A week after a disaster in Pittsburgh, the Eagles once again resembled a real football team Thursday night.
With the starters playing only the first half well short of the full three quarters Andy Reid had them scheduled for the Eagles got encouraging performances from both sides of the football Thursday night in a 24-14 win over the Browns at the Linc.
With the starters on the field, the Eagles outscored the Browns 17-0. A far cry from the Steelers game, when the Eagles starters were outscored 14-0.
Were making progress, guard Todd Herremans said. Obviously, better than last week. We came out a little more ready to play than last week.
OK, it was just the Browns. And there were still major issues on the right side of the offensive line. And Michael Vick still doesnt look all that sharp. But with opening day only 17 days away, the Eagles put on a respectable showing for the fans who braved occasional heavy rain to watch what is expected to be the final tuneup of the preseason for the starters.
The Eagles finish the preseason against the Jets next Thursday at the Meadowlands, and the starters arent expected to play at all.
Our guys played a little better this week, Reid said. Theres plenty of things to work on. We still have things to clean up on both sides of the ball.
Most encouraging for the Birds against long-time Eagles assistant Pat Shurmurs Browns was the steady performance turned in by the first defense. Seven days after being shredded for two long touchdown drives in Pittsburgh, the Eagles blanked Colt McCoy and the Browns starting offense on six first-half possessions.
With outside linebacker Jamar Chaney and safety Kurt Coleman leading the way and rookie middle linebacker Casey Matthews holding his own the Eagles first defense recorded three sacks (Mike Patterson, Trent Cole, Phillip Hunt) and a takeaway against the Browns starting offense.
The Browns netted 103 yards with six first downs against the Eagles starters and were 2 for 8 on third down.
I think based on the progress that weve shown, everybodys pretty confident with where were at right now, Nnamdi Asomugha said. Obviously, were going to continue to get better, but where were at right now, it looks pretty good.
Matthews, who has come under intense scrutiny as a rookie starter, showed progress over his performance in Pittsburgh last week. He made five tackles, many of them near the line of scrimmage, knocked down a pass, and was just around the ball more than he had been.
I definitely felt better this week, Matthews said. Last week against the Steelers was really my first week. I think it was only seven or eight plays (against the Ravens), so I really couldnt get in a rhythm. I felt like it slowed down a lot thats what was the biggest change from last week to this week. I was making plays.
The Eagles first offense was hardly spectacular, but did put up 17 points on TD runs by Ronnie Brown and Vick and a 37-yard Alex Henery field goal.
The first couple scoring drives were set up by turnovers long snapper Jon Dorenbos recovered a muffed fumble by former Eagle Jordan Norwood (who was interfered with by another former Eagle, Sheldon Brown), and Samuel picked off McCoy in Browns territory. The final scoring drive went 77 yards in 10 plays over 5 minutes.
The Eagles ran well 4.5 average with the first team and didnt commit a turnover.
I thought we played well, LeSean McCoy said. We can always do better. For the most part I thought we did a good job. The defense gave us good field position and we took advantage of it and put some points on the board. Right now, its all about coming together and gelling together and getting the job done.
The offense wasnt particularly sharp but it was also quite vanilla. Vick picked off three times in Pittsburgh completed only one pass to a wide receiver, and McCoy (7 for 69 receiving) was on the receiving end of all but three of Vicks completions.
We still have a lot of work to do, it just takes time, but I think things will be OK, Vick said. Even after last week I still felt confident in my teammates and myself and our ability to succeed as an offense.
The Jason Kelce experiment didnt go particularly well. Kelce, getting first-team reps at center for the first time in place of Jamaal Jackson, blocked nicely down the field, in particular on Browns 13-yard TD run. But he struggled at times at the point of attack and looked much like the rookie sixth-round pick he is. Expect Jackson back with the starters in time for the opener, although Reid still wont say what his plan is moving forward at center.
The right side of the line rookie Danny Watkins and King Dunlap also struggled at times, especially in the first quarter. Although Vick was sacked only once, he absorbed a number of hits of the sort no coach wants to see in a preseason game.
Opening day is around the corner and still the Eagles are unsure about 40 percent of their starting offensive line.
Vick said it doesnt matter.
Regardless of who it is, Im going to give defenses fits, Vick said. Plain and simple. Saying it out of confidence, not arrogance. I trust those guys to get their jobs done, and for four quarters were going to give teams everything. Im going to instill confidence in them and thats the way were going to play, and thats the way theyre going to play.
Every player out there I have confidence in. If theyre talented enough to be on this level, I expect them to go out and fulfill their responsibilities and expect them to work just as hard as I am to try and get better.
Matthews and Watkins, the two likely rookie starters, were the only starters to play into the second half.
It was a good night for special teams, with Dorenbos recovering the muffed punt return, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie blocking a field goal attempt and Clay Harbor recovering a fumbled punt.
Harbor, a second-year tight end, also converted a 4th-and-1 with a seven-yard run on the Brown TD drive.
Vince Young was fairly effective, completing nine of 12 passes for 58 yards and scoring on a 10-yard run late in the third quarter.
Derek Landri and Brian Rolle contributed second-half sacks, giving the Eagles five in the game and 14 in three games this preseason.
The Browns didnt score until the fourth quarter on Seneca Wallaces flukey 17-yard TD to former Eagle Alex Smith on a deflected pass.
E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com.