Thursday, August 21, 2014

Eagles - Steelers Preseason Takeaways: Ah, Reassuarance

So tonight was the all-important third week of NFL preseason, the one where the starters get more snaps and pretend to care the mostest. It was also the first time this year that the Eagles played watchable football. And if they only played against another team that cared, something meaningful might have been learned!

And with that, on to the takeaways...

> QB Nick Foles looked better tonight than the first two games, because he actually got to work with actual NFL caliber WRs. Getting away from going after CB1 and CB2 with WR5 and WR6 doesn't make any QB look good, especially when the depth guys are greener than grass.

> Foles' TD, a simple double screen to RB LeSean McCoy where the starting OL and WRs laid waste to the Yinzers in front of them, was all kinds of solid, and while Foles keeps putting his receivers in jeopardy (TE Brent Celek seems to live for 15+ yards, eventual helmet loss and a cloud of cartilage damage), he would have had even better numbers with some tougher catch work in traffic. For anyone ready to jump off a cliff over the first two games, this was balm.

> The first half drives were long and crisp, with some of that trademark Chp Kelly niftiness and pace to play-calling. The defense wasn't dominant, but they got off the field without points, and that's the only thing that matters in the NFL now. Third downs were converted, penalties were avoided, the defense got off the field without points after a pick, and all is much, much better in our world.

> CB Nolan Carroll got on the field tonight for the first time, and man alive, does that help. It's not as if he's the best CB3 in the league, but he's a legit CB3, unlike Roc Carmichael or Curtis Marsh.

> RB Darren Sproles was as useful as advertised, and given the Eagles propensity for running plays that operate in space, he might get more carries than expected. Of course, not having Chris Polk healthy is something of a tell. There's plenty to like in back up RB Matthew Tucker and even Kenjon Barker looked good late, but the preseason is filled with fake outs who don't pan out when the game is real.

> Having said all of the good... the Steelers really didn't bring their A game tonight. Lots of flags on the visitors, poor timing with QB Ben Roethlisberger and his young WRs, a defense that didn't do much in terms of any kind of a push, and a game plan that was so vanilla, it was damn near transparent. Pitt might be good, they might be bad, but they showed nothing tonight.

> McCoy had 50 yards and a TD on four touches, but also went off for an x-ray (gahhh!) of his thumb (oh noes!) that proved negative (phew).

> The downfield blocking by the WRs in particular was exemplary, and OT Jason Peters looked to be in mid-season form. Again, the Steeler defense wasn't showing much, but results are results.

> K Alex Henery, on everyone's short list to be replaced after last year's playoff fail, missed another short figgie, and I'm all for that. It's not nice to root for failure, but I just want this guy gone very, very much. How can you be a reasonably high draft pick, have no leg for distance, and already showing hair loss in your mid-20s? The team traded for K Cody Parkey this week, so go, Auburn Rook, go. Not that he did anything tonight, but still, um, he's got to be ahead.

> LB Brandon Graham, perceived to be a cut candidate in some circles, had a nice bull rush and strip to close out the Steelers in the first half. For a team that needs all of the pass rush it can get, that's encouraging.

> QB2 Mark Sanchez continues to look solid, and while the man will never live down Buttfumble, and they aren't going anywhere if he gets a lot of time on the field, that's not the point of QB2. Compared to a lof of the flotsam that's in the league, he's a piece of comparative strength. And anything that keeps Matt Barkley away from meaningful snaps is also a win. Sanchez also got points against the Steeler starters on defense, mostly with Eagle subs.

> Both the first and second team OLs were downright dominant tonight. Now, part of this is the fact that the second team has Lane Johnson on the unit due to his upcoming PED suspension

> Pittsburgh scored a couple of times late to make the final look closer, but for three quarters, this was a beatdown. Breathe, Eagles Nation, breathe. Real games start in a couple of weeks, and we'll have real stuff to worry about.

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