Preseason Game 2: Eagles vs. Panthers

Reminder that we are without All-22 film until the season starts, so the diagrams won’t reappear until then.  However, last night the Eagles played a very good game, and I wanted to give you some takeaways:

- Both QBs look really good.  It looks like everyone is jumping on the Vick train, but I’m sticking with Foles.  Given the performance of both QBs, this is turning into a fairly simple decision.  If you want the highest upside for this season, Vick’s your guy (though he likely doesn’t offer as big an advantage as most seem to believe.

On the other hand, I don’t understand how anyone can watch Nick Foles and not get at least a little excited about his potential in the NFL.  Last night, Foles finally put a stake in the heart of the “too slow, not mobile” argument.  I’m not even talking about the TD run.  Watch him move in the pocket and avoid the rush.  He consistently helps his O-Line by sliding away from pressure while keeping his eyes downfield.  Most importantly, each of his throws was about as accurate as they could possibly be.

Finally, I don’t mean to bring everyone down, but just remember that Michael Vick has been in the NFL for a very long time.  He’s played 10 seasons and has thrown nearly 3000 passes.  That sample is likely a MUCH BETTER indication of what we should expect than these past two preseason games.  Maybe Chip Kelly “unlocked” Vick.  It’s possible, just know that its unlikely.

- Shady shouldn’t touch the field again until the regular season.  I said at the end of last season that the Eagles’ rebuilding plan was relatively simple:  Rely on McCoy and a healthy O-Line to carry the offense while you focus on fixing the defense.  Regardless of who the QB is, its clear who will be the driver of the offense.  Shady looks fantastic, lets not get him hurt.

- I’ve mentioned it a few times (including yesterday), but last season the Eagles offense started their drives, on average, nearly 7 yards behind where the opposing team did.  It doesn’t sound like much, but its a huge disadvantage.  A big reason for that was terrible Special Teams.

Perhaps the biggest preseason development is how improved the STs look.  I’ve talked about how improvement was assured (by virtue of how bad the team was), but we might have to actually raise those expectations.  Punt return/coverage, the biggest weakness from last year, looks really good.  That should lead to a lot more points scored, regardless of whether the offense itself improves.

- Some bright spots on the defense as well, though I’m grading them on a curve.  Patrick Chung, if he can stay healthy, looks like he’ll be a big upgrade at Safety.  The fact that he can consistently step up and make tackles is big, even if he isn’t great in coverage (haven’t seen much of this without the All-22, so I can’t grade that part of his game).

- Bennie Logan and Vinny Curry are both flashing big potential.  A word of caution though, they haven’t been playing against #1′s.  My biggest hope for the next game is that we see a D-Line combo of Cox-Logan-Curry.  Given how well Logan/Curry has played so far, Kelly owes it to them to see if they can hold up against better competition.

If both players can turn into at least solid starters, the team’s defensive rebuild accelerates by at least a full season.

- Might be time to forget about Trent Cole and Brandon Graham.  We knew it was going to be a tall order to fit them into a 3-4/4-3 Under defense, and it looks like it’s not going to happen.  At this rate, I expect to see Graham quietly traded later in the season for a middle-round draft pick.  Maybe it’s too early to judge, but I’m firmly pessimistic that either one of these players can play a significant role in the new defense.  At best, they’re placeholders on the depth chart until the team can draft/sign players who fit the scheme better.

- Get ready to hate Cary Williams.  Last night was a great example of what he “brings” to the table.  He’ll be a big improvement over last year, but expect to see a high number of passes completed to his man.  The book on him is he gives WRs a lot of space to make the catch underneath, but tackles them after the catch to limit gains.  For this year, that’s fine, it’s a big step up from getting beat deep every other play.  However, I have a feeling Eagles fans will get tired of that style fairly quickly.

- I’m a little worried about Zach Ertz.  In my ratings system, I had this pick as a reach.  So far, he looks like a good receiver (which we expected).  However, the fact that he, a high second round pick, isn’t getting more playing time tells you he must be doing something wrong in practice. Update: After finding the snap counts, it seems Ertz played more than I thought (20 snaps).  I’d still like to see more of him in-line before the season starts. The easiest guess is his blocking, which was a known weakness.  Still, it’s not as if the Eagles TE corps comprises a bunch of pro-bowlers.  I like Celek a lot, but I’d expect the #35 overall pick to at least give him a battle for the #1 spot.  Definitely not a big deal yet, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

- Matt Barkley is quietly having a pretty good stretch.  Granted he’s not playing against starters, but considering he was a 4th round pick, he’s acquitting himself very well.

Lastly, some of you may have noticed that yesterday’s chart was also posted over at BleedingGreenNation.com.  I’ve joined that site as a contributor, but this site will remain the main focus.  In fact, for the time being, my BGN posts will consist entirely of what I feel are the most interesting/important EaglesRewind posts.

