It’s the halfway point in preseason and some of us are anxiously waiting for the rust to wear off and this Eagles team to begin to run like a well-oiled machine. During the Steelers game there were many concerns between the offensive line, Vick being injured and several key defensive players out with injuries. On Monday night the Birds faced a Brady-less Patriots team in what I would consider to be an improvement. The special teams players and Bobby April made me forget about the atrocity they displayed last season and were definitely a highlight. Backup QB Nick Foles, though he had an interception, showed poise, talent and consistency. So what are we still hoping for? Let’s take a look.
1. I want to be able to sing the praise of our offensive line, but I haven’t been able to quite yet. The coverage hasn’t been terrible, but I think I speak for Vick’s ribs when I say it could use improvement. I partly blame Andy Reid for Vick’s injury against the Patriots. Why on this Eagles green earth was Vick not wearing a flak jacket? Somewhere Byron Donzis is rolling over in his grave since he invented the flak jacket to prevent injuries like the one Vick sustained on Monday night. Did we not learn from McNabb? Though they started out rough, apparently due to poor communication, the offensive line seemed to get better throughout the game. Watkins and Mathis need to be quicker and more prepared to move. This isn’t college so they shouldn’t be expecting any defensive tackles to come directly at them. I was impressed, as always, with Herremans, but Friday we will see what rookie Dennis Kelly has to offer. Dunlap gets stronger every play and has seemingly secured his starting role. Unfortunately Bell has been unable to pick up on Howard Mudd’s technique. Attack, pass, block should be the mantra here.
2. A play to the death (figurateively speaking of course) for the RB position(s). We know McCoy isn’t going anywhere, but behind him we have Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Stanley Havili, Emil Igwenagu and Chris Polk. Lewis is too talented to be ousted by any of the others, fire alarm pulling and all, and will remain in the No. 2 spot. From here on out it’s may the most talented guy win. I appreciate the rarity of the speed/power combination of Brown, but Polk appears more capable. Havili has experience with special teams and played with the first team after spending last season on the practice squad. He also had a pretty decent showing against the Patriots. If we take the fullback position into consideration Havili and Igwenagu will be the gladiators of an epic battle. Igwenagu has experience as a tight end, which would create a buffer in the event Harbor or Celek are out.
3. Foles or folly? The consistency of Nick Foles will be determined in this game. He has, by far, been the highlight of the first two preseason games, but there are plenty of games ahead. I believe if he can show the same level of poise and talent for a third time that he will be solidified as the real deal by fans, coaches and teammates. There is so much to be said for having a tall , young quarterback who can take a bit of a beating and Foles more than fits the bill.
4. A stand out performance by several defensive roster hopefuls. Our darling defense is not missing any pieces, in fact, we have too much talent for one team. Does anyone else wish we could keep Darryl Tapp, Phillip Hunt and Brandon Graham? I know I do. If for no reason other than to prevent them from going to another team and playing against the Eagles. This will be an interesting year for roster cuts and seeing where players end up. Several teams are chomping at the bit to pick up the defensive leftovers of this Philadelphia Eagles team.
5. How is our former organization working out for you Cleveland? If you look at the Browns roster, even the front office staff, you will notice many a familiar name. Sheldon Brown, Chris Gocong, Juqua Parker, Dimitri Patterson were all Eagles players in their recent past. Tom Heckert was the General Manager of the Eagles and is now in the same position in Cleveland. Coaches Brad Childress, Ray Rhodes, Mark Whipple and even head coach Pat Shurmur all had coaching stints in Philadelphia prior to becoming a part of the Cleveland Browns organization. Let’s hope they don’t remember too much! I guess it’ll be good to see the old crew again…