The Eagles have their first NFL preseason game under their belts and for the first time we got to see this revamped team in game action – albeit fake game action. It’s way too early to make any final judgments on anything or any player, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take anything away from the Eagles’ 36-10 victory over Indianapolis on Sunday. So, here are a few random observations from our first look at the 2015 Eagles.
Young players catch on: Coach Chip Kelly got rid of two Pro Bowl wide receivers in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, but it looks like the Eagles’ passing game is literally in good hands with second-year man Jordan Matthews and rookie Nelson Agholor. Matthews looks more confident in his second season and Agholor flashed his big-play ability on his 34-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in the first quarter. We still have to see how the two fare when the games count and Matthews gets the defensive attention that goes to a No. 1 receiver and Agholor faces press defenses for the first time. But this was a pretty good start.
Defense toes the line: The one area on the team that wasn’t changed much from last year appears to be the strongest unit on the team. Granted, it was preseason and Colts QB Andrew Luck only played a couple of series, but the Eagles’ No. 1 defensive line dominated the Colts up front and that’s a good sign for the future. Especially impressive was nose tackle Bennie Logan, who disrupted almost every snap he faced. They still need more of an impact from their pass rush, but no team is going to push these guys around this year.
Marcus Smith is better, but… that doesn’t mean he’s good. Smith, the much-maligned No. 1 pick from last year, will get a lot of playing time in the preseason because there’s not much depth at outside linebacker. And he looked pretty good in coverage against the Colts, which led to a lot of observers talking about what a big step he’s made from Year 1 to Year 2. But we also saw him get his butt kicked on several plays and somehow that wasn’t noticed by a lot of people, who also didn’t seem to see that journeyman Brad Jones played better overall. So, Smith is still a bust until he proves otherwise.
New safety match. Perhaps no rookie from 2014 has improved as much in 2015 as safety Ed Reynolds, a fifth-round pick last year. He was physical against the run and was solid against the pass and he’s obvious that he’s moved past Earl Woolf as the No. 1 backup behind starters Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond. Count on seeing a lot of Reynolds the rest of the preseason.
Changing of the guard. One of the many question marks on this team hovers over the guard position, where Allen Barbre looked OK on the right side, but the left side remains a black hole. Different players took their shots at it, including Matt Tobin, Dennis Kelly and John Moffitt, and none of them impressed.
Tebow-mania is alive in South Philly. The Eagles player who got the warmest reception from the fans was a guy who might not even make the team, and even if he does, he won’t play very much. But such is the allure of Tim Tebow (our local newspaper sent two reporters to cover the game and both of them wrote about Tebow, even though there were many more important storylines in the grand scheme of things). And Tebow did what Tebow always does – he made some plays, but it’s obvious that even though he’s improved his passing mechanics, he’ll never be a great passer. He is what he is and either you love him or you hate him.
Play again, Sam. The most important person on the roster didn’t play on Sunday, although quarterback Sam Bradford is expected to play in the second preseason game on Saturday night against the Baltimore Ravens. Absence is supposed to make the heart fonder, and after watching No. 2 QB Mark Sanchez throw the ball all over the place, Eagles fans should be head over heels for Bradford. So, if nothing else, this exhibition showed how much the Eagles will depend on Bradford this year or face another up-and-down season with the inconsistent Sanchez.