NFL Nation: Phillip Hunt

Observation deck: Eagles-Panthers

August, 15, 2013
8/15/13
10:39
PM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Round 2 of Chip Kelly’s quarterback derby, a 14-9 Eagles victory over the visiting Carolina Panthers Thursday night, is in the books. Here are some observations from Kelly’s first NFL win:
  • Michael Vick and Nick Foles each played a quarter, with Foles getting the start this week. Each led the Eagles to one touchdown and had one promising drive end with a turnover in Carolina territory. Vick completed 9 of 10 passes for 105 yards while Foles was 6-for-8 for 53. Foles again seemed more comfortable in the uptempo offense, working shorter routes, while Vick took deeper shots. Each ran the ball twice, Foles for a 7-yard TD scramble.
  • Vick did run a no-huddle offense after taking over at his own 26 with 2:53 left in the first half. Vick completed all four attempts, including a perfect 22-yard throw to Riley Cooper. He ran the ball twice, once a 14-yard scramble and once a designed 6-yard run.
  • All interceptions are not created equal. Vick threw one on the last play of the first half, but it came on a desperate heave after he sprinted left a step ahead of the Panthers’ pressure. Foles’ pick was a result of a physical mistake -- fumbling a shotgun snap -- and a mental one -- failing to throw the ball high enough through the end zone. Turnovers were a huge problem for both QBs last year and will weigh heavily in Kelly’s evaluations.
  • Kelly has said he doesn’t have to choose a starting QB until he’s preparing for the Sept. 9 season opener at Washington. Traditionally, the starting QB plays half of the third preseason game and only a series in the final tune-up, so there could be some clues when the Eagles play in Jacksonville Saturday night. Then again, the word “traditionally” is anathema to Kelly.
  • Running back LeSean McCoy, who missed the preseason opener with a sore knee, was dazzling on a 21-yard run in the first quarter. McCoy sprinted around left end, then made a physics-busting cut to his right that left several defenders clutching air. McCoy had 8 carries for 47 yards and caught three passes for 16 yards. He has said he expects to be a major weapon in Kelly’s offense and there was no reason to doubt him here.
  • Chris Polk, competing with Bryce Brown for the backup tailback spot, hurt himself with a fumble that killed a second-quarter drive. Polk finished with 24 yards on five carries. Fumbles were a problem last season for Brown, who missed this game with a bruised quad. Meanwhile, former Cowboys running back Felix Jones left the game with a rib injury and looks like an even longer shot to make the team.
  • It is no surprise the Eagles defense looked better than it did in Friday’s loss to New England. It couldn’t have looked much worse. There were several breakdowns in coverage, with receivers running free, but the run defense was tighter and the front seven was able to generate some pressure on Cam Newton. Bottom line: The Eagles held Newton to two first-half field goals.
  • Mychal Kendricks showed a lot of promise early last season, before being engulfed in the general malaise that defined the 4-12 Eagles. So it was going to be interesting to see how the second-year linebacker was used in Bill Davis’ hybrid system. Now an inside ‘backer, Kendricks disrupted several plays. He flushed Newton once, forcing an incompletion, dropped DeAngelo Williams for a 1-yard loss and got to Newton just as he threw after one disguised blitz. In a defense desperate for playmakers, that was very encouraging.
  • So was the play of defensive end Vinny Curry, who continues to find his way into the opponent’s backfield. Cedric Thornton, who started at left defensive end, blew up a Carolina running play, dropping Williams for a 5-yard loss. Davis is looking for players who fit his modified 3-4 front, and plays like that help.
  • The Eagles would be thrilled not to have to expose DeSean Jackson to the risks that come with returning punts. That gives Damaris Johnson an enormous opportunity to seize a roster spot. Johnson, who at 5-8, 175 pounds is even smaller than Jackson, helped himself with an 18-yard punt return and a 30-yard kickoff return. On the latter, Johnson used good judgment in bringing the ball out of the end zone. He also had a bad drop of a Matt Barkley pass in the third quarter.
  • With the intrigue at QB and the overhaul of the defense, scant attention has been paid to Dave Fipp’s special teams. The return and coverage units have been solid, for the most part. Brandon Boykin, who dropped an easy interception in the first half, had a 41-yard kickoff return. On the down side, Alex Henery was wide right on a 44-yard field goal attempt.
  • The Eagles lost a fourth player to an ACL tear during this training camp. Phillip Hunt, a backup outside linebacker/defensive end, went down during practice this week. The Eagles announced the injury before Friday’s game. Hunt joins Jeremy Maclin, Arrelious Benn and Jason Phillips. The spate of season-ending injuries comes despite Kelly’s effort to avoid injuries by minimizing contact in practice.

