The Philadelphia Eagles play their first preseason game at home, hosting the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. The Panthers are coming off an ugly win over the Chicago Bears, while the Eagles are trying to rebound from a poor defensive showing against the New England Patriots.
Meet the Philadelphia Eagles
All of the attention has been on Chip Kelly's new-look offense and the quarterback battle, but last Friday's game was a stark reminder that the defense still needs a lot of work. The run defense was a sieve, allowing 248 rushing yards to the Patriots.
Having said that, there is still a quarterback battle going on, but we don't seem to be any closer to an answer. Michael Vick and Nick Foles had a combined 11 passing attempts, while Matt Barkley and Dennis Dixon got the majority of playing time. Neither guy proved to be a legitimate threat to Vick or Foles.
Meet the Carolina Panthers
The Panthers revamped their defensive line in the draft with rookies Star Lotulelei and Kawaan Short. Their investment seems to be paying dividends already. The defense looked impressive against the Bears, getting seven sacks and two interceptions, returning one for a touchdowns. The running game was less impressive, getting only 92 yards on 2.9 yards per carry. Rookie Kenjon Barner led the way with 37 yards on nine carries.
Carolina is continuing the eternal search for a reliable receiver alongside Steve Smith. That search will likely continue for the rest of the month. David Gettis led the team with three catches for 56 yards
Local Takes: Eagles
Mike Kaye from Bleeding Green Nation didn't mince words on the Eagles' defensive performance:
The Eagles' run defense was putrid to say the least. From beginning to end, Philadelphia was gashed by the likes of Stevan Ridley, Blount and Tebow. Blount was able to bounce off Mychal Kendricks and Connor Barwin tackling attempts during the first drive alone and bobbed and weaved through several defenders in the second quarter for a large run for a touchdown. Ridley had a 62-yard run to open the game's first drive.
Linebacker coverage was not impressive. There were several times where tight ends and running backs would get extra yards because linebackers took too long to get to their spots. However, a lot of the mediocrity seemed to come from a lack of familiarity with the calls. That's not an excuse, but likely a factor.
Local Takes: Panthers
James Dator of Cat Scratch Reader is impressed with the Panthers' new defense, but remains worried about the offensive line:
It's safe to say that you won't need to worry about the Panthers' defense in 2013, at least their line and linebackers. The amount of pressure the defensive front were able to generate was overwhelming. Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short look as good as advertised, and I'd be stunned in Short doesn't quickly pass Dwan Edwards on the depth chart. It was a great night for depth defenders to get feel-good sacks, as Mario Addison, Louis Nzegwu, Criag Roh, and Chase Blackburn all added big plays.
Offensive line play was the area open for the most criticism, as an abysmal training camp gave way to plenty of reasonable doubt whether this unit were an NFL caliber line. Friday didn't help decode exactly how good, or bad this unit could be. While they only allowed one sack on the night, there was a lot of pressure in the pocket. Mike Shula tried to shift the protection to assist, keeping in multiple blocking tight ends -- and it helped a little.
According to Odds Shark, the Eagles are currently favored by 2.5 points after an opening line of -3.5. The over/under is between 41.5 and 43 points.