The Eagles better hope last night was not the measuring stick they said it was coming into the game, as they looked bad yet again this preseason- and this time against the backups.
Like the Eagles first preseason game, there was a lot to not like about what the starters showed, but a whole lot to like from the back ups.
Here is a breakdown of what I liked from last night, and what I didn't.
What I Liked:
Mychal Kendricks: It was the Patriots first series of the game, and they ran a play that last season the Eagles had a ton of problems stopping- the screen pass. Part of the reason was the linebackers last year had trouble recognizing it, and than even more problems getting there once they did. Kendricks did not initially recognize the screen pass to Shane Vereen, but he did a great job of fighting off the blocker bringing Vereen down. Kendricks wasn't able to shed the blocker completely, but still got Vereen with basically one arm. Seeing Kendricks show that strength is a great sign as the small linebackers the Eagles love usually can't shed blocks. Kendricks made another big play later in the quarter when he burst into the backfield and dropped Vereen for a 5 yard loss. Kendricks has been this teams best linebacker so far- which is saying something considering he is the unit's only rookie.
Reid Getting Heated: If the game wasn't otherwise so ugly, this might have gone into the "What I Didn't Like" section- because anytime your head coach has to get separated from one of your defensive starters, it isn't a good thing. But with how bad everything was going, it was good to see Andy Reid break character and get into the face of Cullen Jenkins. Since his arrival in Philadelphia, no player has really ever challenged Reid the way Jenkins did. The dust up showed how high tensions were on a sideline that had to be stunned by how poorly the game was going. But the shouting match showed these Eagles players that despite it being preseason, the poor performance and penalties will not be accepted.
Brandon Boykin: Boykin could be an undrafted free agent and he likely would still make this team off of his kick returning ability alone. Boykin gained 30 yards on his first return, but it was how he did it- switching fields and beating the Patriots cover team to the corner- that was so impressive. He is just simply way more explosive in the return game than Dion Lewis, and is a legit threat to bring it back every time he touches the ball.
Nick Foles: "Fole-Real". "Fole-Sanity". If you followed the game on Twitter last night, you know that Foles was very impressive last night- and the fans loved it. Foles didn't play with much pressure on him last week, but that was not the case against the Patriots. The Eagles were yelling at each other on the sideline, it was Monday night, and it his team was losing 11-0. Yes it was the preseason, but it sure felt like more. Foles stepped in and calmed things down. Take away the one pass that should have been picked off, and Foles displayed great decision making. A few times you could see Foles wanted to go deep with the ball but pulled it back instead of risk it. Foles also made a big time throw when he put it between 3 defenders to hit DeSean Jackson down close to the goal line. Seeing Foles just stand in the pocket and make smart decisions- and not trying to make big plays all the time- showed that the Eagles have enough talent that they don't need a playmaker at QB.
Stanley Havili: The fullback is always a forgotten part of an Andy Reid-Marty Morhinwheg offense, but the fact is they are going to keep one. Stanley Havili went a long way in winning that job when he burst threw the middle for a 14 yard gain to get the ball to the 1 yard line. Havili has been doing a nice job during camp of getting yards after the catch, and while he might not be an excellent blocker, he does provide another (semi) weapon for this offense.
Bryce Brown/Chris Polk: Both Polk and Brown showed what they could bring to this team last night- Brown his pure running ability, and Polk his power running. Brown had a great night on the ground as he took advantage of the big holes that were there. He showed the ability to get to the edge and turn it up field, which is key to being a running back in the NFL. Brown's spot on this team is locked, but it will be interesting to see what happens with Polk. Polk showed the ability to be a short yardage back when he converted a 3rd down late in the game, and carried the pile about 4 yards past where he was originally hit. Polk will likely have to make this team as a full back if he makes it, but it is an interesting question- which provides a more complete backfield: McCoy, Brown, Polk or McCoy, Lewis, Polk? Despite Lewis's great camp, the answer might be the first one.
What I Didn't Like:
Michael Vick: Eagles fans wanted some consistency out of Vick this preseason, and they got it- he is now 2-for-2 in getting X-Ray'd during the game. Vick was knocked out of the game on the Eagles 2nd series of the game, when he was forced deep behind the line of scrimmage, turned to make a throw, and was drilled. Was the block great? No. But Vick should have gone down instead of helplessly trying to whip it down the middle of the field. Besides the fact that it was a dangerous throw, it was one that completely exposed him to being hit. It was have been a bad play even if it was the regular season, but the fact it was the preseason makes it even worse.
Let's all just give it up now- Vick will never learn to slide or change the way he plays. On his first run of the game- which appeared to be designed- Vick dove head first to get the first down right into an oncoming defender. If Vick won't slide in a preseason game, he certainly won't do it in the regular season. He has missed games, he's gotten injured, and he has even had the President tell him to slide. It's just not going to happen. On the ESPN special with Vick in the film room with Ron Jaworski, Vick said (paraphrasing) that due to his raw athletic ability, he never had to learn the quarterback position. Vick said he is learning it now with the Eagles, but you have to wonder if it is too little, too late. Can a healthy Vick take this team to the Super Bowl? Absolutely. But his dangerous style of play is just never going away.
Juan Castillo: One area where it is clear that Castillo is to blame for the Eagles defensive struggles is the unit's inability to get off the field on 3rd down. It happened again against the Patriots, as the defense made 2 nice plays to get the Patriots into 3rd and 8, but the Eagles came out with some strange formation, with only 2 lineman and nearly no one in the middle of the field. Surprisingly, it didn't work and the Patriots were able to convert. You have to wonder if when Castillo get's opposing offenses in 3rd and long situations he tries to over think it. So far this preseason the #Eagles defense has allowed a 1st down on 12 of the 17 3rd down plays they have faced.
Jaiquawn Jarrett: Has anybody heard from Jaiquawn? Did he play last night? For a player fighting for a roster spot, he sure didn't do anything last night to help his case.
Penalties: Eagles fans can deal with a team that might not have the talent, but plays hard and gives it their all. But a talented team that makes stupid plays? No fan base can deal with that. Last season the Eagles got big penalties at bad times that were just mental errors (see: Buffalo), and they did the same thing against the Patriots. The Eagles had 3 personal fouls in the 1st half alone, 2 of which were on Darryl Tapp. To make matters worse, the penalties took away big plays- an interception and a sack. With all of the problems this team has, their is one that they absolutely cannot overcome, and that is giving team's 2nd chances. They did that far to often last year, and did it again against the Patriots.
Cullen Jenkins: When Andy Reid yelled at Jenkins, he was showing emotion and trying to rile up his team. When Jenkins did it? It was out of line and just escalated things to a level it didn't need to go. It might be a double standard, but it's true. No one else got up as Reid yelled, and there was no reason for Jenkins to. He should have just listened to Reid like the rest of the defense. Getting in his face was inexcusable.
Team Attitude: This was the Eagles last dress rehearsal, and when you heard the players talk throughout the week, it was clear they wanted to show something after getting embarrassed by Pittsburgh. The final score may have had the Eagles on top, but no fan, coach or player that saw what happened Monday night could feel good about the direction this team is going. Yes, it's only the 2nd preseason game, but in all reality this preseason is over- and it was not a good one to say the least. It was disappointing to see the team come out so flat in the last game they had to send a message- and it was all to reminiscent of the Eagles showing up flat in important games last year. There is still tons of time to fix the mistakes in practice- and a Week 1 matchup with the Browns will help- but it is fair to be worried about this team right now.
Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks