While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the Philadelphia Eagles‘ start to the preseason, it’s just as easy to skip over their issues. Chip Kelly’s Birds have put on an impressive performance in each of their first three preseason games, averaging 38.3 points per game and allowing just 17.6 points per game. But while the numbers may say otherwise, the Eagles certainly still have their fair share of issues.
Kelly’s uptempo offense appears to be firing on all cylinders, especially when new starting quarterback Sam Bradford is running the show. “Sammy Sleeves” looked unstoppable on Saturday night, completing all 10 of his passing attempts for 121 yards and three touchdowns, it almost looked effortless at times.
That’s certainly a good sign for the Eagles but on the other side of the ball, there are some problems that need answers…and need them soon.
First up, the Eagles have just one preseason game remaining and still have no clue who will be their slot cornerback. That’s an issue in a division that has some dangerous play-makers that can line-up in the slot such as New York Giants star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who can make a play from nearly anywhere on the field. It looks as though the Eagles may rely on rookie cornerback Eric Rowe but he’s struggled with giving up way too much separation to opposing receivers. That issue will be exposed in the slot as Rowe will likely face speedy pass catchers while playing that spot.
Then there’s a weird scenario developing at inside linebacker. While everyone expected the Eagles’ trio of inside linebackers to make their preseason debut on Saturday night, Kiko Alonso missed the game. It’s discouraging to see Alonso first suffer a concussion in practice and then develop a “little nagging leg injury,” according to head coach Chip Kelly. Considering his injury history, Kelly is clearly being careful with Alonso but it still hurts that he isn’t out there playing on the field during a live game.
Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans looked noticeably rusty during their preseason debuts as well. But hopefully they’ll spray on some WD-40 and get rid of that rust by the time the regular season opener comes around.
Lastly on the defensive side of the ball, there’s an enormous hole at the team’s third outside linebacker spot. Last year, now starting outside linebacker Brandon Graham played a huge role as the team’s third outside linebacker off the bench. Graham played 524 total snaps for the Eagles in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus. That leaves a whole lot of reps up for the taking with no player really claiming the spot yet.
There are veterans Brad Jones and Bryan Braman, but neither one has played a significant snaps at outside linebacker in their career. Then there’s Vinny Curry, who is being cross-trained at both defensive end and outside linebacker.
While Curry could provide a much needed pass rushing presence at the position, he has no prior experience at the position and team’s know he isn’t going to drop in coverage either. Lastly, there’s second-year outside linebacker Marcus Smith, who had an impressive start to the preseason but suffered a hamstring injury that has forced him to miss the team’s last two preseason games. The job should be Smith’s for the taking but he needs to hurry up and get back on the field to prove he deserves that third outside linebacker spot.
There’s also a developing problem on special teams as kicker Cody Parkey has struggled kicking the ball consistently during the preseason. But now Parkey is apparently bothered by an injury and mysteriously didn’t play at all in the team’s third preseason game. Kelly said Parkey would have played if it was a regular season game but considering Parkey’s struggles thus far, it would have been nice to see him get some more kicking opportunities.
Kelly may be masking what’s truly going on with Parkey, as the team cut 12 players yesterday but elected to hold on to undrafted rookie punter/kicker Kip “Knuckleball” Smith for some odd reason…that’s pretty telling.
As you can see, the grass may not be as green as it seems at Lincoln Financial Field. At least not yet as the Eagles still have plenty of problems they need to find an answer to before the regular season begins. It’s still an exciting time of the year and I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade but it’s time to put things into perspective for the Birds. As the great Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers once said, R-E-L-A-X.
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