A lot of people thought Mychal Kendricks was as good as gone when the Eagles traded for Kiko Alonso and then drafted Jordan Hicks. After all, Kendricks isn’t the 6-3, 240 ILB that Chip Kelly would ideally like.
Kendricks is a talented and versatile linebacker. He has good cover skills. He can rush the passer. Kendricks has worked hard to become a good inside run defender. He can consistently take on and shed blocks. He has the speed to shoot gaps and make plays in the backfield.
Kendricks led the Eagles in solo tackles in 2014. He really filled up the stat sheet in 2013 when he finished second in total tackles and added 4 sacks, 6 TFLs, 3 INTs, 2 FFs and 4 FRs. That’s a lot of plays. And the 3-4 is at its best when the ILBs are playmakers.
This is a good move. The Eagles need to lock up the good young players they have. Next up should be Vinny Curry.
There was a time when the Eagles struggled to draft and develop young defensive talent. Thankfully, that seems to be a thing of the past.
There has been a lot of talk recently about Tim Tebow being a sure thing to make the Eagles roster. I don’t know if I fully buy that, but I’m beginning to feel he will make the team.
Matt Barkley looks better this year than he did the past two seasons, but Barkley hasn’t stood out. As I watched Bryn Renner, the Ravens third string QB, I thought…I wish he was an Eagle. Renner is only in his second season with the Ravens, but you can just see something with him. Renner may never be a starter, but he could develop into a good backup. He was 15-21-158 with 2 TDs on Saturday night.
Through 10 preseason games in his career, Barkley has 4 TD passes. His best game came last year in the preseason finale. Barkley was 21-33-253 with a TD and an INT. On Saturday night Barkley was 6-14-86.
But Tebow only went 2-5-13. How could you choose him over Barkley?
Chip Kelly drafted Barkley with the thought that he might develop into the long term answer at QB. That certainly doesn’t appear to be the case. At the least, you hoped Barkley would become a solid backup. If he had become Kelly’s version of A.J. Feeley, that would have made him worth the pick.
Right now Barkley looks like a #3 QB. That’s it. The light still might come on for him one day, but it just hasn’t to this point.
Tebow has been interesting to watch. He is an improved passer, but the one thing Tom House wasn’t able to fix is the mental side of things. Tebow struggles with his progressions and his decision-making.
How he didn’t see the open receiver or get him the ball is beyond me.
But Tebow still got the ball down inside the 1-yard line. His style isn’t pretty, but it can be effective. When Barkley isn’t throwing the ball well…the offense is in trouble. He can’t make things happen.
You generally want to keep the young QB so you can give him as much time as possible to develop, but if you don’t think Barkley is going to take that next step, keeping him around doesn’t make a lot of sense.
I wish there was a way to see each player with the starting offense. Playing with top talent might make Barkley look very different. He’s not special in any way so he needs help. Tebow would likely be more effective with top talent, but I don’t know if you could count on him consistently getting the ball to Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and the gang. Still, we do know that in the right situation, he can win games, even a playoff game.
If either Barkley or Tebow had to play significant snaps, the Eagles would be in trouble. You just don’t put in your third QB and win very often. As dysfunctional as Tebow can be, if you had to have one NFL coach designing and calling plays for him, it would be Chip Kelly.
I don’t think either Barkley or Tebow will play a whole lot this week. The third preseason game is mostly the starter and top backup. Both guys should be on the field a lot in the finale. And who knows…maybe the player who looks better in that game will win the job.
The one thing that bugs me as I consider Tebow for the roster is that Kelly explained recently that he wants his backups to look like the starters so that things won’t have to change much when there are injuries. Tebow looks more like Brent Celek or DeMeco Ryans than he does Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez or Barkley. That’s true of his appearance and his QB skill set. Things change drastically when he’s on the field.
But Kelly chose Tebow to be here. Maybe Tebow is so unique that Kelly is willing to make an exception in his case.
Last summer the Eagles started the preseason 0-2. That’s hardly a big deal since preseason records don’t matter at all. But the Eagles lost to Chicago 34-28 and to New England 42-35. The Eagles gave up 76 points in those games. Ouch.
This year the Eagles are 2-0. That’s nice, but doesn’t necessarily mean anything. The scores do offer some hints. The Eagles beat the Colts 36-10 and the Ravens 40-17.
Two preseason games don’t tell us the defense is going to be great. Opponents haven’t had a full complement of starters out there. Schemes are vanilla. And starters are playing limited snaps. Still, there is no denying the progress that has been made this year.
The Eagles have not given up a 1st quarter touchdown so far this year. They shutout the Ravens unitl the 4th quarter. X-plays were the huge issue with the defense last season. So far this summer they have not been a factor at all. Think about the one deep ball Joe Flacco tried to throw. His receiver was well-covered by Nolan Carroll. Flacco made the throw anyway. Carroll got his hand up to deflect the pass. FS Walter Thurmond was in perfect position to help on the play and picked off the pass. This is worlds different from Bradley Fletcher getting burned time after time and never getting help from Nate Allen.
