The Philadelphia Eagles played their first preseason game last Friday, falling 34-28 to the Chicago Bears. Drawing any conclusion from preseason games is a cardinal sin in my notebook, but these games are the most direct source of information regarding our favorite NFL teams. Winning a game in August means nothing, but how the team executes the called plays is something we need to pay attention to.
The Eagles’ first-team offense struggled against the Bears and I’d like to think this will serve as motivation for Nick Foles and the rest of the starters to work harder. The pleasant surprise was the performance of the defense, regardless of the players who were on the field each time.
At the front, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, Cedric Thornton, Brandon Bair, Marcus Smith and Joe Kruger were very all active and Brandon Graham showed he can still be an asset to the organization. Kruger even managed to block a field goal attempt. Who will be the starters has not been decided yet, but the Eagles’ will have a lot more depth at the defensive line and at the outside linebacker positions.
Malcolm Jenkins and especially Nate Allen looked like a legit duo of safeties. Cary Williams was the player we know, playing with nastiness, but also with limited abilities.
At inside linebacker, DeMeco Ryans was exposed in coverage. Mychal Kendricks showed willingness to play a bigger role this year, but still needs to improve.
Chip Kelly is an offensive-minded head coach, but he values defense a lot and I believe this became pretty obvious during the 2014 offseason. The Eagles signed five free agents who were not with them last year; four of them play defense (Chris Maragos, Bryan Braman, Nolan Carroll, Malcolm Jenkins). Moreover, five of the seven picks of the Eagles in the 2014 NFL Draft were spent on defenders (Marcus Smith, Jaylen Watkins, Taylor Hart, Ed Reynolds, Beau Allen).
Last year, the defense was supposedly overlooked by Kelly and the front office in favor of the offense, but someone has to think that part of that happened because you cannot upgrade every position of a team in a single season.
With the offense already at a good level, the Eagles focused on improving their defense and the special teams. The Birds will most likely remain a team that relies mainly on its offense to win. On the other, this should be a more balanced team than it was one year ago.