JACKSONVILLE --- The late-Andy Reid-era Eagles showed up at EverBank Field Saturday night, and nobody was tempted to get swept away in the warm embrace of nostalgia, even after Nick Foles saved the night with a 99-yard touchdown drive against scrubs, for a 31-24 preseason victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Four days after Chip Kelly ended his quarterbacking competition, naming Michael Vick the starter, Kelly got a strong whiff of the 2011-12 Vick, in the sticky breeze wafting off the St. John’s River.
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘regress,’ ” when assessing Vick, Kelly said, which numbered Kelly among a rare few. Vick threw a terrible, back-foot, no-chance interception to kill a drive. He missed Brent Celek for a touchdown, and on another play, the fact that he had already been sacked – after holding onto the ball about half an hour – was the only thing that kept Vick from being charged with intentional grounding, which would have taken the Eagles out of field goal range, before Alex Henery hit from 45 yards.
“When I look at my performance tonight, I think I did some good things out there. It’s not always going to be perfect,” said Vick, who took seven first half hits, almost none of them on runs. “I’m not perfect. I can do better. There’s a lot that I learned tonight.”
Even when Vick was making good plays – and there were quite a few – it really didn’t look like he was running Kelly’s offense. Vick almost never threw in rhythm; he stood and waited, then scrambled, taking a hit, sooner or later. The idea he can stay healthy for 16 games playing this way, even with that extra 5 pounds of muscle Vick touts, seems farcical.
Vick’s stats -- 15 for 23, 184 yards, a touchdown to Riley Cooper, that pick, plus 53 rushing yards on 7 carries – didn’t tell the whole story. His only touchdown drive covered just 21 yards, after a Connor Barwin interception, the Eagles’ first of the preseason. Given how precise and crisp Vick was in the first two preseason games, Saturday's struggles against an unheralded team came as an unwlecome surprise.
The Jaguars seemed to blitz a lot – at least they got pressure a lot -- and Vick did not make good reads. His offensive line, playing with left tackle Jason Peters for the first time since 2011, looked out of sync .
“We were OK” handling the pressure, Kelly said. “There were times when we picked it up OK, and there were times when we didn’t … A couple of twists early, they got to us.”
“I think they did a really good job schematically of getting good angles and being able to sniff out some of our plays,” left guard Evan Mathis said.
The Jags’ D was crafted by their new head coach, Gus Bradley, who went to Jacksonville after Kelly changed his mind and took the Eagles’ job less than two weeks after deciding to stay at Oregon.
“There’s obviously room to grow. We’re still very young in this whole (offense). This film will be a great learning experience for us,” Mathis said.
“They did a good job of slanting and angling up front,” center Jason Kelce said. “Early in the game, it threw off some of our blocking assignments. I thought we adjusted as the game went on.”
“They didn’t show us the same looks they showed on film,” DeSean Jackson said.
Oh, and Damaris Johnson spoiled an electrifying return night (a 37-yard punt return, a 61-yard kickoff return) by fumbling without being hit, and Bryce Brown (11 carries, 92 yards and a TD) managed to turn a 23-yard gain and a first down at the 3 into a Jacksonville touchback, when he fumbled through the end zone and out of bounds.
Careless, sloppy, shooting themselves in the foot, and giving up huge chunks of yardage on the ground (a 63-yard TD run by Jordan Todman). Where have we seen that combo before?
“We drove the ball down and fumbled it again,” Peters said, referring to the Brown fumble. Ball security was a big issue for Brown last season as a rookie. “We have to clean up stuff like that.”
“I think we need to do a better job of finishing,” Vick said. “We were able to put drives together, but we were not able to finish off in the end zone.”
“We were our own worst enemy,” Kelly said.
Foles finished 10 for 11 for 112 yards and a 109.1 passer rating.
Kelly said of Vick, “I thought he did a good job keeping plays alive at times, but there are other times when you have to cut your losses and get us back to the line of scrimmage and get the next play off.”
Safety Kenny Phillips warmed up but couldn't play with a quad contusion. Brandon Hughes broke his left hand and fellow corner Eddie Whitley left the stadium on crutches, which would seem to indicate a corner crisis for the Birds, with Curtis Marsh having broken his hand the previous game. But other teams will be cutting guys the next few days, with everybody having to be at 75 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday.