The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Steelers 24-23 in their preseason opener Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field. However, this one was much more tense than a preseason game is supposed to be, for a lot reasons. We had a Michael Vick injury scare, a crazy debut for a rookie QB, multiple lead changes in the 4th quarter and it was all capped off with a 51 yard game winning FG with just seconds left on the clock.
Eagles fans got a pretty big scare as Michael Vick whacked his hand on Jason Kelce’s helmet. As you can see here, he was clearly in some pain… or he was going to the bathroom, I couldn’t quite tell. Vick did not return to the game afterward, although none of the starters did so he obviously wasn’t going to come back either way. He spent the rest of the half standing on the sidelines with his thumb in a cup of Gatorade. X-rays at halftime were negative and after the game Andy Reid said it was just a contusion.
While Vick’s injury scare was the big story of the first half, it should be noted that the first team offense did pretty much nothing in their two series.
Jaiquwan Jarrett got the start and had a pretty disastrous go of it. This gif sums his night pretty well. He took poor angles on tackles and appeared to blow coverage on the Steelers first TD. You could see Nnamdi Asomugha shade coverage toward the sideline, but the WR broke in and Jarrett starts to the step in that direction, but clearly he was too late. It was a pretty terrible showing overall for the 2nd year safety. While we’re talking about 2nd year defenders… Brian Rolle wasn’t very good either.
The obvious bright spot for the defense was… everyone on the defensive line. Literally. They had 7 sacks including 2 for Phillip Hunt, who flat out dominated Steelers 2nd round pick Mike Adams. Brandon Graham, Cedric Thornton, Darryl Tapp, Monte Taylor & Xavier Brown also collected sacks. Derek Landri was in the backfield seemingly every play in the first half and Vinny Curry was just tossing OTs aside in the 2nd half. We all heard about Curry’s pass rushing ability, but his play against the run was really impressive. While the Steelers do have a terrible offensive line (and backup OL), the Eagles are going to have a tough time deciding who to cut. Because while you could hardly notice, the Eagles’ two starting DEs, who led the league in sacks as a pair, weren’t even playing.
The other bright spot for the D had to be the play of rookie LB Mychal Kendricks. On the first play of the game, the Steelers ran a stretch play and Kendricks ran down the RB to the sideline and pulled him down for a sound tackle. Overall, he was pretty much exactly as advertised. Very fast and a sound tackler.
NICK FOLES. Does this guy have future Cardinals QB written all over him or what? The rookie went 6 for 10 for 144 yards and 2 TDs. His first TD was very Ben Roethlisberger like as he ducked to escape pressure, rolled out, and chucked the ball on the run probably 40-45 yards in the air to a wide open Damaris Johnson, who ran it in for a 70 yard TD.
On the Eagles’ very next possession, Foles hits Mardy Gilyard for a 44 yard pass on the very first play. It was a nice throw by Foles, but the catch by Gilyard, who had the DB hanging all over him, was very impressive. Also, while Gilyard clearly fell right on top of the pylon, which makes it elementary that he scored… the replacement refs called him down at the one. The Eagles challenged and Gilyard was awarded the D for a really great effort.
As you can guess, people in the game thread already started calling for Foles to take over the backup job over Mike Kafka, who was very poor in his limited action tonight. His biggest lowlight came when, under pressure, he basically flung the ball blind across his body and straight into the mitts of Steelers DE Al Woods, who returned it 53 yards.
Bryce Brown ran him down to prevent the TD. Brown, by the way, really bolstered his case for a roster spot tonight, with an impressive 33 yard run in the 3rd quarter. He also caught 2 passes for 16 yards.
Actually, among the backup QBs, Kafka had to be considered 3rd best. The much maligned Trent Edwards looked pretty good leading the team on a two go ahead 4th quarter drives. The first ended with a TD pass on 4th down to Jamel Hamler and the other ended with a 51 yard game winning FG from Alex Henery.
It may be too early to anoint Foles, but I don’t think its crazy to say that Edwards has played himself into the backup discussion.
The return game was something we were watching for and so far so good. Brandon Boykin took his first kickoff attempt 46 yards & Damaris Johnson took his first punt back 33 yards (it was called back). Overall, a pretty good debut for the pair of rookie return men.
As preseason games go, this one couldn’t have started much worse, but in the end was actually pretty fun. Watching the defensive line tee off, Foles’ crazy debut, Trent Edwards leading two go ahead 4th quarter times, Alex Henery hitting a 51 yard game winner… It was good time.
Next time, let’s have our good time a little earlier in one of these preseason games.