My initial evaluation of this game included very little positive aspects. Yet after dwelling on it for a day and then reviewing the replay it wasn’t as bad as it felt watching it. Yes, the Eagles mauled the Panthers and if this had been the regular season it would have been an ugly loss. Donovan McNabb looked great. He made good decisions and his passes were on target. His counterpart Jake Delhomme looked just the opposite. He made several poor decisions highlighted by a pick for a TD on a blitz when he should have thrown the ball away. The first team played the entire first half and could only muster a field goal on a late drive that was the only bright spot in what was otherwise a dismal first half.
John Fox’s summarizes up his feelings of the game:
You're looking for improvement from week to week, and, if anything, we took a step backwards. We're going to have to regroup and move forward.
That's about a nice as you could put it.
The special teams play was much improved. Jason Baker averaged over 52 yards per punt and did a fantastic job. The kick off coverage didn’t allow any long run backs. Nick Goings did a good job returning kicks and Ryne Robinson looked good as well on punts and one kick off.
The run defense performed well limiting the Eagles to 2.2 yards per carry. They contained Brian Westbrook for the most part and kept the Eagles one dimensional. I thought Stanley McClover played well in place of Peppers and Adam Seward in place of Morgan. Seward was quick to the point of attack and always made a hit. I like this kid.
David Carr played well. He made some nice passes at the start of the second half and breathed some life into the Panthers offense. He made a good decision and nice run on the Panthers lone touchdown, an 8 yard scramble up the middle. For the first time he put a little pressure on Jake but I’m not calling for a change just yet.
The running game looked pretty good putting up 73 yards on 19 carries. As expected Kalil started at center and Hartwig moved over to RG. DeShaun (18 yards on 3 carries) and DeAngelo (13 yards on 3 carries) both made some nice cut backs and put up decent yardage. They didn’t break anything long but usually got enough yardage to create some 3rd and short scenarios. In the second half Alex Haynes looked good carrying the ball. He showed power and cutting ability and appears fully recovered from his injury last season.
Jake Delhomme played bad, there’s no other way to say it. He made several bad decisions and many of his passes were off the mark. He could have had two more picks if the Eagle defenders could catch. Conversely the Panthers were 1 for 6 on third down conversions in the first half. I would have put this in the ugly category if not for the last drive of the half that stalled because of a lack of time. It seemed Jake waited until there was 50 seconds left in the half to decide to throw the ball with authority.
I wasn’t crazy about the offensive game plan either. It appeared we ran the same plays as last week and the Eagles defense was ready. The screen plays didn’t work, the short dumps to the RB’s and TE’s were immediately stuffed and the Eagles LB’s contained the cut back runs. The Eagle CB’s seemed to be sitting on those out patterns to the TE’s and WR’s and as I said before, could have picked more than one. The Panthers didn’t counter this with any pump and go’s or some other play that could have taken advantage of the Eagles aggressiveness. Sure, it’s the preseason and you don’t want to show your hand too early, but the timing of the calls didn’t seem to fool the Eagles at all.
Donovan McNabb shredded the Panthers secondary for 200 yards in the first half. The Panthers front four couldn’t penetrate the Eagles line to put any pressure on him and Panthers didn' run many blitzes to change that. With time to throw McNabb and the Eagle TE’s killed us. Chris Harris took a bad angle on the long side line pattern to Schoebel that went for 50+ yards. Whether the Panthers played a zone for went man-to-man the Eagles receivers were able to get open, if only slightly which is all he needed. I don’t think having Peppers in the game would have made much of a difference.
McNabb has moved up a few spots on my fantasy charts as a result of this performance. Color me impressed of the Eagles and would agree they are one of the front runners for the NFC crown as long as McNabb stays healthy. I’m glad were playing them in the preseason.