If you watched this game and you weren't left scratching your head, you're a better man than I. For the first 20 or so minutes, the game was pretty much what I expected. McNabb was in there, he took a couple of hits and got back up, which is what I was looking for. He seems comfortable on that knee, if not quite as mobile as he used to be. We saw Westbrook take one hand off and then get the hell out of there. Again, an ideal situation. We saw what to expect from the first team D (more on this later), and we saw Sav Rocca booming a couple of punts, and pinning Pittsburgh inside the 10 a couple of times. All good signs.
When McNabb came out in the second quarter, I was a little surprised to see Kevin Kolb take his place. Al Michaels and John Madden mentioned that Reid wanted to let Kolb run with the first team offense for some time in this game. OK, I'll buy it. But why did Kolb play the rest of the game? It doesn't make much sense to me. A.J. Feeley is the backup. There's no debate about that at this point. Considering the recent healthy history of the starter, I'd think getting his backup some meaningful reps would be pretty high on the priority list.
Kolb's play was fine, he finished 26 for 37 with 1 TD to Lee Vickers, his favorite target. I'm not complaining about the kid's development, I'm just trying to figure exactly how crazy Andy Reid is about this kid. When the Eagles drafted him, I was shocked, like everyone else. As time went by, I came to terms with the pick, and figured he'd be a project, maybe he'd be the starter three or four years down the road. Now, I'm not so sure Reid sees his career progressing along those lines. I know, it's only one playoff game, but two and a half quarters is more than a little look at the kid. It felt like an audition. Does Reid see Kolb as a replacement for McNabb if he gets hurt this year? I hope not.
Before I go overboard, it's quite possible that McNabb won't play at all in the Eagles' final preseason game on Thursday. If that's the case, maybe Feeley stars and Holcolmb (if he's still an Eagle) split the game. Even if that's the case, I don't see what purpose it serves not giving Feeley one snap in tonight's game.
And now, the defense. My biggest concern with this team was the fact that they didn't address what I saw as their biggest problem last season, size on the defensive line. Yes, the linebackers were pretty horrible, as a group, last season, but I think the run game has to be stopped at the point of contact. The Eagles didn't have the size on the d-line to soak up blocks, so the LBs often wound up with offensive lineman slipping through and taking them on. Not to mention fullbacks leading the way out of the backfield. Tonight, the same thing reared its ugly head.
The Eagles have scrapped last year's linebacking corps, and gotten bigger and presumably more athletic. That's great, but it didn't solve the root of the problem. The d-line is still too small, and getting bulkier at LB may have another, more troubling effect. They don't seem able to cover anyone, and their youth has them out of position, quite frequently. The Steelers took advantage of ends who show no discipline when rushing the passer, small tackles and over-zealous LBs who don't change direction too well with about 20 screens and underneath passes. The Eagles had no answer.
Again, I realize this was only a preseason game, and I'm probably reading too much into a lot of things, but this game left me worried. I didn't see a marked improvement in the front seven on defense, Sean Considine looked just as weak out there as he did last year, and Andy seems to have a man-crush on Kevin Kolb.
To end on a positive note, Correll Buckhalter looked good in his extended time in the backfield, and the d-backs made a few of nice plays (2 of which should've been picks).