It’s everyone’s favorite part of the season! …Yeah, maybe not, but it’s nice to watch some football again, and the new-look Eagles showed their fans a lot tonight against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Eagles wound up winning 28-27 but everyone knows the score doesn’t matter in preseason football. What matters this year is apparent to everyone: how does the team look without Donovan McNabb whining — I mean, standing — behind center?
Unlike what many of the pro analysts of ESPN, NFL Network and Sports Illustrated thought, the Eagles didn’t implode once they stepped on the field without #5. In fact, they looked as though they’ve been ready for this for a while, and came out livelier than most seasons in their first preseason game. There were some disappointing parts, but nothings ever perfect. Here’s some of the pros and cons from the first game of what’s sure to be an interesting season.
Kevin Kolb was solid. He went 6-11 for 95 yards and looked confident in the pocket. He had some impressive strikes to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin over the middle and acted like he was supposed to be there, because now, he is. He never missed a beat, and even scrambled twice for 15 yards which showed his head was fully in the game, looking over his progressions and still finding gaps in the defense to pick up some yards. Jackson was proud of Kolb and the rest of the starters during a side line interview.
“We’re the new young guys in town, we’re just doing what we need to do,” he said. They didn’t account for any touchdowns tonight, but for their first outing together they seemed to mesh well.
WR Riley Cooper seems like the real deal. He was Tim Tebow’s roommate at Florida, so he probably knows a thing or two about football. That doesn’t always translate from college ball, but he’s been a talking point throughout all of training camp. He stuck up for himself against Ellis Hobbs and has been turning heads with some great catches and solid route running. His best catch tonight was when he laid out for a lob pass from Michael Vick (we’ll get to him in a minute) and had three catches for 61 yards.
Vick was in rare form. I say rare because he played like a quarterback actually should, with the mindset of pass first, run second. He had a couple good runs, including his 10-yard scamper for a touchdown, but also made bad decisions on the ground when he tried that horrifying spin move that ended in a fumble. He also had an interception, but it was a pretty crisp pass to the Jacksonville defensive back so maybe he got confused by their green jerseys.
In all seriousness though, Vick’s performance showed that he worked hard in training camp to make up for his birthday debacle, and played like he wanted to be in the starting role. He could possibly be the best backup quarterback in the league, which is always a positive since the jury is still out, for now at least, on Kolb.
Defense showed some holes. Yes, it’s early still, but that doesn’t get you a free pass in Philly. Ten years ago, the Eagles’ defense was evolving into one of the best in the league. Now, at the start of the new decade, the Eagles’ defense doesn’t have a clear-cut direction. Will they shut down the passing game? Apparently not, as three touchdowns were scored through the air Friday, and none for less than 30 yards. Yes, they were against the second and third-team defenses, but the first-team squad still has some shaky components as well (they were only on the field for two sets of three-and-outs). The Jags only rushed the ball nine times all game, so we’ll have to wait and see how they look against the rush. Biggest disappointment of the night? Not seeing Brandon Graham’s name in the stat sheet.
David Akers went five for five. A perfect night with 15 points shouldn’t be viewed as a con, and that’s obviously not the negative side. The fact that Akers was relied upon this much in the first game was worrisome, especially since the first-team offense needed him to finish their drives twice. The Eagles needed Akers to hit four field goals in the red zone, a pathetic trend carrying over from last year. Philadelphia was notoriously unable to finish drives once they made it past their opponent’s 20, and if that rings true all season it’ll surely go downhill quickly.
The next game is against the Cincinnati Bengals, featuring Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. This is a great chance to see how the first-team offense does against dynamic receivers, and whether they can handle the play-action pass at all. And hopefully we’ll see some finished drives from the first-team offense. Until then, let’s hope Akers stays healthy.