McMullen’s Quick Hits: Eagles-Packers Edition
How's that for nailing it?
A dress rehearsal has rarely gone better than Philadelphia's performance in Titletown on Saturday night as the Eagles blitzed an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers team en route to an easy 39-26 preseason win.
Sam Bradford was virtually perfect, flashing the accuracy Chip Kelly has gushed about since acquiring the former No. 1 overall pick, completing every single one of his 10 passes for 121 yards and three touchdowns for an absurd 156.7 passer rating (158.3 is perfect).
Dom Capers' defense was no match for Philadelphia's tempo and Bradford used Jordan Matthews to pick apart Packers' overmatched nickel back Micah Hyde, and Darren Sproles to abuse Green Bay's lead-footed linebackers in coverage.
Raheem Mostert set the tone by returning the opening kickoff 67 yards and moments later Bradford found Sproles torturing Sam Barrington on a wheel route for an easy TD.
Things hardly slowed from there as the Birds' new starting quarterback also threw scoring strikes to Trey Burton and Brent Celek. The defense also struck as Walter Thurmond took advantage of slipping tight end Richard Rodgers to intercept a Brett Hundley pass and return it for a TD.
By the end of the first 15 minutes, Philadelphia had a 25-0 advantage and Bradford was safely back in storage.
COULD IT GET ANY BETTER? Simply put, no, at least not for Bradford, who looked like an All-Pro in Kelly's up-tempo scheme. His ball-placement was Aaron Rodgers-like and his decision-making was as quick as Chip has been telling us it is. There is not one thing you can point to tonight and say Bradford could have done it better. The chemistry was particularly off the charts with Matthews and Sproles.
EXTENDED ACTION: If you want to question one thing about Bradford it is again the workload. Taking 14 snaps over two games accomplished a few things in Bradford's journey from two-time ACL patient back to being a legitimate NFL starting quarterback. At some point the Eagles were going to have to amp up the workload if he was going to be ready to play a full game on Sept. 14 in Atlanta and Week 3 in the preseason made the most sense. He was spectacular in his one quarter of action but how to go from 15 minutes in this offense to 60? No one has any idea if the conditioning is there.
NICKEL IS A PROBLEM: The team's plan for the nickel became a little clearer as expected with starter Nolan Carroll moving inside to the slot with rookie Eric Rowe handling duties outside opposite Byron Maxwell in obvious passing situations. Rowe has been lost inside so the move had to be made. The Eagles would like that to be the plan for Atlanta but the rookie hardly looked ready, struggling mightily in coverage at times. Veteran E.J. Biggers is still in play and handled slot duties in the second half but was beaten badly off the line on a Jeff Janis TD in the fourth quarter.
INSIDE ANYONE: Inside linebacker is supposed to be the Eagles' deepest position but we had yet to see the embarrassment of riches that projects as a three-man rotation of Kiko Alonso, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. We saw two-thirds tonight as Kendricks and Ryans started with Kiko again sitting out as a precaution after his concussion. Both Ryans and Kendricks, fresh off a big contract extension, struggled a bit. Ryans looked slow in coverage coming off the Achilles injury and Kendricks missed a few tackles.
Alonso is shaping up as the biggest story because he has been back at practice since Aug. 18 and said he wanted to play this week. After the game Kelly said Alonso was held out as a precaution due to a minor
HUFF SITS AS EXPECTED: Josh Huff was not mentally ready to play after missing two practices over the past week to attend the funeral of his God brother and did not suit up. Rookie Nelson Agholor, who is pushing Huff for a starting spot was nondescript tonight, catching two balls for 11 yards. The big roster push was made by Jeff Maehl, who looked extremely impressive as both a blocker and receiver, snaring three receptions for 43 yards and a score.
GO-GO GADGET: After saying Tim Tebow wasn't a gadget quarterback, Kelly used him as a gadget after the first TD, attempting a two-point conversion on a QB-keeper. Tebow wasn't able to bulldoze it in on a draw play, however, and that kind of strategy doesn't look like a winner for the regular season. Meanwhile, late in the game Tebow fumbled a zone-read handoff to Mostert, although he hustled to regain the football.
RUNNING BACK BATTLE: The Eagles might not even keep four backs but of they do they have two really nice options in Mostert and Kenyon Barner. The speedy Mostert electrified every one with his opening kick return and Barner chipped in with his weekly big play, a 50-yard scamper on a screen play.
PUMP THE BRAKES: As spectacular as the Eagles were tonight, remember Rodgers, the best QB in football, did not play, Jordy Nelson is out for the year with a torn ACL, and three of Green Bay's offensive linemen were also absent. Hundley, a rookie, was not a real stiff test for Philadelphia's revamped defensive backfield and Capers' antiquated schemes failed to recognize the wheel route all night.
KNUCKEBALL KIP: The Eagles gave kicker Cody Parkey the night off and backup punter turner backup kicker Kip Smith missed two consecutive PATs before settling down. Some are speculating that there is something physically wrong with Parkey because you rarely rest a player that young.
INJURY WATCH: Right tackle Lane Johnson exited with a left knee injury in the first quarter and was held out as a precaution but it's not believed to be serious.
CUTS COMING: With the first round of roster cuts looming after this game Kelly said the decisions are “definitely” going to be tougher than he previous two seasons. “We have more depth,” the coach said. “I will believe we will cut players that will be on other rosters. The (moves) will be more difficult than the past two years.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen