Chip Kelly ruined the pre-season forever.
Like every fan, I always told myself not to take the full-priced practice games too seriously. But still . . .
Last summer, when Sam Bradford went 10-for-10 with three TD passes at Lambeau and the Eagles rang up 39 points on the Packers – well, I forgot that rule. I persuaded myself that Chip had mastered the art of coaching offense, that Sammy Sleeves was the perfect QB for the system, that the Birds were going to dominate their division. Don’t lie, you bought in too.
Well, never again.
No matter what brilliance I see in this year’s pre-season opener Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Bucs, I refuse to believe my lying eyes. Thanks loads, Chip.
Like this: Carson Wentz should get into the game in the second half. Playing against Tampa’s backups and rookies, he’ll likely do great. He’s big and smart, and if the newbies on his side of the ball can’t protect him, Wentz will just run for some long gainers. The crowd at the Linc will go nuts. My radio callers next weekend will nominate Wentz for enshrinement in Canton. And sadly, I’ll be that sober voice of restraint that douses everyone’s enthusiasm.
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I blame Chip.
The first pre-season game is usually the worst. We’ve been waiting eight months for Eagles football. Kickoff Thursday is at 7 p.m. By 7:15, we’ll want to fast-forward to the regular season. Be ready for false starts and dropped balls and blown signals. Referees love to call every piddling penalty in the pre-season, aiming to get players more disciplined. Anyway, we’ll watch. And while I’ll repeat that nothing really matters, there are a few things worth noting:
Keep an eye on Jason Peters, even if he plays just a series or two. The veteran left tackle declined last season and has been battling injuries through camp. But so much of the offense’s success this season will rely on Peters being effective.
See which, if any of the Eagles wide receivers makes a play. Likewise, watch for rookie RB Wendell Smallwood to flash something. A recent ESPN article ranked the Birds’ skill players last among the 32 NFL teams. It’s tough to argue with that assessment until someone on this roster proves otherwise.
Formations tend to be vanilla in the pre-season. Still, it’ll be interesting to see Jim Schwartz shift the defense from 3-4 to 4-3. Fletcher Cox should be helped by the change. Connor Barwin may not be. This game marks the first chance to check it out.
Keep an eye out for uniform No. 32. CB Eric Rowe, last year’s 2nd-round pick, has fallen out of favor with his coaches. Take note of how much and where he plays. And, of course, watch Carson Wentz. Cheer madly if he does well. But just remember last year’s pre-season rout at Green Bay. And if that’s a downer, it’s all Chip Kelly’s fault.