Eagles-Steelers: Kendricks, Foles, Defensive Line Shines

Forget the 24-23 final score that left a good taste in the mouths of the few thousand fans that hung around to watch Alex Henery crush a perfect 51-yard game winning field goal. Yeah, the Eagles may have won the game, but not every member of the 90-man roster was a winner last night. Let’s take a look who saw their stock rise last night.

Winners: Mychal Kendricks is an influence linebacker. He’s active and is around the football. He made some impressive reads that resulted in tackles for loss, showing good closing speed and instincts–something that has been absent from this group of linebackers for the better part of the last decade. Kendricks is a hyper-active player and made a few mistakes early on because he was presumably and expectedly trying to do too much. Kendricks should continue to further improve as he adapts to the NFL game speed and gets a better feel for his assignments. I’m excited about his athletic ability and tenacity. He’s got some dog in him. And I like that.

Jim Washburn. I’ll tell you what–anytime a defense can generate seven sacks and 18 tackles for loss, the defensive line is doing it’s job. Name a guy that got significant time last night and chances are he was out there making plays. Phillip Hunt, Brandon Graham, Derek Landri, and Cedric Thornton each turned in terrific performances. Vinny Curry showed good burst and played the run well, which was one of the knocks on him coming out of Marshall. It’s going to be very interesting to see what this team does. They are six deep at defensive end and could conceivably keep 11 defensive linemen, or, at the very least, swing a deal for a guy like Antonio Dixon or Tapp for a late-round draft pick. If nothing else, we got a glimpse of the incredible depth this team has built along the defensive line.

Nick Foles. Juxtapose the third-round draft pick’s with the less than stellar effort of Mike Kafka, and, well, looks like we may have a race for the team’s backup quarterback job. 12 of 20 passing for 144 yards and two touchdowns is a good stat line. But even more impressive were his two deep touchdown throws. Wonderful job of buying time and throwing a downfield strike to Damaris Johnson. He’s not a quick-footed quarterback, but showed enough mobility and pocket presence that will make teams at least respect his threat to move the pocket. The second touchdown to Mardy Gillyard was a brilliant throw, perfectly placed over Gilyard’s shoulder which gave the Eagles a 14-13 lead. New England looms large because if Foles can replicate this performance and Kafka continues to struggle then this will become a legitimate race for the backup job. And it’s worth noting that Trent Edwards did a fine job leading a go-ahead touchdown drive and then led a drive which included a critical fourth-down conversion that set up Henery’s 51-yard bomb.

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