The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from the Eagles’ Third Preseason Game

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from the Eagles’ Third Preseason Game

Despite pulling out a 31-24 win in Jacksonville on Saturday night, there is no question this will go down as the most disappointing of the Eagles’ four preseason games. All you’re really looking for from these glorified scrimmages is execution, and it was lacking in bounds by Chip Kelly’s squad.

The offense looked sloppy and disoriented, nothing at all like the hyper-efficient unit from the previous two weeks. Defensively they were mistake-prone and had trouble getting off the field, inconsistent like you might expect of a work in progress.

The issues on both side of the ball are compounded by the added emphasis that’s often placed on the third exhibition game, the proverbial dress rehearsal. If this was supposed to be a preview of what’s in store for 2013, the Eagles failed to distance themselves from 2012 first.

Now there’s no need to overreact. Both Kelly and defensive coordinator Billy Davis undoubtedly left plenty in their bag of tricks. There were a lot of teaching moments, and there are still two weeks to get the club ready for September 9 in Washington. Remember to breathe.

It honestly wasn’t pretty though, and there’s no one real area to point the finger. We’ll break down the individual efforts in the next few days, but let’s go lightning-round style with the good, the bad, and the ugly from what could be the last significant tune-up before the regular season gets underway.

THE GOOD

Nick Foles’ game-winning drive

Finished 10/11 for 112 yards, and led the offense on two touchdown drives including a 14-play, 99-yard march to put the Birds ahead with 2:18 left to play. Mike Vick was more erratic than we’ve seen of late, so expect Foles’ performance to give rise to some controversy in print and on talk radio, even if he did play against backups and all but one snap came in the fourth quarter.

456 yards of total offense

The Eagles trailed for much of the game, and while they did score 31 points, they left plenty more on the field. Still, it’s positive to see the offense continuing to roll up big numbers, because if they ever manage to quit shooting themselves in the foot, they’re going to be very difficult to stop.

Seven sacks

The defense had its share of issues, but one area they were a plus was rushing the passer. On top of hauling down Jags’ passers in the backfield a whopping seven times, they also landed a bunch of hits, and the relentless pressure even helped force a turnover.

THE BAD

The offensive line

Not a good night for this unit, and we’re talking as a whole. Evan Mathis got tagged for a hold on a big third down. Lane Johnson looked like a rookie for the first time. Jason Kelce had trouble snapping the ball, while Todd Herremans’ up-and-down play carried over for a third straight week. Surprisingly disappointing.

Stalling in the red zone

A big reason why the Eagles left so many points on the board is their failure to capitalize down tight. They punched the ball into the end zone three times on six trips, far from ideal to say the least, especially considering two of the conversions came when Foles was in the game. Must get better in the red area.

Getting pushed around by the Jaguars

Realize the Eagles were only 4-12 themselves last year, but by all appearances the Jacksonville franchise is in far worse condition, as it usually is. Coming off a 2-14 campaign, the Jags’ quarterback options are worse, and they don’t have near the high-end talent Philly does. Sure, Gus Bradley is trying to change the culture, but it should take time. That said, it sure looked like their starters were on a level playing field here.

THE UGLY

Jordan Todman’s 63-yard touchdown run

We’ll have to examine exactly what went wrong on the play, but some of it was obvious. Bad backside pursuit created yet another huge cutback lane, while Earl Wolff (in at safety with the first-string D) took a horrible angle to the ball carrier, allowing a relative unknown to take it to the house with ease. This was the third run of 50-plus yards surrendered by the Eagles this preseason, and that’s three too many.

These helmets

I mean, what are they thinking???

Turnovers

The real story. Yes, the Eagles are going to let opponents score, because they’re just not there yet defensively. And yes, Chip Kelly’s offense is exciting as hell and has no problem flying up and down the field at will. But if they don’t knock it off with the turnovers, they can’t beat anybody. It’s 2011 and 2012 all over again.

Vick threw an interception caused in large part by some immediate pressure up front, but it was a bad decision as he jumped off of his back foot, probably just trying to throw the ball away – gotta eat that one. Damaris Johnson fumbled on a punt return. Bryce Brown fumbled as he was going into the end zone. There’s no telling exactly how many points this cost the Eagles both ways, but you can estimate they left between 7-13 out there, and those giveaways directly led to 10 the other way. Rest assured, better teams will not let them get away with it.

>> BOX SCORE [ESPN]

NBA Notes: Chris Paul to undergo surgery for torn ligament in thumb

NBA Notes: Chris Paul to undergo surgery for torn ligament in thumb

LOS ANGELES -- Chris Paul will undergo surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb and is expected to miss six to eight weeks.

The Clippers said Tuesday that their All-Star guard will continue to undergo treatment and evaluation by the club's medical staff.

Paul was injured on a first-half play involving Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook in Monday night's victory over the Thunder. Paul didn't return in the second half.

