Mysterious Eagles starting to show colors

But there are still more unknowns about Chip Kelly's young team heading into final week of preseason.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.

— Jim Mora said it best some two decades ago.

"You guys don't know when it's good or bad," the former Philadelphia Stars, New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts coach told reporters one day after a Saints game. "You really don't know, because you don't know what we're trying to do, you guys don't look at the films, you don't know what happened. You think you know, but you don't know and you never will.

" ... Sometimes you'll think it's good and it isn't any good. Sometimes you'll think it's bad and it's pretty darned good. Sometimes you'll think it was bad and it was bad. But basically you really don't know. The only people that really know are our coaches."

That said, here's what this former high school football player, amateur football analyst and golfer and professional bowler and writer thinks he knows about the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles after three preseason games, even though there is a lot more nobody knows about this team yet.

Michael Vick was still the right choice to be the starting quarterback this season. Despite his indecision at times and apparent failure to make the right reads on certain read-option plays in a 31-24 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night, he did almost as much damage to the Jaguars defense with his legs as he did with his left arm, which completed 15 of 23 attempts for 184 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

The man he beat out, Nick Foles, played better (10-for-11, 112 yards) on this night, but was going against lesser players and just can't provide the added dimension a healthy Vick gives as an extra running back when all else fails.

Coach Chip Kelly was satisfied, which should be the best clue.

"The one thing I don't think he did, besides the one he tried to throw away [which was intercepted], he didn't force the football," Kelly said. "And I think he did a good job of keeping them honest and picking up some real good yardage running after they kind of did a good job early in coverage. And if you do that, then the quarterback can hurt you with his feet.

" … That's an encouraging thing that when you have a guy back there that when they do have good coverage on you that you can then beat them on your feet, and that's what he did."

But even all the non-Jim Moras out there can say with undisputed accuracy that Vick was lucky to get away with one completely out-of-control throw as he was almost parallel to the ground in the second quarter. He was ruled to have already been sacked before releasing the ball. It was a scary decision by a veteran who should know better, not to mention the kind that will get him benched eventually if he keeps repeating it.

• Forget DeSean Jackson. Damaris Johnson is the top returner now. Maybe Jackson could still beat him out if he really wanted to, like the way Vick did when he was pressured by teammate LeSean McCoy into a spring minicamp race against the much younger running back. But there's no need now.

Johnson is averaging 21.3 yards per punt return and 27.2 yards on kickoffs. The punt figure is outstanding, and his pure speed is, well, Vick wouldn't beat him in a race. Put it that way.

Bryce Brown is a dangerous, dangerous man. Dangerous to opponents because he's averaging 7.1 yards per carry throughout the preseason. Dangerous to the Eagles because he just turned it over on another fumble Saturday night.

If he can ever become a more dependable protector of the football — a big if, to be sure — he would almost have to move ahead of LeSean McCoy on the depth chart by the end of the season.

There, I said it. Bryce Brown is a better pure runner with the football than Shady McCoy. And this is nothing against McCoy, who could well set personal bests in every category this year.

It's just that Brown, when holding onto the football, is too good to be limited to under 10 touches per game. Or maybe 20.

Kenny Phillips had to be injured more than anyone knew to not survive the first round of roster cuts, which the Eagles made on Sunday instead of waiting until the Tuesday league deadline. He was the most talented and accomplished safety on the roster, but just had too many things going wrong with his 26-year-old body.

Phillips was a late scratch on Saturday, when his strained quadriceps wouldn't respond in warmups, and he never was able to play with the speed and confidence he displayed in the three full seasons he was able to complete in his career.

Phillips was a big component of the Giants' Super Bowl championship in the 2011 season. He tallied 262 tackles, eight interceptions and three fumble recoveries in 56 career games.

• Although Kelly was right about time of possession not necessarily having much correlation to winning, he must know that turnover differential does. After three preseason games, the Eagles are minus-6, with just one takeaway. That portends the same kind of disasters that struck in 2011 and 2012.

"We were our own worst enemy," Kelly understated after Saturday's win.

Mychal Kendricks probably will turn out to be the Eagles' best linebacker. He's made the most plays in training camp and through the first three preseason games.

Saturday, he was very active, with three tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit and a batted pass.

"The fact that they want me coming forward, they want me going back — I can go outside, inside — is really fun. It allows us to make more plays.

nick.fierro@mcall.com

610-778-2243

mc-eagles-0825-20130825
 
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