Observation deck: Eagles-Patriots

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
12:13
AM ET


The story of the Philadelphia Eagles' 27-17 preseason victory over the Patriots on "Monday Night Football" was one of quarterbacks. Eagles starter Michael Vick was knocked out of the game by an injury for the second time in two weeks, taking a shot to the ribs that required X-rays (which were negative) and raising old red flags about his fragility and the manner in which his style of play contributes to that. That injury, combined with Mike Kafka's absence due to his own injury, pushed rookie Nick Foles into significant playing time, and Foles looked very good.

Foles was 18-for-28 for 217 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. It was his second impressive performance of the preseason. And while it's important to note that he has not played against first-team defenses, it's also worth raising the question of whether Foles could beat out Kafka for the No. 2 quarterback spot behind Vick. He's a rookie, and he'd likely make more mistakes than Kafka would if pressed into fill-in duty. But in practices and games he has shown a stronger arm and better touch on deep throws than Kafka has, and that matters in Philadelphia's speed-based offense. That difference alone could set Foles apart if he continues to impress and Kafka can't get on the field, and Foles showed impressive poise Monday night, along with the ability to handle many different aspects of the playbook.

I don't personally believe the Eagles can contend this year if Vick has to miss a significant period of time. But if he does need to sit out here and there due to injury, the Eagles and their fans have at least seen something from Foles that would make them feel a little bit better if they had to go with a rookie.

Here are some other things I noticed/saw/thought about the Eagles on Monday:

1. What was Andy Reid yelling about? I am certain that, if the Eagles have a great season, the head coach's first-half sideline shouting match with Cullen Jenkins and the defense will be looked back upon as a brilliant bit of motivation and leadership. I am equally sure that, if the Eagles have a poor season, that exchange will be regarded as a sign of insurmountable discord. Of greater likelihood than either of those is that it was an emotional outburst by a coach who was getting sick of dumb third-down penalties. And if you're worried about whatever happened there causing lasting damage to coach-player relationships, Reid's track record more than earns him the benefit of the doubt.

2. That said, penalties are unforced errors and a worthy subject of coaching scorn, even in the preseason. I've written many times here that preseason games are poor predictors of regular-season performance, because we don't know which teams are game-planning for these games and which are not. But penalties have little or nothing to do with whether the opponent is scheming to beat you. They're about discipline, attention and focus. The Eagles had 16 of them on Monday, for a total of 131 yards, and I would not be looking forward to my next practice right now if I were an Eagles player.

3. Mychal Kendricks was a defensive star in this game. He showed speed and instincts closing on running back Shane Vereen on a screen pass early in the game, and he got himself into the backfield to disrupt a couple of running plays. The Eagles' big linebacker addition was veteran middleman DeMeco Ryans, but Kendricks looks as though he could be an asset on the outside. The Eagles' defensive scheme is going to make its linebackers look bad at times. Even at its best, it relies on aggressiveness by the linemen up front. Because of they, they're likely going to get a lot of sacks and pressure a lot of quarterbacks. But an offshoot of that aggressiveness is that sometimes over-pursuit will open them up to the possibility of a big play. That puts a lot of responsibility on the linebackers to limit those plays, and when they don't, it's going to look ugly. The Eagles seem willing to accept that risk in exchange for the long-term reward their pressure schemes bring them. And they appear better equipped this year to limit damage at the second level.

4. Don't forget Brandon Boykin. The Eagles' fourth-round pick is more than holding his own in his fight with veteran Joselio Hanson for the role of nickel cornerback. He also showed explosiveness on a kickoff return and helped cause a turnover with his speed as a gunner on the punt coverage team. Hanson looked good in his turn at cornerback, too, but what Boykin brings on special teams should keep him on a roster and, at the very least, a persistent threat to Hanson's spot.

5. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie looked very active and very good before leaving the game with a shoulder injury. Reid said Rodgers-Cromartie wanted to go back in and didn't sound overly concerned.

