First, Michael Vick. Tremendous night for Vick, and not because he went 4 of 4 passing for 19 yards and not because he began his comeback as an Eagle with some on-target throws and good reads. It was so great for Vick because he appreciated everything so much, because he heard how Eagles fans cheered when he trotted onto the field and he *felt *the love as they stood and supported him. Vick's story was a big one on Thursday night, of course, and it was one of many to discuss after a 33-32 comeback victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Eagles used Vick for six snaps -- a seventh was scheduled but the Eagles had to call timeout when they sent Donovan McNabb off the field and wanted to send in Vick, but the play was called too late -- and he was a factor. Two of the completions were shovel passes, one was a bubble screen to DeSean Jackson that went nowhere and the best was a dart completion to Hank Baskett for 13 yards. Vick also ran once when he faked a handoff to LeSean McCoy out of the shotgun formation and ran to the left edge and gained a yard.
And then there was the one snap when McNabb was lined up at quarterback and Vick was in the left slot and McNabb handed off inside and then faked a throw to Vick.
Great fun. Actually, the Jaguars defended Vick very well as the Eagles ran their basic, introductory X's and O's with him. As Vick said after, the experience was a chance to "get my feet wet and get a feel for the game again." What happens next and how the Eagles incorporate Vick into the offense is up to head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and, really, how the players respond to the unusual treatment of an unusual talent.
Some will form an opinion on Vick and what his presence means to the "flow" and the "rhythm" of the offense based on one game, and that is entirely stupid. What Vick did on Thursday was shed the shock of being back in the game, of being an Eagle.
"I can't explain the feeling. It was unbelievable the way I was embraced and the warm welcome I received," he said in a great, heartfelt post-game press conference. "It actually made me screw up one of my reads. I wanted to please the crowd and I actually made a bad play. I came back from it, but it was awesome.
"The sky's the limit. I sat on the sideline today and was thinking about so many different things that we can do. It's almost scary. We've got a great staff and they are very good at coming up with concepts that can put this team in a position to win and I'm excited. Whatever I have to do, I can do it all. I did it all when I was younger; I can do it all now. Down the road, I'll be back at the quarterback position full time, but as of right now I just have to do what I can to win."
So it was all about football for Vick and for the Eagles and for the fans at a sold-out Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday night. Some arrived a bit late for the first Vick snap, but they were all in their seats as the third quarter ended and the starters exited the field. The offense struggled along through the game, stunted by a couple of costly turnovers -- a swing pass that was actually a lateral that bounced away from running back LeSean McCoy and was returned 92 yards by the Jaguars for a touchdown and then by a McNabb interception that set up another Jacksonville touchdown.
McNabb was off and then on and then off again. The running game wasn't very productive, even with Jason Peters at left tackle and Stacy Andrews at right guard. Jacksonville blitzed the Eagles with some success.
McNabb got it going in the third quarter and then gave way to Kevin Kolb, who 10 of 18 for 102 yards and led a beautiful fourth-quarter comeback to get the victory. In all, the Eagles passes an absurd 58 times -- clearly, they wanted Kolb to get as many throws as possible -- and completed 35 of them for 365 yards.
Things to work on? Plenty. The red zone is still not producing touchdowns, but McNabb pooh-poohed any idea of frustration, saying the Eagles aren't yet running their red-zone offensive package. The running game? Yeah, it has to be better, and it will be when Brian Westbrook -- a healthy scratch on Thursday night -- plays against Carolina. Pass protection? Of course. It can always improve.
How about McNabb, who went 21 of 35 for 244 yards? He needs to slow down a little bit and put the ball in tight windows, and McNabb knows it. Ups and downs in the preseason.
At the end of the night, considering everything, there were way, way more ups. Macho Harris suffered an ankle injury that will require an MRI, but there aren't any apparent serious injuries. Vick was received warmly and the team embraced his positive night. Yeah, the Eagles need to get better in a lot of areas, but so does every team.
It was a good night for a preseason game. Around the next corner is a quick round of cuts -- the Eagles must get down to 75 players by Tuesday, and they could cut over the weekend -- and then a fourth preseason game for the reserves on Thursday. And, of course, an eye or two is on the Panthers, who wait on September 13.
And then there is the continuing Vick saga, which leaped a hurdle on Thursday night. He said he was "70 percent" in his return, which makes for an exciting prospect to see the other 30 percent.
"It's been a long journey for me and I just want to do it right this time around," said Vick, "and make the most of my situation. The sky is the limit."
Amen to that ...
* OBSERVATIONS FROM EAGLES-JAGUARS GAME *
- Eldra Buckley played an excellent game on special teams. He really hustled down the field and, if I had to guess, made a very, very strong case to make this team. We know he has run the ball well and has blocked OK, and the edge over Lorenzo Booker could be the way Buckley plays on special teams.
- I don't see it for Jeremy Maclin as a return man. I think he is pushing big time as a wide receiver, but I don't see it as a return man. Ellis Hobbs should return kickoffs. Punt returns? DeSean Jackson is one of the best in the game. I say go with him.
- Macho Harris and Quintin Demps split time at free safety until Harris re-injured his ankle. Demps had a couple of big plays and was around the ball a lot.
- Joe Mays had a good game at middle linebacker, although Moises Fokou saw some time in the middle as well. I didn't think it was Fokou's strongest game. He made a costly penalty and wasn't as active as he had been in previous games.
- Dan Klecko had a good series of plays at defensive tackle in the third quarter. And Trevor Laws showed up and made some moves in the backfield.
- Matt Wilhelm had an excellent second half. Excellent.
- Danny Amendola is going to have a tough time making this team, but he had a dazzling 40-yard punt return.
- Bryan Smith had the best game of his preseason and is making a strong, strong push. Great interception and good pressure.
- Good to see Kevin Kolb get into the action. His first play was an intentional grounding out the end zone, which resulted in a safety. Not Kolb's fault, as the Jags blitzed him off the right side. Kolb threw a great, great pass to Reggie Brown for a touchdown.
- Loved Brown's performance and that from Brandon Gibson in the fourth quarter. Gibson made a couple of nice catches.
- Tough injury for Todd Herremans, but the Eagles expect Shawn Andrews to practice perhaps as early as Saturday.
- The Eagles clearly need work on their third downs and in the red zone. That will come, people, that will come.
- How big was that for David Akers to win the game at the end after missing a field goal two weeks earlier in the loss to New England? I think it was huge for Akers.
- Another excellent game for Sav Rocca, who averaged 46.5 yards gross punting and averaged 40.3 yards net. Good stuff.
- Jason Avant caught 5 passes for 92 yards and some of those grabs were simply outstanding. What a terrific slot receiver he is for this offense.
- Great game by cornerback/return man Ellis Hobbs. He tackled well and made plays in pass coverage. It was by far Hobbs' best performance as an Eagles.