The Philadelphia Eagles returned to the site of their Super Bowl XXXIX loss for a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was the ghosts of 2012, not 2004, that haunted their starters in a come-from-behind 31-24 win. Some thoughts:
• The third preseason game had some of the flavor of a regular-season game. The Eagles had better hope that flavor was pure vanilla.
It would take some of the sting out of the Eagles’ ragged offensive play if coach Chip Kelly was holding back most of the good stuff in his playbook. If not, there was some real reason for concern here.
For starters, Michael Vick looked very much like the guy who held the Eagles’ starting-quarterback job the last two years rather than the guy who was competing for it in the first two preseason games. Vick threw two terrible passes off his back foot (well, he was almost on his back the second time) while under pressure. One was intercepted, the other was ruled a sack. That sack came late in the first half when the Eagles needed to take advantage of a long return by Damaris Johnson.
Vick completed 13 of 15 passes for 199 yards while competing with Nick Foles in the first two preseason games. After being named the starter, he completed 15 of 23 for 184 yards, one TD and one INT.
• There was little evidence of the go-go pace that Kelly demands from his offense. The Eagles did not huddle, but there were long delays as plays were signaled in and the players sorted themselves out into the proper alignments. Vick has not really executed that fastbreak offense in this preseason. On the play before that late first-half sack, the ball was snapped with one second left on the play clock. Vick ran around, couldn’t find a receiver and threw the ball away.
• Last year, running back Bryce Brown showed amazing quickness to the corner but came down with a bad case of the fumbles. In the third quarter, Brown sped around the right corner, then fumbled the ball through the end zone for a turnover. The fumble killed an opportunity for the Eagles to answer the Jaguars’ long, second half-opening TD drive. Brown ran four yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
• That late TD came at the end of the Eagles’ best sustained drive of the game to that point. Foles was at quarterback for that one. Foles also managed the uptempo, go-ahead scoring drive that began on the Eagles 1 and ended with a Chris Polk TD run.
Foles completed 10 of 11 passes for 112 yards. To be fair, the Jaguars backups were playing defense on both of those drives.
• For the first time, the offensive line was complete. Left tackle Jason Peters took the field for the first time since the end of the 2011 season. For the first time, however, the line looked confused and unable to figure out its assignments. Early on, especially, Vick seldom had a clean pocket and resorted to running for his life. That has been a bad combination over the past few years, with Vick turning the ball over or getting hurt with great frequency.
• The Eagles defense had some great moments. Connor Barwin batted a pass in the air and caught it as he landed on his back. That gave the offense great field position, which Vick took advantage of for the first team’s only touchdown. Barwin, Trent Cole, Cedric Thornton, Vinny Curry and Mychal Kendricks all disrupted the Jaguars offense at different times.
• The Eagles defense had some very 2012 moments. Chad Henne carved the Birds up on Jacksonville’s first possession. It ended with a blown coverage: Henne found Justin Blackmon all alone between safety Patrick Chung and cornerback Bradley Fletcher. It looked like many of the league-high 33 passing TDs allowed by the Eagles last season.
• Jordan Todman’s 63-yard touchdown run was another bad flashback to 2012. Todman ran off left tackle, then cut to his right. Both Eagles safeties, Patrick Chung and rookie Earl Wolff, took terrible angles and were unable to slow him down, let alone hit him. Todman got outside to the right and was gone.
Wolff replaced the mediocre Nate Allen in the first half but did little to stand out in a positive way. Kenny Phillips, the free agent brought in to challenge Allen for the starting job, said he expected to play after dealing with a sore quadriceps. Phillips did not play. Considering Chung’s performance on the Blackmon and Todman TDs, there is real concern about both safety spots.
• Return man Damaris Johnson had an eventful night. He fumbled the ball away on a punt return, then got stopped inside his own 10 on a kickoff return. Later, he broke two long returns, 61 yards on a kickoff and 37 on a punt. The Eagles would love the undersized wideout to provide big-play potential on returns so they can avoid putting DeSean Jackson at risk.