out.”

Defensive tackle Cedric Thornton: Another player needing to make his mark, Thornton was a line-stuffer and finished with four tackles and a sack. 

“I was proud of the way the 3s and 4s finished the game,” Reid said. “I saw a lot of good things from the young kids…. We can build on that.”

Linebacker Mychal Kendricks: The rookie strong-side linebacker made a mistake early, according to Reid, when he was late to read a play in the flat. But on several plays Kendricks stretched the running backs to the sidelines for little or no yardage.

“It looked like he played fast, and I didn’t see any hesitation,” Reid said. “I think he’ll continue to get better with every opportunity he has to play.”

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