Here's some notes and observations on the Philadelphia Eagles' fourth game under Chip Kelly, as they took on the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
They Get an A
A number of defensive backups played good games on Thursday night. Bennie Logan might not be a natural nose tackle, but he brought consistent middle pressure, and worked to try and shed double blocks. Antonio Dixon was just as consistent, playing tough against the run in short-yardage situations.
Most of the Eagles' best plays came from their fringe linebackers. Emmanuel Acho was the standout, notching 11 tackles and sack. His diagnosis of plays is highly underrated, and this game will likely be his ticket onto the team.
Chris McCoy continues to be a disruptive presence, and nearly had an interception on the first play from scrimmage. He made up for it by taking out his aggression on Matt Simms twice. Also having a productive evening was fringe-player Everette Brown, particularly on the edge rush. He also forced a fumble, and looked more comfortable on the outside than the coverted ends have.
Alex Henery is drawing a lot of touchbacks with his booming leg. Henery also kicked a form-perfect onside kick that Philly nearly recovered at the end.
They Get a B
The numbers didn't always reflect as such, but the running backs played strongly on a night of inconsistencies. Bryce Brown had a mistake-free evening, which he needed. Brown fought hard, bouncing off the defenders and breaking tackles. Some of those breaks came on fierce spin moves.
Beyond Brown, Chris Polk and Matthew Tucker held up pretty well. Polk continues to impress with inside power and trucking, while Tucker's a solid bread-and-butter back. Chances are he makes the practice squad.
The strongest wide receiver was Jeff Maehl, who hauled in eight grabs, and made a smooth catch on a pass thrown behind him in the fourth. James Casey added some solid blocking on Brown runs earlier in the game.
Even though his spot on the team isn't assured, Danny Watkins was the most consistent out of all the offensive linemen, particularly in run blocking. Allen Barbre wasn't far behind, making up for errors around him by playing as consistently as he could in pass protection.
Vinny Curry has been much of the talk of preseason among Eagles fans, and it continued to be evident why on Thursday, as he spun through tacklers and showed off his great burst. One area he looked weak in for this game was overpursuit; his relentless motor does have that drawback.
Brandon Graham drew a safety by plowing through Khalil Bell to drop Simms on the opening drive, but had a couple of whiffed tackles. In all, he should still make the team.
The strongest corner play came from Jordan Poyer; Poyer plays with an unhinged aggression that hasn't been seen at the corner spot for Philly since Sheldon Brown was traded away. The timing on his helmet-assisted forced fumble displayed great instinct and timing.
Among the safeties, Earl Wolff atoned for his rough performance in Jacksonville by taking better angles and wrapping up expertly in the open field. There's a decent chance he's won the other safety job. Colt Anderson asserted his usual special teams play, and made some good tackles against the run.
Much of the attention centered on Kurt Coleman, who stepped in as surrogate corner when Trevard Lindley went down. Though his corner coverage was a tad soft, he gave it his all, making crunching hits, and deflecting a couple passes. The effort alone may have saved him a roster spot.
It's little surprise that Donnie Jones is the best Eagles punter since Sean Landeta (although Dirk Johnson was pretty good); a few too many touchbacks, however. Some barely trickled into the endzone though, about two or three yards deep.
They Get a C
Nick Foles was inconsistent, but I'd say it was only half his fault. His receivers had more than a handful of drops, and his line failed him early in the face of four-man rushes. That said, Foles also threw a number of erratic passes, and didn't have a completion until the second quarter. On the other hand, he handled a lot of bad protection well, and executed his new weapon, the overhand bubble lateral, to perfection.
The only other quarterback to see action, Matt Barkley, was a mixed bag as well. While mostly accurate, and adept at running the up-tempo calls, he threw a costly pick-six late in the fourth, and made too many desperation heaves down the stretch.
