I’ve said a million times that I don’t put a ton of stock into preseason, and I’ll maintain that stance most of the time, but last night was exactly what I needed to see. Sam Bradford looked incredible, or should I say perfect? He was 10-10, for 121 yards and 3 touchdowns and a passer rating of 156.7, that’s about as close to perfect as you’re going to get. The front seven looked great again, even though we didn’t get to see Kiko Alsonso, and most likely won’t for the entirety of the preseason. Granted, the Packers didn’t look great, and didn’t start Aaron Rodgers, but eventually we need to stop making excuses for other teams and give the Eagles some credit.
Well, I didn’t want to lead with Bradford last night, but I guess I should have. I don’t want to gush, especially because I have questioned the Bradford move from the jump, but oh my God. Bradford stood tall in the pocket and made excellent throws with great touch and anticipation. He was especially impressive in the red zone on his three touchdown passes. Nobody has ever questioned Bradford’s talent, or arm, but he needs to stay upright. Bradford executed the offense, moved around the pocket, took hits, and threw flawless passes. He gets an A+ for last night, let’s hope this can carry over into the preseason.
Front Seven (Bennie Logan)
I thought the front seven looked great again, but Bennie Logan has stood out all preseason. Packers running backs, Eddie Lacy and James Starks, weren’t able to find any running room at all (9 carries for 5 yards). We know the starters are all legitimate players in this league, but we’re really starting to see some of the depth that Chip Kelly has continually eluded to. Brandon Graham had a couple pressures (one resulting in an INT for Thurmond) and a tackle for a loss. Even though Graham was going against a backup left tackle, he showed his superior talent, as he should. Taylor Hart looked very good again last night, and the Eagles have consistently flocked to the ball (pun) and shut down the run this preseason. This has all happened without arguably the Eagles’ best linebacker in Kiko Alsonso, this should be a top unit in the entire league when healthy.
Red Zone Efficiency
Wow, what a difference one year can make. The Eagles struggled mightily in 2014 scoring touchdowns only in 49.15% of their red zone trips. With mismatches all over the field, and a nice stable of running backs, it seems like the Eagles may have turned a corner in the red zone. With more options for what Chip wants to do, I expect to see a big jump in productivity inside the red zone this year. The Eagles demonstrated that last night by going 5-5 in the red zone and really looking good. The biggest concern for me was running the ball out of the shotgun inside the 10, the Eagles didn’t have much success.
Mismatches Are Everywhere
I think we’re starting to see Chip’s offensive vision come into focus. When guys like Sproles and Matthews line in the slots, you’re forced to either bring another corner into the game, or use a safety to cover one of the two. There aren’t a ton of safeties in this league that are going to feel comfortable covering either one of those guys one on one. I also expect Zach Ertz to play into this mismatch game Chip seems to be playing. Without going into a ton of detail, the Eagles have players that can’t be covered by linebackers and safeties. If the defense continues to match up safeties and linebackers with guys like Mathews and Sproles, Chip will have Bradford throw it all day. If the defense decides (and is able to sub in) to go with a dime or quarter package (6 or 7 defensive backs on the field at once), Chip will then start running the ball with his big horses like Murray and Ryan Mathews and wear down a smaller defense. Again, we’re seeing it now, but I really want to see this matchup game in regular season action and with Zach Ertz.
While we can’t start booking our flights for Super Bowl 50 just yet, Eagles fans have plenty to be excited about. The Eagles have outscored their opponents 115-53. While I maintain the fact that all preseason stats should be taken with a grain of salt, the Eagles have really dominated every sense of the games they’ve played in. They’ve really showcased the depth that Chip Kelly has been preaching about all offseason long. The Eagles will head up the Turnpike to face off with the Jets next week to wrap up their preseason. I don’t expect to see Bradford, or a lot of the other starters for that matter, but I do think that we’ll some fringe roster battles shake out. All this game did was cement what we all thought, this is going to be one helluva season.