Coming away with the win in a preseason game says little about what can actually be learned from the play on the field. Prior to their preseason matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Philadelphia Eagles had reason for positivity on both sides of the ball. The offense had looked crisp and fluid, while the young defense had demonstrated quick signs of improvement and growth. After the starters played the first half Saturday night, many questions remain about what type of success the Eagles can actually have on either side of the ball in 2013.
Michael Vick took his place behind center, with the starting role already under his belt, but his play looked much different than in weeks prior. The positive was we did see the mobile Vick, taking open opportunities to cut out large chunks of yards with his legs when given the chance. Although he did throw a touchdown pass, however, his overall completion percentage was not in the same ballpark as in the first two preseason games. Chalk that up to amount of time on the field evening itself out, but the Eagles supposed high powered offense did not look too threatening at all. It could be that Chip Kelly watered down the playbook to keep masked the actual scheme which will be used come Week 1 in Washington, but it seemed as though more questions now loom about whether the Eagle offense is really that productive. The stellar protection that existed in weeks past seemed to wither away, forcing Vick to roam the backfield searching for receivers down field that weren’t open. Holes for LeSean McCoy, once big enough for crowds of people to fit through, seemed to close up quickly leaving him little room to improvise. The offense looked quite mundane, begging the question as to whether the Eagles will return to the dredges of last place in the NFC East or put up slews of points as was expected upon Kelly’s arrival.
On the other side of the ball, after making believers out of most with their second preseason performance, the defense seemed to return to the team of old, leaving large gaps open for hefty amounts of yards to be eaten away with single plays. They seemed at times to show that they were capable, stopping the Jaguar offense, only to give up a big play regardless of it being on the ground or through the air. Again, play reading due to inexperience and decision making along with tackling seemed to show as major issues. Many of the positives that existed just a week ago faded in the memory, and new questions arose about if this defense can provide the support necessary to make this a winning football team once again. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis has plenty of footage to review with his group, after decisions are made about which players will be a part of the first unit. Having another two weeks to prepare for the Washington Redskins is a plus, but after that, just how well this defense will be able to hold up week after week remains a question. After Saturday night in Jacksonville, the learning curve for many of the young players became steeper and the time which they have to make it up is shrinking quickly.
Time will tell which Eagles team is going to consistently show up, but it would be better for Kelly to have the knowledge of what he’s getting on each side of the ball, week in and week out, ahead of time, instead of having to play the guessing game. Either way, an NFL season plagued with mediocrity does not bode well for the high expectations in Philadelphia on either side of the ball.