The Clippers are 26-9 in 36 games with Paul in the lineup this season. He is averaging 17.5 points, 9.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds, and leads the NBA with 2.25 steals per game (see full story).

Knicks: Anthony tells Jackson he wants to stay in New York
NEW YORK -- Carmelo Anthony still believes the Knicks can win and still wants to be in New York when they do.

Another January collapse makes it easier to wonder if either will happen.

The Knicks have fallen off the playoff pace, again proving they can win headlines but not games. It seems like the same old story in New York, even though Anthony still thinks they can change the ending.

"Yeah, we will," he said. "I still believe."

He reiterated that Tuesday in a meeting with Phil Jackson, telling the Knicks president of basketball operations that he wanted to remain with the team, according to a person with knowledge of the discussion.

The question is how much Jackson still wants him.

A Fanragsports.com piece by Charley Rosen last week was heavily critical of Anthony, saying his legs are "going, going, almost gone" and that "the only sure thing is that Carmelo Anthony has outlived his usefulness in New York."

Criticism of Anthony is nothing new, but this came from a longtime confidant and former assistant coach of Jackson, leading to speculation that those were the same thoughts as the Knicks executive (see full story).

Hornets: Clifford blames poor defense for Hornets' losing streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Hornets coach Steve Clifford points to one factor when explaining his team's five-game losing streak -- a lack of defense.

Charlotte went 0-5 on its recent road trip, surrendering an uncharacteristic 109.6 points per game during that span. The Hornets return home Wednesday night to face the Portland Trail Blazers, part of a stretch of five-game home stand which Clifford hopes will help turn things around.

But Charlotte's fourth-year coach said nothing will get better until the Hornets start playing better man-to-man defense.

"It starts with our ability to guard our guy," Clifford said. "When you get blown by a lot on the perimeter where you are constantly in need of help, then you are going to give up 3s -- and that's what is happening."

The Hornets raced to a 14-9 start this season and were third-best in the league in points allowed through 23 games.

Since then, things have steadily fallen apart, culminating with Charlotte giving up at least 100 points in eight straight games. The Hornets have since dropped to 12th overall in points allowed (see full story).

Kings: F Omri Casspi out for up to 2 weeks with calf injury
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento Kings forward Omri Casspi will miss up to two weeks with an injured right calf.

The team said Tuesday that an MRI showed Casspi strained a tendon in his calf during practice on Monday.

Casspi is averaging 5.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game this season.

Another injury, another opportunity as Sixers' PG merry-go-round continues

Another injury, another opportunity as Sixers' PG merry-go-round continues

CAMDEN, N.J. — The camouflaged tape wrapped around T.J. McConnell’s right wrist couldn’t disguise the latest hit to the Sixers’ backcourt. 

McConnell suffered a sprain on Saturday in a play against John Wall and was in a splint on Tuesday. He did not participate in practice and is listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s game against the Raptors (see story)

“[I’m] trying to keep it stable and not move it around a lot. I should be good to go very soon,” McConnell said. “I’m leaving [when I play] up to the medical staff. I’ll just tell them how I feel. It’s getting a lot better each day.”

Add McConnell to the list of point guards who have battled injuries this season. Let’s start at training camp: Jerryd Bayless suffered a left wrist ligament injury that ended up requiring season-ending surgery. His absence bumped Sergio Rodriguez into the starting lineup, until Rodriguez sprained his left ankle in late December and missed three games.

That left McConnell as the team’s only healthy true point guard at that point. McConnell played so well as a starter while Rodriguez was sidelined that he remained in the lineup when Rodriguez returned. 

“I obviously want to get back quick, but I know me and my teammates won’t lose that cohesion together,” McConnell said.  

This time around, the Sixers are better equipped to handle the injury of a point guard. They signed Chasson Randle from the Westchester Knicks (NBA Development League) to a 10-day contract on Jan. 10. The team liked Randle for his combo skills that would allow him to play shooting guard in practices and give Gerald Henderson an opportunity to rest. Turns out, they need him at the one spot the most. 

Randle played 16 minutes off the bench in Monday’s win over the Bucks. He scored 10 points (3 for 6 from the field, 2 for 4 from three, 2 for 2 from the line) with two rebounds, an assist and five fouls. Randle took his first shot just 23 seconds after checking in for Rodriguez and made his first NBA bucket, a three. 

“He did a great job,” Rodriguez said. “He stepped up in the game, he made some shots, he got the rhythm of the team going. For us, it’s amazing … he’s just here for a few days and he’s talented and he showed [Monday].”

Now Randle could be the latest point guard to maximize an opportunity created by injury. The Sixers have been impressed by what Stanford’s all-time leading scorer can do on both sides of the court. 

“When you start looking at what we have access to, the physical measurements, his wingspan is elite,” Brett Brown said. “You sit him in a stance and he spreads out, he uncoils. He really can cover some ground with his width, his length, albeit from a point guard position. Some of the deflections he got and defensive plays he made, I thought were outstanding.”