Here’s the breakdown of the Eagles offense in the Steelers game after re-watching the tape (note: the NFL doesn’t provide the all-22 coaches film in the preseason):
Quarterback: Nick Foles delivered his second straight solid performance of the preseason after a woeful opener against the Bears. He’ll likely get the night off in the finale against the Jets next week. He was by no means perfect, however. Most of his issues were early. Foles threw wide to Jeremy Maclin on his first throw. He probably shouldn’t have thrown. Maclin was covered. He was wide of Jordan Matthews and later overthrew an open Brent Celek near the sideline.
Foles started to get in a groove when the protection improved. He flicked a strike to Riley Cooper on a short slant. He hit Celek for 23- and 18-yard tosses in the middle of the field. He placed a throw almost into the hands of Darren Sproles, who ran into the end zone on a wheel route. It may have been a touch too far for the diminutive running back, who couldn’t pull it in. Foles threw an interception on a screen, but his intended target – Sproles – tripped on Todd Herremans and fell.
Running back: LeSean McCoy eft in the first quarter with a sprained thumb. He said he should be ready for the season opener. He had his best moments of the preseason in this game. He hit a hole to his right, skipped out of a tackler and picked up 15 yards. He reversed field on a busted carry and still gained 13 yards. McCoy was a killer on screens last season, and scored a 27-yard touchdown on a perfectly-timed and executed screen. He burst up field and beat the Steelers to the pylon.
Aside from the end zone pass that glanced off his fingertips, Darren Sproles dropped a short pass from Foles on the sideline. He rushed six times for 33 yards. He was patient on one carry, waited for the block, and scooted ahead for eight yards. He showed some gristle on a second effort one-yard TD plunge. And Sproles picked up 14 yards on an inside zone. He slipped linebacker Jarvis Jones on the tote.
Wide receivers: The most important thing when it came to Jeremy Maclin was that he bounced up and back from a scary moment when he fell to the turf. He said afterward that his knee grabbed like it did when he tore his ACL last year. He said he took the alarm as a sign that his leg is healthy and able to sustain such moments. Maclin caught six passes for 43 yards. Most of his catches were on underneath stuff. It would have been nice to see him stretch the field, but that should come in the regular season. Perhaps the most encouraging part of his outing was how well he blocked downfield. Maclin did his job during McCoy’s 15-yard rush and his 27-yard TD.
Riley Cooper was back and was hot and cold. That was to be expected. He caught three passes for 25 yards. The seven-yard slant was his best grab because he had a defender draped on his back. Cooper couldn’t hang onto a couple of would-be catches. Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor deserved some credit for slapping the ball out of Cooper’s hands after he went high for a Foles throw. He dropped an end zone pass, but there was illegal contact beforehand. Cooper pushed off earlier in the end zone and was flagged for pass interference.
Jordan Matthews was quiet after last week’s nine receptions. It looks like he should be entrenched as the starting slot receiver even though Brad Smith (groin) was out. His best receiving moment came when he took a screen out of the backfield and followed his blockers for 14 yards. Foles dumped a swing pass that was a touch too far, but Matthews couldn’t get square and was dropped after two yards. He’s a willing downfield blocker and aided Cooper on a seven-yard screen.
Tight ends: Brent Celek caught two passes for 41 yards. For the preseason, he averaged 21.5 yards a reception. He reeled in a 23-yard catch over the middle, bounced off a Steeler, and lost his helmet (again). Somebody get that tough guy a chin strap. Celek also took a pop after an 18-yard grab. He was a little wobbly in his run blocking. Zach Ertz had one of his best blocking games, one time pushing Troy Polamalu back on a Matthew Tucker 8-yard rush and another time having the lead block on Sproles’ 8-yard run. He may have missed his assignment on a screen to Jeff Maehl. Ertz caught a 12-yard dig after he separated from a linebacker and gave Foles a big target. He also pulled in a 12-yarder that was thrown behind him.
Offensive line: Allen Barbre struggled again in pass protection. Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds had his way with him early on. Worilds zipped around Barbre and deflected a Foles pass. He executed a spin move that completely fooled the right tackle. Barbre did settle down in the second quarter and his run blocking seemed fine. Evan Mathis had a key block on Tucker’s 8-yard rush to his side.
