The loss against the Steelers was a tough one to watch even though it was just a pre-season game. Andy Reid is only one of five active coaches to have a losing pre-season record. At 19-31, he has the worst but we all know it’s a different story when the games count. You don’t try to win these games but with a totally revamped defense lead by a new defensive staff, you need to see your players execute on the field. In one half of play, the starters gave up 262 yards (169 passing/93 rushing), 21 points, 16 first downs including 9-12 third downs conversions and displayed poor performance in the redzone allowing the Steelers to go 2-2 with both touchdowns coming on 20 yard passes. Just an all-around horrible performance.
Offensively, it wasn’t any better but they were going against the Steelers after all. Their defense came to play after the atrocious showing against the Redskins where they gave up 452 yards to Rex Grossman and Co. The offense ended the half with just 71 total yards(43 passing/28 rushing), 0 points, only 5 first downs, 1-3 on third down, possessed the ball for just under 7 minutes and didn’t even sniff the redzone. I can’t remember a worse pre-season first half in Andy Reid’s tenure. Anyway, it’s time to move forward and look towards a better performance versus the Browns on Thursday night. I’m going to highlight the players I believe struggled against the Steelers and players that performed very well and need to maintain that level of play.
Step Your Game Up! (OFFENSE)
QB Michael Vick – Stats – 5/12 – 47 yards – 3.9 avg – 0 TD – 3 INT – 13.5 QB Rating
After a fantastic series against the Ravens, Vick did his best Eli Manning impersonation for an entire half versus the Steelers. His three interceptions were just plain bad. His first one where he tried a downfield pass to Riley Cooper, it seemed like he didn’t look at anyone except Cooper. Got the snap, saw Cooper beat his man and just let it go. Forget looking off the safety, he didn’t even bother to acknowledge him. His second INT was on a throw that was behind Hall and into an area with four Steelers around him. It was a 3 man rush from the Steelers and Vick had all day to throw the ball. There was plenty of grass to his right. He could have rolled out, draw a linebacker, and then pass it. He could have just rushed to his right and pick up a few yards. He could also have checked down to Schmitt. Instead, he made the worst decision possible in that situation. His third INT occurred when Clark came on a safety blitz. Vick did a good job evading it, bought some time, and made another poor throw towards Celek which was tipped by Woodley and dropped right into Polamalu’s hands. He didn’t get enough air under the ball. There were two other near picks which were both headed towards Polamalu’s direction. That guy is always around the ball. Vick needs to have a good showing against Cleveland and I believe he will.
TE Brent Celek – Stats – 2 Targets (1 pick, 1 near pick) – 0 Catches
Is it just me or do you forget Brent Celek is on the field at times? In about 3 quarters of play(really about 17 minutes) so far in the pre-season, he has one catch for 3 yards. Albeit, it was a TD catch. In comparison, Donald Lee has 3 catches for 31 yards in 3 targets. He doesn’t get open like he used to in 2009. I would like to see him get more involved in the offense especially with Maclin out. Let’s see if he does that on Thursday.
G Mike McGlynn – If Dallas Reynolds is getting playing time over you, you’re doing it wrong. I know the scheme doesn’t fit you but show something to keep your spot. Mike had a poor showing versus Baltimore and didn’t do anything to help his cause against Pitt. I think if he doesn’t prove to Mudd he can play in the next couple games, he won’t make the team. He will be picked up quickly though for a scheme that fits him.
Other than those three, I didn’t really notice anyone else that stood out. Most of the offensive players did their jobs. If Mike Vick played well, it would have been a different game and the starting offense would not have had the ball for only 7 minutes.
Keep Your Game Up! (OFFENSE)
B Mike Kafka – Stats – 14/19 – 160 yards – 8.4 avg – 2 TD – 0 INT – 133.7 QB Rating
Mike was decisive, poised and sharp. Another good showing from him and has looked much better than Young so far. I wonder if he will still remain the No.2 if he continues playing like this the rest of the pre-season. He came in very late and put up 14 points in the final 7 minutes. He even showed some mobility with 2 rushes for 24 yards with that 17 yarder up the middle. Will he be our future starter or will he fetch us a 1st/2nd round pick? Haha, still waaaay too early to tell.
Very good game by the three running backs. They each demonstrated vision, explosiveness, cutback ability and some decent overall blocking. Eagles have a pretty good 1-2-3 punch here with McCoy being the do-it-all star back, Brown as the power complementary back, and Lewis as the speedy homerun threat type back. Eagles will need to run the ball a lot this season……… to close out games during garbage time J
WR Johnny Lee Higgins – Stats – 10 targets - 7 catches – 54 yards – 7.7 avg
He needs to keep this up so Chad Hall does not get lucky and make this team again! I kid, I kid. No, but really. He is a more accomplished and talented receiver than Chad Hall with kick returning ability. He should play better than Hall and make the team over him (unless they both don’t make it). I have voiced my displeasure with Chad Hall before and it’s really not his fault. I just don’t think he is 53 man roster material. Other than a couple of short catches a game, he is not beneficial in other aspects of the game. He is quick but not fast. The two players he is compared to, Wes Welker and Danny Amendola are both quick, fast and good returners.
