Preseason Game 1 Observations

Early penalties, a rusty first team, and impressive play from many newcomers highlighted the Eagles' 2014 preseason opener at Soldier Field on Friday night.

Here's a handful of observations on the Eagles players in their 34-28 loss to Chicago, sorted by position.


Nick Foles will be framed by his two interceptions, one coming on a D-line tip, but Foles went 6 for 7 otherwise, for 44 yards. He seemed to have trouble adjusting to the Bears' set-ups at the line, and his rhythm suffered accordingly. A slew of first-quarter penalties undid some big gainers, particularly holds negating 19 and 13 yard gains.....Preseason or not, Mark Sanchez looked like the first-round pick he's supposed to be, connecting frequently with Zach Ertz in stride, and was fluid on two touchdown drives. Admittedly, this is the best offensive coaching staff Sanchez has known in the pros.....Matt Barkley was a mix of accurate and erratic (aided by a pair of James Casey slips) on a 94-yard touchdown drive.....G.J. Kinne played fine in late garbage time, but one completion to Damaris Johnson that lost three yards helped kill a promising drive. Kinne's last-ditch attempt to lead a game-winning drive fell just short, though rookies Kadron Boone and Quron Pratt did their absolute best on the drive with heads-up catches.


LeSean McCoy only had two official touches (one run for no yards), and was shelved after a two series (Eagles didn't run on the first, ending in a Foles pick).....Darren Sproles was used primarily in a running role, instead of as the dump-off target that is his niche. Best run went for nine yards....Matthew Tucker scored the first two touchdowns for Philly, polishing off long Sanchez drives and peaking with a 24 yard gain, but lost a careless fumble early in the third.....David Fluellen scored in the third quarter off of a short Barkley toss, a recipient of quality blocking.


Jordan Matthews had himself a couple drops, along with a handful of short catches; a far cry from the mythos created by Eagles fanboys in his name. Hey, it's preseason, right?.....Jeremy Maclin and Ifeanyi Momah figured in early with Foles, but the following QBs keyed in on tight ends mostly (outside of the Barkley/Matthews key-ins).....Josh Huff scored big on a 102-yard kick return, but had his struggles (a couple bad returns, slipping behind a defender on a miscue that led to a Barkley pick).....Damaris Johnson's kick return woes continue noted earlier, Boone and Pratt made themselves seen on the final drive, trying to get the team into scoring range with solid catches.


Best group of the night on offense, led by Zach Ertz, who may be Sanchez's new best friend. A strong drive with several Ertz snags led to Tucker's first touchdown, the first Eagles points of the game....Likewise, James Casey was a popular target for Barkley, spurring the drive that led to Fluellen's score.....Brent Celek had a first-quarter catch nullified by a hold....on the whole, the level blocking from the tight ends was form-perfect, with Ertz and Casey setting the path for Huff's kick return score....most tight end action took place over the middle, providing mismatches for the second-tier linebackers and safeties.


Starters had their issues, with three holding penalties nullifying big gains: one for Jason Peters, two for Evan Mathis.....hard to gauge the starters as a run-blocking unit, since their work mostly came with Sproles on a handful of carries....despite Foles' inconsistency, the line did a decent job picking up the Bears' zealous blitz packages....Matt Tobin and Dennis Kelly showed high competence in space blocking on Fluellen's score.


Starters did a fine job hemming in Matt Forte (three carries, minus five yards, none for a gain), with Cedric Thornton getting a clean shot on one particular stop.....Damion Square's claim to fame for the night was blocking a field goal attempt following Foles' first INT.....Vinny Curry, as is his nature, was quick into the backfield on a handful of plays, including a sack of Jordan Palmer.....Brandon Bair was exceptional with the second team, alternating between nose and end, with similar quickness (but not quite as slick) to Curry.....Beau Allen shows impeccable hustle for a man of his carriage; one play he went down on the pass rush, then dragged his 330 pounds off the turf to tackle the receiver on the dump-off; fellow draft pick Taylor Hart demonstrated similar hustle with the threes.....Joe Kruger worked primarily with the third team, had some moments setting the edge on stopping the run; needs to show Bair's versatility to beat him out.


Run-stuffing was area of highest success, particularly with Connor Barwin setting the edge on Forte's attempts....DeMeco Ryans was beaten on Zach Miller's first touchdown, but much of the play centered around a sure-shot throw from Jay Cutler.....Trent Cole nearly had an early sack off of a strong blitz, forcing a bad Cutler fling.....Brandon Graham whiffed on a tackle of Miller, but soon after made up for it by forcing Palmer to throw a duck-INT to Nate Allen.....Marcus Smith received extended playing time with the second and third teams, which allowed him to show off his athleticism, highly coveted for a linebacking group that struggled to cover tight ends last season. Though the pick was questioned three months ago, Smith seems to possess the multi-faceted capabilities Bill Davis' 3-4 asks for, and the effort to get the most out of his skillset....Jason Phillips found himself turned around on Miller's second touchdown, completely outclassed.


The starters looked good for the most part, notably Malcolm Jenkins, who crushed Eric Weems one play after Cary Williams astutely broke up a pass play involving him. Jenkins also brought good coverage over the top on pass plays, an upgrade over generally poor instincts from the team in recent years.....Nate Allen had himself a whale of a game, showing much improved tackling (including a drag-down of Brandon Marshall), and was heads up on the Palmer INT.....Chris Maragos has not only performed an exorcism the special teams coverage, but tried to outdo Jenkins with his own punishing hit on Weems on a return.....Jaylen Watkins and Roc Carmichael were badly toasted on long tosses from Jimmy Clausen and David Fales; Watkins partially repented with a leaping pick of Fales.


Alex Henery attempted no field goals, but was four for four on 33-yard extra points; Carey Spear was dressed, but attempted no kicks.....Donnie Jones booted five balls for a 46.0 yard average, with two inside the 20.

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