The Eagles rested more than just their handful of stars. They reached deep into their practice squad and late-season signings and gave pure special teamers an amazing amount of playing time. Players such as safety Jamar Adams, defensive tackle Jeremy Clark, left tackle Austin Howard, and receiver Chad Hall made their first career starts in the NFL. The Cowboys, with the notable exception of the quarterback position, used all of their normal starters and were pretty much injury free. They scored only one offensive touchdown and were really outplayed by the Eagles’ practice squad.
Kevin Kolb had a very poor showing. He threw three interceptions, two of which were desperation throws at the end of each half, but made poor decisions and had very shaky accuracy throughout the game. However, he did not have the benefit of throwing to DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, or Brent Celek, the game took place in freezing rain conditions, and the backup Eagle offensive line was no match for Jay Ratliff, DeMarcus Ware, and Stephen Bowen. Still, Kolb did not impress anybody and prospects of any team offering up a first round selection for him are looking slim.
Running back Jerome Harrison was very shifty and gave the Cowboy defense some issues even without his best blockers, and made a highlight one-handed grab, though it picked up no yardage. He had 116 total yards and looks like the perfect complement to rising star LeSean McCoy. Chad Hall was the only receiver to have any chemistry with Kevin Kolb, and beat Terrence Newman and Mike Jenkins a few times a piece for six catches for 84 yards and a score. He torched Newman on a nice double move that would have resulted in a touchdown with a better pass. Instead, the play gained 48 yards as Newman was able to catch up. Clay Harbor had a key drop on a long pass and looked utterly helpless in pass protection. My opinion of him went down a lot today.
The offensive line wasn’t awful, and Austin Howard gave up three sacks to DeMarcus Ware, but he had no help with him on the outside. Reggie Wells had a nice game, and the Eagles gave up six sacks, which may not be so bad considering Mike McGlynn was the only usual starter in there against a fearsome Cowboy pass rush. The defensive line got good pressure on Stephen McGee, highlighted by sacks by rookie defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and Dimitri Patterson. However, they did not show great lane discipline, allowing the mobile McGee to run for 55 yards. Jeremy Clark and Bobby McCray are both new additions to this unit and started, but did not make much of an impact. Omar Gaither had a very good game, leading the Eagles with 10 tackles. Akeem Jordan and Keenan Clayton were not particularly impressive on either side of him. In the secondary, the Eagles started Brandon Hughes, Trevard Lindley, Jamar Adams, and Colt Anderson. Only Lindley was with the team at the start of November. The group played very well, especially the young corners. Brandon Hughes played very well against Roy Williams, breaking up some key passes, and Trevard Lindley was solid tackling and was never really tested. Both look like solid reserves for next season and beyond. Gerard Lawson, Jorrick Calvin’s replacement as a kick returner, showed very impressive burst on his two returns, although I would have liked to see him make somebody miss or run with more power. I am comfortable with him returning kicks, though.
Overall, the Eagles learned a lot about their young players waiting in the wings. Next season, I believe Omar Gaither deserves a crack at the WILL linebacker spot as he has been a true professional and is capable of stringing together some good games. Jerome Harrison will be tough to get on the field, but has earned a few carries a game and the coaches’ trust should McCoy get hurt. Also, there should be some major competition at corner. Nobody is close to playing at Asante Samuel’s level, but it should not be a two-horse race across from him. Throw the names Brandon Hughes and Trevard Lindley in the ring alongside Joselio Hanson and Dimitri Patterson. Finally, I would move Dimitri Patterson to safety. I love the way he plays the game; he is a willing hitter and has shown the ability to separate receivers from the ball. He is very comfortable blitzing and playing in the box and shows great instincts. His limitations are purely physical, where he is simply not quick or fast enough to keep up with speedier or more explosive wideouts such as Mario Manningham of the Giants or Johnny Knox of the Bears. He is solid enough (5’10”, 200) to play safety in this scheme, and his lack of foot speed would be masked. I doubt the move will happen, but it’s certainly a shame because Patterson simply doesn’t cut it at right corner and will likely be sitting on the bench, not helping his team.
Looking forward, the Eagles will host the Green Bay Packers, their opening day opponent, on Sunday. Should they win that game, they would travel to face the Chicago Bears once again. Good luck Eagles!