For the first time this preseason, there was a lot to like about what Eagles fans saw on Friday night.
The Eagles did what they were supposed to do against the Cleveland Browns- they came in and dominated. The victory was not reason to start thinking Super Bowl, as Michael Vick did not play and the starters saw little action after the 1st quarter.
But with how bad the team has looked at times this preseason, it would good to see them take care of business. Plus, beating teams they were supposed to is not something the Eagles excelled at last year.
Still, it is not the final score that really matters- it how the players performed as the preseason slowly begins to comes to an end.
Here is what I liked, and what I didn't like in the Eagles victory over the Browns.
What I Liked:
Trent Cole: It’s easy to forget how great of an all around player Cole is, as he is known best for his pass rushing ability. But Cole is one of the best defensive ends in the league against the run, and he showed in the 1st quarter against the Browns as he made some nice plays. They aren’t flashy, they won’t make Sportscenter, but they area big part of the reason why he is one of the best defensive players to ever play for the Eagles.
Damaris Johnson: Coming into the game, Johnson was not exactly on the bubble, but his spot was not 100% locked up. After a strong game both in the passing game and the return game, Johnson is now a lock to make this team. There were questions about whether or not Johnson could be productive in the passing game in the NFL due to his size, but through 3 preseason games it’s clear Johnson could at least keep defenses honest if he had to come in and go deep. Johnson also has locked up the team’s punt returner job.
Creating turnovers: Last season the Eagles did a great job getting to the quarterback, but where never really able to create turnovers because of it. That has not been the case this preseason, as they have done a great job so far of knocking the ball out of the QB;s hand. That continued against Cleveland, and you have to give the coaches credit for that. Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn are constantly on their defensive linemen during practice to go after the ball, and it seems to finally be getting through. People can blame Juan Castillo for a lot, but give him credit where it is due.
Phillip Hunt: Not much to say about Hunt other than it is officially time to stop being surprised when he has a great game. He would start on the majority of defensive lines in the NFL, and he showed it again tonight against the Browns. He could get double digit sacks this year.
Composure by Foles: Foles showed against the Patriots that he is capable of stepping into a tough situation and succeeding. On Friday night against the Patriots, he showed that he can keep his composure when things start to go bad. Foles made a poor decision on his first drive when he forced the ball deep to DeSean Jackson, which was intercepted. It was an important moment in Foles maturation process, as he had to step back out and respond. Foles did so in great fashion, as he led the Eagles to touchdowns on 2 of the next 3 possessions. Foles showed great composure on his 1st touchdown pass as there was pressure up the middle, but he kept his eyes down the field and found Celek. The Foles hype can be a bit of a joke at times, but it’s hard to watch Foles and not be seriously impressed. Who knows how it will translate to the regular season- or if we will ever see it- but Foles has aced his preseason test.
Trent Edwards: Edwards play is what the preseason is all about. He came into camp a long shot to make the team, but has slowly climbed his way onto what I believe will be the final roster. Edwards had another strong night against the Patriots as he threw for over 100 yards and a touchdown. With Foles now the back up and Vick the starter, the Eagles don’t need another project on the QB depth chart. Trent Edwards is a veteran that can come in, control the offense, and ove the team. He has shown that during the preseason. Mike Kafka, meanwhile, looked awful before he broke his hand. Kafka is a locker room favorite and could very well end up being a good backup in the league. But right now he isn’t. And the Eagles need someone to come in and keep the ship afloat if Vick and Foles were to go down in the same game. Edwards could do that better than Kafka.
Keenan Clayton: The battle for roster spots at the linebacker position is one no one talks about, but it is going to be a tough decision for coaches on who to let go. Keenan Clayton did exactly what players who are on the bubble have to do in order to lock up a spot- win it on special teams. Clayton made the teams first big special teams play of the preseason when he blocked a punt, doing a good job of getting to the ball but not running into the kicker. With the play, plus his strong play throughout camp, Clayton may have locked up spot on the team.
Phillip Thomas: If the Eagles really are going to cut Jaiquawn Jarrett, they have to have someone to replace him. It’s possible they could go with just 3 safeties, but they would feel more comfortable if someone would come up and win the 4th safety spot. Phillip Thomas did not do enough to win the job on Friday night, but he did show enough potential that he could now be in the discussion. Thomas shows good ball instincts- something Jarrett has struggled with. Thomas will get a good long look against the Jets.
What I Didn’t Like:
Nnamdi Asomugha: The first quarter throw from Weeden to Gordon was a perfect throw by Weeden, and great catch by Gordon. It shouldn’t matter. Nnamdi Asomugha was not paid like the top corner in the league to get beat by 2 rookies, no matter how good the throw was. Notice how often the Browns were going after Nnamdi in the first quarter? When he came to Philly, the talk was how teams were afraid to throw at him. That was not the case late in the season last year, and when the Browns are attacking you, it certainly is not the case going into this year.
Brian Rolle: Brian Rolle has had a tough camp so far. It could be because he is adjusting to coming into camp as a starter, and getting used to getting all of the reps that come with it. Rolle showed potential last year, but this year has shown nothing to think that he should be the reason Jamar Chaney is not on the field. Rolle got beat early against the Browns, and if he continutes to play this way, he could find himself back on the bench.
Demetress Bell: Demetress Bell looked bad again when he got in there with the first team offense, and it is looking less and less likely that he will be starting in Week 1. It is not time to throw the towel in on Bell, as Danny Watkins also struggled early last year with Howard Mudd’s system before eventually becoming a solid player on the line. But unlike Watkins, the Eagles did not bring in Bell as a long term project. They brought Bell in to start right away, and the fact that he isn’t has to be concerning to the Eagles. If they though King Dunlap could do the job, they would not have spent the money they did on Bell.
Marvin McNutt: What happened to McNutt? He had a catch against the Browns, but the flashes he showed up at Lehigh seem like forever ago. Once a lock to make the team, McNutt is going to have to have a big game against the Jets to make this roster.
LeSean McCoy: No reason to press the panic button- or to even be near it- but LeSean McCoy has not been great in any of the team’s preseason games. With Jason Peters out for the season, the Eagles running game is going to be hurt more than the pass protection. Peters was a great tackle for McCoy because he excelled at getting to the next level. If McCoy struggles against Cleveland in Week 1, it could start to be a real concern for the Eagles.
Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks