Preseason Game #3: What you should REALLY be watching for…

The third preseason game is tomorrow night.  It’s standard at this point for Eagles commentators/beat writers/bloggers to put up a “what I’m watching” post, and I’m no different.  I will say, however, that I tend to look at things a bit differently.  For example, at Birds 24/7, Tim McManus is watching:

– Kenny Phillips

– Cole/Graham

– Watkins

– Herremans

– Russell Shepard

Click the link to see his rationale, but none of those strike me as particularly meaningful, though they’re all of some interest.

Defensive Line, especially Logan/Curry

So far, the defensive line is FAR ahead of where I (and most others) expected them to be.  Preseason performance obviously has to be discounted, but there’s no doubt the group looks stronger than I thought they’d be.  Of note here are Bennie Logan and Vinny Curry.  Both players have shown signs of being very good players in this defense.  However, both have also been predominantly matched up against backups.  I want to see what they do when playing against #1s.

Logan, in particular, is an important piece, by virtue of Sopoaga playing in front of him.  Sopoaga isn’t exactly a world-beater at NT, and isn’t likely to produce anything beyond mediocre play.  Every team needs some draft luck in order to contend, and hitting on a 3rd round NT would certainly qualify.  If Logan can contribute, it eliminates a big hole in the defensive roster.

Rumor has it both Logan and Curry will rotate in early tomorrow night.  If we’re talking long-term (and we should be), that’s the biggest thing to watch.  Can either player be a significant contributor?

Nate Allen

It’s looking more likely that Nate Allen will be starting for the Eagles this year, at least in Game 1.  The question here is, can he be average?  With what is expected to be a very good offense, the Eagles don’t need a GREAT defense, just a passable one.  Last year, the team’s Safety play was horrendous.  Missed tackles and bad angles against the run and broken coverage in the pass game.  I’m confident that Patrick Chung (while he’s healthy) will provide solid, if unspectacular, play.  If Nate Allen can do the same, the Eagles will have filled the biggest hole on the team.

Michael Vick

Now that he’s the unquestioned starter, I hope to see a better representation of Chip’s playbook.  We won’t get it all (he’ll save a lot for the regular season), but we should get a much better feel for how the offense will function.  Beyond that, I’m looking for one thing from Vick:  Can he hit throw the bubble screen accurately?  So far, it looks like the WR screen will be a foundation of the offense.  However, it’s not as easy a throw to make as it looks.  To be successful, the ball has to be delivered quickly and with precise accuracy.  If the throw ends up on the WR’s back shoulder, it essentially ruins the play.  With DeSean especially, it can mean the difference between a huge gain and a negative play.

TEs in the Slot

There might not be an area of this offense I’m more excited about.  With the TEs the Eagles have, specifically Clay Harbor and Zach Ertz, this should be a consistent source of positive match-ups.  I want to see a lot of it.  At the highest level, it forces the defense to change its personnel.  Normally, the defense would be in a Nickel alignment, with 3 CBs to cover the offense’s 3 WRs.  However, a CB won’t be able to consistently cover Harbor/Ertz.

There are a few options for the defense, but none of them are that attractive.  It also plays to both Harbor and Ertz’s strengths, namely the Size/Athleticism combination.

Health Insurance

I’m not overly concerned with the bottom of the roster.  It’s obviously important for the players, but for the team’s overall performance, the last few spots on the roster aren’t going to matter much.  However, I want to remind everyone that a few of the Eagles’ offseason additions and presumed starters must still be considered injury risks.  Specifically:

– Patrick Chung.  He’s missed 14 games over the past 3 seasons.  In all likelihood, he won’t play 16 games this year.  Someone has to be able to step in and provide adequate play.  I’m not sure that person is on the roster.

– Bradley Fletcher. He played all 16 games last year and in 2010, so I’m more confident in him than I am in Chung.  Let’s not forget that he’s torn the ACL in his right knee TWICE (as well as the MCL once).  The Eagles aren’t exactly deep at CB.

Therefore, if you want to watch what’s really important during the second half of the game, keep your eyes on the DBs.  It was the team’s biggest weakness last year, and while it should improve based on the current starters, there’s very little depth.  If the wheels are going to come off this year, it’ll likely have something to do with this position group.

Whether its Wolff, Coleman, Phillips (not likely), Whitley, Lindley, etc… doesn’t really matter.  The Eagles just need SOMEBODY that can step in and deliver non-catastrophic play.



11 thoughts on “Preseason Game #3: What you should REALLY be watching for…

  1. Great list. Your point is that fringe players get decided in PS4. For PS3, we should focus on players that will contribute regularly and with impact. I agree. With regulars in mind, here’s my W2W4.

    Safety: Nate v. Phillips – Can we get average play from one of them?
    CB: Still shaky starters? Besides that – your already mentioned depth concerns
    OLB: The transition of the 4-3 DE/McCoy’s viability
    ILB: Is Kendricks going to take a giant step up? He’s shown signs…
    DL: For certain, Logan and Curry. Also, is Cox getting it – becoming the dominant force we’d hoped for?

    QB: I wonder how vanilla it will be with Vick?
    RB: Get Shady out of there. Brown v. Polk as important #2
    OL: Everyone assumes Peters will be awesome. I want to see it!!!
    WR: Ehh, it’s hard to believe we’ll learn anything Earth-shaking tomorrow.
    TE: I agree with you. Isn’t it fun that we’re thinking of Clay Harbor as a weapon?

    K: Will Dorenbos get Henery back on track?

