PITTSBURGH --Andy Reid spent most of the time during his post-game press conference finding things that didn't go well for the Eagles in a 16-10 loss Friday night against the Steelers. "I'm picky," said Reid. True dat, coach. Understand, however, that in the big picture the opening of the preseason was a rousing success for the Eagles, despite finishing in second place on the scoreboard.
Let us count the ways and, yeah, consider some of the film review that Reid will frown over when he reviews the tape ...
- Donovan McNabb was absolutely outstanding. His numbers were great -- 10 of 13 passing, 97 yards, a touchdown and a passer rating of 122.9. Numbers can be deceiving, but in this case, they didn't explain all the good things McNabb did. He had that "burst" that he lacked for much of last season, moving quickly and decisively in and out of the pocket. McNabb had that clock in his head working. He saw the field. He threw the ball accurately. With McNabb on the field, the offense put together drives of 70 yards and 65 yards, and scored 10 points.
The only downside was the lack of perfection in the red zone. The offense settled for a David Akers field goal to end the first drive after McNabb guided the offense to a first-and-10 at the 13-yard line.
"I wanted seven points there," said McNabb. "We need to be better there."
They were in the second drive, which ended on a McNabb 3-yard touchdown drive to fullback Jason Davis. It was a fine way to end the night for the first-team offense that played without running back Brian Westbrook, right guard Shawn Andrews and wide receiver Reggie Brown.
- Rookie DeSean Jackson made an impact with five receptions for 51 yards, showing some good hands on the outside and some toughness inside. His punt return game never really got untracked, and the Eagles are going to have to work a little bit better on the blocking to give Jackson a crease. But Jackson is the real deal so far, and it is exciting to see him assimilate so quickly into the offense.
- The starting offensive line, which included Max Jean-Gilles at right guard, played well. The offense moved the ball up and down the field. The second and third team lines played pretty well, too. I watched a lot of King Dunlap and he seemed to do well. Mike McGlynn and Mike Gibson seemed to do a pretty fine job, too.
- Greg Lewis got open and was sure-handed starting for Brown, while both Hank Baskett and Jason Avant contributed. Kevin Curtis got into the act early, too. L.J. Smith had a catch. If the approach is to spread it around, the Eagles are going to have options.
- Lorenzo Booker wasn't as impressive on kickoff returns, although he did bust one outside for 27 yards. I have to admit that I'm not sure he had anywhere to run between the hashmarks on kickoffs. Booker ran four times for 16 yards and caught two passes for two yards.
- The starting defense struggled as the Steelers drove down the field on their opening possession and put the ball in the end zone. A couple of runs at the edges of the Eagles' defense gashed Jim Johnson's group, a Lito Sheppard questionable facemask penalty cost the team 15 yards and Ben Roethlisberger completed a pass to Hines Ward over the middle for a big gain. And then on a third-and-10 from the Eagles' 19-yard line, Roethlisberger read a corner blitz from Sheldon Brown and threw quickly to Santonio Holmes, who raced past a late-arriving Brian Dawkins for an easy touchdown.
- I liked the play of defensive end Jerome McDougle. He dominated. At the same time, McDougle should have dominated playing against deep reserves late in the game.
- Linebacker Joe Mays was around the ball all game and made some plays. On one running play, he shed the blocker beautifully and wrapped up the ballcarrier after a short gain. Mays has a real chance to make the team.
- Of course, the Westbrook contract was a highlight of the night. That he and the Eagles got together and made it happen is great, great news. Westbrook is locked up for years to come and has great piece of mind. He didn't play, which was fine by me.
- Defensive tackles Trevor Laws and Dan Klecko played the entire second half and were exhausted at the end of the game. Laws flashed, especially in the passing game and on one play when he read a short dump and made the tackle. Laws is going to be a good one. He and Chris Clemons combined to record a sack.
- Nice play by Nick Graham down the left sideline to break up a deep pass. Perfect position by Graham as he bids to earn a fifth cornerback job.
- Andy Studebaker showed up to play. He was a demon on defense, all over the field on the blitz and against the run. I don't know if he can cover anybody yet, but Studebaker sure is a great athlete and stirs things up.
- Tony Hunt had some carries and made a nice 6-yard run, but why does he not look quite as quick on his feet now as he did last year? Maybe he needs a game to carry 10-12 times and knock off the rust.
- Both Kevin Kolb and A.J. Feeley were up and down, and both missed a wide-open Kris Wilson. Kolb missed Wilson on a play that would have gained 12-15 yards, and Feeley missed Wilson in the end zone in the final minute of action.
- Akers showed great, great leg strength. He definitely has his punch back. Losing 20 pounds has made a lot of difference for Akers.
- By the way, do you know how huge it is that the Eagles suffered zero serious injuries? Huge.
- Reid said after the game that he expects Shawn Andrews to report to training camp on Sunday, but that Andrews wouldn't walk right into his starting job at right guard. Jean-Gilles has certainly gotten a lot better, which is a big plus for the depth on the line.
- So what do the Eagles do about stopping the running game? Are teams going to go after the edges all season? Johnson will deal with it. He will scheme, something he didn't do at all on Friday. It is no secret that the Eagles are smallish up front. The linebackers are going to have to come up big. Pun intended.
- Sav Rocca averaged just 40.5 yards per punt, but he deserved better. He had punts of 42 and 48 yards -- poor punt coverage on the second punt, by the way -- and then had kicks that maybe, probably, should have been downed that instead went into the end zone. Rocca has been much, much, much more consistent this summer than he was last summer. He will be fine.
- Interesting that Booker played running back, lined up at receiver, returned kickoffs and was the up-back in the punting game. Let's call him Mr. Do It All.
- The play-calling offensively was basic, as were the formations. If you have paid attention to the offense at training camp, you know there is a whole lot more in that playbook.