Every time somebody tells me “hey, it’s only preseason”, I shrug my shoulders, nod my head and give the usual “yeah, I know” reply. What I really want to do is shout out “Only Preseason?!” with complete, unnecessary emotion.
To say that these games don’t mean anything because the wins and losses get erased once the regular season starts makes me cringe.
Sure, game plans tend to be vanilla in order to prevent exposing too much strategy, but players earn jobs, players get hurt and players emerge those “meaningless contests”. Hello Nick Foles.
From being skeptical one day and optimistic the next—or vice-versa—the preseason can dictate how a fan feels in many aspects about their team heading into the regular season. With the Eagles set to take flight Sunday against the Browns, here are three things I learned from the Birds’ preseason—and that doesn’t include that these replacement referees are brutal.
1. DeMeco Ryans Needs More Time
I haven’t seen much from Ryans this preseason. He has been hesitant off the snap and has often got caught in traffic which led to big gains for the opposition’s rushing attack. Yes, I think Mychal Kendricks is going to be a good player in this league, but it’s just concerning to say that a rookie showed me more than a proven Pro Bowl linebacker.
I also do not appreciate his comments regarding the Andy Reid/Cullen Jenkins screaming match during the New England game (via PhillyMag):
“There was a lot of penalties, so he was getting on us about the penalties,” said Ryans. “It was a little—it got a little too rowdy for preseason, it’s a little too early for that. But we know the importance of it. He’s trying to teach us to be smart.”
Calling out your head coach for being too rowdy doesn’t sit well in my stomach, especially when it comes from a first-year Eagle whose known for his class and leadership abilities.
I do, however, think Ryans will return to his Pro Bowl form—but it will take time. Despite already being a proven All-Pro middle linebacker in Houston’s 4-3 scheme, Ryans played in a 3-4 last season thanks to Wade Phillips and could just have some catching up to do, especially with it being his first year in the wide-nine.
I am not pushing the panic button on Ryans, I am just saying that it’s going to take time. The Eagles have longed for a leader at linebacker ever since Jeremiah Trotter departed, and I believe Ryans will be the answer—but maybe not by Week 1.
Best Case - Returns to his Pro Bowl form and becomes the much-needed leader on this Birds’ defense.
Worst Case - Becomes the next Takeo Spike or Ernie Simms— two LB pickups that did not go as planned to say the least.
2. Nick Foles is our Future, Not Our Present, at QB
It’s obvious that Nick Foles played extremely well this preseason. Anyone who watched him take snaps can agree that the rookie signal-caller out of the University of Arizona will be the Eagles future at quarterback.
The 6’6″ Foles completed 63% of his passes (40-63) with 553 yards and six touchdowns, earning himself the backup quarterback position for the Eagles ahead of third-stringer Trent Edwards. Sorry Kafka, but it was time to go.
I feel comfortable with Foles for the future, but I’m not going to get ahead of myself and anoint him as the starter over Michael Vick right away.
Foles showed good mechanics in his play-action fakes and displays good arm strength and accuracy inside and outside of the pocket. One play that stuck out was the pass to Clay Harbor in the New England game where Foles rolled out to the right, avoided a sack and showed great patience by waiting for his receiver to get open. Then, just to top it all off, he rifled an accurate TD throw off his back foot.
Vick is our best chance at winning a Super Bowl this season, but if he goes down—which unfortunately chances are he will—I feel safe with Foles coming in.
The Scare - In a year where Vick and Reid are on the chopping block, the last thing the Birds need is a possible quarterback controversy between Vick and Foles, especially among the fans. With Vick getting hurt twice in two preseason games, he’s been given an extra level of pressure and skepticism. Can you imagine if Vick struggles from the gate and the Eagles start off the year 2-2 or worse? I can hear the chants now.
Best Case - Foles steps in if Vick goes down and proves why he earned the backup spot on this team.
Worst Case - Foles becomes the next Bobby Hoying—a quarterback who was also a 3rd round selection and was viewed to be the future at quarterback after Ty Detmer. Must I explain how bad that ended up?
3. Bryce Brown Earned Backup RB Position
The curious case of 7th-round pick Bryce Brown is intriguing. Brown, who was the No. 1-ranked high school prospect entering college—ahead of No. 3 overall selection Trent Richardson—didn’t exactly live up to the hype. to say the least.
Committing to Tennessee after verbally committing to the University Of Miami, Brown transferred to Kansas State after his freshmen year in order to play football with his brother Arthur. Due to NCAA transfer rules, Brown wasn’t eligible to play his first year at the program and suffered ankle injuries as a junior before leaving the team.
Brown ended his career with 476 rushing yards and three touchdowns—very disappointing considering all of the hype coming out of Wichita East HS.
One thing I appreciate about the Eagles is that they are not afraid to take risks on players. For example, Terrell Owens and Michael Vick. Andy Reid saw that this kid has potential and is easily the worth the gamble considering the 7th-round price tag.
At 6’0”, 225 lbs, Brown has showed impressive lateral movement and vision throughout this preseason. Handling the rock 28 times, the rookie back rushed for 122 yards while posting a 4.4 YPC and scoring one touchdown. He runs physically between the tackles and moves well in space for a 225-pounder. He’s also shown off his receiving abilities, catching 7 balls for 68 yards.
Second-year back Dion Lewis hasn’t shown me much since joining the league and this preseason didn’t change much on how I feel about him. I think he is an okay change of pace back, but Brown offers the Birds much more backing up Shady with his frame. Dion Lewis is only 5’8”, 195 lbs.
Dion Lewis - Rushed the ball 12 times for 35 yards with a 2.9 YPC
The Skinny - Andy Reid and Mornhinweg will more than likely keep Lewis as the number 2 back heading into Cleveland, but don’t be surprised once Brown takes his job.