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Halfway Through Preseason ...

Posted Aug 16, 2013

In two preseason games the Eagles have served notice. The offense has offered a glimpse of what it can be. The defense is headed in the right direction. The special teams have been strong. Where do the Eagles stand? ...

The first four offensive drives against a good Carolina defense provided an appetizer of what is to come, with some major improvements to make, of course. Chip Kelly's scheme and tempo coordinated as the Eagles drove 82 yards in 12 plays (Nick Foles' interception ended the drive), 39 yards in 5 plays (Foles ran for a touchdown), 57 yards in 8 plays (Chris Polk fumble ended the drive) and 74 yards in 7 plays (LeSean McCoy touchdown run).

That the Eagles ended that first-half offensive flurry with only 14 points is what needs to be cleaned up, and the offense knows it left too many points on the field. Kelly won't tolerate that kind of slopiness, what with giveaways, too many penalties and mistakes throughout the offense.

However, if anyone needed any last smidgen of convincing that the method to Kelly's offensive genius, that first half was it. The Eagles moved freely, flowed beautifully and left the Carolina defense breathless without tipping its hand for the NFL's regular season.

The offense has a chance to be devastating. Everyone on that side of the ball should be eager to accept the week of practice and preparation for preseason game No. 3 in Jacksonville.

Some other thoughts on this team ...

  • The Eagles are going to need three running backs to make this offense truly go. If the design goes according to plan, the team is going to have so many snaps and reps and opportunities for the backs to get touches. LeSean McCoy's first preseason game was brilliant and his sense of anticipation and cut-on-a-dime moves were glorious to see. He's in line for a huge season. Chris Polk ran hard, quick and powerfully, but he simply cannot fumble. Bryce Brown is an important piece here, and he needs to get on the field in Jacksonville. Felix Jones? He left the game in the second half with a rib injury, and appears to be the fourth back in line here.

  • Really, the way I see it, the Eagles have gone over 400 yards of total offense in each of the preseason games, and haven't even come close to what this offense can accomplish.

  • James Casey hasn't gotten much action his way in the preseason, but he's expected to be a large part of things here. He will be ready. I can't wait to see how Kelly incorporates Casey, Zach Ertz and Brent Celek. The question is, can the Eagles keep a fourth tight end on the roster?

  • Why can't Damaris Johnson catch 50 passes in this offense?

  • The offensive line has had its moments, and there is still more to achieve here. Jason Peters has yet to play, although he could be close to seeing action and if he has a good week of practice, Peters could see time in Jacksonville. Who backs up the starting five? Alan Barbre has done a nice job. Julian Vandervelde is playing as the backup center. Danny Watkins needs to continue to make progress inside. The Eagles could use Dennis Kelly at some point soon. He's a key reserve here.

  • Nice bounceback game for the defense, which should only get better. I see the Eagles trying to do a lot of things on defense, trying to pressure the line of scrimmage, going after quarterbacks. Now that the players have seen the scheme -- as vanilla as it may be now -- work. Hopefully, the players trust the scheme just a little bit more now.

  • Patrick Chung has quickly emerged as a huge player in the secondary and he looks outstandinig back there. Davis plans to use Chung in a variety of ways in the deep secondary. Who joins Chung as a starter? Nate Allen is there now, with Earl Wolff pushing. From this perspective, Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson are in line as the fourth and fifth safeties.

  • You won't see Cary Williams do what he does best -- play in man coverage, with some press responsibilities -- until the regular season. The Eagles know that when he is healthy and focused, Williams is a tenacious defender. Good player. So is Bradley Fletcher, who is healthy and in line to help this team in a big way.

  • The special teams have had some hiccups -- a bad snap on a field goal attempt against New England and then a pushed-right 44-yard field goal attempt agains Carolina -- but the return game has been explosive and the coverage teams have been outstanding. Dave Fipp's teams are off to a fine start.

  • Some players to keep an eye on: Benne Logan and Cedric Thornton are making progress up front defensively, and Mychal Kendricks is stepping up at linebacker, and Brandon Hughes is a cornerback pushing for time. I liked Everette Brown against his former team on Thursday night. Fifth wide receiver? It's Greg Salas right now. There is much more preseason to come, though. A lot is going to happen.

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