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The kickoff of week 2 of preseason football in the NFL and what a dazzling matchup we had in the city of brotherly love as Chip Kelly and the Eagles faced off with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. And of course all eyes were on the quarterback competition and who would stand out. But both Michael Vick and Nick Foles are making it tough for Eagles head coach Chip Kelly to make a decision after playing the way they did in the Eagles 14-9 victory over the Panthers to pick up his first victory in the NFL. Yes it’s preseason but hey small victories! We are two preseason games in and Kelly despite saying last night he hasn’t made a decision on who the quarterback is for the regular season opener, he has to make a decision now! Here is my take on last night’s performances and more….
The QB Competition
-QB Michael Vick:(Stats: 9/10 105yds 0 TDs, 1 int; 70.8 QB Rating; 2 rush 20yds) The four time pro bowl quarterback showed why last night he has been a starter in this league.Vick was sharp out there and was nearly flawless. His only incompletion came off a hail mary at the end of the 1st half which can’t count against him too much. I would hope in regular season situation he would just throw it away.
I know everyone wants to focus on the stats and thinks whoever has the better stats is the one that is going to win this battle but there is more to it than that. Look at the way he is operating this offense. He is running the way that Kelly invisioned it. He is showing a quick release and a better read of what he has to do with the football prior to the snap. More importantly he is driving this offense down the football field which is key in a game that is won and loss in the battle of field position.
Like I said last week, it is the same this week just look at Vick’s demeanor when he is back there. Chip Kelly’s offense and gameplan has really changed how Vick approaches the game. He was calm, cool and collective out there going through his progressions while standing in the pocket to find an open target with all the time in the world thanks to tremendous protection up front. And even making some solid throws on the run with pressure in his face. Normally this was a Vick that would panic at the first sign of trouble and try to make it on the highlight reel but now we are seeing a Vick that is just trying to live another down and do enough not to cost the team.
He is getting everyone involved in the offense and not just staring down one receiver. His accuracy has drastically improved and feels like he is insync an has built that chemistry with his weapons. He hit a couple of big shots to WR Riley Cooper and Desean Jackson for key 1st downs to move the chains on his 2nd drive which eventually lead to a touchdown.
-QB Nick Foles:(Stats: 6/8 53yds 0 TD, 1 int; 52.6 QB Rating; 2 rush 13yds 1 TD): Foles once again really came through. He looked solid out there running the offense efficiently and effectively. He going through his reads and finding weapons open. The few things that is keeping Foles good and not great is his lack of risk taking.
Now this can be a good thing but also can be a bad thing. He is way too conservative with the football. Short gains and establishing a rhythm is fine but we need to see him take a shot. There are going to be times where you need your QB to step up and make a play to pick up a 2nd or 3rd and long. In his defense, he didn’t get put in that situation often when we have he goes to his security blanket of dumping down hoping his receiver can make a play to pick up the 1st down. Another issue has been hanging onto the football.
We crucified Vick all last season for turning the football over and rightfully so. But in this offense you live and die by your signal caller’s performance. So far Foles has been the guy to have issues. He turned the ball over for a 2nd consecutive game with a costly decision on a horrendous throw to the back of the endzone and picked up by Panthers Josh Thomas after a bad snap. We have seen time and time again when Foles gets flustered and rush he forces his throws. And this is all part of a young quarterback’s progressions but it’s the little things like this that are accounted for in a quarterback competition. Foles has shown in due time he can start in Kelly’s offense but for right now he is a quality backup.
Through two games, Vick is 13 of 15 for 199 yards, one TD, one interception and a passer rating of 113.1. Foles is 11 of 14 for 96 yards, no TDs, one pick and a passer rating of 65.7. Both quarterbacks have played well showing they can run this offense and move the football on defenses but really Vick has clearly played better. He is hanging onto the football, making great decisions and reads, and his athletic ability fits what Kelly needs from his quarterback in this offense. He needs that dual threat as his signal caller that opposing defenses fear and gameplan against.
We are now entering the 3rd preseason game and this is when team’s install their gameplans and give their starters a last dress rehearsal before the regular season. That is why it’s even more important to name your starter now and give these guys as many reps as they can get together to build that continiuity and chemistry and show what this offense can really do. Vick agrees but went on to say that he can’t dwell on things that are out of his control so by him saying that he wants to know who is the starter and I think Kelly owes it to both Vick and Foles as well as the team.
Last week after the gashing the Patriots put on this defense, I bashed them pretty hard but the defense was able to bounce back this week making some progress. But there are still issues that this unit needs to address.
We saw a defense that was more aggressive, more physical, and overall just played better. This was a defense that gave up over 200yds on the ground a week ago against New England going up against another solid rushing offense behind QB Cam Newton, RB DeAngelo Williams and RB Johnathan Stewart who was out with an injury but they regrouped and held the Panthers offense to only 74yds on the ground and 3.0 yards a carry.
