Making a Good First Impression
Most of the rookies were impressive in their first NFL action, but none more so than Nick Foles. Normally when the starters come out of a preseason game, you can tune out and feel comfortable knowing you're not going to miss too much. With the Steelers leading the Eagles 13-0 going into the locker room on Thursday night, that was pretty much my mindset the rest of the game. Watch the second half casually, you can always go back and review it again later for your notes.
Wrong. Foles turned this into one of the most exciting Eagles preseason games I can remember.
The third-round pick entered the game in the third quarter, looking fairly crisp for two series, but to no avail. Apparently the third time is the charm for Foles. Following a Steelers punt, Foles dropped back on first down and scanned the field. With pressure in his face, he escaped the pocket, but was composed enough to keep his head up. It paid off with his first NFL touchdown pass.
Foles found Damaris Johnson wide open 45 yards away and connected, with Johnson running the rest of the way to complete the 70-yard scoring play. Following another punt, on his very next pass Foles went deep again, this time hitting Mardy Gilyard at the pylon for a 44-yard touchdown.
Just like that, the Eagles led 14-13. The action went back and forth the rest of the night until Alex Henery drilled a 51-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining to steal a 24-23 victory.
Foles stole the show, but the class of 2012 was on full display. While only credited with a tackle assist, Fletcher Cox looked strong, forcing a couple of runs to go east-west. Mychal Kendricks wasn't tested vertically, but showed tremendous instincts and wound up with four solo tackles. Vinny Curry looked strong against the run going against Pittsburgh's twos, notching five tackles. Brandon Boykin added a 46-yard kick return. And Dion Lewis may have some serious competition from Bryce Brown, who looks quick and powerful, finishing with 33 yards on three carries and two receptions for 16.
Opposing Quarterbacks, Beware
The Eagles were without Jason Babin and Trent Cole on Thursday night, a duo on the edges that combined for 29 sacks a season ago. No matter. The front four had little trouble getting pressure on Steelers quarterbacks, particularly defensive ends Philip Hunt, Brandon Graham, and Darryl Tapp. The three of them combined for 3.5 sacks, and generally harassed the passer any time he stood in the pocket for longer than two seconds.
It's worth noting the Steelers were starting a rookie left tackle, who Hunt abused for two sacks and a strip on his own. Regardless, those guys got the job done.
One more thing I liked about the defense was there weren't a ton of missed tackles by the first teamers. No doubt we could go back and find a couple, but generally speaking, when a defender had a clean shot at the ball carrier, he either brought him to the turf, or corralled him until the rest of the unit swarmed. There are obviously still a few kinks to work out, but that much was a good sign.
I Don't Even Have Dish
Thanks to thunderstorms in the area, there was a roughly 10-minute interruption to my feed of the game, so I missed two series in their entirety -- including Vick's second act. What I saw of his first trip wasn't the worst. He checked down for a short gain on first down, then had to eat the ball on third. The Eagles were in max protection on the sack, but Pittsburgh didn't blitz, and it appeared Vick couldn't find anybody open.
I can't speak for his next outing, but obviously Vick injured his thumb on center Jason Kelce's helmet. X-rays are negative, which is positive, but that (injury) more than anything else is what we don't need to see from Vick.
I could drive my car through that hole. Went 33 yards, setting up Pittsburgh's first touchdown.
Three plays later, the Steelers scored easily when either Nnamdi Asomugha, Jaiquawn Jarrett, or Brian Rolle inexplicably failed to cover a receiver at the goal line. There was another long passing play earlier where it appeared Jarrett was left all alone by the sidelines to cover two receivers. There were a lot of excuses for confusion in the secondary last season, but it won't stand this year. Of course, this is what preseason is for, but they have to clean it up.