WR Gerald Jones – Stats – 4 Targets – 3 catches – 36 yards – 12.0 avg – 2 TD
JimmyK reported from training camp that Jones looked like the best of the bunch of receivers that had little shot to make the team. I felt the same from watching Training Camp Live videos. Jones displayed great effort and run after the catch ability. Showed a knack for finding the endzone with two TD catches.
I thought the entire starting offensive line did a good job versus the Steelers. Vick was sacked just once and that was on a corner blitz. We know Peters and Herremans are going to hold down the fort on the left side of the line. You will be hard pressed to find a better LT/LG combo in the NFL. Jackson when healthy is a top ten center in the NFL. He is not as athletic as Kelce but is superior in both pass and run blocking right now. It’s surprising that Kelce has been named the starter against the Browns. He has looked pretty good for a rookie against the second stringers but Jamaal is still the better player. They probably want to see how he does against starters. Watkins showed flashes of his first round talent and did well in both run blocking and pass protection. King Dunlap did a great job at right tackle. If he continues this kind of play, he might keep his starting job. He is still not polished but the ability is there. Definitely a much better run blocker than Justice. On a side note, Evan Mathis was very good at RT in the second half. Yet another option for right tackle. Between Justice, Harris, Dunlap, and Mathis, there is a lot of competition.
Those are my notable players on offense, now it’s on to defense.
Step Your Game Up! (DEFENSE)
LB Casey Mathews – Stats – 3 tackles (2 solo, 1 assist) – 1 TFL
Jason did a great job breaking down Casey’s game so I’m not going to comment much on him. The concern most people had on him out of college was his size and his ability to shed NFL level blocks. He has gotten bigger but his block shedding is not there yet. He made some correct reads and a few wrong ones. You can have all the instincts in the world but if you don’t have the physical ability then you won’t get anywhere as a linebacker. He ran around blockers quite a few times and was taken out of the play. I still believe he can develop into a good MIKE but as of right now, he is not ready to start. We will need to see significant improvement against the Browns.
S Nate Allen – Stats - 3 tackles (2 solo, 1 assist)
The only other player that might have been just as bad as Matthews is Allen. In my last post, I named Allen one of my breakout player candidates and he finished second in the poll as well. After the Pittsburgh game, maybe we need to reserve those expectations a bit. I did mention however that after a very good first month of the season, Allen struggled the rest of the way. Some of those issues he had last season is still apparent. He bit and got burned on the play action pass to Heath Miller, during a blitz he stopped and jumped when Roethlisberger pump faked which allowed Brown to get behind Samuel for the easy TD. Had he kept going, Ben might have thrown it earlier which would have resulted in an easy INT for Asante or he could have taken the sack. He missed a couple tackles and was a step slow in coverage. Gave up the TD to Ward in the redzone. Part of his poor performance had to do with his knee. Nate won’t start against the Browns due to not being 100% healthy but when he does appear on the field, he needs play better.
These two guys are going to be on both the "Step your game up" and "Keep your game up" section. Although, they were very good at penetrating during pass rushes, they were pretty bad at run defense. Even though it’s a one gap, wide-9, rush up-field system for the tackles, they still need to be able to shed run blocks and go after the running back. If they can’t make the tackle, at least disrupt him enough so a linebacker can get to the runner quickly. Too often, I noticed the guards and centers on linebackers. On Roethlisberger’s 8 yard run, nobody engaged the center and he easily blocked Chaney. Patterson and Dixon returning will improve the run defense a ton so it’s not a huge area of concern for now.
There weren’t many individual bad performances by the starters but the defense didn’t play well as a whole. Bad plays were spread around.
Keep your game up! (DEFENSE)
DE Jason Babin – Stats – 3 Tackles – 1 sack – 2 QB hits – 1 TFL
Babin has been keeping up his production level from Tennessee in the pre-season so far. He has been all over the place getting consistent pressure on the quarterback and playing sound run defense. He has a high motor and plays with a mean streak. I love that.
DT Cullen Jenkins and DT Anthony Hargrove – Combined stats – 5 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 QB hits, 2 TFL.
Although, they need to improve in run defense, they have been excellent at pass rushing and getting into the backfield. Showed his power on the sack on Roethlisberger but unfortunately grabbed his facemask. The Steelers wouldn’t have scored on that drive if he didn’t grab it. Hargrove uses his explosiveness and power to get to the quarterback. On passing downs, these two can wreak some havoc. I hope to see more of that against Cleveland.
Moises Fokou – Stats – 5 tackles(4 solo, 1 assist) – 1 PD
He was the best linebacker on the field. Showed the ability to stay with the tight end and break up a pass. I think all of his tackles came on plays that gained only 4 yards or less. Matthews should take lessons from MoFo on how to shed blocks and play the run.
These two were both all over the field and were tackling machines. Anybody that thinks our defense is soft should pay more attention to these two. They were outstanding in run support and good in coverage. They are both physical(especially Coleman) and great tacklers. We know Coleman will make the team but if Page plays well again versus Cleveland, he would be hard to keep off the team. The Eagles won’t really need special teams ace, Colt Anderson anymore due to the new dumb kickoff rules. With Nate not being 100%, keeping Page would be good insurance. Where does Jarrett factor into all this? All four safeties are 26 and younger so it’s not like age will be an issue. Coleman is the better safety right now and he won’t give his starting position up easily. A lot of competition at safety.