The Eagles got their preseason schedule underway on Sunday against the Colts at Lincoln Financial Field. The Birds put together a 36-10 win over Indy despite not having a bulk of their starters available. Here are five observations from the game:
Note: It is the first preseason game. It barely means anything. Do not overreact. Everything will probably change in two weeks.
The Eagles wide receiver core has a chance to be special
Yes, we all know it is the first preseason game and we should not overreact like most fans want to. The score doesn't matter. The rep count doesn't matter. What does matter is a small snippet of plays that can actually provide some insight.
First off, Jordan Matthews is going to be a star in this league. He snags everything that is in his vicinity with virtual ease...(having someone that can get it in the vicinity is an entirely different issue, we'll get there). Matthews runs great routes and seems to have build on a solid rookie campaign in which he caught 67 balls for 872 yards and eight touchdowns. There's no reason anyone should believe he is not taking the next step.
Secondly, Nelson Agholor was a good pick in the 2015 Draft. He could easily make up for the offseason loss of Jeremy Maclin.He was targeted five times and caught three of those balls for 57 yards.
He has tremendous speed, as shown on his 34-yard touchdown grab from Mark Sanchez in the first quarter. The throw from Sanchez was terribly high, but Agholor reached up and made a great catch, then turned on the burners to take it to the house. He is prone to drops a little bit, but he is still a rookie so there is obviously a learning curve.
Even Miles Austin made an appearance. He caught a 39-yard down the sideline from Matt Barkley that put the Eagles in the Red Zone.
One play, yes, but Austin could be a good option down the road if anyone gets hurt. He caught both balls thrown his way for 41 yards. Really nothing to lose there if he were to make the team.
Riley Cooper was pretty much missing in action. He caught a screen pass that counted as a rush, but nothing down the field. He is still a question mark in the offense, but it was clear he will be the third option behind Matthews and Agholor. Josh Huff has to fit in there somewhere too.
It's a very explosive unit, to say the least.
Mark Sanchez was not good
The headline phrases it pretty much the only way it can be. Sanchez was not good on Sunday. He was inaccurate on nearly every throw, despite the stats showing he threw a 34-yard touchdown to Agholor. He missed a WIDE OPEN Matthews more than once in his two drives of action.
Sanchez ended up 2-for-7 for 52 yards, with 34 of them coming when Agholor saved him.It wasn't just that Sanchez was missing his target, he was missing badly.
"He had a couple high throws," Kelly said. "He has to get his feet set a little bit but I thought he played with good tempo. As a group we were all on the same page. Guys were clicking and guys were hitting. I'm sure he wants a couple of those throws back just because they were so high."
Eagles fans should be worried. If Bradford were to go down in the regular season, things would not be pretty. Sure, they might have enough talent to win a few games with Sanchez taking the snaps, but they won't compete at a high level.
Plus, Sanchez is clearly the better option than Barkley or Tebow as a backup. Barkley had flashes on Sunday, but then reverted to the quarterback plagued by turnovers. He did show more tha he did all of last, so he has to be taken into consideration. Tebow was Tebow. You pretty much know what you are going to get from him, and it's nothing spactacular.
Maybe Birds gang can take comfort in knowing that Sanchez was making the right reads, but the actual throws were atrocious. It could be mechanical. Maybe it was too hot for him. Who knows. It probably can't get much worse than it was on Sunday. Probably.
The front seven was dominant. The secondary, not so much
Let me repeat. It is the first game of the preseason. Nothing is set in stone. Heck, we probably shouldn't even take anything away from this game.
One thing we can take away is the front seven is going to be just fine. Despite missing Mychal Kendricks, Kiko Alonso and DeMeco Ryans to injury, the front seven did a great job in their time on the field.
The shining star was Bennie Logan, who showed he is more than ready for the regular season. He wreaked havoc on the Colts offensive line, accounting for three tackles in the first half. It may not sound like much, but he was right there on nearly every play while Luck was in the game for Indy.
When the linebacking core is back to full strength, expect the Eagles to have one of the best rush defenses in the league this season.
That being said, the secondary did not look all that great. There were plenty of lapses that allowed Colts to run free and pick up big yardage. Andrew Luck only played one and a half drives, but was 5-for-6 for 43 yards. He made things look easy, then got the hook because he's much too valuable to be wasted on a 90 plus degree day in mid-August.
The loss of JaCorey Shepherd will hurt the secondary. Earl Wolff was inactive on Sunday. These are things the Eagles will have to deal with.
One of the bright spots was rookie Eric Rowe out of Utah. In the second quarter, he got beat off the line by Phillip Dorsett, but made up the ground and stripped the ball from him, which was recovered by Chris Prosinski. He was flying all over the field making plays, looking the part of a second round pick.
Cody Parkey has some work to do
With the extra points being moved back to the 15 yard line, there has been chatter that Chip Kelly would just be going for two all the time. He didn't on Sunday, but the chatter is not going to go away.
Cody Parkey missed two extra points on the afternoon, adding to the notion that it might just be worth it to go for two points all the time. He also missed a field goal. His 48 yard field goal was an ugly line drive that did not look good coming off the foot. He was 3-for-4 on field goals.
Parkey was one of the best kickers in the NFL last season. He made all of his 54 extra point attempts and was 32-for-36 on field goals. He was 14-for-16 from 30-39 yards out, which is the range the new extra point is in.
Perhaps it was just a bad day, maybe it's a systemic problem. Who knows. No doubt it's making Kelly think twice before sending out the kicking unit after a touchdown from now on.
Kenjon Barner was impressive, proving there could be a spot for him
Barner, the Oregon product, is not a sure fire lock to make the team. He is probably sitting in the fourth running back spot behind DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles.
He did all he could to make sure that Chip is thinking more than enough before sending him to pack up his locker. Barner handled punt return duties after Cooper was done for the day, and took back a booming Pat McAfee punt 92 yards for a touchdown that would have been the second longest in Eagles history if it were in the regular season. He also rushed for 29 yards on eight carries, including a touchdown.
Barner showed great speed to the outside and made the right leads on lanes to hit all day long. It's a given that Kelly likes his style, if only for being a Duck.
If he makes the team, he probably wouldn't see much playing time unless Sproles or Huff were to get hurt. But it has to be nice for Kelly to have an explosive guy like him in your pocket if he needs him at any point.