In my best Andy Reid voice: I’ll start with this, there is nothing not to like about a win in the NFL
The Eagles performance, however, will not have many people excited about their upcoming matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. But the truth is that the ugliness of Michael Vick’s play overshadowed some solid performances.
Here is What I Liked, and What I Didn’t Like in the Eagles 17-16 win over the Cleveland Browns.
What I Liked:
Vick Running For First Downs: There are times where it is ok to dive head first as a quarterback and Vick’s first down run in the opening quarter was a prime example. Coaches and fans don’t want Vick to not run, but to be smart about it. Vick dove head first, but did it when was no one coming at him and not into a defender. It’s the kind of play Vick can make and still show his team he is playing hard for them without putting himself on the injury list.
DeSean Jackson: Jackson’s numbers, 4 catches for 75 yards, won’t make fantasy owners happy, but he had the kind of game the Eagles wanted out of him last year. Jackson made tough catches even with contact coming early on, and that was good enough to keep the defense honest and distracted by him for most of the game. The attention his way allowed for Jeremy Maclin to get open and the Eagles offense to keep moving (at times). Jackson also prevented an interception when he played defense for Vick in the corner of the endzone.
Nnamdi’s Hustle: Asomugha made arguably the biggest play of the game when he ran down Travis Benjamin from across the field on his 35 yard reverse run in the 2nd quarter. The tackle not only kept Benjamin out of the endzone and saved a touchdown, but the Eagles picked off the ball later in the drive. In a 1 point game, the Eagles likely would have lost without Asomugha’s hustle play. Besides the one big play, Asomugha had a great day in coverage.
The Defense: It’s 1 week and it’s Brandon Weeden. But there were not many games last year where the defense carried the offense to a win. That’s exactly what Juan Castillo’s unit did on Sunday. The Eagles success against the rookie Weeden was to be expected, but the Eagles also had great success against the run. Behind strong games from DeMeco Ryans and Jason Babin, the Eagles held Trent Richardson to 39 yards on 19 yards. Last year the team had issues with blown coverage and assignments, but there was no sign of that in Cleveland. The Eagles made some big tackles when they had to stop drives and keep yards after the catch to a minimum. The test will be harder next week, but Castillo’s unit passed in Week 1.
Pretty in Pink: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie let his clothes start the talking when he walked into the stadium in an all-pink outfit, and his play on the field backed it up. DRC played like the Pro-Bowler he was in Arizona, picking the ball off twice. Both picks showed off his athleticism, as he leapt up at the high point of the ball to go and get it.
DeMeco Ryans: Questions rose about Ryans during the preseason as he looked like another bargain basement linebacker that was not going to pan out for the Eagles. But Ryans was everywhere on Sunday, leading the team with 5 tackles and making some big stops. If Ryans can play at this level or even close to it all season, the Eagles linebacking core will be considerably better than it was last year.
Chas Henry: It won’t be talked about much, but Henry’s punt out of his own endzone in the 3rd quarter went a long way in helping the Eagles steal a win. The punt, combined with great coverage by the Eagles and Akeem Jordan, pinned the Browns back at the their own 39 yard line. That was big as Joshua Cribbs lined up on the 50 to field the punt and had been having a good day in the return game. Momentum was swinging the Browns way and if had Cribbs had even a decent return, things could have gotten out of hand.
Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen: Fans questioned Reid keeping only 3 safeties on the roster, but Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman made him look smart on Sunday. Coleman came away with 2 interceptions, both of which came at big moments. His first kept the Browns out of the end zone, and his 2nd ended the game. They were not the hardest plays to make, but Coleman made them. Allen also had a good day, coming in 2nd on the team with 4 tackles.
What I Didn’t Like:
Michael Vick: Can Vick be given the "Tim Tebow" treatment? Vick was bad for most of the game, but did what it took at the end to win the game. He was lucky, but the result was still a "W." So why is he in "Didn’t Like" section? Because Vick has been in the league too long to be making the kind of throws and mistakes he did, and have it all wiped away with one drive. I expect a big year out of Vick, and am willing to give rust part of the blame for his bad game. But seeing Vick continue to force things when they are not there is a sign that he will never learn.
Offensive Line: Michael Vick made plenty of bad decisions against the Browns, part of his poor play can be blamed on the fact that the Browns were in his face on nearly every play. To say that the offensive line of the Eagles had a bad day would be an understatement. Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis both had tough days. The fact that the Browns, with Brandon Weeden and having to deal with the Eagles defensive line, had as many sacks as the Eagles shows how poor the play of the line was.
Turnovers: When LeSean McCoy, who fumbled just once last year fumbled on his first carry, it should have been a sign of things to come. The fact that it happened when the Eagles were driving only made fans think of last year. The Eagles finished with 5 turnovers on the day, which needless to say, is not going to keep them in the game with any team except the Cleveland Browns. The Eagles are just not smart with the ball. More than anything, this is a reflection on coaching. I’m not saying Reid and his coaches don’t get on their players, but the message is clearly not getting through.
Defense Against The Slant: It might be nitpicking on an otherwise outstanding day for the Eagles secondary, but the Eagles were exposed as a team that’s unable to stop a quick slant route. When Brandon Weeden and a group of pedestrian wide outs are beating you at it, imagine what actual NFL offenses will be able to do.
Damaris Johnson: It was just one play in an otherwise solid day for Johnson, but the rookie made a poor decision to let the ball bounce in the 2nd quarter, and it rolled all the way down to the 19- about 10 yards farther back then it should have been. Starting at the 19 is not the end of the world, but it showed poor judgment by Johnson- and next time it could result in the ball landing much further down than the 19.
Richardson Trucking Coleman- Was it an exciting play? Absolutely. But it was not everything people made it out to be. Richardson lowered his head and hit Coleman’s helmet off, but Coleman still brought him down short of the 1st yard time. If anything, the play made me think more of Coleman- he got right up and helped to get the Browns off the field on the next play. The GIF will float around the internet, and people who didn’t watch the game will think highly of Richardson and less of Coleman. But the truth is that the play did not do much to help the Browns win- and neither did Richardson.
Penalties: Turnovers and penalties are the top ways to keep a team in the game, and the Eagles did both in excess on Sunday. The Eagles finished with 12 penalties for a whopping 120 yards. To put that in perspective, that is more yards than Brandon Weeden had passing and more than LeSean McCoy had rushing. The Eagles got started early and often, committing 4 penalties in 1st quarter alone. Some can be blamed on poor officiating, but the Browns were dealing with the same officials the Eagles were. One especially bad penalty- that pretty much summed up the Eagles boneheaded penalties on the day- was when Darryl Tapp jumped on Weeden after the play was dead.
Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks