Friday, December 26, 2014

Eagles-Bears preseason: What Did We Learn?

CHICAGO -- It wasn’t pretty. Preseason games hardly are, but the Eagles first team units underwhelmed against the Bears in the opener. The final: Bears 34, Eagles 28. There were plenty of bad, a bunch of good, and plenty to learn from -- especially for the rookies. Let’s roll the tape:

Eagles-Bears preseason: What Did We Learn?

Chicago Bears tight end Dante Rosario (88) collides with Philadelphia<br />Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins (27). (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Chicago Bears tight end Dante Rosario (88) collides with Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins (27). (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO -- It wasn’t pretty. Preseason games hardly are, but the Eagles first team units underwhelmed against the Bears in the opener. The final: Bears 34, Eagles 28. There were plenty of bad, a bunch of good, and plenty to learn from -- especially for the rookies. Let’s roll the tape:

-- Nick Foles had a forgettable night, tossing two interceptions in three series. You might have already read this somewhere else: He had as many interceptions in one quarter as he had all of last season. The Eagles are nowhere near panic mode. Foles has done enough to show that he can rebound from what was essentially two bad throws -- alright, three. He had another errant pass that could have been picked off. For my full thoughts on Foles’ night, here’s my column for the newspaper.

-- Chip Kelly called nine passes against four runs in the 13 plays the first team offense ran. There weren’t any surprises in the play-calling. He isn’t going to reveal his full deck in an exhibition game. Foles’ shaky play didn’t do him any favors, but the offense didn’t dazzle like it had last preseason and through most of last season. No biggie. LeSean McCoy had only one carry for zero yards. Darren Sproles ran three times for 11 yards, but the two tailbacks weren’t ever on the field at the same time.

-- Jeremy Maclin played despite missing parts of practice this week because of “soreness” in his legs. It was another obstacle cleared for the receiver as he returns from last summer’s torn ACL. Maclin got on the board with a 15-yard grab over the middle. He was also flagged for a face mask. Receivers Riley Cooper (foot) and Jeff Maehl (foot) didn’t suit up. Arrelious Benn was listed as the starter in place of Cooper, but Ifeanyi Momah started (two catches for 15 yards).

More coverage
 
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-- The first team defense held after Foles’ first interception, forcing a field goal attempt that was blocked by Damion Square. But they surrendered a 13-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a Jay Cutler 10-yard TD pass to Zach Miller. The Bears tight end split DeMeco Ryans and a late-arriving Nate Allen. Cutler completed 7 of 10 passes for 80 yards on the drive. It should be noted that Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery (six catches for 47 yards combined) may be the best receiving duo in the NFL. The pass rush was virtually non-existent, a concern considering last year’s low sack total. The second unit generated more pressure led by Vinny Curry (the Eagles’ lone sack), Beau Allen and Brandon Graham. Kelly was less than effusive in his praise of Curry and Graham after the game, but did single out Allen and Brandon Bair for their efforts.

-- Nate Allen had a solid game, playing the entire first half with both the first and second teams. He tackled well and picked off backup quarterback Jordan Palmer. Earl Wolff didn’t flash and missed a tackle – after Graham whiffed on a receiver. Allen seems to have a clear advantage in the safety competition at this point.

-- Slow the bus on the Jordan Matthews hype. I tried to do so a few weeks ago in a column. The rookie receiver has obvious talent, but he looked like, well, a rookie in his first preseason game. He had two drops, maybe a third, depending upon who’s judging. Matthews did catch four passes for 14 yards. His future – great, bad or anywhere in between (which is likely where he’ll end up) – isn’t going to be written on one preseason game. The kid will get better. Josh Huff, who had been playing in Matthews’ rookie receiver shadow, had the play of the game for the Eagles when he took a second quarter kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown. Huff looked a little flat footed on his first two returns, but hit a hole on his third, and outran the Bears down the sideline.

-- Zach Ertz continues to show signs that he will be a more prominent part of the Eagles offense. He lined up as the second tight end with Brent Celek, but caught only one pass for two yards with the first. Mark Sanchez, though, connected with Ertz three times for 58 yards, including a 34-yard beauty down the seam. Sanchez had the best game of the four quarterbacks, completing 7 of 10 passes for 79 yards.

-- Aside from Matthews and Huff, the rest of the drafted rookies had their ups and downs. Allen, as mentioned above, moved some linemen during his snaps. On one play, he drove the center back into the Palmer, who threw off a defender’s helmet incomplete. Marcus Smith, I thought, showed the athleticism the coaches have been raving about. He never got to the quarterback, but turned the corner on the left tackle on a few pass rushes. He said he batted one pass. He didn’t seem lost in space either. I’ll have to check the rewind to see how Taylor Hart performed, but I recall watching him read a screen and run downfield to make a tackle. Good hustle.

-- Cornerback Jaylen Watkins got toasted for a 73-yard touchdown playing on the outside, but rebounded and recorded a fourth quarter interception out of the slot. He said he played both spots evenly and admitted he had nerves early on. I didn’t see much of safety Ed Reynolds, except for a back shoulder throw in the end zone that he seemed to get a hand on.

-- Allen Barbre looked a little shaky. He’ll need to perform better. I liked what I saw out of the key backups on the offensive line. Guard Matt Tobin and tackle Andrew Gardner are the most likely two to make the roster at those spots (the backup center position is still up for grabs), and there didn’t appear to be anything against the Bears that would suggest otherwise at this point.

-- A few quickies … Three of Alex Henery’s five kickoffs were touchbacks. He was 4 for 4 on the 33-yard PATs. Rookie kicker Carey Spear didn’t play. Matt Barkley tossed an interception. Running back Matthew Tucker rushed for two touchdowns. He left with a hamstring injury.

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Birds' Eye View is the Inquirer's blog covering all things Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

Jeff McLane Inquirer Staff Writer
Zach Berman Inquirer Staff Writer
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