Game Review: Evaluating the Eagles’ Offense

Philadelphia Eagles running back Bryce BrownHere’s a player-by-player look at the Eagles’ offense after having re-watched Thursday night’s preseason game against the Steelers. If a player is not listed, it’s probably because he has no chance of making the team, or I didn’t notice anything about him one way or another.

Michael Vick – Third down on the first series was ugly. Vick first had to use a timeout. Then the Steelers showed blitz, but only rushed four. Pittsburgh got some pressure off the edge, but Vick walked right into a sack. He went 3-for-4 for 6 yards and suffered a thumb contusion. The Eagles’ offense went three-and-out twice. Things can only go up from here, right?

Mike Kafka – He played most of the second quarter and went 5-for-9 for 31 yards. Kafka was pressured on the interception, but has to be smarter with the football. While on the move, he made a good throw to Chad Hall for 11 yards on 3rd-and-6. I’ve had my concerns about Kafka being the backup all offseason, but nine preseason passes shouldn’t change anyone’s mind one way or another. He’s still the No. 2 guy – for now.

Nick Foles – One of the few bright spots offensively, Foles went 6-for-10 for 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He did a nice job of keeping his eyes downfield on the 70-yard TD to Damaris Johnson. The big arm was on display as the ball traveled about 43 yards in the air, and Foles delivered it on the move. He showed nice touch on the 43-yard touchdown to Mardy Gilyard. He’s still the No. 3 quarterback, but showed why the Eagles like him.

Trent Edwards – He was 12-for-20 for 106 yards and a score. Edwards’ focus right now is on putting good play on tape so that he can try to find another home when the Eagles cut him.

LeSean McCoy – One carry for -2 yards and one catch for -3 yards. Anyone ready to panic? Didn’t think so. A bright spot with McCoy was an excellent blitz pickup on the play where Vick injured his thumb. Not sure he needs to be on the field much this preseason.

Dion Lewis – He looked good, carrying four times for 22 yards. Lewis shook a tackle and picked up 8 yards on his first carry. He had a good, tough run for 3 yards on 2nd-and-2, and also picked up 12 on a second-quarter run. Perhaps more importantly, Lewis picked up the blitz nicely on Kafka’s incomplete throw for Marvin McNutt. And later, he chipped a linebacker and put him on the ground before going out into his route. Lewis suffered a hamstring injury, though. We should know more about the severity on Saturday.

Bryce Brown – The highlight was a 33-yard scamper where Brown broke a pair of tackles and rumbled down the left sideline. He also picked up some YAC on a 16-yard reception from Foles. Good hustle to tackle Al Woods after the Kafka interception. As for the whole blocking thing, Brown pretty much whiffed on a blitz pickup in the third. He’s still in good position to make the team.

Chris Polk – I don’t know if he’s going to make the team, but the Eagles should have Polk spend five minutes each practice showing the rest of the running backs how to pick up the blitz. I counted at least three plays where Polk was charged with protecting the quarterback, and he got the job done every time. He had three carries for 1 yard and three catches for 28 yards.

Stanley Havili – He got on the field in the first half and actually had a nice lead block on a Lewis run that lost 1 yard. Still needs to prove himself in the coming weeks.

Clay Harbor – With Brent Celek sidelined, he got the start and was targeted on the play where Vick sailed the throw and injured his thumb.

Brett Brackett – He had two catches for 9 yards, but also had a pass go right through his hands in the third. Don’t see him making the team.

Demetress Bell – By my count, the Eagles gave him help on three of five pass plays. Linebacker Chris Carter went right around Bell on Vick’s completion to McCoy in the flat. Carter went around him again, forcing Vick to step up on the play where he hit his thumb on Kelce’s helmet. Small sample size, but unimpressive debut for Bell.

Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans – They all started and were fine. Again, only talking about six plays here.

King Dunlap – He played left tackle with the second team and was fine. The Eagles know what they have in Dunlap.

Julian Vandervelde – Disappointing game for the second-year player. He started out at left guard with the twos. It looked like Vandervelde was slow to pick up a blitzer on Kafka’s incompletion intended for McNutt. Later, the Eagles had him pull to sell the play-fake, but Vandervelde was slow to get to the edge, and Carter forced Kafka to scramble. He was also called for holding on the play. Vandervelde played center in the third and got beat by Alameda Ta’amu, who pressured Foles.

Dallas Reynolds – He started out at center with the twos and then moved to guard. On one play, Reynolds got beat by McLendon, who dropped Lewis for a 1-yard loss.

Mike Gibson – He played right guard with the twos. Very nice block by Gibson, taking a Steelers linebacker to the ground on Lewis’ 3-yard run.

Dennis Kelly – He started out at right tackle but also played some right guard. Kelly was slow to pick up a blitzing linebacker, who got in Kafka’s face and helped cause the interception. Later, he failed to pick up a blitzing linebacker on third down in the second. Kelly looks very much like a project. Don’t expect the rookie to get on the field much in his first season.

DeSean Jackson – He was targeted once and made a 5-yard grab. Great moment between Jackson and Andy Reid at the end of the game.

