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Eagles Drop Preseason Opener: More Positives than Negatives

McNabb runs away from the Steelers

The Eagles dropped their first preseason game, but they looked good doing it. The first team offense gave the Eagles a 10-7 lead, with a 3 yard touchdown pass from McNabb to Fullback Jason Davis.

Donovan McNabb looked impressive, going 10/13, 97 yards, and a touchdown. The important thing was you saw that mobility back that McNabb was lacking most of last season. He was moving around in the pocket comfortably, and scrambled around a bit, avoiding sacks. It’s good to see that again. On their first drive, they stalled in the red zone, (I hope that is not going to be the trend again this season) giving David Akers the opportunity to knock down a 28 yard field goal, which he did.

Akers also looked good. He lost some weight this offseason, and he just looks stronger. He nailed the opening kick-off out of the back of the end zone. I hope we see more of that this season.

Desean Jackson looked really impressive. He ran great routes, and showed that he has great hands. Eagles’ fans, you will be glad to know that Jackson can take a punch! He got nailed quite a few times, as he had 5 receptions for 51 yards, included a bullet from McNabb for a gain of about 19 yards. The other receivers all looked great too. Greg Lewis showed that he deserves to still be on this team. He made some great catches in traffic, and really just ran those great routes that have kept him on this team for so long. Kevin Curtis didn’t really do that much, but he did look good, showed that speed that made Eagles’ fall in love with him last season. Jason Avant and Hank Baskett were both clutch, and just looked outstanding. I can’t wait to see these two get more involved in this offense in their 3rd year.

The running backs weren’t all that impressive. Lorenzo Booker was great. He was dodging tackles and making positive yards. He has great hands, and you can just tell he is going to be a great complement to this offense. Correll Buckhalter was outstanding; catching screen passes and running the ball between the tackles. I would expect for him to get a fair share of touches this season.

The coaches made a decision not to let Brian Westbrook play in this game. (Seeing as he just signed a 6 year contract extension, they probably don’t want him getting hurt) Ryan Moats and Tony Hunt are battling for the fourth running back spot, if the Eagles even keep four backs. I would have to say from watching the game that Moats would get the job. Hunt made some decent plays, but he just looks too slow, and really, he’s missing that “playmaking ability.” I don’t think either of these guys is making the team.

The defense looked pretty good for the most part. They had a horrible first set. The run defense didn’t look that good, and the pass defense wasn’t any better. Brian Dawkins left his man (Santonio Holmes) wide open for a 19 yard catch and run for the Steelers first touchdown. After that they got on pace. The run defense tightened up, and the pass defense was much better. Stewart Bradley was all over the place. He covered well, and was up on the line, involved in every run play. I think we should all have high hopes for this defense this year. You have to believe they will only get better as the season goes on, especially with Asante Samuel in the secondary.

The most notable player on first team defense was strong safety Quintin Mikell. He covered great, hit extremely hard, and was everywhere that the ball was. I hope he really comes on big this year.
There isn’t a whole lot of good to say about the second and third team offenses. They failed to score on any of their drives. Kolb looked decent, and his drives stalled mostly from penalties. Kolb hit Jackson a few times, allowing him to showcase his speed and shiftiness, as he made a few guys miss and picked up good chunks of yardage.

A.J. Feeley looked horrible. He’s playing against the Steelers 3rd team defense. He should look like an MVP out there. He threw way too many incompletions, most of them his fault. The ball was almost always too high. He had a chance, with 33 seconds left in the game, to take the lead on a touchdown throw to Bam Childress, but the pass was about six feet too high. He just looked pathetic, and I see why Kolb jumped up to the Number 2 spot.

There were a few outstanding players on defense however. Joe Mays, number 51, has moved up the depth chart during training camp to the second team MLB, and it was easy to see why after tonight’s game. He was all over the field. He was great in coverage, he was great against the run, and he hits extremely hard. I would expect to see him get some playing time during the regular season.

Safety Quintin Demps looked good as well. He was good in coverage, although he did kind of miss a tackle. I say kind of because he didn’t tackle his guy, but was able to keep him from gaining yards until the rest of defense could get over there to bring him down. He also did a pretty good job on kick returns.

There was nothing special about special teams. Akers looks good, and I hope he has a better season than last year. Sav Rocca looked great. He hit his punts high and deep, but was unable to pin the steelers down behind the twenty, both of his punts going into the end zone.

Jackson was not spectacular. I think he actually had a negative punt return average. DON’T RUN BACKWARDS, ROOKIE! Hopefully he learns not to do that by the time the regular season comes around. His biggest gain was about five yards.

Booker was decent on kick returns, averaging about 24 yards per return. His longest was about 29 yards, but he muffed the catch to start the run. At least he made up for it with that decent return. Hopefully by the end of preseason, he’ll get a feel for it and be able to pull off some big gains.
I think the biggest surprise for me was Jerome McDougle. He got great penetration, and was running down the quarterback constantly.

The Eagles’ are going to have a really hard decision when it comes to him. I hope they find a way to keep him. He has fought hard, and looks too damn good to let go.

If this game is any indication, the Eagles need some work before the start of the season. The penalties were ridiculous, 10 penalties for 78 yards, and special teams really needs to get it together, but when the finished product takes the field on September 7th, we could be looking at a team that is better than the teams that went to four consecutive NFC Championship games.

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