By Chris Murray
For the CM Report
If the third game of the preseason is supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the opening week of the season, the Eagles still have a whole lot of work to do, especially on their offensive line.
That the Eagles came away with a 24-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns in front of 69,144 rain-soaked fans at Lincoln Financial Field had more to do with how not so good the Browns are than anything that the Birds did Thursday night.
On offense, the Eagles starters did put up 17 points in the first half. The first score of the game was set up by a fumbled muff on a punt return by Cleveland’s Jordan Norwood. Jon Dorenbos recovered for the Birds at the Browns 13. Two plays later, Ronnie Brown scored on a 13-yard run to give the Birds a 7-0 lead.
Vick, who was sacked just once for 14 yards, had blitzing Cleveland defenders in his face throughout the first half. He was 10-for-18 for 98 yards. Seven of those passes went to running back LeSean McCoy on check downs. On plays that were designed to go down field to a wide receiver, Vick often found a Browns defender trying to slam him into the ground.
Ironically, it was a hard hit from Cleveland linebacker D’Qwell Jackson on Vick that kept alive a drive that led to points for the Eagles offense midway through the second quarterback. On first and 10 at the Eagles 35, Jackson’s helmet and body crashed into Vick’s chest a second after he threw a pass that was intercepted by a Browns safety. But Jackson was called for roughing the passer and the Eagles eventually got an eight-yard touchdown run from Vick to cap a 10-play, 77 yard drive to give the Birds a 17-0 lead.
Granted, the Eagles were playing with two rookies in center Jason Kelce and right guard Danny Watkins and inexperienced player in third year right tackle King Dunlap. Kelce said there were some issues with communication early in the game.
“Physically, I thought we were there the whole time. I think the stuff that was killing us was the mental aspect. It’s not any one person getting destroyed on the pass rush,” Kelce said. “Whatever it is there are some little things that add up and create some big problems. I think that’s the biggest thing about being new to an offensive line and being new to a situation is being all together, every single play consistently.”
Only one Eagles wide receiver caught a pass and that was a 14-yard completion to Jason Avant. Tight end Brent Celek managed to catch two passes during the starters’ tenure on the field in the first half.
“A lot of times you think that’s it the offensive line, but sometimes it’s the receivers,” Avant said. “Everything has to work together as one unit has to work together. If we’re not getting open it in time makes the offensive line look bad and vice-versa. I won’t blame everything on the offensive line getting pressured. Sometimes we’re taking too long to get open and other times I think with the new system that offensive line has it’s going to be some mistakes here and there. Hopefully, we’ll get them ironed out so we can go to St. Louis with full preparation.”
Even with the shakiness of the offensive line, Vick didn’t try to force anything in the passing game. When he couldn’t find his primary receiver, he stayed in the pocket and went through his progressions and found McCoy open in the secondary.
“In this game you have to take what the defense give you,” Vick said. “If they’re playing 30 yards off then you’re not going to be able to go deep. You have to take advantage of what you’re able to get underneath. You just have to let it develop.”
The Eagles, if you look at both the starters and the backups, did a good job of running the football and that seemed to slow Browns a little bit. All of the Eagles touchdowns were scored by running the football. As a group, the Eagles rushed for 147 yards.
Leading with the running game, something that Reid doesn’t necessarily like to do, might be thing that could keep his starting quarterback off the injury list.