Despite an injury to starting quarterback Michael Vick, the Philadelphia Eagles were able to triumph over the New England Patriots 27-17 in their Week 2 preseason encounter last night on Monday Night Football. Patrick Chung also left the game with a shoulder injury, but the severity of the injury is not known at this point. Vick’s injury is not viewed as being series after X-rays showed up negative; he was hit by Jermaine Cunningham on that play.
A few players who I highlighted yesterday as being players to watch had various displays. For instance, rookie quarterback Nick Foles is taking advantage of Mike Kafka’s injury and could potentially become the Eagles second-string QB. He had a great game going 18-28 with 217 passing yards (7.8 Y/A) and two touchdowns with an interception.
Nate Ebner has been intercepting passes all week in training camp, and the sixth-round pick has been a pleasant surprise. He didn’t disappoint in this game making nice plays in coverage, including the game’s only interception. He returned the pick for 34 yards and made the most of the opportunity given to him today.
While Brian Hoyer had a putrid 5-17, 55 yard performance, second-year backup Ryan Mallett showed improvement from the first preseason game. He went just 10-20, but he didn’t throw an interception and looked more fluid out there. Hoyer surprisingly looked lost, and both quarterbacks had to deal with a constant source of pressure. Both Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon disappointed, with Solder’s uneven display being more concerning.
The Patriots, however, supplied plenty of pressure on the Philadelphia Eagles, and it was Jermaine Cunningham’s three quarterback hits that stole the show. Jake Bequette did a great job getting pressure on the quarterback, and Marcus Fortson finished the day with two tackles for loss and a QB hit. Ron Brace is turning the roster battle in his favor after a powerful display in which he was close to sacking Foles.
The linebackers played well today, with starters Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower looking better than expected in coverage and, as expected, making plays against the run. Niko Koutouvides is one of the linebackers in the roster bubble, and he helped his cause by leading the team with seven tackles- including one tackle for loss.
The running games for both teams were viewed as things to watch for during the game, and there’s a lot to take out of it. Stevan Ridley’s injury wasn’t serious after all, and he and Shane Vereen both received ten carries. Unfortunately, Ridley only received 25 yards in total and Vereen 20. They were playing behind back-up offensive linemen, however, so that should be noted.
Vereen made a big impact in the passing game by catching four of the five passes thrown at him for 29 yards, while Danny Woodhead had no catches on three targets (he dropped a pass as well). Rookie Brandon Bolden had seven carries for 14 yards and muffed a punt.
For the Eagles, Bryce Brown has likely put himself above Chris Polk in the competition for the third-string role after this game. Brown caught both passes thrown at him for 16 yards, while Polk had just one catch for five. Brown, a better pure rusher, led the Eagles with nine carries for 51 yards (5.7 YPC) in a great game. Polk had just 11 rushing yards on four carries, so consider him behind Brown for now.
Tight end Clay Harbor has been very impressive for the Eagles in training camp, and he showed why in this game by catching all six passes thrown at him- including one-yard and three-yard touchdowns passes from Nick Foles.
Deion Branch is right with Dont’e Stallworth in the battle for a roster spot in this game, as Branch did an excellent job getting open downfield with crisp route-running. Stallworth is faster and more athletic than Branch, but he failed to get open in this game and caught just one pass on six targets. Branch had three catches for 51 yards on four targets. Stallworth was ahead of Branch in the competition due to his better speed and athleticism, but consider the gap closed after this game. But it’s still too early to tell.
Stephen Gostkowski was a monster, but the Patriots return game certainly wasn’t. Bolden muffed a punt (two punts, one yard) and Julian Edelman received just four yards on his punt return. There’s not much to take out of that, other than Bolden probably won’t get PR duties. The big thing is the team’s performance on kick-off returns, and it further illustrates how much this team needed Jeff Demps. Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley had their chances to return, with Vereen getting his return for 22 yards and Ridley his for 16.
Mallett looked much better, but Hoyer is still the primary backup; no question about that. Bolden showed why there is no guarantee that he makes the roster, and that botched punt return was awful and turned the momentum of this game. Still, it’s too early to jump to conclusions on him. And oh yeah, Nate Ebner is awesome. I really want to see this guy make the team, he has a lot of upside.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.