Eagles juggernaut generates optimism

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Jeffrey Lurie tiptoed through the cramped visitors locker room at Lambeau Field on Saturday night, but he walked with purpose. Tucked into the corner, past Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez, and Matt Barkley, was the Eagles owner's target.

Sam Bradford had just completed a near-perfect, albeit short, night, and Lurie was ebullient as he approached the quarterback. Their conversation was a private one, but the gleam in the longtime owner's eyes as he spoke was one of optimism.

But Lurie wasn't the only one in a locker room full of positive vibes who expressed confidence about the coming season after the Eagles efficiently bested the Packers, 39-26, in their third preseason game.

Players raved about Bradford, the proficiency of the offense in scoring five touchdowns before the half, and the big-play capabilities of the defense and special teams. With hope, however, there was also caution. The Eagles of Chip Kelly have similarly dismantled teams in preseasons past.

"You got to look at the film, but I think we did some things tonight," Kelly said after the game. "We need to continue to build on it."

Bradford completed all 10 of his passes for 121 yards and capped each of his three drives with touchdown passes. His throws were pinpoint. He didn't flinch when a blitzing Micah Hyde bore down on him as he hit Trey Burton for his second score. And the up-tempo offense moved gracefully with Bradford at the controls.

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"I think it would be a little unrealistic to think you're going to have that type of game every time out," Bradford said.

He played only 34 snaps in all during the preseason, but Kelly's conservative approach with Bradford since the spring as he returned from the second torn anterior cruciate ligament of his career seems to have paid off.

Bradford spread his passes around. The Eagles have a variety of ways in which they can move down the field. They were without tight end Zach Ertz (groin surgery) and receiver Josh Huff (missed two practices last week after a friend died), but Kelly can give a defense any number of looks with depth at each skill position.

The three running backs - DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, and Darren Sproles - caught a combined six passes for 65 yards. Sproles had an 8-yard touchdown grab on a wheel route and took a shallow crossing route for 33 yards.

"It's a great mismatch for us when we can find him on linebackers, even safeties at times," Bradford said of Sproles. "He's got a great feel for a lot of those choice routes, especially inside like the one down the sideline. We drew that up for that coverage, to get him matched up with the linebacker."

Murray, who like Bradford sat out the preseason opener, rushed six times for 28 yards. He also has three catches for 26 yards in two games.

"I think if you talk to a lot of those defensive guys it's really frustrating when they take away everything downfield and then we're able to throw a check-down to Sproles, DeMarco, or Ryan," Bradford said."

There were, of course, areas to nitpick. Kiko Alonso missed another preseason game with a leg problem - Kelly said it was tendinitis - and he still hasn't played alongside fellow inside linebackers Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans. Kendricks and Ryans were back after sitting out the two previous games, but they showed signs of rust.

"It's not a concern for us," Kelly said of the injury-riddled unit. "I think we got real good depth at inside linebacker."

Kicker Cody Parkey, who has been inconsistent this summer, tweaked his leg last week and didn't dress against the Packers. Kip Smith handled kicking duties. Parkey stumbled down the stretch last season as he dealt with a groin injury.

The Eagles have also not nailed down the slot corner position. It was Nolan Carroll's turn on Saturday. He moved inside in the nickel defense and rookie Eric Rowe, who was up and down, took his spot on the outside.

"We're trying to make an educated decision on what's the best combination of five out there," Kelly said.

The Eagles probably won't make that decision based on the preseason finale Thursday at the New York Jets. Kelly will likely rest his starters. But he didn't seem concerned about how he'll ultimately replace the traded Brandon Boykin or any other minor concern.

"We still got two weeks," Kelly said of the season opener in Atlanta.

The optimism should only grow until Sept. 14.

Roster trimmed

The Eagles released 12 players Sunday and trimmed their roster from 90 to 78 two days before they're required to get to 75.

There weren't any surprises. Quarterback-turned-receiver G.J. Kinne was the most notable player waived. Tackle Kevin Graf spent most of last season on the practice squad and was even called up to the 53-man roster for three weeks.

The rest were players who were acquired this offseason: cornerback Marc Anthony, safety Brandon Bishop, offensive lineman Mike Coccia, defensive end Alfy Hill, receiver Mike Johnson, linebacker Dasman McCullum, receiver Josh Reese, tight end Justin Tukes, and offensive lineman Jared Wheeler.

The Eagles will likely place cornerback JaCorey Shepherd (torn ACL) on injured reserve and waive/injured linebacker Emmanuel Acho (broken thumb) to get to 76, leaving them one more player to cut before the deadline at 4 p.m. Tuesday.


jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane