Friday was one of the most anticipated nights of the year for the fans of the Philadelphia Eagles. It told us that it’s a new season and a new era in Philly with Chip Kelly in charge. However, it didn’t start or end very well, yet there was a lot that we learned from the first preseason game against the New England Patriots.
First and foremost, we learned that the defense is definitely a work in progress. New defensive coordinator Billy Davis had his hands full right from the start with Bill Belichick‘s Patriots. On the very first play of the preseason, the Eagles let up a 62-yard run up the middle by Stevan Ridley. The Patriots would eventually cap off their first drive by running the ball six times for 80 yards with zero passes from Tom Brady.
Now we know that it’s not just the secondary that needs help on this Eagles’ defense. This entire defensive group, including the coaches, needs help from top to bottom. The one guy that stood out on the defense was Fletcher Cox. He started off on the wrong foot when he was pancaked on the Ridley run, but came back strong and started disturbing plays. Cox proved that he will dominate as a 3-4 defensive end which doesn’t surprise anyone.
Another thing that I liked was the pressure from the back-ups like Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry. I know they went up against the Patriots second team, but they seemed very explosive and instinctive in the 3-4 defense. Both of these guys should be able to see a lot more work with the one’s during the rest of the preseason.
As for the secondary goes, they seemed to always have good coverage against the Patriots wide receivers. However, they need to do a better job turning their heads around and locating the ball so they can make a play. There were too many times where we saw the cornerbacks on the receivers like glue, but were unable to find the ball and letting the receivers pick them apart. Bradley Fletcher was a guy that stood out. Now Fletcher didn’t particularly have a good game, but he showed good coverage, however, he failed to find the ball in the air multiple times. This is something I wouldn’t worry about, though.
The good news about this is that we didn’t really see anyone from the secondary get beat. It was just good ball placement by Brady and Ryan Mallett. It’s something that can be fixed and adjusted as the season goes on. A young guy like Brandon Boykin also showcased his ability as he dominated while playing with the second team. Same goes with Kenny Phillips, who showed physicality, which is something that is lacking on that entire defensive group.
We also saw some potential in a lot of young guys as well. We were able to see players like middle linebacker Jake Knott make a lot of plays and be disruptive. Another guy that made a good amount of plays was the former CFL linebacker Chris McCoy, who showed some light on the defense as well. McCoy displayed good pass-rushing skills and was able to bring down Tim Tebow a few times. Knott and McCoy were the standouts for the third stringers and were able to combine for two sacks.
So, we obviously know that this defense has a lot of work to do. They did look a little better from their joint practices they had with the Patriots the past few days, but they really need to step it up before the first regular season game. Tackling is another major issue that is killing them and that’s something they should have learned when they were five years old. So Davis has his hands full and will need to come up with a solid game plan next time around.