Jason Kelce may be the NFL’s best center in space. He delivered a vicious block to Jones on McCoy’s TD screen. He appeared to get beat by end Stephon Tuitt when McCoy was forced to bounce outside and was cut down after a one-yard gain. Talk of Todd Herremans’ decline may have been premature. He’s had arguably the best preseason of any Eagles offensive lineman. He had a key block on McCoy’s screen and held up in pass protection. Jason Peters was equally as impressive. He sealed off linebacker Lawrence Timmons on Sproles’ 14-yard carry and didn’t allow any pressure on Foles’ blindside.
Quarterback: Mark Sanchez drove the second team offense to touchdowns on both series he played. Both came mostly against the Steelers’ first team defense. Sanchez roped a 15-yard pass to Damaris Johnson over the middle, he strung back-to-back passes to tight end Trey Burton, including a 25-yarder down the seam, and he flung a 14-yarder to Johnson a yard shy of the goal line. He threw low to Johnson on a crosser and held onto the ball too long and took a sack. The sack was nullified by a Steelers hold.
Matt Barkley was 4 of 4 for 37 yards on the only series he played. He connected with B.J. Cunningham for an 18-yard TD, but an illegal formation penalty called the score back. He was nearly picked off on a 20-yard out route. G.J. Kinne took eight snaps after sitting last week. He should get plenty of time against the Jets to put plays on film. With the practice squad increasing from 8 to 10, he could stay in Philly.
Running backs: Matthew Tucker was back and took some first team snaps after McCoy left. He ran for 46 yards on ten carries and scored twice from a yard out. He’s making a push to beat out the oft-injured Chris Polk for a roster spot. Tucker broke through a Jones tackle attempt and gained six yards on third and short. Some of the holes he ran through were huge, but he finished off a 12-yard sweep by taking on a tackler.
Henry Josey is practice squad material if the Eagles can hide him. He has an extra gear. Josey zoomed 70 yards for a TD, the last 50 wearing only one shoe after he slipped a defender. The score was brought back by a Will Murphy hold. Two days after the Eagles traded for him, Kenjon Barner was in uniform and playing. He had some nice moments on offense, but did muff a kick return. He ran ten tough yards up the middle. On a 16-yard sweep, he took a hit and kept running. He showed some vision when he met a wall, sidestepped to his right and went north for six yards.
Wide receivers: In our “Who Makes the Roster” series I had Ifeanyi Momah making the roster ahead of Jeff Maehl, but I’m now convinced that Maehl survives. He seems more reliable on offense and is steady enough on special teams. Maehl caught four passes for 19 yards. Momah played only 19 snaps and wasn’t targeted once. I’m fairly sure he didn’t get any plays with the starters. Damaris Johnson probably won’t make the cut, but I’ve been impressed with how he’s handled himself. He’s done everything the coaches have asked, even played some running back, and still made plays. He had two catches for 29 yards. He’s been just meh on returns.
Arrelious Benn will have a hard time sneaking onto the roster. He left with a head injury. B.J. Cunningham and Will Murphy are prime practice squad options. Josh Huff didn’t play because of an AC shoulder sprain.
Tight ends: James Casey seems to always do his job as a blocker. He took out rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier on Tucker’s 1-yard TD run. Trey Burton made a leaping 25-yard catch when he had a step on Shazier. His blocking appears to be improving.
Offensive line: The second unit has quelled offseason concerns about o-line depth. The Steelers defense didn’t look particularly good, but the Eagles’ backups dominated the group on two drives. Matt Tobin played well again out of the left guard spot. He pulled and flattened the nose tackle on Josey’s 6-yard carry up the middle. He had another pull block on Josey’s 70-yard TD that was called back.
David Molk looks like a keeper. The center had a key block on Tucker’s 15-yard rush. He had no problem with the nose on multiple runs. Dennis Kelly had a good game. He should make the roster, at least until Lane Johnson returns from his suspension. Andrew Gardner was the lead blocker on Tucker’s 12-yard dart. He delivered a cut block on the linebacker. He was pushed back by defensive end Cameron Heyward when Barner was dropped six yards behind the line, but he later plowed over Heyward on Tucker’s second 1-yard TD run. Lane Johnson had trouble with a Worilds spin rush. He has one more preseason game before he packs up and leaves the NovaCare Complex for a month.