6. King Dunlap played the whole first half at left tackle, and Demetress Bell was flagged for a couple of penalties during the second half. At this point, it would not be a surprise if the Eagles opened the season with Dunlap as the starting left tackle. It also wouldn't be a surprise if Bell worked to learn the schemes in a backup role and threatened to take the job back from Dunlap as the season went along, the way Danny Watkins did last year at right guard. Howard Mudd's schemes aren't easy for everyone to get right away.

7. The Eagles have some tough roster decisions at defensive line, but Phillip Hunt is going to be impossible to cut. Say whatever you want to say about his size, but they don't have anyone faster among their pass-rushers (which is saying something), and he's just made too many plays to overlook.

8. Punter note! Mat McBriar averaged 49.8 yards on his four punts. Chas Henry dropped both of his inside the 20 and one inside the 10. I don't think it's a real competition if McBriar proves himself healthy, but it's nice to see that Henry won't go down without a fight.

Seahawks' Hawthorne active despite knee

December, 1, 2011
12/01/11
7:21
PM ET
SEATTLE -- The Seattle Seahawks will have middle linebacker David Hawthorne and cornerback Richard Sherman for their game against Philadelphia on Thursday night. Both players are active after missing practice time with injuries.

Inactive for Seattle: quarterback Josh Portis, safety Jeron Johnson, cornerback Byron Maxwell, linebacker Adrian Moten, tackle Jarriel King, tackle Allen Barbre and defensive lineman Pep Levingston.

Inactive for Philadelphia: quarterback Michael Vick, receiver Jeremy Maclin, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, tackle King Dunlap, guard Julian Vandervelde, defensive end Phillip Hunt and the recently signed Greg Lloyd.

Seattle has five wide receivers active despite placing Sidney Rice on injured reserve. Deon Butler, who suffered a career-threatening leg injury at San Francisco last season, is active for the first time this season.

Hawthorne's mobility will be a subject of interest in this game. Knee problems have bothered him at times during the season, including last week. The shortened week of recovery time could work against him.

Philadelphia Eagles cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
6:31
PM ET
Click here for a complete list of the Philadelphia Eagles' roster moves.

Surprise move: It's not a huge surprise that nickel cornerback Joselio Hanson was released, considering how deep the Eagles were at cornerback after their frenzied first week of free agency. But I do think people are surprised that they couldn't get anything for him in a trade before releasing him. It seems no team wanted to compensate the Eagles and also assume Hanson's contract, which had $7.6 million left over the next three years. He was an extremely effective nickel corner last year and surely will end up on someone's roster (Cleveland? Arizona? St. Louis? The Giants?) before long.

It was a bit of a surprise to see the Eagles cut defensive tackles Anthony Hargrove and Derek Landri and keep Cedric Thornton, but ultimately I guess they believed Landri and Hargrove weren't big enough to play the position in Jim Washburn's scheme. Very small but very effective former CFL star Phillip Hunt made the team at defensive end, though. And cutting both Sinorice Moss and Johnnie Lee Higgins leaves the Eagles looking for help in the return game.

No-brainers: Keeping five safeties (Jarrad Page, Kurt Coleman, Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Colt Anderson) and six linebackers (Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney, Moise Fokou, Akeem Jordan, Brian Rolle and Keenan Clayton) makes some sense because they have questions at those positions and will hold onto depth until they sort out roles. Tight end Donald Lee probably can help someone, but with all of the options the Eagles have at receiver, there isn't much room in the game plan for many two-tight end sets. Mike McGlynn started 14 games for the Eagles last year, but it was clear from the start of camp that there was no place for him on the new offensive line.

What's next: The Eagles are likely to poke around and look for help at linebacker and kick returner, but they're set at almost every position and extremely deep at most. If I'm their front office, I begin focusing my attention on whatever potential resolution there might be to the DeSean Jackson contract situation.

Observation deck: Eagles-Jets

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
12:11
AM ET
The Philadelphia Eagles used only one offensive starter in their final preseason game, a meaningless 24-14 victory over the New York Jets, and so I thought I'd focus on him. He was Danny Watkins, the first-round pick out of Baylor and the Eagles' starting right guard. He played about 20 snaps against backup Jets defenders, looked good on some, looked lost on others, and I came away with no idea how prepared he is to help protect Michael Vick once the real games begin.