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22 thoughts on “Preseason Game 2: Eagles vs. Panthers

  1. “Might be time to forget about Trent Cole and Brandon Graham”

    Graham has looked fine, he got pressure both this week and last week and if he rushes from the right side and gets 1v1 vs TE he will destroy em.

    ” I’m a little worried about Zach Ertz.”

    Ertz played plenty snaps last night. The ball just didnt come his way very much (I mean its not like Celek or Casey is blowing away with the receptions). The leading receiving TE is Harbor, but he is playing with 2nd strings where Ertz have mainly been with the 1st strings.

    Right now it seems Avant is going to be our leading receiver because he is constantly open. If we prorated his 3 quarters of work (I know it does not work that way), he is on course for almost 1800 yards in a 16 games season :P

    • I said Graham looked serviceable. I just meant that right now he looks more like a placeholder than a playmaker. Hopefully he’ll get better, but my guess is he’s not going to respond well to limited snaps. His consistent energy on every play last year was the best part of his game. Won’t get that only playing occasional downs.

      Ertz got more snaps than I thought. Downside of not having the All-22. However, I’d still like to see him get some more play in-line. Tough to tell how weak his blocking is without that and I’d rather see it now than during the season. He looks good as a receiver, but that’s really only half the job (unless Kelly changes his role, which is very possible).

      I’ve got absolutely no concerns about our receiving corps. D-Jax/Cooper/ Avant/Johnson will be be pretty good.

  2. Congratulations on being featured on BGN; I knew this site was gold the moment I read it and this upward trend was only a matter of time.

    Eagles had a great outing last night in all three football phases. I still have a problem with Foles not throwing passes beyond the five yard line, but hopefully half a season on the bench will teach him how to lob one down field! He is beginning to “look” the part of an NFL quarterback, but Vick is miles ahead in the passing realm (although, ironically I feel safe when Files runs…weird).

    Barbre has been outstanding at LT. I only recall one instance of him getting owned this preseason. Can’t wait to see how he grades out on PFF.

    • I do want to see Foles throw some longer passes, but you can’t really hold that against him. So far, the short throws are open. Those are the ones he SHOULD be taking. I’ll be more concerned when he misses an open deep man. So far, though, he’s been doing exactly what he should be doing. At some point, defenses will collapse. Then we’ll see if he’s actually improved that part of his game. Hopefully that happens next preseason game.

      Barbre’s been decent. As every fan is now aware, having a couple of decent backup O-lineman is important. Herremans has been confusingly bad though. Probably nothing, but something to watch.

      On Fri, Aug 16, 2013 at 1:29 PM, Eagles Rewind

      • “I do want to see Foles throw some longer passes, but you can’t really hold that against him. So far, the short throws are open.”

        Sure you can. We don’t have the All-22 so I can neither factually prove or disprove your assertion. I can, however, examine the fact that Vick completes long yardage passes while Foles does not. That means one of three things: 1) Vick’s athleticism pulls the defense towards the LOS, opening more deep opportunities; 2) Foles has similar opportunities but is not pulling the trigger and/or noticing them and/or does not feel comfortable attempting the throws; or 3) that that Foles has not had a single open deep receiver through two games. The third one sounds just silly. Combine that with the deep throw interception that Foles was unable to toss out of the end zone (C’mon man), and I am just not confident in his ability to stretch the field. He may become a great quarterback, but he needs to sit his ass on the bench while Vick can still play.

      • Hmmm….That’s a very reasonable argument. Needless to say, I’ll be watching the receivers closely next game with Foles on the field. It was his biggest weakness, we have to assume he at least tried to improve. If he couldn’t, then it’s a problem.

  3. At this point, given what we’ve seen, if Chip Kelly names Foles the starter, he will start to lose the locker room. What would be the point of calling it a fair, open competition, then making the decision based on relative intangibles. The players know Vick has been better, and they are probably more interested in the team winning in 2013, not 2015.

    • Exactly. It would be a stupid thing to do.

      And please tell me what Foles is better at than Vick based on this preseason.

      • Well it looks like Vick is going to start. To answer your question, I’d say it’s not that he’s been better than Vick (he hasn’t), it’s that he’s shown himself to be very capable of handling the job. Given his age, at some point you need to find out whether to bet on him or not.

        Also, we shouldn’t forget about Vick’s career or Foles 2012 season. As I said today, Vick’s career numbers are probably a much better gauge than 2 preseason games. I hope that’s not the case obviously. It’d be awesome if Vick played lights-out in Kelly’s system. Im just skeptical. Don’t worry though, I’ll adjust quickly if he keeps it up during the regular season.

    • Vick is definitely the default starter, partially for the reasons you stated. They’re definitely more interested in winning now (which is always the case in the NFL). THat’s part of what makes team-building so difficult. Aside from the GM, generally every other person in the organization is focused on “winning now”. That’s a lot of inertia.

