Foles shows he's in control of offense
August, 22, 2014
By Matt Williamson | ESPN.com
Seven things I took away from the Philadelphia Eagles' 31-21 preseason win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.
- The Eagles' offensive line and Nick Foles struggled in the opening preseason game and showed improvement in Week 2. On Thursday, Foles struggled early with his accuracy, but got much more precise with his ball location. The first team offensive line was very effective in the running game, picked up Pittsburgh's blitz well and gave Foles ample time to throw. It clearly won the trench battle against the Steelers' starting defense. Philadelphia's top unit on offense was aided by penalties, but moved the ball very efficiently with Foles in control during the first 20 minutes of the game before Troy Polamalu intercepted a screen pass gone very wrong. That play aside, this was a favorable showing for Foles and the entire offense with 19 first downs and 251 yards in the first half, although Foles was a bit off on a few potential touchdown throws.
- What was much more surprising was the Eagles' backups on offense, led by Mark Sanchez, had their way with the Steelers' first team defense that looked fatigued to begin the second half. Sanchez continues to look quite good and should give Philadelphia one of the top backup quarterbacks in the league.
- Jeremy Maclin (hamstring) and Riley Cooper (foot) returned to action versus the Steelers. Maclin didn't look encumbered at all until avoiding disaster at the 10-minute mark of the second quarter when he left the game with a right knee injury. Surprisingly, Maclin was back in the next series and seemed unfazed. Cooper nearly converted a long touchdown pass at the end of the first quarter, but was called for pushing off Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor. Cooper also probably should have caught a touchdown early in the second quarter, but failed to haul it in. Jordan Matthews, who has worked almost entirely from the slot this preseason, showed some decisiveness and shiftiness with the ball in his hands on a quick-hit bubble screen late in the second quarter. The Eagles top three wide receivers look ready for the regular season.
- LeSean McCoy started the game and looked great on his first carry of the game, which went for 15 yards. On the Eagles' second drive, McCoy reversed fields on a play that looked dead in the water and turned it into a 13-yard gain, which was all McCoy. To finish Philadelphia's second drive, he caught a screen pass and scooted into the end zone untouched in dynamic fashion. There should be no concern about his toe injury based on what we saw, although he did walk to the locker room after scoring the touchdown, so that is a situation to be monitored going forward although it appears that he only sprained his thumb.
- In Kenjon Barner's first game in an Eagles' uniform, he was Philadelphia's top return man for both punts and kickoffs and finally got carries early in the fourth quarter. As a returner, Barner had little opportunity to showcase his skills although he fumbled a kickoff late in the game. But as the Eagles did all night, Philadelphia's offense drove all over the Steelers with Barner in the game. He is a lesser version of McCoy who has some wiggle and can get to the edge. Barner, who played for Chip Kelly at Oregon, fits the offense very well.
- Coming into this game, the Eagles had only three sacks, and none from their starting front five. They got pressure on Ben Roethlisberger Thursday night with some consistency through the first two quarters and Brandon Graham finally strip-sacked Roethlisberger in the final seconds of the first half. He beat Kelvin Beachum with a very powerful bull rush. Graham needs more playing time. He has been outstanding in both of Philadelphia's preseason games leading up to this contest. Vinny Curry is another defensive lineman that played a strong game and a case could certainly be made that he too needs more snaps with the top unit.
- Last week the Patriots amassed 495 total yards on offense and scored 42 points with Philadelphia's secondary looking especially poor. But their coverage was very solid throughout the first half against Pittsburgh. The Eagles' first-team defense missed some tackles, but Pittsburgh's receivers had very little free space with Roethlisberger throwing for a measly 60 first-half yards. The first team defense in general also did a very good job getting many tacklers to the ball.