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Mike Vick threw for 184 yards, one TD and one INT on 15-for-23 passing Saturday. (USA Today Images)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If this was the Eagles’ final dress rehearsal for the 2013 regular season, it wasn’t a very encouraging one.
The Eagles played most of their starters into the third quarter Saturday night against a Jaguars team that won two games last year, and they didn’t have a lot to be happy with.
The Eagles did beat the Jaguars 31-24 at EverBank Field (see Instant Replay), although they outscored the Jags 15-0 in the fourth quarter with the backups facing the backups. They trailed 24-16 after three quarters.
The Eagles finish the preseason against the Jets Thursday night at the Meadowlands, and although starters traditionally don’t play in the final preseason game, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly hasn’t said whether that will be the case with his team this year.
Here’s a look at some of the good and the bad we saw Saturday night:
1. In his first game since Chip Kelly named him the Eagles’ opening-day quarterback, Michael Vick put up OK numbers: 15-for-23 passing, 184 yards, one TD, one INT, 7-for-53 rushing. But he just didn’t look as fluid or as smooth as he did in the first two preseason games. He hung onto the ball too long in the pocket, his decision making was sketchy, and he was just tentative running the offense. Vick reverted back a little, trying to be great on every snap instead of just letting the game come to him and taking what the defense gives him -- which is what he did to win the job in the first place. Vick actually delivered the ball really well for the most part but tried to do too much when there was nothing there. That has to stop. He put up 16 points on eight drives, and the only TD he engineered came on a 21-yard drive (although Bryce Brown’s fumble at the goal-line killed a good drive).
2. Good to see some production out of the Eagles’ starting linebackers. Been a while since we’ve seen that. Connor Barwin had an athletic interception and a big third-down sack, and Mychal Kendricks was around the ball all night. Even Trent Cole, who has been sluggish this preseason, had a good pressure on Chad Henne. We haven’t seen much out of DeMeco Ryans, but that was also the case last summer. Overall, Saturday night was good progress for the Eagles’ linebacking crew.
3. Cedric Thornton has been pretty much an afterthought in his two years with the Eagles, but he’s having quite a productive preseason playing 3-4 defensive end, and he showed Saturday night why the Eagles are so high on him with a good third-down pressure and a sack. Vinny Curry has been playing well when he’s gotten opportunities, but right now the starting job belongs to Thornton.
4. This goes without saying, but the Eagles’ secondary is really, really, really scary right now. The Jaguars, who ranked 30th in offense last year and went 2-14, managed 17 points and 184 yards in a half against the Eagles’ starting defense, with Chad Henne at quarterback. The first five quarterbacks the Eagles face this year are Robert Griffin III, Phillip Rivers, Alex Smith, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning. It’s not all the secondary. The run defense has been terrible, too. But at least the Eagles seem to be getting better up front and at linebacker. The secondary doesn’t appear to be progressing.
5. Shaky night for the Eagles’ offensive line. Lane Johnson, who has been very good, got beat a few times by Jags defensive end Tyson Alualu, a former first-round pick, and Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans both had some breakdowns. Really, the only guy up front who looked solid was Jason Peters, who was playing for the first time since 2011. This is potentially a terrific O-line, but it wasn’t Saturday night.
6. Damaris Johnson is one of the more confounding guys on the roster. We saw bad Damaris Saturday night -- a lost fumble and then a poor decision to bring out a kickoff from six yards deep. Just when you think the kid is going to drive you crazy, he takes off on a 61-yard kick return. Johnson already has a 61-yard punt return this preseason. He has to be smarter, but he’s such a weapon. He’s got to play.
7. Jason Avant has caught more passes than the previous year every season he’s been in the NFL (7, 23, 32, 41, 51, 52, 53), and I’d be shocked if that doesn’t happen again. We don’t talk about him enough, but Avant is quietly having a tremendous preseason, and in this offense, he could put up huge numbers. His one-handed catch Saturday was ridiculous.
8. Bryce Brown. Same as last year. So talented. Big and strong and fast and powerful. But he’s got to find a way to stop fumbling. His fumble at the goal-line Saturday night was the kind of mistake that is going to cost him playing time. He’s such a weapon, but if doesn’t learn how to protect the ball, he’s not going to play. He had four fumbles (three lost) in just 128 touches last year, or one every 32 touches. He’s a unique weapon and a perfect complement to LeSean McCoy, but if Chip Kelly can’t trust him with the ball, he’s not going to play.
9. Even though Fletcher Cox and Thornton are playing well, I’d still like to see more Vinny Curry with the first defense. He’s getting pressure every time he gets on the field. Had another big performance Saturday night.
10. He was facing the Jags’ scrubs, but Nick Foles sure looked good. He completed 10 of 11 passes for 112 yards for a 109.1 passer rating. So far this preseason, he’s completed 21 of 25 passes for 208 yards with no TDs and one INT. Has anybody ever completed 84 percent of his passes and lost a quarterback competition? If Foles has to play, I’d feel pretty good about him.