The Eagles win 31-24 over the Jags, improving to 2-1 on the preseason. Here are some notable performances (both good and bad) from Saturday night:
BALLED: ALEX HENERY
Alex Henery, the Eagles’ third-year kicker out of Nebraska, struggled a bit earlier in the preseason but was on point tonight. He made all 3 of his field goals, bailing out the Eagles’ red zone offense a couple of times with nice kicks. Of course, scoring touchdowns in the red zone will be key, but knowing that Henery is automatic from within 45 yards will be huge.
Oh yeah, and his kickoffs were booming tonight. He’s lengthened his stride this summer and it’s led to touchback after touchback.
STALLED: OFFENSIVE LINE (minus Jason Peters)
The Eagles offensive line had been brilliant over the first two weeks of the preseason, creating huge holes for LeSean McCoy and giving Michael Vick 5-6 seconds to throw on every play. Tonight, however, this unit was a disaster.
Jason Kelce made two bad snaps, one leading to an interception and the other to an incompletion. Lane Johnson was eaten up early by Jason Babin, leading to a sack and an incompletion. Evan Mathis struggled mightily as well, getting caught for a holding that negated a third-down conversion and being beaten twice by Tyson Alualu on LeSean McCoy run plays. Todd Herremans was the worst, getting beat for a sack, two negative running plays, and two more QB hits. Yeah, Michael Vick held on to the ball too long, but the offensive line didn’t give him much help tonight.
On a more positive side note, Peters, the guy who hasn’t played in 18 months, was solid tonight. What achilles injury?
BALLED: MYCHAL KENDRICKS
The Eagles’ 2012 draft has a lot of potential defensively, with guys like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Boykin making impacts already this preseason. The guy who I have my eye on, however, is 2nd-rounder Mychal Kendricks, a former California Golden Bear. Kendricks played well last year, but he played most of his college career in the 3-4 and so I was excited to see what he’d do in that scheme in the NFL.
He’s impressed, especially tonight against the Jags. Despite playing inside linebacker, he’s flashed his athleticism, getting pressure on the passer with A-Gap rushes, batting down passes at the line of scrimmage, and blowing up runs in the backfield. In a little over two quarters of action, he had three tackles, a sack, a QB hit, and a pass deflection. He was all over the field making plays, which is what the Eagles need from their young linebacker.
Bad safety play is something I closely associated with the Eagles’ 4-12 season in 2012. Unfortunately, that tradition of pathetic play at the position has continued for this franchise (since the Brian Dawkins era ended) tonight.
Patrick Chung and Earl Wolff, who played much of the first half, struggled against the run. Both of them over-committed on several plays, one of them a 63-yard run where both took terrible angles to the ball and allowed the Jags’ running back to turn a short gain into a touchdown.
Then there was Nate Allen, my least favorite player on the entire roster. He got burned three times in his only possession of the first quarter, giving up a couple big catches to Justin Blackmon including a 17-yard touchdown pass where he blew an end zone assignment along with Bradley Fletcher.
Finally, we have bubble guy Davis Sims, who has been unable to take advantage of the fact that this coaching staff clearly wants nothing to do with Kurt Coleman. He has been offered the keys to a roster spot, but has kept on shooting himself in the foot. Tonight, he got completely beat on a short curl route by Allen Reisner, giving up an 8-yard touchdown that put the Jags 8 points in front.
Eagles safeties were the main culprits behind three Jaguars touchdowns. Their play needs to improve, or else a repeat of last year’s defensive implosion might be at hand once again.
BALLED: BRYCE BROWN
Yes, I know he made that bone-headed fumble at the one-yard line. But besides that, Brown had the best game of any Eagle on offense tonight. He’s just so talented.
Brown had a big day on the ground, rushing 11 times for 92 yards with a touchdown. He broke tackles, made people miss, and even did pirouettes to gain extra yards. He is the perfect complement to LeSean McCoy, trading in Shady’s agility and shiftiness for power and downhill speed. Last year, he showed what he can do with two 150-plus yard games when McCoy went down with a midseason injury. He is just more dangerous than Chris Polk.
Yeah, he needs to overcome his fumbling problem, but he is too talented of a runner to give up on now.
STALLED: BRADLEY FLETCHER
Bradley Fletcher hasn’t been great this preseason, and as a Brandon Boykin supporter, I don’t see why he continues to get 100% of the first-team reps. He continues to make communication errors with his safeties, leaving receivers wide open for touchdowns/big gains week after week. This time, he was the culprit once again along with Nate Allen, allowing a couple of big plays including the aforementioned touchdown to Blackmon.
Fletcher is a solid cover corner, but he’s struggled to fit the scheme unless he’s in strict man-to-man coverage. Boykin has been solid all-around, so if Fletcher wants to keep his starting job, he’s going to need to adjust.
BALLED: CONNOR BARWIN
Connor Barwin had his first big game as an Eagle, making two tackles with one sack and an interception. He showed his athleticism on the pick, staying with the Jaguars tight end and leaping up to snatch the ball out of the air. He’s always been known as a solid pass rusher (11 sacks in 2011), but his pass coverage is why the Eagles brought him in to anchor the 3-4 defense at outside linebacker. If he keeps playing this way, the Eagles defense will be better than many expect.
STALLED: OFFENSIVE PLAY-CALLING
Tonight was the first time I haven’t seen Chip Kelly’s play-calling make a difference. It’s almost as if he wanted to be a regular coach again, and you saw a lot more traditional offensive plays/formations from the Eagles. In fact, only 5% of Mike Vick’s snaps were read-option this week as opposed to 30% last week.
This offense is at its most dangerous when Kelly is utilizing the hurry-up, read option, and bubble screen to the fullest. All three take advantage of this team’s speed (Damaris Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Shady McCoy, Michael Vick, the offensive line), and you saw very little of it against the Jags. The defensive line was rarely fooled, something the read-option did to the Panthers last week, and Eagles receivers rarely got yards after the catch.
In fact, the first time I saw the Eagles use the bubble screen effectively was in the fourth quarter, with Nick Foles at quarterback and Russell Shepard at wideout. Kelly needs to maintain his originality offensively; that’s what worked at Oregon, and it’s what worked against the Patriots and Panthers.
BALLED: VINNY CURRY
Wow, just wow. Vinny Curry has been an absolute monster this preseason; he has done nothing but make plays. Tonight, he added two tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, two QB hits, and a forced fumble. He was in the backfield with regularity, disrupting runs and forcing bad throws.
During the TV broadcast, Brian Baldinger mentioned that Vinny Curry was on the “roster bubble.” Not really, Baldy; the second-round stud out of Marshall has solidified his spot as one of the team’s defensive ends with his preseason play.