What we Learned From Eagles’ 3rd Preseason Game
It's only two weeks until the regular season will be under way.
Before we continue that countdown, though, let's count up the lessons from Saturday's preseason game in Jacksonville, which is as close as Philadelphia will get to a dress rehearsal:
Three things we learned:
1. Mike Vick is not infallible.
Saturday's game at Jacksonville was clearly the least impressive of any of Vick's preseason games this season, but that's as much a compliment to his performance in the other two as it is a criticism of Saturday's game. He was picked off for the second time this preseason, looking more like the Vick of a year ago, using poor judgment. The first resulted from a hail Mary chuck at the end of the half in the game against Carolina, while the second one on Saturday resulted from a awful decision, but one that might have come from a poor job by Todd Herreman's who was beat on the play. But still, Vick completed 15-of-23 passes for 184 yards with one touchdown and one interception and added seven rushes for 53 yards, showing the remarkable acceleration and elusiveness that makes him unique. His numbers this preseason; 28-of-38 (73.6%) for 383 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and nine runs for 73 yards. So this game doesn't mean it's time to panic or invoke a silly phrase that includes the word slump, but it certainly was uncharacteristic of Vick this preseason.
2. Backup running back is a competition.
Second-year man Bryce Brown showed some giddy-up on that 23-yard run, but he continues to carry the ball away from his body and loose, which led to a third-quarter fumble that went through the back of the endzone for a touchback - his second fumble of the preseason.
"On that particular play, their defensive back put their hat on the football," Eagles head coach Chip Kelly explained. "He did have the football tight against the side. He was swinging a little bit earlier in the run, but give their guy credit. It's not something that’s just Bryce; I think it's everybody."
Brown rushed 11 times for 92 yards with a touchdown but lost another fumble, while his competition Chris Polk continue to plod along, rushing six times for 23 yards with a touchdown in Saturday's third preseason game against the Jaguars. Polk looks a lot less explosive when he gets the ball, but if Brown can't prove he can hold-on-to-the-football, Polk will stick around and compete for playing time. Either way, there's going to be a pretty fierce competition to see who gets more carries this season: Brown or Polk.
"I think Chris [Polk] has played really well, and we have LeSean [McCoy]," Kelly stated. "But the three of those guys, I would put that group up against anybody."
3. Philadelphia defense is still giving up big runs.
Little known Jordan Todman took a hand off and took it 63 yards on the Eagles defense - overall the Jaguars racked up 202 yards on the ground.
"Was I happy we had a 63‑yard run last week? No," Kelly admitted. "You look at the long run we had. We had two kids cut and knocked down on the ground. One of the guys misses gap integrity, and we had two guys take very poor angles to the football. We really didn't get a hand on the guy. I think that's all part of it when you look at that specific play."
The Eagles defense was gashed at 5.9 yards per carry, this comes two weeks after the birds defense gave up 248 yards on the ground and eight yards per carry.
"It's a process of going through it and making sure guys understand where their role is, what their responsibility is, and being where they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be there," Kelly said about stopping the big play runs.
Three things we're still trying to figure out:
1. Can Philadelphia afford to cut Nate Allen?
He certainly hasn't taken the safety spot opposite Patrick Chung and ran with it, leaving an opening and competition alive. Allen, who's in his third year, seems to be the starter and was an improvement over fifth-round pick Earl Wolff who was on the play for the 63-yard touchdown run and seemed to take a bad route on that play.
"They both had real good plays and they both had plays they want back," Kelly acknowledged. "It's a work in progress at the safety position. So I'm not going to sit here and say either one of those guys are playing at an All-Pro level right now. They both know what they need to work on. I'm seen improvement from Game 1 to Game 2 to Game 3, but it's a work in progress for those guys."
That said, it's still an open competition at this point between Allen and Wolff, this is still an important week for both as both will play vs. the Jets on Thursday. However, leaving Allen off the team if he doesn't win the starting job might be rash given how Wolff looked in Jacksonville.
2. How Greg Salas wouldn't make this roster?
No, he doesn't have game-breaking, big-play speed, but all he has done in three preseason games is catch five balls for 81 yards and a touchdown - third best on the team. Being a professional deep threat should be enough to earn Salas a spot on this team especially considering the status of Jermey Maclin, who was expected to be such a big-play threat for this team. Salas is averaging 16.2 yards per catch in three preseason games, which is second behind DeSean Jackson on the team.
He'll most likely have to hold off rookie Russell Shepard to make the team.
3. What to make of Philadelphia's pass rush?
This was a point of emphasis in the offseason, and through three preseason games the Eagles have 11 sacks, tied for fifth-most in the league. Now, the encouraging fact is that Philadelphia has pressured opponents without the help of Trent Cole, who's is changing positions and is no longer playing defensive end, nor Fletcher Cox, who is also changing positions. The discouraging news: There's no indication Cole will be a big factor in a pass-rushing role for the start of the regular season, and the fact Cox has yet to get to the quarterback in the preseason might be an indication that the Eagles will have to get creative to get sacks. Five of the teams 11 sacks have come from guys who are currently on the roster bubble - so the sacks could be coming because of the lack of talent on the field for the opposing team.