Coming into Thursday night’s third preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, the Eagles were in about as much of a “must win” situation as a team can be in during the preseason. With the starters set to play the whole first half and then some, the Eagles needed a good showing.
While it was not a great showing, and some parts were down right ugly, the Eagles still did enough to beat the Browns first team handedly while both units were on the field.
It was not the dominating performance, however, that the Eagles were hoping to have that would erase questions that came out of the Steelers game last week.
Here is the good and the bad from the Eagles 24-14 over the Browns.
Jamaar Chaney and Casey Matthews- If were going to rip then when they play bad, it’s only fair to praise them when its due. And on Thursday night, the Eagles got solid play from their linebackers. Jamaar Chaney showed early on why they have him on the outside and not Matthews, as the athletic linebacker stayed with Peyton Hillis down the sideline and into the end zone, knocking the ball away at the last minute. The coverage came on a third down play after Michael Vick had fumbled the ball away, and stopped the momentum from swinging into the Browns direction even further. Casey Matthews, the subject of much public criticism, finally made some plays as he got behind the line and brought down the Cleveland Browns back multiple times. He also got in with Chaney on a third down stop early in the 2nd quarter.
Going for it on 4th down- Andy Reid made a great call early in the game, when he decided to go for it on 4th and 1 right around midfield. The play call was a good one, as Clay Harbour got around the end after a fake handoff and dove for a first down. But the decision to go for it gave the Eagles offense some life, and was a good chance during the preseason to simulate what, in a regular season game, would have been a big play.
John Dorenbos- Every year, the Eagles basically play one roster spot down, as they decide keep Jon Dorenbos on the roster just to snap the ball. But Dorenbos contributed in another way Thursday night, as he ran down the field and recovered a fumble that led to the Eagles first touchdown.
Ronnie Brown- Brown has had a good preseason so far, and that continued on Thursday. Brown showed great field vision and burst in his touchdown run to give the Eagles the early lead. Thought of as a player that was nothing more then insurance for LeSean McCoy, it would not be surprising to see Brown end the season with 6-7 touchdowns.
Brian Rolle- The rookie linebacker will not intimidate anyone with his size- he looks like Dion Lewis put on a linebacker number and snuck on the defense- but he saw early action with the first team defense on Thursday. Rolle did a good job early on when he came on the field as the nickel linebacker, and after coming into camp as a long shot, has a real chance to make this team.
Cullen Jenkins- Jenkins got around his blocker and into Colt McCoy’s face to force a bad throw late in the first quarter, which Asante Samuel was able to pick off. Jenkins pressure up the middle from the defensive tackle position is something the Eagles have not had in a long time. Asante Samuel, once thought to be upset with his position on the team, has to be happy to see what the new talent on this team will do for him.
Special Teams: Bobby Aprils unit showed why the special teams is a key part of the game. With the offense struggling and the Browns about to take the lead, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie swopped in and blocked the field goal to keep the game even. If DRC is going to play on special teams all year, he will get his fair share of blocks. His quickness and long arms will let him get around the edge, and get to the ball. The special teams came up with another big play when Sheldon Brown ran into the punt returner, knocking the ball free- which Jon Dorenbos recovered. In a game where the Eagles did not play well and let an improving- but still bad- Browns team stick around, the special team did it’s part to keep.
Winning: Say what you want about how poorly parts of the team played, but the Eagles still had a 17-0 lead going into the half. Taking such a large lead into the half showed that this team is capable of beating bad ones even when they don’t have their “A” game. It also showed that with an improved defense, their will be games where the offense will not have to be sharp- and can look downright ugly- and still can win the game.
Vick- The Eagles spent Thursday trying to say that Michael Vick is doing a good job picking up the blitz- and Vick spent all Thursday night proving he can’t. It was hard to tell with how the offensive line struggled, but Vick once again got hit from behind and was running for his life after failing to pick up the pressure. Vick also made some poor reads/throws into pressure for the second week in a row, and made some ugly slides. The one bright spot for Vick was his first half rushing touchdown, which showed that as ugly as it may look for Vick at times, he still can get it done.
Jason Kecle- Kelce looked lost and overmatched once again as he went up against a first team defense for the second time this preseason. Kelce got called for a bad holding that negated Reggie Brown run in the first quarter. He followed that up with a bad snap to Vick, which led to the franchise quarterback being sandwiched by two Brown defenders. Kelce’s play improved as the game went on, and had a key block on Reggie Brown’s touchdown run. Still, his play early on has to have Andy Reid thinkning twice about putting him in their in Week 1.
LeSean McCoy- McCoy was wide open all night, and made the Browns pay by catching 7 balls for 69 yards in the first half. But something that McCoy has done his hole career was on display again last night, and he ran around the field holding the ball far from his body. He didn’t fumble, but at one point the careless way he holds the ball is going to kill the Eagles.
Offensive Line- It is hard to look worse then the Eagles offensive line did. For all of the talk about Vick not being able to pick up the blitz, it may not matter- because defenders are going to be coming free into the backfield on every play regardless if they blitz or not.
Danny Watkins- Rookie mistakes by an offensive lineman can lean to a quarterback getting killed, and if Watkins makes the same mistakes he did on Thursday, Vick don’t make it out of Week 1. Watkins missed his assignment in the first quarter, which led to Vick getting nailed on the play before Ronnie Browns touchdown run. For Watkins to mess up coverage is concerning, but this particular play he missed he guy right in front of him, allowing his man to come in and get a clean shot at Vick. Watkins is going to be in their regardless of his play due to the lack of depth at his position. But if he is going to be missing such basic blocks, the Eagles cannot start Jason Kelce next to him.