Philadelphia Eagles News

Observations From Preseason Opener



CHICAGO -- It was a typical first preseason game: too many penalties, some good initial steps and a whole lot of mistakes to correct in the Eagles' 34-28 loss to Chicago on Friday night at Soldier Field.

Here are some observations from the preseason opener:

  • Quarterback Nick Foles tossed two interceptions, one on a third-and-18 play after a first-down completion was called back, and another when two receivers were in the same area. No excuses from Foles. He took the blame, saying he made "bad decisions" and tried to force throws. Foles didn't appear set as he threw the ball. Foles will beat himself up for a day and then work on corrections.
  • The Eagles committed four penalties on their opening two offensive series, including two holding penalties against guard Evan Mathis. Those are the kind of mistakes that are cleaned up quickly in the preseason.
  • Nice performance from Brandon Graham playing downhill. He had a quarterback sack and then a pressure against Jordan Palmer, forcing a throw that was intercepted by Nate Allen in the deep secondary. Graham missed a tackle in coverage and has to be more consistent there, but he really brought the pass rush.
  • Josh Huff came up huge with a red-zone catch to convert a third-and-3 situation that led to Matthew Tucker's second touchdown score, and then Huff ripped off a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He showed explosiveness, speed and the ability to break tackles to lend to a fine night for special teams.
  • Tucker gained 55 total yards, 40 rushing on eight carries and 15 on a reception, and scored a pair of touchdowns. But he also coughed up the football in the third quarter that led to a Chicago touchdown, and left the game with a hamstring injury.
  • Defensive lineman Cedric Thornton was dominating during his time on the field. He tipped a pass and led a fantastic performance against Chicago's running game. Thornton was quick off the ball and chased down the line very well.
  • Same for Vinny Curry, who got off the line of scrimmage and played in the backfield. Curry has really come a long way in this 3-4 scheme. He was unblocked one time and played with terrific effort.
  • Chip Kelly credited young defensive linemen Beau Allen and Brandon Bair with playing well at the line of scrimmage.
  • Loved seeing Jeremy Maclin make a catch (15 yards) down the field. He was twisted a bit in an awkward position but had no problem making the grab and getting right back up after the catch. He looks fine. "I felt great out there," he said after the game. "I will continue to push myself and next week we'll get more reps, so we'll go from there. It was good to get a catch and it was good to be back out on the field."
  • No. 1 draft pick Marcus Smith II showed some major athleticism in his reps. He shed blockers well and got to the football, got off his feet quickly to knock down a pass and seemed to recognize what was going on around him. Smith slipped once and lost containment in coverage once, but also was in the right position far more than night. He had a fine, fine first outing.
  • Wide receiver Jordan Matthews was, using Kelly's word, "inconsistent" during the night. He had one drop that he would like to have back down the field and another in traffic that glanced off his fingertips after really dropping almost nothing in Training Camp. Matthews had 4 catches for 14 yards.
  • The Eagles converted all three of their chances in the red zone, and that's significant. The offense ranked 18th in the NFL in red zone efficiency last season, converting 52.3 percent of its opportunities. Scoring touchdowns in the red zone is a priority to improve upon.
  • Cornerback Jaylen Watkins missed his jam in press coverage against wide receiver Chris Williams and Williams beat him down the sideline for a 73-yard touchdown play in the third quarter. It was a good learning moment for Watkins, who will be schooled on better technique. Watkins came back late with a leaping interception. Good bounce back. Cornerback Roc Carmichael gave up some catches for big yards.
  • Matt Barkley was terrific in the third quarter and he executed a 94-yard touchdown drive to virtual perfection, completing 5 of 8 passes for 61 yards. He threw the ball accurately and on time and the screen pass to David Fluellen that resulted in a 14-yard touchdown was just gorgeous. After that drive, though, Barkley was 0 for 7 with an interception.
  • Darren Sproles carried three times for 11 yards and LeSean McCoy had one carry for no gain.
  • Tight end Zach Ertz was a force with 4 catches for 60 yards and James Casey added 3 catches for 33 yards. The tight ends are going to be so huge in this offense in 2014.
  • The special teams made a difference. Huff had his 102-yard kickoff return. The combination of Brandon Bair and Damian Square blocked a Robbie Gould field goal. And the punt team forced and then recovered a fumble. Job well done.
  • Injuries: Tucker had his hamstring that forced him out of the game and linebacker Casey Matthews left with a back injury.
  • Impressive hold from the defense after the early Foles interception. The second-team defense held Chicago to a field goal after Tucker's fumble in the second half.
  • If this was any indication of Malcolm Jenkins in this defense, get excited. He played in the box, at the line of scrimmage and in coverage and was excellent. Very physical. Sure tackler. Decisive.
  • Allen and Earl Wolff split reps at safety alongside Jenkins and Allen, in particular, stood out. He had the interception, added a big hit and tackled well.
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