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Plenty Of Highlights On A Feel-Good Night

FOXBOROUGH, MA -- They are rookies, so maybe neither Quintin Demps nor DeSean Jackson understand the impact of their unprecedented (as far as anybody knows) feat of returning back-to-back kicks for touchdowns in Friday night's 27-17 preseason win over New England.

Then again, maybe ignorance is bliss in this case.

Providing more than a minor bright spot, Demps's 101-yard bolt for a touchdown on a kickoff return and Jackson's dazzling 76-yard punt return that ended the first half were highlights of a game filled with them. The Eagles rolled the punchless Pats in the first half, building a 24-3 advantage before head coach Andy Reid called on the reserves to clean up in the second half.

Special teams coordinator Rory Segrest felt the love, that's for sure. He is looking for dyanmic things in the return game, and he got it on Friday. Demps exploded to the sidelines on his touchdown return, and then Jackson danced into the open field and then raced into the clear for his touchdown that absolutely turned the Eagles sidelines into a party.

"It felt great," said Segrest. "We have two players there who obviously have the ability to do some special things, and they're showing up very early in their careers. They're working hard and we have a lot of confidence in them. I'm pleased with the blocking and everything that happened there. We want more of that. We need to continue to work hard and improve some aspects of the return game and hopefully we will have similar success in the regular season."

Jackson has made remarkable progress in three games as a return man. He had a 27-yarder last week against Carolina and then had a 44-yard return wiped out Friday night prior to his touchdown.

Demps has replaced Lorenzo Booker on kickoffs and, well, there is no looking back. Demps is the man.

"I think they're both explosive players," said head coach Andy Reid. "They're different in their game, but they are both explosive. They're young and they have a lot of energy. I've got to keep one eye on each of them. They've got some personality. They love to play and they bring great energy to the football team. The veterans players love to watch them."

Jackson caught four passes for 67 yards and now has 16 catches in three games. He will obviously have adjustments to make once the regular season arrives, but Jackson seems unfazed by the tempo so far. He is a real threat every time he has the ball in his hands, and the Eagles clearly want to get the ball in his hands.

Special teams were a big part of the story on Friday night, but only part of the story. Some of the other things that went well for the Eagles ...

  • Donovan McNabb was brilliant, completing 13 of 17 passes for 180 yards. He spread the ball around and directed an offense that rolled up 242 yards in the first half. "It was a great opportunity for us, bouncing back after last week," said McNabb. "I thought last week we made a lot of key mistakes -- dropped balls, miscues, miscommunications. I thought this week we were able to play our style of football. We established the run, did some play-action pass and did some dropback and were able to move the ball consistently, which was big."
  • The offense ran the ball 17 times and threw it 17 times in the first half. Great balance.
  • It is hard to tell how well Tony Hunt played at fullback without reviewing the game, but at first glance he seemed to be a willing blocker who knew where to go leading Brian Westbrook (10 touches, 58 yards) into and through the hole. Hunt also had six carries for 16 yards.
  • The defense was tremendous most of the game, especially up front. The Eagles had four sacks and both Trent Cole and Jerome McDougle dominated. Juqua Parker and Darren Howard also played particularly well.
  • Very good performance from some of the backup offensive linemen, including center Nick Cole and guard Max Jean-Gilles. They both stepped in midway through the first half and the offense kept rolling.
  • Jason Avant made a spectacular touchdown catch, L.J. Smith was a force with three catches for 44 yards and Hank Baskett caught a couple of passes for 15 yards. Had Baskett not fumbled a near-touchdown through the end zone, the score would have been even more lopsided. This is the way the Eagles must approach things: Spread the ball around. Create matchups. Get the ball to Jackson, Westbrook, Lorenzo Booker and others in space and let Smith and Avant work the middle of the field.
  • Sav Rocca had an incredible game, averaging 48.5 yards -- with a 48.5-yard net -- on four punts and doing a superb job on his directional kicking with two inside the 20-yard line. What a weapon he was on Friday night!
  • Kevin Kolb completed 9 of 14 passes and looked really good on a field goal drive early in the third quarter. He will play a lot on Thursday night in the preseason finale.
  • Can McDougle make this team? He has enjoyed a very good preseason, and it couldn't happen to a nicer person. Good for him.
  • Great way for Samuel to start the game, by upending Randy Moss on an end-around for a loss of 5 yards. Samuel was ready to play against his former team, and had fun playing with the fans on the sidelines.
  • Demps didn't play very well at cornerback, which means the Eagles still don't have a sure-thing fifth cornerback on this roster.
  • Good game, again, by Lito Sheppard. He nearly picked off a pass early and is certainly buzzing around the ball.
  • Eight penalties for 121 yards. That has to end. Reid was not pleased with all the penalties. Nobody should be pleased.
  • The Eagles were six of 12 on third downs. Excellent.
  • The injury to Brian Dawkins is a concern, no question. We'll find out more on Sunday when Reid updates the media after Dawkins' MRI, but you never like it when a veteran player goes out with an ankle injury.
  • The defensive line has a chance to be really good, and could be great when Chris Clemons gets back on the field. He needs to be productive. He needs to help, especially in the nickel. I love the way Dan Klecko and Trevor Laws are playing, by the way. They are excellent complements to Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley.
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