Eagles Week 2 Preseason Autopsy

Eagles Week 2 Preseason Autopsy

The sky was supposedly falling last Thursday.  The Eagles, after dropping their second preseason contest 23-15 against a quality opponent with a Hall of Fame QB, drew scathing reviews for their performance.  Once again, we're attempting to walk you back from the preseason ledge.

The Colts did everything right on their first drive.  Peyton Manning was exactly what we've come to expect.  He controlled the pace, getting the offense up to the line of scrimmage quickly, making it difficult for the Eagles to sub or adjust.  They called almost entirely passing plays, attacking Ellis Hobbs' side of the field and using play action to pull the linebackers up from their assignments.  And Manning made the whole thing look simple, as only he can.

It wasn't all bad though.  A few plays after a successful WR screen kicked off the drive, the Colts went back to it, only this time Quintin Demps was all over it, making the stop for no gain.  Shortly after, Akeem Jordan recovered from being beat in coverage to separate the ball from a receiver, saving a sure touchdown.  And Manning had to complete a difficult 3rd and 10 throw in a tiny window over Joe Mays and between Demps and the sideline while being tossed to the ground by Jason Babin to keep the drive alive.  How many quarterbacks complete that pass?  And prior to the score, Asante Samuel nearly ended the drive with an interception in the end zone, but was unable to catch the ball cleanly.

When it looked like Manning would start doing the same thing all over on their second drive, Babin struck again, this time stripping the ball to give the Birds excellent field position.  Of course, what really sticks out was the following possession, one play, one uncontested 76-yard jaunt for Reggie Wayne, although it was clearly a mis-communication, and exactly the kind of play preseason is there to correct. 

Manning executed the Colts basic gameplan against the Eagles vanilla defensive schemes.  Is that a legitimate cause for concern?  There's room for improvement, but this wasn't the end of defense as we know it in Philadelphia.

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All things considered, the offensive line wasn't terrible either.  That's quite the backhanded compliment, but we are talking about four reserves, and King Dunlap doesn't even belong on an NFL field, which we sort of knew heading into the game.  The scenario would have to become extremely dire for that to ever happen anyway, so let's concentrate on the backups who might actually see gameday.

Nick Cole was shaky filling in at left guard as well.  Actually, sloppy is more fitting in this case.  He's been slow getting out into space, man-handled up front, and just generally ineffective in every phase of the game.  On one play, he just fell down inexplicably.  Can't say for sure what the deal is - the most obvious theories being he is either out of shape (too late) or looked better mixed in a cohesive unit - any way you slice it though, he hasn't impressed.

On the flip side, much to everyone's surprise, Winston Justice is living up to the reports of his revival.  The idea he could be starting for the Eagles in the regular season remains a delicate subject, and there still seems to be some hesitation when run blocking, but he is holding his own in pass protection.  Justice was probably miscast as a left tackle, and we would no longer be surprised to see him as a spot starter for a lesser NFL team somewhere down the line, as long as he continues to show he is indeed a football player.

Are the Eagles going to win the Super Bowl if Cole and Justice are major contributors for any length of time?  It certainly lessens their chances (a lot), we simply think it's a stretch they will wind up in such a predicament.  Peters' injury sounds minor and perhaps related to conditioning.  Herremans being held out is partly as a precaution.  Odds are one or two of the Andrews brothers will eventually get right.  The group deserves an incomplete, not an F.

Offense

- McNabb's touchdown pass to Jackson was perfectly executed by both players.

- Have to agree with the negative assessments of Feeley's clock management in the comments.  What was he thinking dumping the ball in the middle with no timeouts?

- Eldra Buckley, with another solid special teams contribution tacked onto some tough running, has the upper hand over Booker for the third running back spot.  Kyle Eckel struggled filling in for Weaver.

- Looks like they might have picked a nice player with sixth rounder Brandon Gibson.  His four catches for 49 yards and a TD led the team.  Probably will spend a year on the practice squad or IR, unless they move one of their receivers.

- Random thought: could Hank Baskett play some tight end?

Defense

- Jason Babin set up camp in the Colts backfield and wreaked havoc basically the entire first half.  It leads us to wonder which ends could be the odd guys out if he makes the roster.  No easy decisions there right now.

- Spadaro-ish comment alert: the linebackers remain a work in progress.  Brady and Manning are two of the best play action quarterbacks in the NFL, but the entire unit is getting fooled, creating massive vacancies in the middle of the field.  While they've been fortunate so far, any coach in the league is going to see this and exploit it.

Individually, Gocong has been invisible.  Mays is still learning.  Jordan has some plays where he's in position, and some where he's not.

- Ellis Hobbs had an awful game, even if we give him a free pass on that TD.  That does not excuse a couple of missed tackles and another completion to Wayne, all leading to first downs.  The competition at right corner is over, not that there ever really was one.

- Aside from getting beat for the game's first score, a perfect throw that would have given any corner problems, Asante Samuel picked up from where he left off last season.  Colts quarterbacks found Samuel draped all over their receivers, and he very nearly intercepted Manning in the end zone prior to allowing 6.

- Two rookies, Macho Harris and Moise Fokou, are having a nice preseason.  Harris seems to be playing the Dawkins role.  He's had some successful blitzes, has been a sound tackler, and broken up a pass or two.  Fokou seems to be freelancing a bit, but he's been finding the ball.  Don't think he's game ready though.

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).