Wednesday, August 15, 2007


That sound you might have heard was the Eagles collectively falling on their faces during their preseason debut on Monday night, as they lost 29-3 to the Baltimore Ravens.

The starters - playing without 5 Pro Bowlers - were mostly ineffective during their two series, and the backups were worse. I'm not going to panic; it was only two series, and it's the preseason, but I'm not going to make excuses, either.

The disappointing part was the play of both lines. Offensively and defensively, the lines are the strength of the team, and they are both 10 deep with real NFL talent, but you couldn't tell that on Monday. Both the first- and second-team OL was ineffective at running the ball (13 carries for 18 yards), and they missed several blocking assignments on the Baltimore blitz (4 sacks in the first half). RBs Westbrook and Tony Hunt missed blocks that led to sacks as well. The defensive line did slightly better, although the 16-yard run by McGahee was cause for concern, as well as their inability to wrap up the ever-elusive Kyle Boller on his 20-yard scramble for a first down.

The inability to get off the field on third down, three times during the opening drive against the Ravens' starters, was scary. McNair was clearly picking on William James, and James is being counted on in a big role as nickel corner this season. Perhaps he was just pressing - it was his first time starting a game in two seasons - but he needs to do a better job of staying with receivers. The DL and the LBs generated some pressure, but it was routinely of the 'almost' variety, which is almost good enough to win games.

There were a couple bright spots - Jeremy Bloom really does look as quick and fast as advertised, and he will bring an element that the Eagles have been missing for a long time - the ability to score on special teams. Brent Celek showed that he can use his body to screen defenders, catch balls in traffic, and rumble after the catch. While he's not a speedy downfield threat like LJ Smith, he certainly looked capable of working the middle of the field and getting first downs.

All the QBs played well, when they had time to throw, even though the Eagles never had the threat of a running game. Kevin Kolb, surprisingly, looks like an NFL QB. And it's a shame we'll have to cut/trade Holcomb, because he would have made me feel very secure with the backup QB situation.

The real good news is that the injuries were relatively benign - Ryan Moats had a 50/50 shot of being cut anyway, and wasn't going to play a prominent role as 4th HB/backup KR even if he made the team. It will be interesting to see if Nate Ilaoa steps up (he's been rather unimpressive in camp so far) or if the Eagles reach out to Reno Mahe as the preseason winds down.

Andy Reid and Juan Castillo are really good coaches, and they'll use the mistakes in this game as a focus this week in practice. Although the Eagles are not a team that have been overly concerned with preseason in the past, I do expect a much more enthusiastic and sound performance on Friday night against the Panthers. Carolina has talent as well, and should offer a good test for both lines. If they don't play better won't be time to panic, of course, but I will start to be concerned.

If you like reading about the Eagles, I'd suggest checking out On the Inside by Dave Spadaro, an almost-daily Eagles blog by a guy who pretty much lives at Eagles HQ.


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