Preseason Week One Report Card: Eagles offer a mixed bag on offense and defense

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, the Eagles and Patriots battled in what will serve as a teaching tool for both teams. Starters, rookies and journeymen all had their moments of good and bad during the contest, but this game was mostly about finding ways for each team to improve. While the score (31-22) signaled a win for the Patriots, plenty of the Eagles' players were able to win over coaches and fans in Week One of the preseason.

What We Know

  • The quarterback battle is still very much on. While Michael Vick was able to score quickly and impressively, Nick Foles led a multiple-play drive that was just as impressive. As our friend Qwest pointed out on Twitter, this competition will likely come down to the preference between big plays (Vick) and consistency (Foles).
  • Rookie quarterback Matt Barkley is just not ready for the big time. The lifetime starter in high school and college looked pretty unimpressive until a pair of throws to tight end Clay Harbor bailed him out. While the stat line may say 11 for 22 for 103 yards and a touchdown, that is nowhere near what the story was on Friday night. The quarterback competition is definitely just between Foles and Vick.
  • Special teams for the Eagles will likely be better this season than under Bobby "Riley lay down in the endzone" April. The returns in Friday night's game were impressive. Brandon Boykin had a nice 33-yard kick return and Damaris Johnson had a beautiful punt return for 62 yards. Donnie Jones had a fantastic punt downed on the one-yard line, something that was foreign over the last two seasons. Jones is just worlds better than Mat McBriar and Chas Henry. That said, really hope Brent Celek doesn't have to longsnap ever again. Get well soon, Jon Dorenbos.
  • Wide receiver Greg Salas is not just a practice player. The young wide-out made plays, even with G.J. Kinne. Salas scored the first touchdown of Barkley's young career on a bubble screen where he got literally no blocking. The Hawaii alum also caught a 35-yard reception from Kinne.
  • The Eagles defense is definitely a work-in-progress. The first-team linebackers and secondary were mediocre in coverage and even worse against the run. If you watched the game, you likely weren't impressed at all and frankly, you shouldn't be.
  • Even without Jason Peters, the offensive line is pretty good. Outside of a forced fumble by Foles that was clearly the product of awful protection, the line was pretty good. Bryce Brown was able to get yards on the ground and Foles had an impressive second drive with plenty of time. For the most part, the first-team quarterbacks stayed clean.

Remaining Questions

  • Who is the starting quarterback? I know a lot of people think Chip Kelly is just going through motions to make this look like a genuine competition, but it surely seems like Foles and Vick have equal shots at the job. They are both keeping it close.
  • Is the Eagles' secondary really bad or is Tom Brady just Tom Brady?
  • How many times will Billy Davis make the defense watch the LaGarrette Blount big touchdown run?
  • If Foles wins the starting job, is Matt Barkley okay enough to have as the number two quarterback?
  • Can the linebackers improve in coverage?
  • Is the wide receiver unit good enough to keep away a trade or signing of a veteran?

