Let’s talk some more about the game and what we learned.
* The pass rush was better. The Eagles only got 2 sacks, but they affected Big Ben. Sometimes that meant moving him off his spot. There was a play when Mychal Kendricks pressured Ben and he lobbed a pass downfield that Nolan Carroll picked off. Sacks are fun because you see the QB go down, but pressure has a value as well. That INT is worth a handful of sacks.
The Eagles still need to get better, but at least this was a step in the right direction.
* Rookie WR Jordan Matthews caught a pass out of the backfield. The cool thing about that is that the play was designed to specifically get him the ball. It is obvious the coaches don’t see him as a typical rookie. It is important to mix him into the offense and to help him grow this year. God forbid anything happens to Mac or Coop, the Eagles need Matthews to be able to contribute. Get his feet wet when you can so that if things do go wrong and he’s needed, Matthews has a better chance of handling the situation successfully.
* It was good to see Coop out there. He has an excellent size-speed combination and is a good fit for this offense. It also helps that Foles trusts him. You could see that on the deep ball that went to Coop in the end zone. He was covered, but Foles put the ball in there to give Coop a chance to make a play.
The drops need to stop, obviously. Let’s hope that was some rust from all the time he’s missed this summer.
* OLB Marcus Smith is a good run defender. He can set the edge. He can shed blocks. He can make tackles. Smith still needs a lot of work as a pass rusher, but there is something to build on. His most impressive play came when he covered WR Antonio Brown down the sideline on a route. Smith had pretty good coverage. You don’t want that matchup, but there are times when the offense is going to come up with something that works perfectly. You hope that whatever defender is put in a tough position can do a reasonable job. Smith did more than that. Heck, he looked better than Curtis Marsh in coverage. Smith is a talented OLB.
* RB is a complicated position. I think the preseason finale vs the Jets could be a huge factor in making decisions. The backups will play a lot. They will be judged as runners, receivers, blockers and STers.
There is a compelling case for Chris Polk, Matt Tucker, Kenjon Barner and Josey Henry. The most simple factor here is health. If Polk can’t play, he’s in big trouble. The other 3 need to stay healthy.
One possibility would be going light at WR and keeping 4 RBs.
I need to study the game and see how these guys looked from an overall standpoint. STs play will be a huge part of that.
* My guess is that the Eagles would like to trade Brandon Graham. He certainly doesn’t appear to be part of the future here. He can rush the passer, but not is that enough to keep him? You already have one pass rush specialist in Vinny Curry. Beyond the starters at OLB, you have Marcus Smith, Bryan Braman and Travis Long. Smith isn’t going anywhere. Braman is supposed to be a key STer. Long is a player the team is interested in keeping, as you could see by having him play ILB and OLB vs the Steelers.
Graham can be a good role player and he’s a nice insurance policy for Trent Cole, but is he worth spending a roster spot on for that vs dealing him and getting a pick in return? There is no easy answer to this. Of course, the trade scenario only makes sense if some 4-3 team shows you they want Graham. I think some team would.
* DeMeco Ryans got flagged for an illegal hit. Then the Steelers had several questionable plays, but no flags. There were 2 hits on Brent Celek where his helmet popped off. There was also a hit on Shady’s TD that was awkward at best. Maclin was blocking near the goal line. Troy Polamalu came over and knocked the crap out of him, even though Mac was already engaged with someone and it didn’t affect the play. That to me was penalty material. Isn’t that the definition of unnecessary roughness?
Celek’s helmet popping off made those hits look worse than they were. I’m pretty sure at least one was completely clean, even though it looked bad. I need to check out the tape to be more sure.
* The running game was beautiful last night. Every RB had a run go for at least 14 yards. Those guys averaged more than 5 yards per carry as a group. I’m looking forward to seeing the OL in action. It looked like Kelce and Mathis had some really good blocks.
Even crazier was the way the backups handled the Steelers starting defense. I was shocked as Andrew Gardner and Matt Tobin opened big holes for backups to run on Lawrence Timmons. Polamalu and company. That’s insane.
But it did happen. And it was beautiful.