BY PAUL MANCANO—Well, that was…interesting.
The first game of the Eagles’ 2014 season is (mercifully) in the books, and it did not go the way we expected. During the first half, as Mooser Justin Russell put it, the team looked like “they were being coached by Andy Reid’s brain dead cousin.” (For clarification, Andy Reid does not have a brain dead cousin, at least none that we know of. In any event, he’s not coaching an NFL team, if he exists) For about 12 minutes, I had a moment of weakness. I legitimately considered the possibility that Chip Kelly fooled us all for a year, and that he was actually a terrible coach hiding behind gimmicks and protein smoothies. I looked at Gus Bradley on the sideline and, for a brief moment, thought What if we actually got the dud instead of the genius?
But a good deal of my qualms were satiated in the second half, when the team looked a lot more like the team we saw the second half of 2013. Foles completed 71% of his passes. The defense pitched a shutout. Yeah, I didn’t get it either. But whatever, we won. Somehow.
The Moose saw some good things and some a lot of bad things on Sunday. These are their stories.
The Moose Approves
Front Seven – Going into Sunday, the media made the Eagles’ current pass rush seem worse than a cold toilet seat or any of the post-Michael seasons of The Office. They ripped Howie Roseman for failing to add any current upgrades. They called Trent Cole “old” and Brandon Graham a “misplaced 4-3 end.”
I think they heard. The front seven thumped Chad Henne four times and sacked him thrice, including one strip sack that Fletcher Cox snatched up and brought into the end zone. Graham had two quarterback hurries. Jacksonville’s run game was also completely bottled up. The Jags’ ran for a total of 64 yards on 25 carries.
The numbers don’t really do justice to the size of the can of whoopass the Eagles opened on the Jags’ offensive line. The defense struggled in the first half, but it was not the fault of the line or the linebackers.
Special Teams – This offseason, Roseman made a ton of upgrades in an effort to strengthen a poor special teams unit. And in Week 1, the unit looked much improved. Sproles ran back his four punts for an average of 15.5 yards, including a huge 22-yarder in the third quarter. Brandon Boykin downed a punt at the one-yard line. And Cody Parkey’s leg continued its miraculous run. Not only were five of his seven kickoffs touchbacks, but the other two were taken back to just the 13- and 14-yard line. Oh, and he knocked in a 51-yard field goal. 51 YARDS. That’s longer than anything he kicked in college. That’s longer than anything Alex Henery’s made in his three-year career. And Parkey did it in his first NFL game. Unbelievable. His luck will run out eventually, but damn, he’s the BMOC right now.
The Moose Boos
Offensive Line – I’m fairly certain King Dunlap locked Jason Peters in a dungeon, drank a polyjuice potion containing Peters’ hair, and played left tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Peters looked so lost out there. But to be fair, so did everybody else. Foles’ two fumbles in the first half were roughly 81% the O-line’s fault. McCoy couldn’t find a hole to save his life. (There’s a joke in there somewhere) In fact, the line looked much better in the second half, after, ya know, starters Evan Mathis and Allen Barbre left the game with injuries. Their struggles are inexplicable. The second-biggest strength of 2013’s team looks an awful lot like a weakness right now, but it’s still early.
Nick Foles – Say what you want about the second half, the first 30 minutes were atrocious. He was lucky to get away with three turnovers. He was missing everybody. It was like the Dallas game only…no, it was exactly like the Dallas game. And the worst part was, I didn’t see much improvement in the second half. Yes, the numbers were better (15 of 21 and two TDs after the break versus 12 for 24, two fumbles, and a pick before it) but his completions came mostly from blown coverages (thanks to Chip’s scheming). The touchdown to Maclin was a gimme. Foles’ second half may have calmed some critics, but a nervous sickness crept into my heart after watching his performance.
The Announcers – You know it’s gonna be a rocky game for the announcers when you’ve never heard of them before. Jacksonville linebacker Geno Hayes was mistaken for Brandon Graham. Allen Barbre was called “Aaron” Barbre. The NFL Rules Specialist was worse than Ricky Bobby in a post-race interview. Still, they were better than Cris Collinsworth.
Moose Notes and Nuggets:
- Shady had a poor game, but I’m not gonna make much of it because the O-line was so bad and, well, he’s Shady.
- This game showed how important pace is for this team. The Sproles touchdown was 100% pace. In the first half, a large portion of the offensive’s struggles were due to a lack of energy and hustle to get back to the line. Once they picked up the pace, holes started opening up everywhere.
- Speaking of the O-line, everybody chill about the injuries they’ve incurred. Lane Johnson’s coming back in three weeks. And as I said, the starting O-line looked so bad Sunday, the backups might not be a steep drop-off.
- Zack Ertz: you da real MVP. JK, but seriously, good game.
- Not a good showing for defensive backs. They’ll get torched against a really good offense. Can’t wait for the Colts game.