      The question now is how much of a leash does Vick get?

    • You’re right on about the problem of starting Foles at this point and the need to maintain locker room credibility. Though, I’m also in the camp of wishing that we could see what Foles can do at the NFL level for real.

      It looks like there are some really big picture issues in tension with each other: (1) The need to find out whether our young QBs have the juice to compete once the team hopefully revs up in a few years and (2) building a culture that includes competition and trust in the coach to treat the players fairly.

      I can’t say I know what the right call is here, but navigating this tension is probably one of the most important big picture issues in Year 1 for Kelly.

      • Yep. Not an easy situation (part of me wishes they just hadn’t brought Vick back). However, chances are we’re going to see both QBs at some point anyway. Vick, if named the starter, is almost definitely going to be injured at some point.

        On the plus side, if Kelly really doesn’t want Foles and is just using Vick/Foles until he can draft someone, then Foles has shown enough to be worth a draft pick in a trade.

        The biggest issue I have with the current “consensus” is that everyone is weighing 2 preseason games more heavily than an entire career (Vick’s). Definitely a bit of the Recency Effect here, and it’s likely to leave a lot of people disappointed. Either that, or Chip Kelly really is a once-in-a-generation coach and his offense is a perfect fit for Vick. I mean that quite seriously, by the way.

        Good news is it looks like the offense is going to move regardless of the QB, which means there might not actually be a big difference.

      • I’m basically with you on your analysis of Vick and the “Recency Effect”, but there’s an important third option in there: Kelly manages to make Vick better, but still not a world beater. Maybe Vick can consistently be very good but not great. I agree with everyone who believes that Vick won’t make it through even two seasons (at the absolute most) without missing some serious time. That’s a big strike against being a great QB. And I have concerns about Vick’s ability to hold onto the ball when running around, along with reversion to old habits when the going gets tough.

        This isn’t to say that Foles doesn’t have any of these problems. It’s not like he’s proven he can take care of the football. Though, there’s a real possibility he’ll keep developing along the nice trajectory we’ve seen so far.

        If at the end of the day, we keep Vick for a couple, develop Barkley, bring in some more competition at QB, and trade Foles for a real pick, I guess I’m good. In my mind, the best strategy for getting a QB is trying to draft one high and shotgunning on top of that.

  4. How about this… Say Graham overtakes Cole before or early on in the season, which seems likely given the lackluster play of Cole. Being younger, BG is probably more likely to be able to adapt or improve the most, if given more snaps. Cole would surely be more effective as a Nickel rush specialist. Why not see what you have in BG as the OLB starter if all else is equal with Cole?

    • Well Graham has a lot more potential than Cole, by sheer virtue of his age. I think they’ll make every attempt to see what Graham can do, and give him some time to adapt. I just don’t know how likely that is to happen. I really hope it does, I like Graham a lot. However, he was so good last year at the 4-3 DE spot, its tough to think his NFL role is anything different.

    • Problem is Graham and Cole play opposite sites. Graham have been a LDE mainly since college and Cole has been a RDE for an eternity now.

      Also Cole is still a very good run defender.

      • Eh, different sides? Sure, but their responsibilities are basically the same at this time. Neither could play a true backup to Barwin. Are they really going to be set at ROLB and LOLB? Barwin usually is on the strong side isn’t he? I don’t think “side” designations matter that much.

  5. Little off topic, but Im posting here because it is the most recent thread.

    I wonder if it was worth it too grade turnovers based on the expected point charts you posted in the 4th and 1 article.

    Basicly calculate how much lost expected points is lost from the offense and how much is gained by the defense.

    For example, Foles interception against the Panthers happened at the 8th yard line and Carolina got the ball at the 20th. This means the Eagles lost what looks like 4.8x points and the Panthers gained what seems like 0.4x points for a total of 5.2x swing in expected points.

    Compare that to the Chris Polk fumble, it happened at the 32 yard line for an expected points of 3.1x and the Panthers recovered it at the 19th for around 0.4x point, so a total swing of 3.5x points.

    • Interesting concept. I have to think it through. It certainly makes sense, but I just wonder what the value ends up being (since turnovers are largely random). It might, though, provide an easy illustration of whether certain players consistently turn the ball over in the same spots on the field. If so, that’d be valuable to know.

      In any case, it’s a good idea for deciding which team really “won” the TO battle.

      On Sat, Aug 17, 2013 at 3:41 AM, Eagles Rewind

  6. Gotta disagree about Herremans, Brent. He was the Eagles’ best lineman against Carolina and they were all good. Check out his block on Shady’s long cutback run. I agree that he had a poor game against NE.

    • You could be right. Without the All-22, im not nearly as confident as I usually am (I usually rewatch the games on All-22 a few times).

      Regardless, Im not concerned yet, especially because Jason Peters hasn’t played yet.

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