Damaris JohnsonI wrote about him yesterday. Johnson got the start in Jeremy Maclin’s place and finished as the game’s leading receiver with four catches for 85 yards. He put a great move on the linebacker on a crossing pattern for a first down in the second. Johnson also made a great move on the 70-yard TD to get wide open. Earlier, he dropped a good pass from Kafka on a slant. But overall, strong game.

Jason Avant – Played, but was not targeted.

Marvin McNutt – No catches, but nice effort as a downfield blocker on Brown’s 33-yard run.

Chad Hall – Made an 11-yard grab on 3rd-and-6. Not sure what he provides that Johnson doesn’t, other than experience with the offense.

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Eagles Practice Observations: Who’s Behind Kelce?

Philadelphia Eagles center Jason KelceAs Jason Kelce and Julian Vandervelde walked off the field, the Eagles’ starting center had some advice for the man who could potentially be his backup.

“He was sliding, using his hands, but not using his feet,” Kelce explained, adding that Vandervelde has all the physical tools to be a good center. “At center, you have to move your feet more, rather than really be that physical. …Just a couple times, he went up against our best defensive tackle, or hardest at least for me to block, Derek Landri, he got him a couple times.”

Pretty much every discussion about the 2012 Eagles involves a mention about Michael Vick’s ability to stay healthy and Mike Kafka’s ability to back him up. Some will also throw in LeSean McCoy’s heavy 2011 workload and the competition between Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk to back him up.

But what about the offensive line? We know Demetress Bell will fill in for Jason Peters. And if Bell is adequate, this unit has a chance to be really good. Depth, however, is a concern. It was on full display today as Evan Mathis missed practice due to illness and Todd Herremans was out with a shoulder injury.

That left rookie fifth-round pick Dennis Kelly protecting Vick’s blind side and practice squad regular Dallas Reynolds lining up at left guard for Mathis. Of course, this was just practice. In the real games, it’s expected that King Dunlap would be the first man up should Herremans or Bell go down. The interior, however, is a different story.

It might not sound like much of a concern, but it’s something that should at least be mentioned. Given Kelce’s added responsibilities this year at the line of scrimmage, the Eagles need someone who knows what he’s doing at the backup spot. The options right now are Vandervelde, Reynolds and veteran Steve Vallos.

Vandervelde, who said there is no official backup center listed right now, is perhaps the most interesting name, considering he was actually taken before Kelce in the fifth round of last year’s draft. But he’s never played center before this offseason. So how comfortable is with the preseason only a week away?

“Medium, on the terror scale, it’s like a yellow,” Vandervelde joked. “It’s a new thing for me. …It’s a lot more cerebral. You would think that the transition from guard to center wouldn’t be that hard, but it’s a whole new world for me. I’m having a lot of fun learning it. I’m having a little different focus everyday.”

Vandervelde believes every interior lineman who makes the 53-man roster will have to be comfortable at guard and center.

“Jason is absolutely integral to our offense right now,” he said. “All of us who are going to be in a position to back him up have got to be ready at a moment’s notice to go in there and take up that spot seamlessly.

“As long as I’m here, I’ve got to be able to play guard and center. It was enough to play guard last year. It’s not going to be enough anymore though.”

More practice observations:

* With the injuries on the defensive line, your first unit looked like this: Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Derek Landri and Darryl Tapp. The second team was Phillip Hunt, Cedric Thornton, Antonio Dixon and Vinny Curry.

* DeSean Jackson dropped nine passes last year. Considering how deep his targets usually are, that’s way too high of a number. Each drop means a missed opportunity for a big play. Today, during one-on-one wide receiver/cornerback drills, he let a Nick Foles pass go right through his hands, and it was picked off by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

* The Eagles ran through one of my favorite drills today: running backs and tight ends charged with going one-on-one against blitzing linebackers. On one play, McCoy did a decent job on Brian Rolle, but it wasn’t good enough. The pair lined up again. This time, Rolle clubbed McCoy to the ground, before helping him up and apparently realizing the Eagles need that guy to go anywhere this season. Dion Lewis, meanwhile, had some trouble with Mychal Kendricks.

* During the red-zone portion of practice, Vick ran for a touchdown. In 2011, he ran for one red-zone score all year. In 2010, that number was nine.

* For a few plays, we had a flashback to last year with Casey Matthews in the middle. DeMeco Ryans went on and off the field, but would not say what was bothering him after practice, simply nothing that he was fine.

* With Jamar Chaney also leaving practice with a hamstring injury, there were a couple different nickel combinations: Matthews and Kendricks, along with Rolle and Keenan Clayton.

* Lewis continues to look quick and shifty as a receiver. Today, he made Curtis Marsh look silly on one play.

* Bryce Brown had a big run, scurrying away from Nate Allen in the open field. Running backs coach Ted Williams has talked about Brown’s second gear. That might have been as close to it as we’ve seen so far.

* There was one skirmish/fight. I don’t know who was involved on the defensive side, but Danny Watkins played a role on the offense. He seems to be in the middle of those quite a bit.

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