The second preseason game is in the books. The Eagles beat the Panthers 24-13. Seeing the guys win was fun, but more importantly it was good to see some of the young guys step up and play well. Preseason football is more about the individual than the team. Several guys improved from last week. That's important to see as the coaches try to identify the best 53 players.
I'll start with Kevin Kolb. He played much better this week. Kolb started slow, but then really came alive. He was 14-of-27 for 155 yards. He had one touchdown pass and one interception. They aren't great numbers, but I was happy with what I saw. Kolb came out and ran the offense. He looked much more in charge than last week. He made several good throws down the field. He put the ball right on Hank Baskett twice, but neither pass was caught. He threw a perfect strike to Greg Lewis for a 33-yard touchdown. I was really happy to see him getting the ball downfield. Last week Kolb was accurate on short throws, but struggled on intermediate and deep passes. He was much improved against the Panthers. The interception came when Kolb tried to force a ball to DeSean Jackson. The ball was deflected and a defender grabbed it. He was being aggressive. Those mistakes are okay. You don't want sloppiness or errors made from reckless decisions. Kolb also had a scramble for a gain of 11 yards. I'm glad Andy Reid let Kolb play the whole second half and throw the ball a lot. It was also good that he left Lewis and Baskett in the game for Kevin to work with.
Receiver DeSean Jackson didn't necessarily get better, but it was great to see him play well again. This kid is the real deal. He's getting open. He's catching the ball. He's moving the chains. The only thing we haven't seen is a big play or a touchdown. The odd thing about Jackson is that I expected him to look really good as the punt returner, but struggle as a receiver. The opposite has been true. He's playing better as a receiver and still feeling his way around as a return guy.
Jackson caught seven passes, two from McNabb and five from Kolb. Jackson is mainly catching underneath throws, but did get to run a double move on the second series. He got open, but couldn't make the catch. The move was okay, but needs work. He has to sell the fake better. He slowed down at the end of the route to find the ball. That won't work in the NFL. You have to stay at full speed. The best part of that play was seeing his speed. Jackson can fly. He did drop two passes. On one play, the ball came loose when he fell to the ground and landed on his forearm. The other ball he couldn't get a hold of cleanly. He hasn't flat out dropped an easy pass that hit him in the hands.
Jackson did, however, make progress as the punt returner. Against the Steelers, he had no room to work with and made matters worse by going backward. He went forward this week, but was still is too hesitant. Jackson did show us his potential on a 27-yard return. He ran right and got outside. He flew up the sideline. Jackson slowed as he faced some traffic. A defender caught him from behind and knocked the ball loose. He's not used to players catching him from behind. This is the NFL, not the Pac-10. Hopefully Jackson learned his lesson and will realize defenders don't give up on plays and are fast enough to make plays in pursuit at this level. His inexperience will be evident at times, but his speed and elusiveness is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
Tony Hunt played his best game as an Eagle. Most people will focus on his 51-yard touchdown run that put the Eagles ahead on the scoreboard. That was an impressive play. I was just as happy that he made two tackles in kickoff coverage. Let's be honest. Hunt isn't going to take carries away from Brian Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter or Lorenzo Booker. Hunt has to show he can be a role player. Making plays on special teams is a huge part of that. I think Hunt may have struggled to accept the fact he has to fight his way onto the team and even then won't be used much on offense. Against the Panthers, he played like a guy who wanted to impress the coaches and make the team. He ran hard. Hunt knocked a defender back as he was tackled on a draw play where he got upfield for a nice gain. The 51-yard touchdown run had as much to do with effort as talent. Hunt took the handoff and headed right. He ran through a tackle attempt 10 yards downfield, then cut back to the left and was able to outrun the defense. I'm really happy with what I saw from Hunt. He still isn't a lock to make the roster, but I finally saw him come out and really play hard. He had a bounce in his step. Maybe the light bulb finally came on. He needs to play like that next week and in the finale. The long run could have only gone 10 yards and I'd have been fine. I just wanted to see the effort and style of play. Great results are a bonus.
Linebacker Stewart Bradley had another solid showing. He was physical on inside run plays, stopping one run for no gain. Bradley was active in pass defense. He moved around and hit receivers all over the place. He was tied for the team lead with five tackles. Bradley still has work to do. He gets stuck on blocks at times. He was a step slow in coverage on the play where Dawkins lit up Muhammad in the end zone.
Linebacker Joe Mays played well again. He didn't have the dramatic hits like last week, but tackled well and showed good range. He was credited with a pair of tackles, including one for a loss. He also showed up more on special teams. This kid looks like a player.
Rookie Kyle Arrington finally got some passes thrown against him. He had a solid game. He tackled well on both run and pass plays. Arrington looked good in coverage. He showed good feet and pretty fluid hips. He had good downfield coverage on a third down pass that was incomplete. Arrington looked good playing press on a few plays. He did get called for interference on a downfield throw, but it only looked like he and the receiver got their feet tangled. Arrington just might have the inside track for the fifth cornerback spot.
Todd Herremans got the start at left tackle and played well. He faced Julius Peppers for the first half. How's that for a welcome wagon on your first start at tackle in a couple of years? Herremans more than held his own against Peppers. The conditions favored Herremans. Speedy defensive ends prefer a clean, fast track where they can use their burst to beat the blocker. Still, Herremans controlled Peppers and didn't let him get loose at all. That's impressive. Herremans was knocked off balance a couple of times in pass protection, but was able to get his balance and re-set. He really bent his knees and played with good pad level. Peppers was effective with the bull rush a couple of times. This was a good audition for next year when we'll likely have one or two openings at tackle. Herremans showed he can play outside.
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