Birds play the Ravens in Philly Friday night. As a pregame report, here are my impressions of last Saturday's game against the Patriots:
All the rookies looked pretty good. CB Lito Shephard made a solid tackle on a short crossing route and later had a nice interception in the end zone against receiver Donald Hayes. Fellow corner Sheldon Brown showed some speed on a corner blitz that forced a QB hurry. LB Tyreo Harrison had a couple nice tackles, SS Michael Lewis had a nice hit on a kickoff return. But RB Brian Westbrook flashed the most. He brings home run speed to the table that Duce Staley and Dorsey Levens -- both of whom are powerful yet shifty backs -- are lacking. Based on what I saw and what I've read, I think Westbrook is for real. Not only a situational back, but the possible solution at the halfback position, looking towards the end of the Staley era. He did have that embarassing moment where he not so much muffed as doinked a punt that bounced off of his facemask. That was ugly. And you could tell Andy "the Big Cantaloupe" Reid was pissed when Lito fumbled a return later in the game.
Hopefully Shephard will push Al "the Predator" Harris out of the nickel cornerback slot. I like Al, I'm sure he's nice, but he's never learned to turn around and look for the fucking ball on deep passes. His M.O. is to run smack into the receiver, presumably hoping to time his arm-flailing correctly, and draw an interference penalty. How, with all the coaching he gets, he still persists in this behavior and is allowed on the field is frankly perplexing. Turn around and make a play on the ball -- if you're making a play on the ball you don't draw the flag -- it's cornerback 101. Harris made a textbook Predator play and committed a crucial interference penalty on Terrell Owens (who is admittedly a freaking monster, a man among boys, at this point) last year late in the Niners game on a deep ball thrown by Garcia down the left sideline. We had them backed up deep in their territory and that penalty bailed them out (on third and long, I believe) and cost us big-time, leading to Owens' TD later in that drive.
Speaking of that awful Niners game, remember that seven-play goal line stand they had against us? One of my criticisms of that series was that James Thrash ran too shallow a route on a ball that he caught on the goal line. Run it a couple steps deeper and it's a touchdown. Returning to Saturday's preseason game, poor number 47, Corey McIntryre, the rookie FB from West Virginia, dropped a short pass on the two-point conversion at the end of the game. Had he caught it and scored, we would have had the win. Well, regardless of the ramifications that drop may have on 47's career with the Eagles, this was another case of a route that's too shallow. And this falls on Reid and the coaching staff. Even if McIntyre had caught that ball, there was a linebacker coming and it wasn't guaranteed he would score. These routes need to be deeper. Look what happened to the Titans' Kevin Dyson on the last play of the Super Bowl against the Rams. Football often boils down to a matter of inches. Try not to leave it to chance and absolutley do not leave it in the refs' hands with a close spot. Run deeper routes.
Julian Jones and Levon Kirkland both made good plays breaking up short passes. Donovan looked dangerous as ever on the run but didn't show enough touch at times on his short passes. When is Freddie Mitchell going to step up? I like him a lot but it's getting to the point where he needs to show more. Backup safety Clinton Hart (33) made a couple nice plays, including recovering two straight onsides kicks (why is it the Eagles are so good at this?). QB AJ Feeley looked very good directing that late scoring drive.