Friday, August 09, 2013

Eagles come up short in Kelly's preseason debut

Chip Kelly's preseason debut was a mixed bag
PHILADELPHIA - Tom Brady was brilliant during his short stint on Friday as the New England Patriots topped the Eagles, 31-22, in Chip Kelly's preseason coaching debut.

Brady was in for just two series and piloted the Pats to back-to-back touchdowns, first playing spectator and then surgeon.

Stevan Ridley bursted through the middle for a 62-yard gain on the game's first offensive play and Brady handed it off five more times on the drive from there with Ridley capping things with a 1-yard touchdown run.

After Michael Vick did the most with "his turn in the rotation," first tossing a 22-yard strike to Jason Avant before hitting DeSean Jackson in stride for a 47-yard scoring pass two plays later, Brady went to work, connecting on 7-of-8 passes, including a 13-yard TD pass to running back Shane Vereen.

Vereen split out wide on the play and Brady threw a pinpoint pass past linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who had decent coverage but couldn't get his head around in time.

Brady finished with an impressive 140.1 passer rating and Vick, believe it or not, was even better, wrapping up his night 4-of-5 for 94 yards and the score with a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

“Mike had a great read based on the coverage," Kelly said when talking about the TD pass to Jackson. "Usually when you’re throwing deep, not everyone is running deep. You have check-downs and you have people running underneath. You have to read the coverage. It was a great play by Mike and DeSean, and obviously [DeSean] is a great weapon to use at our disposal. I thought Mike did a great job of reading the coverage and throwing it on time.”

Vick, however, didn't really separate himself as much as you would think in his quarterback duel with Nick Foles. The veteran really didn't run much read-option or misdirection and Kelly didn't feel comfortable enough to run his up-tempo stuff until Foles, the second-year signal caller from Arizona,
entered. Foles finished 5-of-6 for 43 yards, largely against the Pats' second-team defense and will get his opportunity to start against Carolina next week.

“We’re going to pull the trigger before we game plan for the (season opener against the) Washington Redskins,” Kelly said after the game when queried about the QB competition.  “We have to have a quarterback in place when we’re really getting ready and getting into the meat and potatoes of what our game plan is going to be.  That quarterback will be named.”

Ridley piled up 92 rushing yards on just eight carries while LeGarrett Blount, who starred under Kelly at Oregon, was even better for the Pats, biting his old coach with 101 yards on 11 carries, including a brilliant zig-zagging 51-yard TD run. New England finished the game with an imposing 248
rushing yards on 31 attempts.

“I think there were a couple of missed tackles out there," Kelly said. "I’ve seen LeGarrett do that a couple of times when I coached him. He’s a big strong physical back and you have to get a lot of guys to the ball. We missed a gap on the first long run to start the game. We’ll watch the film and make sure we understand exactly what happened and try to correct those mistakes when we come back on Sunday.”

Chris Polk got the start at running back for the Birds but was unimpressive, gaining just seven yards on four carries. Matthew Tucker led Philadelphia with 33 yards rushing on 10 carries, while Greg Salas was the top receiver, snaring three balls for 54 yards and a TD. Embattled receiver Riley Cooper was largely a non-factor, being targeted two times and catching one for 19 yards.

Rookie Matt Barkley followed Vick and Foles and played poorly for the most part until finishing strong, completing 11-of-22 passes for 103 yards and a 12-yard TD to Salas. Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne saw mop-up duty with Kinne finding Salas for a 35-yard gain down to the New England 2-yard line on
the penultimate play of the game.

The injuries also continued to pile up for the Eagles. Long snapper Jon Dorenbos went down with a possible concussion in the second quarter, and reserve linebackers Jamar Cheney (shoulder), Clay Matthews (left knee) and Chris McCoy (left knee) were all forced to leave early.

New England, meanwhile, lost its backup QB Ryan Mallett, who finished 9-of-18 for 97 yards, to a head injury. Third-stringer Tim Tebow was his usual inaccurate self, completing 4-of-12 passes for 55 yards.

Scout's Honor:

The preseason is the place to evaluate players not teams. Remember there is no game-planning during these contests so you really can't formulate concrete opinions on the schemes being used by Kelly and defensive coordinator Billy Davis.

With that in mind here are our thoughts on a few of the Eagles players tonight:

Barkley wasn't impressive in his extended playing time with the backups. His first NFL throw was a deep ball to fellow rookie Russell Shepard that died in the air. Obviously that is not going to help the perception of Barkley's underwhelming arm strength.

The Eagles really need to get looks at defensive lineman Vinny Curry and rookie Bennie Logan against first-team competition. Both flashed tonight against lesser players and could be better options up front than Cedric Thornton and Isaac Sopoaga right now. And by the way don't buy the hype on Sopoaga. He was an average player in San Francisco playing with guys like Justin Smith and Aldon Smith. What does that tell you?

Meanwhile, Brandon Graham is clearly this team's best pass rusher and could be a nickel terror if used correctly.

“We always knew that Vinny could get after the quarterback and I was pleased with him," Kelly said. "I thought Brandon Graham did a really good job. Those are two dynamic guys. You continue to look at packages, especially your nickel package in terms of how you can get your best pass rushers on the field."

As mentioned Polk started in place of Shady McCoy, who didn't dress. Polk has been the better player at camp but Bryce Brown just might be the cliched "gameday player." He's far more explosive obviously and actually caught the ball tonight.

“I think those guys are a lot like the quarterbacks. I wouldn’t read too much into who played first," Kelly said when discussing the backup RB situation. "I thought Bryce played really well tonight, and Chris has played really well in camp and did some nice things. We feel like besides LeSean [McCoy], we have a couple of guys that can play, so we really were just rolling those guys.”

Forget about Ifeanyi Momah at wide receiver. There is just no suddeness to his game whatsoever. Salas is far more polished and it's mystifying to me why he hasn't risen up the depth chart after the injuries to Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn. His ceiling is limited but he offers far more than players like Momah, Shepard or even Damaris Johnson.

“He’s one of those guys that just keeps showing up," Kelly said of Salas. "He’s that guy that whenever he gets his opportunity, he seems to step up. That’s an important thing, because depth at wide receiver is a huge question for us right now. But you have a guy that has a little experience, and that showed today. He kind of has a knack for making plays. Every time you get a chance to get on the field, you’re building your resume, and he keeps building his resume and showing up, and everybody will take notice of him.”

Fletcher Cox and Kendricks need to be playmakers on this defense and both struggled at times tonight. Cox was absolutely blown up on Ridley's long run and Kendricks continues to be the kind of player who is around the ball but rarely makes a play on it.

Finally, if Kelly truly needs to evaluate Vick and Foles further why is he deferring the opening kickoff and possibly taking valuable reps away from them?

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