The good: Watkins generally looks strong enough to hold his blocks once he gets his hands on his man. He got good second-level push on one of Dion Lewis' runs on the second offensive series of the game. And he did an excellent job getting down field to make a block on a defensive back on the screen pass to Lewis on the play right before the Eagles' first touchdown. (Oddly, he appeared to be beaten on the touchdown play, but it didn't matter since Vince Young made the throw before the pressure got there.)

The not-so-good: There was a three-play sequence on the first offensive series where he looked very much like a rookie. On the first, his man beat him to the outside and got into the backfield. On the next play, he made some progress into the second level, as Howard Mudd is trying to teach his linemen to do, but got knocked to the ground quickly. And then on the next, he was kind of swimming around in the crowd, blocking no one and looking as though he didn't know where he was supposed to be. Two plays later, he failed to pick up a blitzing Aaron Maybin, who got to Young but was unable to sack him because he's Aaron Maybin and so Young completed the pass anyway.

Watkins is a rookie who didn't have an offseason, and as such he's a work in progress. He'll almost certainly be better by Week 4 and Week 9 and Week 17 than he will be in Week 1. The key is that he has to be good enough, consistently, from play to play, to keep Vick from getting crushed and help the Eagles' offense put points on the board early in the season. Because the Eagles are one of these teams, due to the offseason they had, that can't afford to get off to a slow start unless they're happy with the whole world jumping on their backs about it.

Anyway, some more stuff I saw in the Eagles' final preseason game:

1. Dion Lewis! Oh, I don't have any idea how much he can expect to play -- if at all -- in an Eagles offense that features as many dynamic options as it does. He's the No. 3 running back behind LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown in an offense that passes more than it runs. So we might not hear much more from him the rest of the year unless they're going to use him on kick returns as they did Thursday. But if we do, man, is he fun to watch. Good burst at the line. Doesn't need much of a hole to squeeze himself through. Fast. Shifty. Patient. Balanced. Tough to bring down. Yeah, against second-teamers. But he's got some obvious skills, and should be a nice option for the Eagles if they suffer an injury or two at that position.

2. Vince Young is the backup quarterback, and a very good one. The idea that Mike Kafka could beat out Young for the backup quarterback spot was rooted in the idea that Young would take a long time to learn the West Coast offense. And Young may not have it all down yet. But he looks more advanced by leaps and bounds than he did in the first preseason game and in the early training camp practices. And his pure athletic ability and experience as a quarterback making throws in the NFL puts him well ahead of Kafka in terms of being a guy the Eagles can put in, should Vick get hurt, and ask him to win them a game. Young did end up leaving this game with a hamstring injury (on a play that wouldn't have happened but for a botched field goal snap on the play before, incidentally), and Kafka with a rib injury, so there's no way to know what the depth chart looks like at quarterback for the opener. But if everyone's healthy, what Andy Reid said after the game about Young being the backup sounds obvious at this point.

3. Defensive backups. Linebacker Brian Rolle looked good, and defensive lineman Trevor Laws had some nice moments after missing the bulk of the preseason due to injury. Defensive end Phillip Hunt also had a sack, and he's an interesting guy as cuts loom, because he made a big-time name for himself in the CFL and is someone who obviously knows how to play the game and the position. But he's so small for his position that you wonder if he can have any impact at all in a real game against first-team offensive linemen. Hunt has been very good this preseason, but nothing is assured for him yet. The Eagles have to decide if his playmaking ability outweighs his measurables.

4. Alex Henery doesn't look great. And hasn't all month. And you do wonder if going with a rookie kicker is the wisest move in the world for a team with expectations as high as the Eagles' expectations are. Henery missed his first field goal attempt of the night -- a 43-yarder -- very badly. He made a 49-yarder late in the game, which is fine. But there's no doubt he can make a kick from almost any distance. What the Eagles would like to know about him is whether he's reliable enough to make every kick they need him to make. And the first-quarter miss is the kind of thing that makes you wonder. On the plus side, rookie punter Chas Henry looks excellent.

Anyway, four games, none of which mattered, and now the Eagles have a week and a couple of days before they need to beat the Rams in St. Louis or everybody starts yelling that the sky is falling. The spotlight -- and the bulls-eye -- will be on this team all year, and fun time is over.

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