It is too early to say the X-plays problem has been solved, but the Eagles have absolutely improved in that area. New secondary coach Cory Undlin has made a difference. The new players have made a difference. This won’t be the second coming of Troy Vincent and Brian Dawkins, but if they can be as good as Bobby Taylor and Greg Jackson, the defense will be much improved.
There is no doubt the Eagles will score points. If the defense takes a big step forward, this time might prove to be more of a challenge to the Seahawks and Packers than anyone anticipated.
* * * * *
Sam Bradford showed glimpses of what he can do. He found Riley Cooper open deep early on, but the ball was a bit off. Mark Sanchez has failed to see open receivers downfield so just seeing Cooper is a big thing for me. The timing between Bradford and his receivers will take some time. Practice is one thing, games are another.
Bradford made good throws to Jordan Matthews and Darren Sproles. You can see his tight spirals. He’s just a gifted, natural thrower.
Bradford was awkward in the pocket. His timing was off. But it was encouraging because he didn’t go into some kind of panic mode. Heck, it almost looked a couple of times like he was caught off-guard by having such good protection. I guess coming from the Rams he simply isn’t used to having time to scan the field and find a receiver.
The coaches will go over the tape and work on the things that need to be fixed. Bradford is still a work in progress. I was encouraged by what I saw. The most important thing is that he took some hits and played through them. Remember, he hadn’t been truly hit in 12 months. That is a tremendous lay-off for a football player.
Now that some of the rust is gone and Bradford has taken his shots, I’m curious to see how much better he looks next week. The Packers will be a good test for him and the Eagles.
* * * * *
The Eagles haven’t lost any key players to injury so far. That’s very encouraging when you look at how some other teams are losing players. I don’t blame Chip Kelly one bit for being cautious with his guys this summer.
Another week, another butt-kicking. I could get used to this.
The Eagles out-played the Ravens on offense, defense and STs. Sam Bradford was able to get in and shake off some rust. He took some hits and worked his way through them. Several backups improved from last week. Maybe most importantly, there weren’t any key injuries.
Are you ready to see Sam Bradford finally play? I know that I’m excited.
When is the last time there was this much buzz about an Eagles QB? You might have to go all the way back to Donovan McNabb in 1999. There wasn’t much buzz on Kevin Kolb. Mike Vick was more of a mystery since he was coming to the Eagles from prison.
The initial mystery with Bradford was why the heck Chip Kelly traded for him. That narrative changed during the OTAs and minicamp as we started to hear good things about Bradford. Then came Training Camp, where Bradford really stood out. He threw the ball well. He was accurate. Kelly looked a lot smarter once people actually saw Bradford play in the Eagles offense.
The question with Bradford now is about his health and durability. Is he ready to be on the field against a live defense? Can he take a hit? How will he move around?
It finally looks like we’ll get answers to those questions tonight.
I do wonder if the hype might be a bit much. If Bradford doesn’t throw a TD tonight, that doesn’t mean he’s been overrated and it’s time to panic. Bradford re-tore his ACL last August. He might be a bit rusty in his first game action in a long time.
I’ll be focusing on a few things. I want to see how he moves and how he responds to pressure. Players coming off a major injury can be skittish at times. Bradford needs to show he can deal with the rush and stay focused on his receivers. I’m excited to see how he throws the ball. Bradford can be very accurate and has a good arm. Let’s see that.
OTHERS OF NOTE
* John Moffitt will likely play a lot of RG tonight. He was very rusty last week, but did get better as the game went along. He needs to take a big step forward this week if he’s going to challenge Andrew Gardner for the starting RG spot.
* Josh Huff didn’t have any passes come his way in the opener. Let’s hope the coaches call his number tonight so we can see how much Huff has progressed since last year.
* I thought Matt Tobin and David Molk were the only backup offensive linemen who played well last week. The Eagles need some other players to emerge and push for roster spots. Could be a veteran like Dennis Kelly, a second year guy like Kevin Graf or a rookie like Brett Boyko.
* Raheem Mostert was good last week. He just needs to do more of the same. He wasn’t able to bring back a kickoff last week and I hope that changes.
* Someone please throw a good pass to G.J. Kinne.
* Walter Thurmond didn’t get much of a chance to show what he can do last week. The starters will play more tonight. I hope we get to see him make a tackle or two. Would love to see him make a play in coverage.
* It will be fun to see Vinny Curry play some OLB.
* Please let Bryan Braman play with the 2’s. He was banished to the 4th quarter last week and dominated. We know he’s better than scrubs. Let’s see how he does against better competition. Is there some reason he couldn’t be the #3 OLB?
* Someone needs to step up in the battle for the Nickel spot.
* Ed Reynolds had a good game. He still needs to play better to seriously push for a spot. He must make his presence felt on STs. He needs to be an active run defender. Picking off passes that thrown to you is a good thing, but he still needs to be better.
* We get to see new players Dasman McCullum (#49) and Deontae Skinner (#54). Both players are linebackers. We’ll have to wait and see how they are used.
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