Hot

  • Vick can still throw the long ball better than anyone. His 47-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson was gorgeous and his 22-yard pass to Jason Avant was equally impressive. Vick is not going down without a fight and he certainly looked very good on the field on Friday night. Color me impressed.
  • Foles can run the read-option and do it effectively. Foles led an impressive touchdown drive that featured little time for the defense to blink. Brian Baldinger remarked that the drive reminded him of Oregon's play-calling, but it looked much more West Coast-based for Foles' benefit. The offense looked fast, smart and somewhat dominant in the hurry-up. Nicholas even sprinkled in a 10-yard keeper.
  • DeSean Jackson is awesome. That is all.
  • Vinny Curry may not have bad growing in his new position pains after all. The second-year defender was consistently in the faces of Tim Tebow and Ryan Mallett. Curry is playing the four-technique and was very impressive on Friday night. His pressure was sensational and he was credited on a group sack.
  • Brandon Graham can rush the passer no matter where he is. The newly-redefined outside linebacker was able to pressure Ryan Mallet a few times. Chip Kelly even called him out  (in a good way) following the game.
  • Running back Bryce Brown is fast and can catch only in games apparently. The second-year runner dropped several balls during camp but was able to grab the ball in the air two times for 19 yards on Friday night.  He also diced through the Patriots' defense on a read-option hand-off for an eight-yard touchdown.
  • Fletcher Cox is a beast. On the Patriots' second possession, he and Cedric Thornton shrunk the pocket for  Brady and nearly brought him down. Cox should and likely is having the defense built around him.
  • Rookie Jake Knott and Emmanuel Acho were everywhere tonight. Acho regularly forced pressured from up-the-middle and looked like his old college self. Knott was able to be part of a sack on Tebow and may already be a top tackler for the Eagles. His tackling technique makes him particularly valuable for this team. At least one of the pair of inside linebackers is making the Eagles' roster, but it's possible both could.
  • During training camp, outside linebacker Chris McCoy was praised for his coverage ability. On Friday night, he shined as a pass rusher. The CFL product had 1.5 sacks and displayed the ability to consistently force pressure during his playing time.
  • Say what you want about Clay Harbor, but he saved Barkley's night from being terrible. He made several first downs off of Barkley's throws, when the rookie was having a very rough night. In particular, Harbor had 22-yard catch on a third and long attempt that basically led to the first touchdown of Barkley's professional career.

Not

  • The Eagles' run defense was putrid to say the least. From beginning to end, Philadelphia was gashed by the likes of Stevan Ridley, Blount and Tebow. Blount was able to bounce off of Mychal Kendricks and Connor Barwin tackling attempts during the first drive alone and bobbed and weaved through several defenders in the second quarter for a large run for a touchdown. Ridley had a 62-yard run to open the game's first drive.
  • Fullback Emil Igwenagu looks lost on a football field. Salas scored on a screen despite the lack of blocking from Iggy. His competition with Clay Harbor for the fourth tight end spot isn't looking good.
  • Linebacker coverage was not impressive. There were several times where tight ends and running backs would get extra yards because linebackers took too long to get to their spots. However, a lot of the mediocrity seemed to come from a lack of familiarity with the calls. That's not an excuse, but likely a factor.
  • Jamar Chaney is just nowhere to be found. He was beat in coverage a few times on Friday night.
  • Anyone else forget that Trent Cole played tonight?
  • Joe Kruger fell off one running back tackle so bad that it was like he was holding on to the outside of a 747. He looked like he was in that scene in the first Final Destination when Devon Sawa (IMDB) has that dream prior to getting kicked off the plane.
  • If I had a dollar for every time Issac Remington bit on a play-action action fake, I would have at least enough money to buy three McDoubles.

Miscellaneous Musings

  • We all saw the messed up snap by Brent Celek. Can the Eagles avoid using a roster spot on a long snapper while Jon Dorenbos takes a week or so to recover from a concussion? I think it would make sense to bring in another snapper as Dorenbos hasn't been as good in recent years as our own Jimmy Kempski has pointed out.
  • I have said since the Eagles first signed Dennis Dixon that I didn't think he would make the team. Even with that mindset, I was still surprised at what little playing time he received. I am not saying it is a foregone conclusion that Dixon is gone come final cuts, but I wouldn't put his odds of sticking around all that high.
  • I didn't time Brad Wing's punt because I am lazy, but I can't see how he makes this team. He gets decent distance but he doesn't seem to be anywhere near Donnie Jones in this competition when it comes to hang-time.
  • Damion Square knocked Mallett out of the game in the second quarter. In trotted Tebow to a chorus of cheers. It was the nicest thing an Alabama defender has done for a Gator quarterback in quiet some time.
  • Did I mention that Curry was extremely impressive against the Patriots?
  • The triple sack by Square, Knott and Curry on Tebow was the coolest play the defense had on Friday night.
  • How about that hardcore takedown by Sav Rocca on the Damaris Johnson punt return? #AussieRules
What did you think of last night's game? Who impressed you? Who failed your expectations?

You can follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @mike_e_kaye.
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