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5 Things To Know Today: August 22

Posted Aug 22, 2014

The Eagles dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night even though it's not reflected in the final score of 31-21. Quarterback Nick Foles led the offense on three scoring drives and the defense shut out the Steelers' first-team offense in the first half. In the second half, Mark Sanchez carved up the Steelers' starters as the Eagles led 31-7 going into the final quarter. Here are the 5 Things To Know Today ...

1. Foles, First-Team Offense Ready To Roll

It was important to see how Nick Foles would perform with his starting two receivers - Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper - in the mix for the first time this preseason. He was 19 of 29 for 179 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Maclin and Cooper combined for nine catches and 68 yards. More importantly, both Maclin and Cooper are healthy even after Maclin's brief scare in the second quarter. The Eagles gained at least one first down on five of the six drives with Foles at the helm. Three of the drives spanned at least nine plays.

“I really wanted to play this game, just to get the game feel,” Cooper said after the game. “Practice is a little different. Just to get the game feel, get back into the swing of things against a different opponent, play when the lights are on. It’s just different and I’m glad I got to do that.”

2. Defense: That's More Like It

While the Eagles' offense hummed, the Steelers struggled against the first-team defense. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks was active as he tied for a team lead with four tackles and forced quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to throw an errant pass that was intercepted by cornerback Nolan Carroll II. The Eagles' starters were much improved from a penalty standpoint as well as on third downs. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said that there's still work to be done, but this was a big step in the right direction.

"It was real nice and we know third downs are a point of emphasis for us," said Davis. "It hasn't been good enough. We move forward. It's still not good enough. We have to do better than we did tonight, but I did like the way it got better."

3. A Crowded Backfield

Matthew Tucker scored two touchdowns, both from 1 yard out, and Henry Josey led the team with 48 yards rushing in the win over Pittsburgh. Even newly acquired back Kenjon Barner was thrown into the mix with seven carries for 32 yards. LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles are set as the team's top two backs, but head coach Chip Kelly said after the game that beyond that is anyone's guess.

"We need to get healthy and get everybody competing there and find out who really the third running back is going to be," Kelly said. "So it was good to get Tucker in there and Josey and Kenjon some carries, too, so we can make a full evaluation in that position."

Of course, the key player in this is Chris Polk, who has been sidelined by a hamstring injury. He was a key player on special teams and made the most of his carries in 2013, but has not been able to get on the field this preseason.

4. What Will The Eagles Do At Kicker?

Cody Parkey arrived in Philadelphia at around 1 AM on Thursday and met head coach Chip Kelly for the first time in the locker room after being traded from Indianapolis on Wednesday.

Parkey was called on three times against the Steelers, once for an extra point he would convert and twice on kickoffs, which sailed 4 and 5 yards into the Steelers’ end zone. Parkey did not attempt a field goal on the night, but Alex Henery’s missed 31-yarder made Parkey a popular target for the media in the post-game locker room.

“I think any time you bring someone in, you’re going to compete,” Parkey said. “I’m going to go out there, do my best and try to win this job.”

As for the state of the competition at kicker, Kelly said the team will obviously need to consider all options.

“I wish I could put my finger on it. I don't know what he's battling. But obviously you have to make a field goal like that. You have to make it,” Kelly said of Henery’s miss. “We obviously needed to bring someone else in, and that's what we did, and we'll see. We've got another week. The good thing is we have a week before we go play the Jets so we have a chance.”

5. High Praise For The Backup O-Line

Mark Sanchez’s production with the second-team offense has been one of the biggest stories off the preseason for the Eagles. In three games, Sanchez has completed 25 of 31 passes for 281 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a sterling 112.5 quarterback rating. Meanwhile, a hodgepodge of backup running backs have impressed alongside Sanchez for what has been a very productive second-team offense.

What may have gone largely unnoticed, then, is just how well the second-team offensive line has performed. Andrew Gardner, Matt Tobin, David Molk, Dennis Kelly and Lane Johnson have performed at a very high level – all the more impressive considering the questions about offensive line depth heading into Training Camp.

“To tell you the truth, they’re playing as good if not better than we are right now,” said center Jason Kelce. “There are a number of guys that have stepped up and really played extremely well, so I think right now we’re going into the season with great depth and that’s what you want to have.”

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