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Thoughts From Preseason Opener

There was some good and some not as good against the Patriots. The defense had more downs than ups, while the offense operated smoothly with both Michael Vick and Nick Foles at the helm, and then Matt Barkley came on and played well in his NFL preseason debut.

More than anything, it was a night to evaluate, dissect and start to correct as the Eagles look ahead to Thursday's preseason game No. 2 against Carolina.

With that, some observations …

  • As he did in the two days of practices at the NovaCare Complex earlier in the week, Tom Brady was dominating against the Eagles' defense. He led New England to a pair of touchdown drives and threw the ball to spots and let his receivers make plays. And they did. Brady completed 7 of 8 passes for 65 yards and a touchdown, a picture-perfect throw to running back Shane Vereen for 13 yards against tight Mychal Kendricks coverage. The Patriots gained 95 rushing yards and 65 passing yards with Brady in the game for two possessions.
  • The defense did not tackle well. There was a blown coverage or two, but the real problem for the defense was poor tackling. On the very first play from scrimmage, Stevan Ridley went for 62 yards. He went up the gut, got away from safety Nate Allen and nearly went the distance.
  • Michael Vick was terrific. He converted a third-and-6 throw to Jason Avant for 22 yards to keep the first drive alive, and then tossed a perfect 47-yard strike to DeSean Jackson down the right sideline for a touchdown. The offensive line, with Allen Barbre at left tackle, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson, did a superb job together. Vick finished the night 4 of 5 for 94 yards and the score. His lone incomplete pass was a low throw to Avant. Vick played excellent football in his two drives.
  • Meanwhile, Nick Foles had a pair of drives and scored a touchdown on one. He fumbled when hit from the backside to end his first possession, and then led the Eagles on a 66-yard touchdown drive on his second possession. Foles completed 5 of 6 passes for 43 yards and ran once for 10 yards. It's hard to say who really had the advantage, but Vick certainly opened eyes with his great start.
  • Very strong game from Bryce Brown, who worked as the second halfback behind the much-improved Chris Polk. Brown carried 5 times for 22 yards and a touchdown and added a couple of catches. He's dropped a few passes in Training Camp, so it was good to see Brown gain some confidence.
  • Some bright spots for the defense: Vinny Curry had a quarterback sack and a couple of quarterback hurries and Patrick Chung, who played quite a bit, lined up and did a nice job covering the slot receiver. The Eagles want to see just how versatile Chung can be.
  • Interesting to watch Trent Cole and how the Eagles used him. He dropped into coverage quite a bit, but he also put his hand in the dirt and lined up as an end in a 4-3 front.
  • Hope that Jon Dorenbos stays healthy. He left with a head injury and Brent Celek came in to snap on punts and field goals. Celek works at it, and he worked at it on the sidelines, but a bad snap at the end of the first half cost the Eagles a field goal attempt and nearly got holder Donnie Jones injured with a big hit.
  •  Damaris Johnson continued his outstanding summer with a 62-yard punt return. He may or may not return punts – Jackson is pretty good at it, too – but Johnson showed he has the quickness and speed to make big plays all over the field.
  • Really poor performance on the LeGarrette Blount 51-yard touchdown run on which he doubled back and went untouched when, in truth, the Eagles should have tackled him for a loss.
  • Matt Barkley came on strong after a so-so start. He ended up with 11 completions in 22 attempts with a touchdown on a bubble screen pass to Greg Salas. Barkley has enough arm for the NFL and he gets the ball out quickly and makes good decisions. He may not be in the equation to start right now, but it won't be long before Barkley challenges.
  • Nice work from Chris McCoy in his first NFL game. He's long and can drop in coverage, and McCoy had a very nice sack of Tim Tebow in the fourth quarter before he left the game with a knee injury.
  • How many tight ends will the Eagles keep? It could be three or four, and if it is four then Clay Harbor is making his statement. Harbor had 3 catches for 47 yards and looked very athletic in this offense.
  • Lane Johnson … what, no mention? The rookie is fantastic. He was more than solid in his preseason debut. No glaring errors. Looked extremely solid technically. And he's been playing a lot of left tackle in camp, showing his natural athletic ability and his great upside.
  • Can Salas make a run at this roster? He played very well during the week against New England and followed it up with three catches on Friday night. His final grab, from G.J. Kinne, was a terrific one-handed, leaping catch.
  •  Felix Jones ran the ball well enough, especially up the middle with some power, but he also dropped two passes.
  • Kelly mixed in the no-huddle offense and had some effectiveness. His game plan was vanilla, but the pace was still fast. The great thing is this: The pace is only going to become faster when the regular season gets underway.
  • Defensively? Once again, it's all about the tackling. The Eagles can't miss chances like they had on Friday night. It will be a point of emphasis leading into the Carolina game.
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