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Fan-Demonium: Evaluating The Rookies

Posted Nov 29, 2012


I hated seeing the Eagles lose on Monday night, but there were quite a few things to be happy about in that game.  The Eagles are playing a ton of young guys right now.  You hope to see them play well and show good talent, but even finding out who can't play has value.  The worst case scenario is not knowing.  Several young guys had good nights. 

Before jumping into individual players, I want to talk about the overall team effort.  The Eagles were down 14-3 pretty early.  I will admit I got nervous. ESPN showed a shot of Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie in his box and the look on his face wasn't good.  Was the team falling apart right in front of us?  They've been losing, but there is a difference in playing poorly and not competing. 

Thankfully, the Eagles woke up and got going.  That early deficit turned into a 15-14 lead and later a 22-21 lead.  The effort was good.  Players gave their all and things got smoothed out at times.  There was no panic.  There was no laying down.  The Eagles played solid football in the second and third quarters, outscoring Carolina 19-7.  Unfortunately, the Eagles started slow and then had key turnovers late in the game.  You just can't win like that. 

Obviously, the player to focus on is rookie runner Bryce Brown.  He got his first NFL start and delivered in a big way.  Brown had 19 carries for 178 yards and two touchdowns.  He looked great on several runs, both long and short. 

The first thing that jumped out at you was his speed.  Brown showed this in a few ways.  He was able to get to the outside on edge runs.  He was able to get to the second level when there was a hole at the line of scrimmage.  He was also able to turn a good run into a long touchdown.  Brown really showed an extra gear on that play.  You don't see 220-pound runners go 65 yards for a score very often.  That was the Eagles’ longest run in a couple of years. 

Brown proved to be a good fit for the game.  The Eagles have a bunch of backups on the offensive line.  You can't count on perfect blocking so the smart thing is to find the first hole and run to daylight.  LeSean McCoy ran behind a really good line last year and has struggled with finding space this season.  Brown wasn't as picky and the results were outstanding. 

Brown did show good vision by being able to find the right hole to hit.  On most plays, he stuck with the design.  There was one run where he cut back all the way to the other side of the formation.  Not only did Brown find the holes, he had the ability to get there.  He ran hard, but stayed under control.  He had good feet.  Brown used his size and strength well.  There were a couple of third down runs where he was stopped at the line, but ran through initial contact and got the first down. 


Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

I loved a run play that went to the outside left.  Brown got a good block from King Dunlap and was out on the edge.  He used his speed to get by a defender and then turned upfield.  Brown had gained about 10 yards and had to deal with another defender.  The easy move would have been to step out of bounds.  Instead, Brown cut back to the inside and added almost another 10 yards to the run.  That play went for a gain of 19. 

As exciting as it was to see Brown light it up and look like a star runner, he had a pair of very costly fumbles.  Both came in the second half and hurt the Eagles’ chances to win the game.  Brown must learn that fumbles won't be tolerated.  All those yards and big plays are no good if you can't be trusted to keep the ball. 

Nick Foles got his second start and had an up and down game.  He was 16 of 21, but only for 119 yards.  He also nearly had a handful of passes picked off.  Foles showed a good arm on several throws.  He can be very accurate when he sets his feet and throws with good mechanics. 

The biggest problems for Foles right now are decision-making and timing.  He must make better decisions and he must get the ball out quicker.  On the opening drive, he was nearly picked off twice when he simply forced the ball into coverage after staring down his receiver.  You can't do that.  Foles threw a deep ball to Jeremy Maclin that resulted in a pass-interference call.  Maclin was open.  The pass was late and had too much air under it.  That gave the defenders a chance to play the ball.  One made too much contact with Maclin and drew the flag.  Foles read the play correctly, but then hesitated for a second or less and threw.  He should not have hesitated.  I also think the ball should have had a flatter trajectory to give it less time in the air.  That would have made it tougher for the defensive backs to get into position. 

Foles’ mistakes right now are due to inexperience.  He does have NFL talent.  We don't know if he's the long-term answer or not.  After two starts, we've seen hints of him being a good quarterback, but far more reasons to question if he can get the job done.  That's okay.  Very few players step in and show they are made to play right away.  Foles needs to get a little better every week.  Eventually we'll figure out if he's starter material, backup material or not good enough to cut it. 

Dennis Kelly got his second start at right tackle.  He showed good progress from last week.  Kelly missed a few blocks, but had a solid night overall.  He was comfortable in pass protection.  He moved his feet well.  There was one play where Charles Johnson fired off the ball.  Kelly engaged him and sustained the block for a second.  Johnson fought off the block, but Kelly stuck with it and rode him wide so that Foles still had a clean pocket.  That's what you want to see from a young tackle.  Kelly was good initially, but then didn't panic when the defender got loose.  This is the NFL. Players don't stay blocked.  You must be able to stay with them. 

Kelly did some good things in the run game.  He had a key block on Brown's long touchdown run.  The defensive end on Kelly's side dropped back at the snap (due to a zone blitz).  Kelly made sure the guy stayed back.  Then Kelly stepped upfield and sealed the linebacker.  That gave Brown a clean alley to run through.  Kelly stayed active on run plays that went away from him.  He got linebackers on some.  Other times he sealed a backside lineman.  Kelly didn't stop and watch.  He found someone to block. 

Defensive end Vinny Curry got his first playing time of the year.  He was credited with five tackles.  He didn't get a sack, but came close.  Unfortunately, Cam Newton showed how elusive he is and got away.  Curry didn't give up on the play and chased Newton down.  Newton gained 3 yards, but you love to see a young player sticking with the play like that.  Don't give up. 

Curry played at right end.  He was quick off the ball, but not explosive.  I thought he showed good strength when he used his bull rush.  Curry gave excellent effort.  He was effective against the run.  With the release of Jason Babin, Curry should get regular playing time the rest of the way.  I look forward to seeing what he can do.  If he continues to bring that kind of energy to the field, I think he'll get his first sack in the next few weeks. 

Quick Hits

* Damaris Johnson played a lot after DeSean Jackson left with an injury.  Johnson had a key block on Brown's long run.  Johnson sealed the cornerback to his side.  Without that block, the run goes for just 5 yards.  Johnson also caught a couple of passes and had his best overall night as a punt returner. 

* Riley Cooper only caught one pass, but he contributed as a blocker.  He had key blocks on a couple of standout runs, including Brown's short touchdown. 

* Center Dallas Reynolds had some good run blocks.  He got blown up on fourth-and-short and was up and down in pass protection.  He's improved quite a bit, but still must get better. 

* Trent Cole had a couple of tackles-for-loss and just missed a sack.  It was good to see him come alive. 

* Dion Lewis hit the field and looked good.  He had five carries for 24 yards.  Lewis ran hard and on one play went up against a slew of defenders, but they never got him down.  That was impressive. 

* It was funny to see all the pass rushers struggling to get Cam Newton to the ground when big old Mike Patterson got into the backfield and sacked him for a big loss.  I'm sure Patterson gave his teammates a hard time about why they couldn't sack Mr. Newton. 

* Colt Anderson had another excellent night in kick coverage.  He made two tackles on kickoffs, both deep. 

* Alex Henery continues to nail kick after kick.  He was three for three on Monday night. 

* Brandon Boykin had his best return of the year (41 yards), but then fumbled the ball away.  Ugh. 

* The blown coverages have been talked about a lot.  I don't have much to add, except that it has to stop.  I don't know how NFL players can continue to blow simple assignments so often.  Truly shocking. 

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