Aug 24, 2009, 5:22 PM EDT
The sky was supposedly falling last Thursday. The Eagles, after dropping their second preseason contest 23-15 against a quality opponent with a Hall of Fame QB, drew scathing reviews for their performance. Once again, we're attempting to walk you back from the preseason ledge.
The Colts did everything right on their first drive. Peyton Manning was exactly what we've come to expect. He controlled the pace, getting the offense up to the line of scrimmage quickly, making it difficult for the Eagles to sub or adjust. They called almost entirely passing plays, attacking Ellis Hobbs' side of the field and using play action to pull the linebackers up from their assignments. And Manning made the whole thing look simple, as only he can.
It wasn't all bad though. A few plays after a successful WR screen kicked off the drive, the Colts went back to it, only this time Quintin Demps was all over it, making the stop for no gain. Shortly after, Akeem Jordan recovered from being beat in coverage to separate the ball from a receiver, saving a sure touchdown. And Manning had to complete a difficult 3rd and 10 throw in a tiny window over Joe Mays and between Demps and the sideline while being tossed to the ground by Jason Babin to keep the drive alive. How many quarterbacks complete that pass? And prior to the score, Asante Samuel nearly ended the drive with an interception in the end zone, but was unable to catch the ball cleanly.
When it looked like Manning would start doing the same thing all over on their second drive, Babin struck again, this time stripping the ball to give the Birds excellent field position. Of course, what really sticks out was the following possession, one play, one uncontested 76-yard jaunt for Reggie Wayne, although it was clearly a mis-communication, and exactly the kind of play preseason is there to correct.
Manning executed the Colts basic gameplan against the Eagles vanilla defensive schemes. Is that a legitimate cause for concern? There's room for improvement, but this wasn't the end of defense as we know it in Philadelphia.
All things considered, the offensive line wasn't terrible either. That's quite the backhanded compliment, but we are talking about four reserves, and King Dunlap doesn't even belong on an NFL field, which we sort of knew heading into the game. The scenario would have to become extremely dire for that to ever happen anyway, so let's concentrate on the backups who might actually see gameday.
Nick Cole was shaky filling in at left guard as well. Actually, sloppy is more fitting in this case. He's been slow getting out into space, man-handled up front, and just generally ineffective in every phase of the game. On one play, he just fell down inexplicably. Can't say for sure what the deal is – the most obvious theories being he is either out of shape (too late) or looked better mixed in a cohesive unit – any way you slice it though, he hasn't impressed.
On the flip side, much to everyone's surprise, Winston Justice is living up to the reports of his revival. The idea he could be starting for the Eagles in the regular season remains a delicate subject, and there still seems to be some hesitation when run blocking, but he is holding his own in pass protection. Justice was probably miscast as a left tackle, and we would no longer be surprised to see him as a spot starter for a lesser NFL team somewhere down the line, as long as he continues to show he is indeed a football player.
Are the Eagles going to win the Super Bowl if Cole and Justice are major contributors for any length of time? It certainly lessens their chances (a lot), we simply think it's a stretch they will wind up in such a predicament. Peters' injury sounds minor and perhaps related to conditioning. Herremans being held out is partly as a precaution. Odds are one or two of the Andrews brothers will eventually get right. The group deserves an incomplete, not an F.
- McNabb's touchdown pass to Jackson was perfectly executed by both players.
- Have to agree with the negative assessments of Feeley's clock management in the comments. What was he thinking dumping the ball in the middle with no timeouts?
- Eldra Buckley, with another solid special teams contribution tacked onto some tough running, has the upper hand over Booker for the third running back spot. Kyle Eckel struggled filling in for Weaver.
- Looks like they might have picked a nice player with sixth rounder Brandon Gibson. His four catches for 49 yards and a TD led the team. Probably will spend a year on the practice squad or IR, unless they move one of their receivers.
- Random thought: could Hank Baskett play some tight end?
- Jason Babin set up camp in the Colts backfield and wreaked havoc basically the entire first half. It leads us to wonder which ends could be the odd guys out if he makes the roster. No easy decisions there right now.
- Spadaro-ish comment alert: the linebackers remain a work in progress. Brady and Manning are two of the best play action quarterbacks in the NFL, but the entire unit is getting fooled, creating massive vacancies in the middle of the field. While they've been fortunate so far, any coach in the league is going to see this and exploit it.
Individually, Gocong has been invisible. Mays is still learning. Jordan has some plays where he's in position, and some where he's not.
- Ellis Hobbs had an awful game, even if we give him a free pass on that TD. That does not excuse a couple of missed tackles and another completion to Wayne, all leading to first downs. The competition at right corner is over, not that there ever really was one.
- Aside from getting beat for the game's first score, a perfect throw that would have given any corner problems, Asante Samuel picked up from where he left off last season. Colts quarterbacks found Samuel draped all over their receivers, and he very nearly intercepted Manning in the end zone prior to allowing 6.
- Two rookies, Macho Harris and Moise Fokou, are having a nice preseason. Harris seems to be playing the Dawkins role. He's had some successful blitzes, has been a sound tackler, and broken up a pass or two. Fokou seems to be freelancing a bit, but he's been finding the ball. Don't think he's game ready though.
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