Thoughts and analysis on the Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles 16, Steelers 7: Can the season start already?

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All in all this was yet another encouraging game from the first team offenses and defenses. The defense had no trouble with the Steelers first team offense and the Eagles offense moved well against the dominating Pittsburgh D. Can we get this season underway already?

Let's get to some game thoughts.

The MNF crew... What can I say? Mike Tirico is among the worst play by play guys I've heard at any level. How did a guy with such a contrived, sing songy delivery get the MNF job? Theisman was annoying as usual, and Kornheiser was decent. Also Stuart Scott is the worst studio host... ever. Of course it was very fun to hear Eagles fans taunting Michael Irvin constantly as the pregame show crew was live from the concourse of the Linc. Stuart Scott even said "We're live from the city of brotherly love, although some of the fans haven't been so loving to you Michael..."

The star of this defense all preseason long and certainly of this game was Darren Howard. He absolutely dominated the vaunted Pittsburgh offensive line. In 2 series he hurried Big Ben on a great inside move, he then beat his man to the outside for a hurry, then he got a hit on the QB from the DT position on a 3rd down, and finally got a sack before left the game. The defense and the defensive line as a whole was very strong. They held the Steelers first team scoreless and while Big Ben was in they hit him 5x, hurried him 4, sacked him once, and forced him to throw a pick on a play where Kearse forced him to the outside. As in past weeks, this pressure came almost exclusively from the front four as the team did very little blitzing

The offense also came out pretty good despite not getting a TD with the first team. McNabb came out firing as hard as I've ever seen him throw, going 7-9 with 79 yards. He appears more than ready for the season to start. The big story on offense however, was Correll Buckhalter(7 rushes for 31 yards). He showed clear improvements over his last game, which is exactly what we all wanted to see. He ran hard, made a good cuts, and showed nice acceleration. Assuming he can stay healthy he looks like he's about ready to be the backup RB this team so desperately needs. Also, it's clear that Andy likes to run behind Shaun Andrews. He was exceptional in run blocking, although he missed a block on a blitz up the middle that led to a sack.

The WRs continued to be disappointing as a group. When McNabb was in the game, several times he sat in the pocket and could find nothing. When Pinkston(who did nothing) came into the game, McNabb was promptly brought down by a "coverage sack". They had real trouble getting open as a group. I've seen nothing in several games now that shows me that Hank Baskett is a starting WR. So far in this preseason he's shown that he can catch a short pass in the flat and get tackled. I need more from a starting WR. Gaffney did almost nothing as usual. Greg Lewis made a nice catch early on, but ruined it by getting a 15 yard taunting penalty(that I'll admit was a lame call). He did burn his man on a TD in the 3rd quarter, but his man was a guy that's competing for the Steelers 3rd DB job...

Reggie Brown was also disappointing as he played with the 1s. The McNabb INT that was overturned looked completely like Reggie's fault. He sat back and let the DB come right in front of him and take the ball. He needs to come back after that ball and not let the DB out muscle him. You could see McNabb telling him he needs to come back for the ball as they walked off the field. In contrast, Jason Avant made a very nice catch on a bullet pass from McNabb where he showed some physicality and kept himself between the DB and the ball. Reggie did some nice things against a soft zone at the very end of the 1st half with Jeff Garcia, but overall I was hoping to see more from him.

I noticed that once again Dirk Johnson was holding for Akers. Akers was excellent again as he has been all preseason. He hit 3 FGs of 40, 49, & 51 yards.

I'd like to go on record as saying that I hope these Duce Staley to the Eagles trade rumors are untrue... Although I suspect if there was any truth to them, the interest is gone after tonight. I love what Duce did when he was here, but he's a shell of himself. He's clearly overweight, out of shape, and running at half speed. Don't forget, like Buckhalter he's been hurt for 2 years. The difference is that Buckhalter looks very much in shape and running fast.

What an odd game for JR Reed. I was all ready to put him as one of my "stock downs" for this game. He got absolutely rocked on a hit during a punt return that was absolutely his fault. He took a huge shot and fumbled a ball that any decent punt returner would have fair caught. He has he not been very impressive returning kicks this preseason, but after that play I'd say he's a liability in the return game. Then he made a very obvious and very poor pass interference penalty. Then he made some plays against the Steeler's scrubs. He made a one sack where he forced a fumble and picked off a pass to end the game.

I don't know how we are supposed to evaluate the WRs when Koy is in. On the majority of plays he doesn't even look at them and goes straight to the dump off to the back.

You have to like what you saw from Jeff Garcia. He did a good job with :53 left in the half driving the team down for an Akers FG. Plus he threw a gem of a TD pass where he hit Greg Lewis deep perfectly in stride.

The Eagles 2nd team defensive line also played well against the run as the Steelers sent Staley over and over up the gut with very few results.

Stock up +/Stock Down -

+ Darren Howard(dominant), Gaither(threw a few bigtime hits), Buckhalter(was very good), Bruce Perry(played well returning and running the ball. It was nice to see him bounce back after a disastrous start to the preseason)

- JR Reed(in the end he deserves to be here), Hank Baskett(he is a nice story and should make the team, but he should not be starting), Dexter Wynn(who was burned badly on a near TD and general didn't look great)

So there's one more game left in the preseason for the Birds. So far there's been no major injuries, and the first team offense and defense have left with leads every game. This was basically the Eagles final preseason game, since in game 5 it'll be unlikely that the starters will play more than a series.

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