Thoughts and analysis on the Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles 10, Ravens 20

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Friday night the Ravens beat the Eagles 20-10... but as usual in the preseason there's alot more important things to come out of the game than the final score.

So here we go with some thoughts on the game.

The big story was the return of Correll Buckhalter. Now, while the reviews have all been good thanks to his impressive 48 yard shuttle pass reception... but in general I was mixed in Buck. He deserves credit for the one big play, he showed vision and he ran well. However, outside of that there was little to see that made me feel like we are set at backup RB. He just flat out didn't have the explosiveness he used to. When he came into the league Buckhalter didn't just run hard, he was fast. He hit holes quick and hard, which is something he didn't do last night. Now, it's only his first game in over a year and I don't expect him to be back to form already... but when a guy has missed multiple seasons due to multiple knee injuries, it's fair to wonder whether his explosiveness will ever come back. I think he should be seeing significant time in the next 2 preseason games. It's not as if the Birds have anything to lose if he gets injured, the guy hasn't been part of the team for a long time now. After a good amount of playing time in 3 games, we should start to see if he can get back to where he was. I will give Buck credit for his blitz pickup, he did a solid job there with several nice blocks.

Continuing with the running backs, Ryan Moats was a disappointment. Fumbles, lack of production... He really did nothing. 7 attempts, 7 yards and a fumble. Like with Buckhalter however, I won't blow this too far out of proportion. Moats only started practicing again recently and this was only his first preseason game. He has to show some things in the last 2 games however.

McNabb showed some encouraging things yet again. The best of which was the way he moved around. It almost became easy to forget last year with his injury what Donovan is capable of with his feet. He was running around, evading would be sackers, buying himself time. If there was any doubt about how much his injury affected his play and ability to play the way he does... that doubt was gone this past game. McNabb was flat out not able to move like that last year it clearly limited him. As far as his passing though, there wasn't much to see. Combine the Eagles extremely vanilla, dumbed down preseason offense that Reid has become famous for since he arrived with the fact that receivers had trouble separating... and McNabb's options were clearly limited. There were lots of designed dump offs and screens, that was obvious. However, on those plays where McNabb was forced to dance around and run the receivers just flat out weren't getting open. He only completed one ball to a wideout and that was a screen to Reggie Brown. It was fun to see McNabb run the no huddle offense however.

One receiver who did get open was LJ Smith. He had 2 catches for 32 yards, including one very nice 21 yard catch and run over the middle. If the Eagles don't get more help at WR before the season, LJ is going to have to continue to build on his breakout year last year and be a big time contributor.

The first team defense was okay. Kearse got a sack, but in general they were pretty vanilla. There were a few blitzes, but for the most part they rushed 4 and hung other guys back. The Ravens has some success moving the ball, but mostly on short dumps and slants. I was a little disappointed with Matt McCoy, who had been impressing me so far this preseason. He got sealed off on a few blocks and let the RB turn the corner.

Brian Dawkins played like an absolute animal. He needs to play a regular season game before he explodes.

It looks like Hank Fraley is going to be the backup guard and center. He played some series at guard for the 2nd game in a row. I suppose you can't argue that he should provide solid veteran depth.

Jeremy Bloom finally got on the field and returned 2 kicks in the 2nd half. While he didn't anything special, he did flash some good speed. More than Reed, Wynn, or Perry for sure... Unfortunately, in those 2 returns Bloom was injured again. Andy says he "tweaked" his hamstring which has held him out of most of camp so far. Again, I don't see any way he makes this roster.

Overall the second teams didn't have alot of highlights. There were a few bright spots though.
Juqua Thomas had 2.5 sacks and played well, as he has all preseason long. It's definitely time to start working him in earlier in these games. He's clearly shown that he's on another level than the 3rd and 4th stringers he's played against so far.
Broderick Bunkley also looks like he's going to be playing himself into the starting lineup very soon, he had 1.5 sacks and was generally pushing his man back on seemingly every play. He also is clearly on another level than the 3rd stringers he's played against.
Jabar Gaffney also had a decent game with 4 catches for 37 yards, however I'm not encouraged by seeing a guy who was a starting WR in this league last year play well against a bunch of guys that may never see an NFL snap.
Omar Gaither continues to look like he was a steal late in the draft. He's been playing tough and aggressive all preseason and continues to make plays. He should provide very solid depth behind Trotter this year.

In the end, the first team offense & defense left at the half with a 10-3 lead. They've left every game with a lead so far and that's encouraging.

Next up are the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, which should be an interesting game. Not a good one... it'll just be interesting to see how much the Eagles actually play. Normally a team's biggest preseason game is it's 3rd, that's the game the starters usually play the most. That was the Ravens game for the Eagles. Typically in the 4th and final preseason game the starters get a quick look and get off the field to avoid injury. This is the Eagles' 4th, yet not final preseason game and the Steelers' 3rd. I would imagine that the Eagles starters will see no more than a quarter, while the Steelers' should see a half. I'm actually looking forward to seeing some of the Eagles standout reserves like Bunkley, J Thomas, & Gaither take on the Champs' first team. It'll also be a nice test for Buckhalter and Moats to prove that they are getting back into shape.

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