First One in the Books: Patriots Clip Eagles in Chip’s NFL Debut

First One in the Books: Patriots Clip Eagles in Chip’s NFL Debut

In many respects the Eagles’ first preseason game under head coach Chip Kelly probably met a lot of expectations. Philly’s offense was potent, be it by quick strike or methodical march. The defense on the other hand is still a work in progress. And not surprisingly, an opponent that’s reached the playoffs nine times in the last 10 years looks far sharper in August than a club that is essentially starting over.

The Birds ultimately fell to the New England Patriots by a final of 31-22, although the result doesn’t matter. The biggest initial take-away from this exhibition is Chip’s squad should be entertaining in 2013. They looked like they can “hang,” at least they did for a quarter or so until the starters began exiting.

Oh, it was shaky during the early-goings for sure. When Stevan Ridley broke off a 62-yard run on the first play from scrimmage for New England, it was shades of last year all over again. That sinking here-we-go-again feeling continued to creep in while the Patriots were finishing off their six-play touchdown drive – all runs. A short few minutes later, the Eagles’ offense were immediately into 3rd and long on their opening possession.

This was worst nightmare stuff. Then they came to life.

Michael Vick found Jason Avant down the seam for 23 yards, a big conversion to keep the series alive. Two plays later he hooked Pats safety Steve Gregory with a ball-fake, then unloaded a perfect 47-yard strike into the hands of DeSean Jackson, who had gained a stride on talented corner Aqib Talib. That connection unofficially went for the first touchdown of the Chip Kelly era.

Things seemed to loosen up from there. Tom Brady took it personally, forcing New England to paydirt once more before hitting the showers. Hey, what did you expect? The guy is amazing.

Then after some back-and-forth, Nick Foles would lead the Eagles on a long scoring drive of his own early in the second quarter, knotting the score at 14 apiece less than 20 minutes into the fray.

You don’t always see that kind of pace in a preseason game, and certainly not the first one of the summer. Brady played for two series. Chip got his up-tempo offense going. For a large portion of the first half, this contest resembled actual football.

As far as the Eagles’ quarterbacks are concerned, Vick did edge out Foles for the night. The four-time Pro Bowler was 4/5 for 94 yards and the score, with one stalled drive. Foles finished 5/6 for 43 ticks, moving the offense into the end zone once, but also had a fumble lost – albeit largely due to a protection breakdown.

Matt Barkely also saw plenty of work. While the rookie was largely unimpressive, he did improve as he got acclimated to the speed of the game, posting an 11/22 for 103 and a TD.

We’ll be exploring more of this game, including individual player evaluations and a look at some of the vanilla schemes we saw over the next couple of days. By and large though we’re already tempted to say this was a successful introduction into the Chip Kelly era.

If you caught the game, as I’m sure many of you did, what are your thoughts? Who or what stood out to you from Chip’s debut?

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek 1st road win

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek 1st road win

Penn State (5-2, 3-1) vs. Purdue (3-4, 1-3)
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.
Saturday, noon, ABC/ESPN2

Scouting Penn State
The Lions upended the Buckeyes, 24-21, when safety Marcus Allen blocked a field goal and cornerback Grant Haley returned it 60 yards for a touchdown with 4:27 left in the game. The Lions, who rallied from a 21-7 deficit after three quarters, earned their third straight victory.

Allen and Haley were named Big Ten co-Special Teams Players of the Week, and linebacker Brandon Bell, who had a career-high 19 tackles in the game, earned the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week honor.

Running back Saquon Barkley has rushed for 681 yards, fifth most in the Big Ten, and is tied for the conference lead in touchdowns with nine.

Scouting Purdue
Purdue fell to Nebraska last week in the debut of Boilermakers interim coach Gerad Parker, who replaced the fired Darrell Hazell on Oct. 16. Quarterback David Blough leads the Big Ten in passing yardage (2,065) and total offense (300.7 yards per game), and has thrown 14 touchdown passes (albeit with 11 interceptions).

The Boilermakers are, however, last in the Big Ten in rushing offense (120.3), total defense (441.0), turnover margin (minus-8) and red-zone offense (15 for 23, 11 touchdowns) and next to last in rushing defense (249.0) and passing efficiency.

The Lions lead 13-3-1 and have won the last seven meetings, the most recent a 45-21 victory in 2013.

Storyline to watch
This is the ultimate trap game for PSU, and the Lions’ approach to it will say a lot about their leadership and maturity. They have also dropped their last four road games dating back to last season, including both this fall. Their last victory away from home came last Oct. 24, against Maryland in Baltimore.

What’s at stake
The Lions can become bowl-eligible with a victory.

Penn State 35, Purdue 21

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.