ReFo: NE @ PHI, Preseason Wk 1
Finally we got a glimpse of the Chip Kelly Philadelphia Eagles featuring a whole lot of option looks and play-action passing. On the other side of the line, talk of a possible hybrid defense gave way to a pretty conventional 3-4 where the starters took a pounding, and the backups didn’t look like they were making the starters sweat about their jobs.
That is owed, in large part, to the New England Patriots machine humming along as you’d expect. Until, of course, a certain quarterback came in and upset the cart. But we’ll get to him later on as we focus on the key performances.
Patriots – Three Performances of Note
Defensive Line Depth
Guys like Justin Francis, Marcus Forston (+2.3) and Kyle Love have all shown New England isn’t afraid to take a chance on undrafted free agents along the defensive line. So who would use the team’s preseason opener to make a case for themselves?
Well, in the second half Joe Vellano (+3.4) would stake his claim with a quietly impressive performance. His sack with 28 seconds to go was the icing on an already impressive cake, as he picked up a hit (Q4, 8:03) and a defensive stop in the run game. Far more than that, though, he didn’t give up much ground at the point of attack.
Much like Vellano, the aforementioned Forston showed he intends on adding to his eight NFL snaps from 2012. He picked up a couple of pressures and stood up both Julian Vandervelde and Dallas Reynolds multiple times in the run game.
Blount the Brilliant?
It’s easy to forget just how good LeGarrette Blount (+2.5) was in his first year with Tampa Bay. Two poor years followed, but there were always glimpses that the talent had never disappeared. If you doubted that, you need only see his performance against the Eagles. A lot of his good work was done against the second-string defense, but he had some joy early against the starters.
His 101 yards (on just 11 attempts) came with just 19 yards after contact as he was far more than just a battering ram. Finding space and leaping over tacklers, he’s done his chances of securing a roster spot a world of good. That may be bad news for Brandon Bolden (-0.8) who was only handed four carries and blew a blitz pick up as the Patriots prepare to trim their roster in a few weeks.
From play one, the Patriots’ offensive line set out to put the Eagles in their place. Their starters took a simple counter and left any number of Eagles on the floor. They were simply too much for their opponents and, while it’s only preseason, it’s ominous how in-sync they all looked.
Indeed, the starters combined for a +7.2 grade with only Will Svitek (+1.0) playing more than 16 snaps. Perhaps more encouraging was that even when the starters left, the backups (outside of Luke Patterson) impressed. Brice Schwab (+2.0) and R.J. Mattes (+1.8) were the pick of the bunch (even if Mattes was charged with a sack allowed), and it promises to be an extremely competitive camp to make the roster.
Eagles – Three Performances of Note
The Quarterback Conundrum
The big story in Eagles camp is who will be quarterback, and just how will they be used. Well, there was an awful lot of shotgun snaps and a huge amount of play action in this game — 35% of their drop-backs to give you an idea of what is to come.
In terms of performance, Mike Vick (+1.8) had nine snaps and largely cemented his status as the favorite for the spot. His deep touchdown to Desean Jackson served as a reminder of his upside, while his mobility remains something that, especially when the Eagles use rollouts, will put defenders in two minds. That’s not to say Nick Foles (0.0) was unimpressive, as he completed 5-of-6 passes and he did get rid of the ball quicker than Vick, with his average time to throw 0.3 seconds quicker.
In the race for backup spots, the performance of Matt Barkely (-2.8) was disappointing, while Dennis Dixon (-2.8) did nothing to suggest he’ll be on anyone’s roster come the start of the season. The intriguing thing to watch may be G.J. Kinne (+1.4). He did that on an incredibly small sample size (four snaps), but showed plenty of escapability in the pocket and has a decent arm on him. If he plays more and continues in the same vein he might draw some interest if the Eagles try to stash him on the practice squad.
It started off badly and got worse as the game went on. The starters were manhandled at the point of attack and you still get the feeling this defense is very much in transition. With a number of players better suited to a 4-3 defense, and others who can best be described as stopgaps, they’ll need to get better quickly if the Eagles are to deliver in 2013.
It wasn’t all bad though, and third-round pick Bennie Logan (+2.0) made the most of his 28 snaps. Much like the Patriots’ defenders, he faced a lot of option plays so it is not always easy to gauge how that will translate, but with a sack and two defensive stops in the run game he could be in line for a fair amount of playing time in his rookie year.
A Tale of Two Tackles
You would hardly know Matt Tobin (+2.0) was on the field. Yet he was for 49 snaps, with 30 of those in pass-blocking situations. He gave up no pressure in an assured display that must have the team wanting to get a more sustained look at him, as opposed to the limited Allen Barbre (-1.5).
While Tobin was perfect in pass protection, Nic Purcell (-3.9) was anything but. Dropping back too deep, he made it extremely easy for the Patriots’ defensive ends to drive him into the quarterback, and he ended up surrendering five pressures on just 14 pass protection snaps. It’s going to take a lot for the New Zealander to challenge for a roster spot at this rate.
— Tim Tebow completed just one pass over 10 yards in the air on five attempts.
— Bradley Fletcher led the Eagles with five tackles even though he was on the field for only 16 snaps.
— Seven New England receivers ran routes. Aaron Dobson led the team with 26, followed by Kenbrell Thompson and Josh Boyce with 23.
I haven’t mentioned him yet, but Dane Fletcher (+3.2) had a fine outing in his 37 snaps. After missing all of 2012 he should be right back in the mix to provide some depth at linebacker for New England.
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