Eagles Overcome Offensive Line Woes to Beat Browns By Matt Lombardo

The Eagles offensive line was porous. Michael Vick looked frustrated. And yet there were enough bright spots from Thursday night’s 24-14 Eagles win over the Cleveland Browns to leave Eagles fans hopeful.

Throughout the first quarter of Thursday night’s pre-season game against Cleveland, the Eagles offensive line looked lost in translation. Danny Watkins appeared equally confused in both pass and run protection. Meanwhile when Watkins looked to his left, Rookie Jason Kelce was at times a revolving door to oncoming Browns defensive tackles, and on one particular play forgot to snap the ball which led to a false start.

“I hate to make mistakes like that,” Kelce explained after the game. “And I really hate to see No. 7 knocked to the ground as often as he was.”  

 While neither Kelce nor Watkins had the benefit of off season OTA’s, the Eagles are in trouble if they enter the season with these two starting on the right side and they are not improved from here. The protection was downright horrible with Watkins struggling to get out of his own way at times, including a first quarter LeSean McCoy screen where the rookie couldn’t find anyone to block and nearly took down his running back.

If you pay close attention to how this training camp was handled, and read between the lines of the ever informative Andy Reid, this team would strongly prefer that Kelce wins the starting center job. However, the rookie must prove that he can be serviceable before that becomes a reality.

Keeping Michael Vick upright this season is imperative to this team’s success and with the entire right side of the offensive line in flux that could prove a difficult task.

Yet despite the line’s woes, the offense began to develop a rhythm finishing with 147 yards and a 17-0 halftime lead and an eventual 24-14 win.

Philadelphia got on the board first thanks to a 13 yard Ronnie Brown touchdown run in the first quarter two plays after Jon Dorenbos recovered a Jordan Norwood muffed punt.

Brown ran hard again Thursday night, particularly between the tackles. As efficient and shifty as LeSean McCoy has been all training camp and through the pre-season, brown appears to be the type of complimentary player that Andy Reid must get on the field as often as possible. Brown finished with six carries for 41 yards and a touchdown.

Meanwhile McCoy’s contributions were primarily through the passing game where he feasted on short routes in the middle of the field, racking up yards after the catch to the tune of seven catches for 69 yards.

“You can’t be a greedy offense.” McCoy said. “Sometimes you need to take what the defense is giving you. They gave us some stuff underneath and we took that. I think as we get more into game planning and scouting, we’ll have more room for different things.”

McCoy was moved around in the offense in packages that also saw Brown on the field, which brought back memories of Brian Westbrook being used in a multitude of ways during his time in Philadelphia.

Because of the offensive line’s deficiencies, Vick was scrambling for his life basically from start to finish. It took 16 plays for MV7 to find a wide receiver. However, Vick he made the highlight reel when he extended the Eagles lead to 17-0 on an 8-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

“The guys were in the right spot,” Vick said. “I came over and tried to find Jason [Avant], and the outside defensive end just got pushed down inside real hard. There was an open lane so I took advantage of it.”

Vick’s night was cut short by a torrential downpour that arrived just before halftime, and just in time for Andy Reid to move his franchise quarterback from the field to the incubator after the Browns ran wild over and through the Eagles line.

How bad was the rain? At one point in the third quarter water came pouring into the enclosed press box sending reporters scurrying for higher ground.

Vick looked improved from a week ago, yet still only managed to finish 10-18 for 98 yards, two fumbles and no touchdowns through the air. But the former 4-time Pro Bowl player did have a bad interception thrown into double-coverage that was nullified by a “Roughing the Passer” penalty. In his defense, he was flushed from the pocket several times before having the chance to go through his progressions. 

When Vince Young took the reigns of the Eagles offense in the third quarter, he looked painfully average finishing 9 of 12 for 58 yards and one rushing touchdown.

Defensively, Casey Matthews and the gang looked much improved from their effort last week that left much to be desired. Matthews in particular looked better finishing with five tackles and having a good nose for the ball.

Asante Samuel hauled in his first interception of the pre-season when he jumped a route in front of Jordan Norwood and picked off Colt McCoy and returning the ball ten yards.

“They just tried to do a criss-cross route or something.” Samuel explained. “I just hid a little bit, saw the ball in the air and I do what I do – go get the ball.”

Samuel’s interception was set up by strong pressure from Cullen Jenkins who stunted and got into McCoy’s face forcing the throw. Meanwhile Trent Cole did Yeoman-work once again, throwing Joe Thomas around like a rag doll on one play and getting the sack in the third quarter.

In the first half the defensive allowed 4.1 yards per carry, which ideally would be lower once the regular season rolls around.

The Browns added a pair of late touchdowns thanks to a 17-yard Seneca Wallace pass to  Al Smith that was tipped by Jaiquawn Jarrett into Smith’s waiting hands in the corner of the end zone and later a Chris Matthews 4-yard catch from Jarrett Brown.

Philadelphia takes the road to finish out the preseason next week against The New York Jets at Met Life Stadium.


Matt Lombardo is a reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL


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