Greg Salas didn't get to show his acrobatic handiwork in this one. Salas had a chance on a badly-thrown fourth down bullet from Foles, but couldn't hang on. He does demonstrate good blocking on bubble screens, however. Russell Shephard has a great motor, fighting two defenders on a special teams block early, and recovering a muffed punt late. He also had a nice juggle-attempt on an incompletion with too much zip. His lone real mistake was running out a kickoff too deep, and getting buried near his ten-yard line. Ifeanyi Momah finally got some grabs, but poor decision making (especially on blocks) and a couple drops will keep him from leapfrogging anyone as he fights for a job.
Michael Bamiro had a rough first half, not holding up well in extended pass protection. A better second-half, along with some quality run-blocking, could be his passage to a backup spot.
Clifton Geathers and Damion Square brought good pressure, but had trouble with outside runs. The best play among them was Square standing up Bell in one instance. Geathers got blocked inside more than he should for a man his size.
Casey Matthews and Jake Knott are on the bubble, as the saying goes. Matthews has improved vastly in wrapping up ballcarriers, while Knott has great anticipation for a rookie. Neither are stellar in the open field, however, and are finding it onerous to cover tight ends and stop running backs.
Brandon Boykin is fundamentally good in wrapping up, but his diminutive size, as well as being a step off in coverage, relegates him to being merely a good nickel corner. If Cary Williams or Bradley Fletcher get hurt, I'd rather Poyer start.
Nate Allen wasn't responsible for any catastrophic play, and seemed more at ease in coverage. Wolff, however, seemed to surpass him with more assertive stops in the open field, and better awareness. David Sims recovered a fumble and made a nice chase-down tackle on receiver Michael Campbell, but the position may be too crowded for him to survive Saturday.
They Get a D
A rough night for tight ends; Zach Ertz and Clay Harbor each had two drops. Harbor looked good on special teams, but his fate is still way up in the air.
Julian Vandervelde struggled overall, particularly in the face of the four-man rush. This was probably the roughest outing he's played since taking over for Dallas Reynolds in backup center reps.
David King had flashes of promise against the run, but looks slow in pass rush, and doesn't quite have the awareness to leapfrog anyone. He might be a practice squad addition after Saturday.
They Get an F
Matt Tobin seemed thusly unprepared for the heavy lines of the rush, and facilitated the early sack/fumble on Foles. His lack of prolonged awareness was evident.
Travis Long is slow in pursuit, and looked foolish in not finishing a dead-to-rights tackle on Bell. He could have redeemed himself by recovering the ending onside kick, but was unable to do so.
It looks like the end of Trevard Lindley's comeback. The corner lagged in coverage, and left the game with an ankle sprain. His only ticket onto the team may be hand injuries to other corners. But since Chip Kelly has vowed to scour the waiver wire and cut lists for secondary help, luck is not on Lindley's side.
QB - Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley
RB - LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk
WR - DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson, Russell Sheppard
TE - Brent Celek, James Casey, Zach Ertz
OL - Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Dennis Kelly, Michael Bamiro, Julian Vandervelde, Danny Watkins, Allen Barbre
DE - Cedric Thornton, Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Clifton Geathers, Damion Square
NT - Isaac Sopoaga, Bennie Logan
OLB - Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Chris McCoy, Everette Brown
ILB - DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Emmanuel Acho, Jake Knott
CB - Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Jordan Poyer, Curtis Marsh
S - Patrick Chung, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Colt Anderson, Kurt Coleman
K - Alex Henery
P - Donnie Jones
LS - Jon Dorenbos
QB - Dennis Dixon, GJ Kinne
RB - Matthew Tucker
WR - Greg Salas, Ifeanyi Momah, Nick Murphy, Jeff Maehl
TE - Clay Harbor, Emil Igwenagu
OL - Matt Kopa, Matt Tennant, Matt Tobin, Dallas Reynolds
NT - Antonio Dixon
DE - Joe Kruger, David King
OLB - Adrian Robinson, Travis Long
ILB - Casey Matthews
CB - Brandon Hughes, Trevard Lindley
S - David Sims