August 18, 2007

Birds Bounce Back

The Eagles played outstanding against Carolina. What a huge difference from Mondays embarrassing defeat. The biggest news, was the return of quarterback Donovan McNabb, and all eyes were glued to him. There were so many things to touch on from this game, that I will just list them off:

Donovan McNabb- Five was very sharp in his first game action since tearing his ACL last November. On the first play of the game, Donovan stepped up in the pocket, and fired a strike to Kevin Curtis for 27 yards. The very next play, McNabb rolled out to his right, stumbled over Todd Herremans foot, maintained his balance, and hit Jason Avant for 16 more yards. This play showed five still had his mobility, and that was great to see. Later in the game, McNabb layed a ball up with perfect touch over the shoulder of tight end Matt Schobel, who caught the ball in stride, and ran to the 4 yard line. A play of 58 yards, that lead to a Tony Hunt 3 yard touchdown run. McNabb is back, and the rest of the league should take notice. It was also great to see Donovan take a hit, and then bounce right back up.
Lito Sheppard- Jumped an out route by Steve Smith, and dazzled the crowd by returning it 40 yards for a touchdown. This electrifying play seems routine for Lito, as he already has three career INTs returns for TDs. Lito is a big time play maker on this defense, and he did not even need practice, to be able to play well.
Brent Celek- The kid looked very good again. He caught 4 balls for 45 yards, and seems to just fit right into the offense. Celek even made some very nice blocks on the two TD runs from Tony Hunt. If the Eagles had to go a few weeks without L.J. Smith, I believe that Celek, and Schobel would be able to fill in nicely.
Tony Hunt- Tony had a much better game than last week. He did not have very many yards, but he did score two touchdowns. More importantly, the Eagles brought Hunt into the game, in their goal line packages. It appears that the Eagles plan to use Hunt in the role of a short yardage/goal line back. This is something that fans have wanted for a long time. A big physical back for these situations.
Juqua Thomas- With Jevon Kearse out of the game, Juqua stepped it up. It was 3rd down, on the Panthers first possession. The Eagles got killed on third down Monday, and Juqua did not let that happen this time. He quickly beat the man in front of him, chased Jake Delhomme to the sidelines, and forced him to throw the ball away. These are the types of plays the Eagles need to have success defensively. Juqua also forced a fumble, by slapping the ball out of Jake Delhomme's hand. He was very impressive.
Brodrick Bunkley- Bunkley managed to make a few plays again. He had a nice tackle for no gain, and he recovered a fumble. This is what the Eagles want from him. At Florida State, he was always around the ball, and so far this pre-season, he is doing the same.

Kevin Curtis- Had 2 nice catches, and looks like an excellent route runner. He also had a step on a CB during a go route, but Donovan overthrew him. I think Curtis is going to surprise a lot of people this year. He has some speed, and a great knowledge of the game. Learning from Issac Bruce, and Torry Holt, is a huge plus for him.
Kevin Kolb- Kolb had a much better game than he did on Monday. He was pretty poised for a rookie, and made smart choices with the football. He seems to be very accurate with his throws, and he had a nice run for a first down. I am starting to see what Andy Reid liked him so much about him. It's still very early, but it is very good to see that he is playing well.
Max Jean-Gilles- Did a decent job filling in for Shawn Andrews. Had some great blocks on both Hunt TDs. He did get pushed back into QB A.J. Feeley, by Kris Jenkins, but Jenkins is one of the better DTs in the league. You can also see that Gilles has worked hard to drop some weight.
Backup Offensive Line- As a group they played terrible. Pat McCoy was brutal, and so was Chris White. Nick Cole was pretty good, and Winston Justice was excellent. I like how Justice has the versatility to play both right, and left tackle. With Runyan, and Thomas getting old, and more injury prone, this is very important to have Justice for depth.
Jason Davis- Despite a bad spot on the 4th, and inches run, Davis did a poor job on that play. He had a lane to the right, and instead of taking it, he ran right into a pile of guys. If he had just taken the lane there, the refs would not get a chance to screw up the spot. His fumble later in the game will probably end up getting him cut. When you are such a long shot to make the team, you can not afford to make those kind of mistakes.
The Punter Dual- Sav Rocca Boomed some big punts again. He pinned a ball inside the five yard line, and averaged 50 yards per punt. Daid Akers did make a FG when Rocca was the holder, but he failed the spin the laces out. That can be worked on in practice. Dirk Johnson also did a solid job, and it could be tough for him to lose his place on the team, due to his experience. Did anybody notice Carolina's punter Jason Baker? He had 8 punts for an average of 51.9 yards per punt. He was actually an Eagle in 2002, and has really become a very good punter.
Kick Coverage- This was dreadful. I don't have the stats in front of me, but every time the Eagles kicked off, the Panthers returned the ball to the 30-35 yard line. They need to do a much better job in this department. This was also a major problem last year, and there is only a few weeks to get this right.
Matt McCoy- Looked really bad in pass coverage. He lucked out big time when the Carolina Tight End dropped a ball, that he easily could have ran for another 5-10 yards. McCoy was about 5 steps behind him, and had no chance of making any play on the ball, or even making a tackle.
Rashad Barksdale- He got his first interception, on a poorly thrown ball, and returned it 35 yards. You can see that he is a very talented athlete, and with some more coaching could be a very productive pro. He did miss a tackle earlier in the game, but overall all did a good job.
Missed Tackles- I heard that the Eagles had one of the toughest, most physical camps in the league. If this is true, then I can not figure out why there continues to be so many missed tackles. It seems like guys are more worried about laying a big hit, or stripping the ball, then just wrapping up, and taking the ball carrier down.
Hank Baskett- Hank had a good game. He made a sweet over the shoulder catch, and seems to make those look easy. He also had a really nice catch, and run over the middle. If you took your eyes out of focus a little, Baskett almost looked like T.O. out there. He is big, physical, and is quickly learning how to use his size to his advantage. He also has been a very good blocker.
Jeremy Bloom- Was average on returns. Did not make any major mistakes, but did not break anything off big. He did make 2 nice grabs, including taking a nice hit from CB Chris Gamble. Bloom has definitely earned himself a roster spot.

Stewart Bradley- I think it is very interesting, that the Eagles continue to have him lineup at MLB. I wonder if he is in the future plans at that position? They seem to be very high on Chris Gocong at the SAM spot, and if he does well there, then where else would Bradley fit in?
David Akers- Boomed two 50 yard field goals, with two different holders. One even had the laces out. Great job from Akers.

I know I missed some things, but this is becoming a ridiculously long post. So I will just cut it short here. Overall the Eagles did a great job, and it's great to see number five play so well. Let's hope they can keep this going throughout the regular season.

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