    I’m supposed to only pick 5? Peters, OLB, S, Kendricks, young DL

    • I also meant that some of the “common” factors won’t really be discernable this game. For example, Cox has his spot no matter what. We won’t know about his transition until we see him in the regular season.

      Similar story with Kendricks. Ill be watching him, but this game won’t tell us much. We know he’ll be great at times. We don’t know if he’ll be consistently good. Preseason won’t answer that.

      Brown vs. Polk I really don’t see. I understand that Brown has had some issues with catching passes, but as a runner, he’s light-years ahead of Polk. When it counts, I just don’t see Polk getting carries unless Brown really screws up.

      Your point about Henery is interesting, since it’s a subtle yet important story (Henery has really struggled). I’ll be watching that closely as well.

  2. That’s funny, I was thinking the same thing about the “common factors” on the offensive side of the ball, which I’m starting to take for granted is going to be good.

    I’m surprised by your “Brown=Polk + light-years” opinion. I hadn’t gotten that idea yet. Something to watch for… ; >

    • Brown gives you home-run potential, Polk doesn’t. If it’s close to even that’s gotta be the tie-breaker. Would be nice to see Brown on the field though.

      On Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 1:05 PM, Eagles Rewind

  3. There’s some baseball stat that I’ve seen but paid little attention to, mostly because I pay little attention to baseball, something along the lines of Wins Above Replacement. Think you can quantify the WAP (or whatever it is) for Allen, Chung, etc.? Maybe somebody has already done that. I’m just casting about for a way to quantify how bad Allen, to pick on one guy in particular, has been. Or, for that matter, how far above the mean Jarius Byrd might be.

      • I feel that this is a garbage stat for comparing young players–especially when compared to retired all pros–but I am not exactly sure why I am hostile to the WCAV (mainly because I don’t really like the AV portion?). Care to enlighten me as to why I am wrong?

      • THe problem with AV is that (as far as I know), it’s built entirely from stats. That means, especially on defense, that certain player can get boosts by being on a bad defense. For example, Nate Allen had 56 tackles last year, which lead to a higher AV than someone like Chung. However, he likely had so many tackles because the defense was so bad, and possibly because he allowed balls to be completed that he should have been able to break up.

        I like the AV stat a lot more for the offensive side of the ball, but it obviously has to be discounted a bit regardless.

        That said, it’s useful in illustrating the fact that we’re talking about players who are in the same general “tier”. So a healthy Chung, while better IMO, isn’t going to looks entirely different from what we’ve had. I do think he’ll be much more consistent, and definitely is a better tackler than the guys the Eagles used last season. (Coleman for the most part).

  4. I am not sure this game will give us much on defense considering the Jags are missing a QB and generally have an awful offense. I’ll be watching the run stopping and tackling, but I am completely discounting anything that happens in the passing game. I’ll be happy if our defense causes a turnover via fumble, but interceptions are going to the Jags QB. I will consider the defense a failure if it gives up more than 10 points in the first half.

    On offense, I want Vick to continue having a perfect preseason. Avoid hard hits, make intelligent throws and let the playmakers make plays. I know we can move the ball between the 20s, but I need to see touchdowns when we hit the red-zone. We also need the runningbacks to HOLD ON TO THE DAMN FOOTBALL please. Finally, I would like to see Cooper come up with a big play via using his size to win a jump ball. I’ll also take outstanding performances from DJ#2 or Sheppard as well.

    Most importantly, no injuries! GO EAGLES!

    • Defense gives up 17 in first half = fail.
      No fumbles caused = fail.
      Vick avoid hard hits = success (took the ball out of bounds on scrambles).
      Intelligent throws to playmakers = fail.
      Red-zone efficiency = Super fail.
      Runningbacks = fail.
      Cooper = pass.
      DJ2 = half credit (great return game sans fumble).
      Sheppard = pass.

      Not a strong outing, but putting up 16 in one half is pretty good. The defense was flat out sad, particularly thanks to safeties getting out of the way on Blackmon’s TD and all running plays. We need more talent back there in the worst way. I am now on the 2nd for Byrd bus.

      • I was underwhelmed, as were most. However, I need to re-watch. The play-calling seemed really strange to me and I’m starting to consider the possibility that a Vick offense will be more fundamentally different than a Foles offense (beyond the obvious things we’ve talked about).

        At the very least, it reminded everyone of Vick’s flaws (a much-needed reality dose) and why I’m concerned. In all likelihood, Vick is the same QB he has been the past 10 seasons he’s played.

        The O-lIne looked like a mess, despite having Peters. That’s a problem.

        The defense is exactly what I thought it’d be. The occasional coverage mix-up is going to happen, it’s unavoidable. THe question is how often? It’s going to take another offseason to address the talent, so for now, there’s no choice but to hope for mediocrity.

        On the plus side: Cox, Kendricks, Curry…..and I know Brown fumbled, but I’m still very excited for the possibility of an option with Shady and Brown in the backfield at the same time. Something like:

        1) Inside hand-off the shady 2) Roll out left for an Outside pitch to Brown 3) QB Keeper with Vick

        With Shady as the primary, the LBs have to stay home and if the fake is sold, they’ll have to commit. Get Cooper or Avant on the outside to block and there should be plenty of space for Brown, or at the very least a wide-open lane for Vick.

        Haven’t seen it (to my knowledge), but I refuse to believe that’s not in the playbook.

        On Sun, Aug 25, 2013 at 2:52 PM, Eagles Rewind

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