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?

Penn at Yale: Quakers try to keep rolling, stay atop Ivies


Penn at Yale: Quakers try to keep rolling, stay atop Ivies

Penn (3-2, 2-0) at Yale (1-4, 1-1)
Yale Bowl, New Haven, Conn.
Friday, 7 p.m., NBCSN

It’s once again time for Friday night lights for Penn, which plays its second of three nationally televised Friday matchups tonight. Here’s a look at what’s on tap:

Scouting Penn
The Quakers won their third straight game and stayed perfect in the Ivy League with an easy 35-10 victory over old friend Al Bagnoli and Columbia last week. Junior running back Tre Solomon, the Ivy League’s leading rusher, was the star of the game, rushing for a career-high 127 yards on nine carries, catching five passes for 30 yards and even throwing a 23-yard TD pass on a late trick play. 

Quarterback Alek Torgersen threw for 241 yards and three touchdowns, one going to star junior Justin Watson and two more going to sophomore Christian Pearson, who’s emerging as another dynamic explosive receiving weapon. Linebacker Colton Moskal led the best defensive effort of the season with eight tackles, 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Moskal, a Syracuse transfer, currently ranks fourth in the Ivies in tackles with nine per game.

Scouting Yale
The Bulldogs lost their first three games (including a surprising one to Cornell in their Ivy opener), snapped their slide vs. Dartmouth, and then fell back to its losing ways last week at Fordham. Yale’s defense has particularly struggled, allowing 44 points to Fordham after previously surrendering 55 points in a loss to Colgate and 63 in a loss to Lehigh. 

The Bulldogs’ scoring defense currently ranks 118 out of 122 teams in the FCS (40.4 points per game) and 117th in total defense (487.8 yards per game). But their defense does have two of the top tacklers in the Ivies in Hayden Carlson and Foyesade Oluokun. And led by the tandem of Dale Harris and Alan Lamar, Yale leads the Ivies in rushing offense, averaging 184.8 yards per game — two-tenths of a yard more than Penn.

Series history
Yale leads the overall series 47-35-1, but Penn is 18-6 in the programs’ last 24 meetings dating back to 1992. The Quakers prevailed in last year’s matchup but hasn’t won at the Yale Bowl since 2010.

Storyline to watch
The historic Yale Bowl was erected more than 100 years ago but this will be the first true night game in the history of the stadium. That will only add to the mystique for the Penn players, who beat Yale in a night game at Franklin Field last season and love Friday night games because it reminds them of their high school days. But Yale players certainly figure to be up for the unique matchup, too. 

What’s at stake?
A win would keep Penn atop the Ivies with either Princeton or Harvard, the two other unbeaten frontrunners who face off the following day. 

Alek Torgersen, Justin Watson and Tre Solomon should have a field day against Yale’s leaky defense. Penn 42, Yale 27.

Gunn's bullet points: Logan's injury, battle in the trenches and more

Gunn's bullet points: Logan's injury, battle in the trenches and more

Derrick Gunn give his take on a few keys to the Eagles-Vikings game on Sunday.

• Losing Bennie Logan (groin injury) for this game is huge. He doesn't get a lot of notoriety for the dirty work he does in the trenches, but he helps Fletcher Cox get that push up the middle.

• Keep a close eye on the matchup between Jason Kelce and Vikings DT Linval Joseph. Kelce has been overmatched by bigger, athletic guys and Joseph at 6-4, 330 pounds is one of the best in the business.

• In his first three years as an Eagle, DE Connor Barwin had 26½ sacks as an OLB, including a career-best 14½ in 2014. Through five games this season, Barwin has just one. Fatigue might be a factor. He has played more snaps than any other Eagles defensive lineman (79 percent). Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz says reducing Barwin's playing time might keep him fresher and stronger in fourth quarters.

• WR Dorial Green-Beckham was on the field for 81 percent of the Eagles' plays vs. Washington last week. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich feels DGB is ready for an expanded role.

• Darren Sproles usually wins matchups against LBs, but that might not be the case against the Vikings. Mychal Kendricks' younger brother, Eric, has been a solid playmaking LB for Minnesota and he has the speed to keep up with Sproles.

• I've said it once and I'll say it again: get Kenjon Barner more touches in the run game. Barner has the least amount of carries among the Eagles' four running backs but the best yards-per-carry average at 5.8.