Even though the Eagles opened the preseason with a 31-22 loss to New England in Chip Kelly's first game as head coach, there were some good things to see from a talented rookie class.
Lane Johnson started at right tackle and played well. Quarterback Matt Barkley isn’t getting media attention as the possible starter at quarterback but he should and may be in the conversation. Second-round pick Zach Ertz did a few nice things as the “move” tight end. On defense, Bennie Logan showed the ability to play anywhere on the defensive line and rookie free agent linebacker Jake Knott is going to be very tough to run off.
Barkley played the role of the third quarterback in this game but played more than any of the other Eagles quarterbacks, playing close to a half. He finished the game completing 11 of 22 passes for 103 yards and 1 touchdown. He did not throw an interception and was not sacked. What stood out to me is they didn't limit the offense when he was in. He was able to run the no-huddle in some series with success. While he made some mistakes he showed great poise for a rookie. He doesn't rattle. Yes, he had some rookie jitters and a few poor throws but his overall play was very good. His accuracy was for the most part good as was his ball placement. He had some balls dropped and in some cases these dropped balls ended drives. Still, he showed a good feel for the game, made the right reads and gets the ball out of his hand very quickly. He does an excellent job going through a progression. What I didn't like was he didn't throw a consistent tight ball. That is going to have to improve. I have thought for a while that Barkley will be the Eagles starting quarterback by midseason if not before. While he doesn't have the athleticism of Michael Vick I think he sees the field better and makes better decisions. Don't be surprised to see Barkley as the Eagles quarterback for years to come.
US PRESSWIRELane Johnson will be a big addition to the Eagles offensive line.
Johnson was the Eagles first-round pick and the 4th overall pick in the round. He started at right tackle and I thought he played very well. His run blocking was good, showing the ability to get some movement and finish blocks. He plays the game with intensity and consistently looked for a 2nd block when he was able. His athleticism in space shows. In pass protection he was good not great. He oversets at times, giving his opponent some room to make a counter move but that is easily correctible. He showed good hand use and has a strong punch. At the Senior Bowl I was a little worried about his lower body bulk. He is lean but he played with strength and I only saw one play vs. New England where he may have been pushed back too much. He has excellent bend and is strong and that can overcome his lack of top lower body bulk. Johnson will be a great addition to the Eagles offensive line.
Logan, the Eagles' third-round pick, did not start but came in and got a considerable amount of play time in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. He lined up at both defensive end positions in their 3-4 and also played some nose tackle. When the Eagles played a 4-man front on passing situations, he would line up as a defensive tackle. Logan had a productive game and finished with 5 total tackles and ½ sack. Logan lacks ideal height at 6-2 but has long arms and very good bulk to go along with an excellent motor. He showed good hand use, can shed quickly and get penetration. He showed great hustle on a screen pass chasing the play down and making the pursuit tackle. On a play at nose tackle he showed he could disengage the center and make the tackle after a short gain. As a pass rusher he shows a quick first step and the power to bull rush. He still needs work with pass rush moves. I don’t see Logan as a starter this year but should be a good rotation player at all three defensive line positions. He looks best when lined up at the 4 or 5 technique. He was a good solid pick.
Iowa State had two inside linebacker prospects last year, Knott and A.J. Klein. Both were 3-year starters and while Klein was drafted in the 5th round by Carolina, I thought Knott was the better player. He has better instincts and is more physical at the point of attack. He proved me right in Friday night’s game. In a backup role he finished with 4 total tackles, ½ sack, 2 QB hits and a pass break up. Knott has good size and strength and plays with power. He is a quick reactor who finds the ball, is active and makes plays. In this game, you knew he was on the field. He has good hand use and can get rid of blocks quickly. He is effective as a blitzer, showing a burst off a block to close and is a very good tackler. He has good ability to drop in coverage and plays with awareness. While I did not see his special teams play in this game I have no doubt that he can be a very good team’s player once the season starts. He has that kind of aggressiveness. Like Logan I doubt he will start this year, but should be a valuable backup at both inside linebacker positions.
While listed as a tight end, Ertz never lined up as a “Y” in this game. He was flexed out or in the slot and even lined up in the backfield. He is the perfect fit for Philly when the Eagles go to a two tight end package. Ertz was thrown to 3 times and finished with 2 catches for 10 yards. He had a drop on a 3rd down play that would have been a first down. In all fairness the defender made an excellent play. I didn’t have the opportunity to see him block at the line of scrimmage and his downfield blocking was adequate. Going forward, I see the Eagles using him just like they did Friday night. Before long he could become a big part of the Eagles offense.