The third preseason game is typically the best preview of what fans can expect to see from a team when the regular season rolls around. If that is indeed the case, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has a lot to be pleased with, as his team handily defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-21 on Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles jumped out to a 31-7 lead through the first three quarters, and though the Steelers scored the only 14 points of the final quarter, Kelly said after the game that his team executed well on both sides of the ball.
"Well, obviously in the Chicago game, we didn't do a very good job offensively," Kelly explained. "I thought defensively we did a better job. I just think they're not shooting themselves in the foot. They're executing the way they're capable of executing. I thought we ran the ball fairly well. We had a good mix.
"I think we got the ball spread around to different receivers. Our tight ends were instrumental for us. We got the ball out wide. Having (Riley) Cooper back obviously helped; he made a couple big catches on third down, getting (Jeremy Maclin) back in there. So I see improvement … We're still a ways away, but fortunately, we've got some time here. We've got a legitimate week to prepare for the Jets game and then ten days till the opener."
While the Eagles generated 482 yards of total offense, the defense also caught Kelly's eye. The defensive unit held the Steelers to just 3.4 yards per carry while also forcing a Ben Roethlisberger interception in the second quarter.
According to Kelly, that interception by Nolan Carroll II was a perfect illustration of why the Eagles defense performed so well – the pass rush from Mychal Kendricks forced a bad throw, but Carroll was also in the right spot when the ball was released.
"It's a combination of everything," said Kelly. "It's a pass rush but we're close in coverage too. So sometimes you can have a real good pass rush but we're not creating coverage, so the ball's coming out quick and guys are open. But I thought we were close to the receivers and that forced Roethlisberger to hold the ball a little bit."
The Eagles have one final preseason game on the schedule, as the New York Jets land in Philadelphia next Thursday. Before that game takes place, the Eagles will cut the roster down to 75 players on or before Tuesday. As Kelly has said throughout Training Camp, the most important thing for the Eagles in the upcoming week is making sure that they have the best 53-man roster possible as they look to defend their 2013 NFC East title.
"Our job is to make sure we have the right 53 and the best 53," Kelly said. "The one good thing I think for all of us that excites us about this group is there are a lot of decisions that still have to be made and that means there is competition going on there. It's not like, hey, I can count up 47, and I don't even know who the last couple are going to be. I think there are going to be some good battles as we continue this. That is a credit to the guys we have. We have more depth so we'll have to figure it out.
"At the end of the day you can only have 53. So however you figure it out and break it up, but if we keep extras at one position we have to be light at another position. That is kind of what this whole process is all about, and hopefully we'll continue to compete during this week in practice because it's a big week for all those guys. Especially that final game against the Jets is really big for a lot of those guys on the bottom of the roster in terms of who can compete in those 53."