Philadelphia Eagles News

Day After: Still On Track

At the end of the day, though, the preseason opener served as the perfect teaching tool for a coaching staff that is still in instruction mode. I'm sure that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo are marking in red what they saw in Thursday night's 24-23 win over the Steelers.

At this stage of the season, the emphasis is on what went off kilter rather than the successes on the field. The Eagles know they have a lot of work to do to get where they want to be.

And the good news is that, after one preseason game, all the pieces are still standing. The preseason is a war of attrition, a prelude to a marathon of a regular season.

So we can feel good that the Eagles sustained only, as it appears the day after the game, minor injuries. Michael Vick's Thumb is probably sore for No. 7 on Friday, but he's going to be fine. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins have to work their way back from hamstring injuries. Same with running back Dion Lewis who, I will say it time and time again, has made as much improvement since last year as any player on the team (along with defensive end Brandon Graham).

On the injury front, the Eagles are OK. Now, about some of things they need to, in coaches' talk, clean up ...

  • I am very interested to know how Jim Washburn thinks his defensive line played against the Steelers. We're raving about the seven sacks and all of the depth and the constant pressure the line had against the Steelers. But I'm sure Washburn is looking at things differently. As much success as the pass rush had off the edges, Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich moved up in the pocket to create space and buy time and that movement forced the linebackers and defensive backs to commit forward, and Pittsburgh had some big gains in the passing game. The pass rush needs more of an inside presence. Finding a nickel inside pass rusher or two is critical.
  • Not sure I saw enough from Demetress Bell to give you a report on how he played. The starting offensive line was only on the field for only 6 snaps. In that short time, the Steelers went after Vick and the passing pocket. The Eagles know that teams are going to blitz them repeatedly to try to crowd Vick and take him out of his game.
  • Let's talk quarterbacks. Vick played sparingly and didn't do much, other than avoid a serious injury. I see him taking on too many hits. Mike Kafka needs to get more into a rhythm and deliver the football faster. He held it even as receivers were open. Kafka missed on some chances with Chad Hall in the game. Nick Foles had a tremendous first preseason game and has something strong to build upon. Trent Edwards was simply marvelous, even moreso considering the fact that he takes almost no reps in practice. He ran the huddle brilliantly, he got rid of the football quickly and he managed the clock perfectly in the fourth quarter. Does Edwards have a chance to move up the depth chart? Absolutely. The coaches have to keep an open mind here ...
  • Other than the front four on defense, not much stood out in a positive way. I liked the way Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie covered, and I thought Curtis Marsh had a good game. Mychal Kendricks made some plays. He's going to be really good. But the rest of the defense tackled poorly and didn't play particularly physical football. What can you say other than to understand that the game in New England is quite a bit more important.
  • You can go ahead and pencil in Brandon Boykin on kickoff returns and Damaris Johnson on punt returns. Until further notice, they are the return men. Now, Boykin made an error on his lone punt return effort, allowing the punt to land and bounce 20 yards. He needed to get up and catch the ball at midfield. But, hey, for a first game, both rookies showed that the speed of the game is not going to be a huge adjustment.
  • Fletcher Cox didn't get in on the sack parade, but he came off the ball very well and won his battles inside. Everyone believes Cox is going to be a special, special defensive tackle in this league.
  • What makes this defensive line so good? Obviously, there is a lot of talent and the coaching is terrific. But the fact that the group is so versatile is special. Cullen Jenkins opened the game as a starting left end, with Antonio Dixon and Derek Landri inside. Washburn can move his pieces all around the line of scrimmage. That makes it very tough to lock in on one or two pass rushers.
  • Brian Rolle and Casey Matthews played well from my perspective, which means almost  nothing because I don't want the game film.  But they seemed to be around the football.
  • I'm not worried about the safeties as a group. Jaiquawn Jarrett, for sure, has to improve. He struggled against Pittsburgh. But I thought Oshiomogho Atogwe played pretty well and Wade Bonner came up and got to the football and both Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen are good football players.
  • It could just be that Alex Henery is a stud placekicker, although I understand that a second-year man can't yet be considered a sure thing. But his kickoffs were great on Thursday night and his 51-yard, game-winning field goal would have been good from 60 yards.
  • I think I may call Stanley Havili and Emil Igwenague even for the fullback position based strictly on their play this summer. Havili probably has the advantage because of his experience, but Igwenague is a huge guy at 6 feet 2, 245 pounds and he is more athletic than you would think from such a muscular person.
  • My rankings of the top five receivers here for purposes of talking 53-man roster: Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper and Johnson. Now, I think Cooper is going to be fine and ready to play just about the time the season opens in Cleveland. Hall is not done pushing for a job. Marvin McNutt blocked well on Thursday night, but didn't have much of a chance to contribute in the passing game. He was open, but ... Good performances by Mardy Gilyard and Jamel Hamler help their standing in a crowded field here.
  • Yes, Bryce Brown is legit. The Eagles are going to have a very potent group of halfbacks this season, with LeSean McCoy, of course, leading the way.
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