They showed better gap dicipline knowing their assignments, closing holes quickly and not allowing much running room for the backs which starts all up front with the big 3. Cedric Thornton and Fletcher Cox have continued to impress and cause havoc for opposing team’s offenses. Both making plays in the backfield against the run and getting solid pressure on QB Cam Newton making him run for his life.
Newton struggled, 8/17 112 yds(6.6yds a attempt) no TDs with a QB rating of 68.8 and more importantly the defense kept the Panther’s 1st string offense out of the endzone which is a huge plus but still issues in the secondary.
CB Cary Williams talked this past week saying that no one fears this defense well he is right but maybe he should take a long hard look at himself. He looked softer than a cotton shirt. He was getting exploited out there. Kelly went on to say they had him play off his man due to his injury and didn’t want him to physical. Whether that had something to do with it or not but he was giving up pass after pass thrown his way. And CB Bradley Fletcher looked confused out there on what his assignment was especially on a miscue with him and S Nate Allen in zone coverage allowing Brandon Lafell to get open in space for a big first down.
I just feel this defense is going to have issues stopping teams through the air. They lack the depth in the secondary and honestly don’t have a talented group that can really make an impact and start in this league. And when they are allowing the big pass play, they steer away from contact and can’t tackle. S Patrick Chung has shown to be the only exception right now but one man can’t cover up the issues in this secondary.
Stars of The Game
-RB Lesean McCoy- We finally saw our first glimpse of Lesean McCoy in game action under Chip’s new offense since he has been lingered with an injury and boy did he shine! Just the moves he was putting out there especially on the 21 yd run juking all the Panthers defenders out of their shoes. SEE FOR YOURSELF! He got limited touches but made the most of them for 47yds on 8 carries(5.9 per attempt) and a 1 yard touchdown run. Also making an impact in the passing game with 3 receptions for 16yds but what he is doing when he doesn’t get the ball.
McCoy has really improved his pass protection. There was a play on Foles first drive where they are backed up in their own territory and pressure was there but McCoy steps up and makes a nice block to prevent the sack and the safety on Foles. He has really shown he can be an all around back in this league with running the football, catching and now blocking.
-WR/Returner Damaris Johnson- Everyone talks about how the Eagles need to have Desean Jackson as a full time returner but Johnson is turning some heads and making his case. I agree in certain situations to have D-Jack back there because his speed and vision is remarkable but after the past few seasons of Eagles special teams being horrendous, things have really come along. He busted a punt return for 30 yards and a punt return for 18 yards to set the Eagles offense up in great field position which is what you need from your returner.
-LB Mychal Kendricks: There are a few guys that made some plays for this defense, Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Vinny Curry but I liked what I saw from Kendricks. He had a rough outing last week against the Patriots. He looked like he was second guessing himself and unaware of the situations but last night made some impactful plays. A few tackles for a loss or short gains and I liked how Billy Davis used his speed to his advantage in a few blitz packages and was able to get some knocks on Cam Newton. That is just Davis utilizing Kendricks’ strengths to his advantage.
-Offense: B: Offense was superb. Vick and Foles both moved the football efficiently down the field and ran this no huddle up temp offense well. Up front the offensive line held up and gave great protection and opened holes in the running game and this is still without Jason Peters. Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson had a few moments in pass protection that they struggled but stepped up as the game went on.
Thing that is still an issue is ball security. The one erratic pass by Foles in the back of the endzone to take points off the board and RB Chris Polk has impressed in practice but really has had problems transfering that to the field, having a costly fumble stalling a promising drive.
-Defense: A-: We saw a defense that made leaps and bounds from week 1. There weren’t Panthers players running free for big gains due to better gap discipline and closing running lanes. The pass rush had Cam Newton running for his life most of the game and we saw a better tackling team overall since the first game. Still issues in the secondary and I would like to see some more playmakers and come up with a key turnover to change the momentum of the game. They had some chances but let them fall through their grasp. Everyone keeps saying well it’s the Panthers and yes it’s a different year but I’m sure fans still remember Newton lighting this defense up last year on Monday Night Football….
-Special Teams: B+: Some nice returns by Damaris Johnson and Brandon Boykin and the coverage units are controlling opposing team’s return game. Something that is alarming is Alex Henery missing a 43 yard field goal. In his career he has been pretty much automatic going 15/16 with attempts between 40-49 yards to miss his first shot of the preseason.
-Overal: B+: We saw a more clean, discipline football game from the Eagles. We didn’t see too many mistakes. Everyone seem to know there assignment and wasn’t a lot of miscommunication. Like Kelly said in his post game press conference, we are pleased but not satisfied. That pretty much sums it up. We have seen a lot of promise from this squad but still some glaring holes that need to be address and fixed!