At last, preseason football has finally arrived! Following the Eagles practices was fun and all, but now we get our first chance to see some action and how our Eagles stand up to competition. The Eagles defeated the Indianapolis Colts 36 – 10 on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field for the preseason opener. The fans who were in attendance got a close-up look at what to expect for the regular season and left with great confidence. Sure, it is a nearly meaningless game, and many of the players currently on the team won’t make the final roster, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating the dominance the team put forth.
The big hype around the first preseason game is to get a first glance at how the team works as a unit and how the pieces fit together as a whole. Unfortunately the look at the starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, will have to be stalled until the next preseason game against the Ravens. Regarding this, there is still much to talk about and a lot of insight to take away.
Let’s get to the game.
It did not take long for Eagles fans to learn the name of rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Current second-string quarterback Mark Sanchez sent a short, high pass to Agholor, which he caught with leaping athleticism, and rumbled in for a 34-yard touchdown in the 1st quarter. This was his very first NFL reception and touchdown, and he finished the game with three receptions for 57 yards. There is going to be a lot more of Agholor this season, and I am excited for what he brings to the table.
Kenjon Barner also made a name for himself as he tried to earn a roster spot in an already deep running back position. He scored two touchdowns on Sunday. One was a 9-yard touchdown run and one was an incredible 92-yard punt return. As a former Oregon Duck, he does have connections with Coach Chip Kelly, but it may not be enough since the Eagles are loaded in that position.
The QB Battle:
For Sanchez, the touchdown pass to Agholor was the highlight of his day, as he struggled the rest of the way going 2/7 in passing attempts for 52 yards. He only played in two series and many of his passes were thrown high or off-target. Again, this is the first preseason game, and his position as backup is mainly secure. He will get a chance to rebound on Saturday.
Matt Barkley took the field well-aware that his job as an Eagle was not guaranteed. He was sharp in his opening series completing 2 deep passes to set up a Barner 9-yard touchdown run. Barkley finished 12/20 for 192 yards and one interception and had a 56-yard drive that led to a Cody Parkey 40-yard field goal. Whether he was trying to make a statement or not, he went out on Sunday and showed why he is worth more than a late draft pick or simply being cut.
Tim Tebow got a large fan applause as he took the field half way in the 3rd quarter. This was his first time back since his last stint with the Patriots two years ago, and he impressed for a person who has been away from the game for that long. He finished the day going 6/12 for 69 yards and a rushing touchdown. Tebow in the read-option looks unstoppable as he kept the defense on its heels and found holes to take advantage of. When he stood too long in the pocket, that was where he struggled, as he got buried with sacks.
D is Key:
What really had me licking my lips was the effort on the defensive end. The defense forced a whopping total of seven possible turnovers and took advantage of four of them (two interceptions and two fumble recoveries). Even though some of the turnovers occurred in garbage time (I mean, it is preseason…) there is no doubting the fight, the character, and the drive this team has to get it done on the defensive end.
Cody Parkey did not look like Cody Parkey. He struggled in the opener, missing two kicks: one that was a PAT on the new 15 yards, and one that was chip shot field goal. Parkey excelled last year and made the Pro Bowl team as a rookie. There is no need for concern at the moment as his flukes were most likely just preseason nerves. If anything, missing is better done in preseason than the actual season.
All in all, the Eagles show a lot of confidence. The high-tempo practices seem to be benefiting the players as they look well-conditioned and active. For the quarterback battle, all of them gave a glimpse of why they deserve to make the team. The final roster will not be an easy selection for Coach Chip Kelly. There are only 53 spots on the roster and three preseason games left to go. The next opportunity for the team to showcase their talents again is on Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens.