NFL Preseason Preview - Philadelphia (0-0) at Chicago (0-0)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Philadelphia Eagles kick off their preseason slate
in the Windy City on Friday as they travel to Soldier Field to take on the
The Eagles surprised many by finishing 10-6 and winning the NFC East in 2013
under the direction of innovative rookie head coach Chip Kelly. A potential
sequel, however, will have to take place without one of the game's best, pure
home-run hitters in receiver DeSean Jackson.
Jackson, who was coming off a career year, was released in the offseason due
to problems with Kelly and the whispers of some nefarious off-the-field
behavior but division rival Washington had no issue with quickly picking up
the Pro-Bowl selection.
Hindsight will ultimately prove that the Jackson mess was either incredible
hubris on Kelly's part or provide further proof that the former Oregon mentor
is indeed one of the great offensive minds of this generation.
Jeremy Maclin, who is returning from a torn ACL and has been seen limping at
times in camp, and the lengthy Riley Cooper will start at receiver for the
Birds with rookie second-round pick Jordan Matthews hoping to mix in
frequently. None possesses the pure, gamebreaking ability of Jackson, though,
so the spacing Kelly craves figures to be a bit more difficult to create this
A second major issue propped up late in June when second-year right tackle
Lane Johnson tested positive for a performance- enhancing drug and suspended
by the NFL for the first four games of the upcoming season.
On the other side of the ball Philadelphia has struggled at safety since
former six-time All-Pro Brian Dawkins walked in free agency after the 2008
season. The Eagles feel they finally have a solid presence on the back end,
though, after signing former Saints first-round pick Malcolm Jenkins in free
"He had the specific skill set that we were looking for," Kelly said. "So he
was the No. 1 guy we were looking for in free agency."
That skill set Kelly is speaking of is coverage skills, a necessity for a
defense which ranked last in the NFL last season defending the pass, allowing
an average of 289.8 yards per game.
"It's just about making the calls and eliminating the dumb mistakes to where
you (limit) big plays or blown coverages," Jenkins said. "That's where I come
in, as far as knowing the defense, making the right calls, and getting
everybody lined up so then we can go play fast."
Bears general manager Phil Emery spent much of his offseason trying to upgrade
a defense which collapsed in 2013, focusing largely on the front four.
Chicago bid adieu to veterans Julius Peppers, Henry Melton and Corey Wootton
and used free agency to bolster the defensive end position, bringing in
veteran pass-rushing star Jared Allen, along with Lamarr Houston and Willie
Young. Emery then carpet-bombed defensive tackle in the draft with a pair of
early selections, second-rounder Ego Ferguson and third-rounder Will Sutton.
Much like last season, though, Chicago will go only as far as its high-powered
offense can take it. Little tinkering was done there and rightfully so
because the Bears were so explosive on offense last season.
A few issues popped up this week, however. Receiver Marquess Wilson, who was
battling for the No. 3 position behind Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery,
will be sidelined indefinitely after suffering a fractured right clavicle in
Monday's training camp practice.
Wilson was hurt when he dove for a pass in the end zone.
"Diving for balls is one of the most difficult things not to do when you're a
competitive player," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "We promote it, we talk
about it a lot. When a guy goes to make a play on the ball you're not going to
be disappointed with him if he doesn't go to the ground."
Meanwhile star tight end Martellus Bennett was suspended Tuesday for conduct
detrimental to the team after an incident in practice in which he slammed
rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller to the ground after the first-round pick spun
the veteran around on a tackle after a reception.
The Eagles and Bears will be meeting in the preseason for just the third time
since 1975, with the series tied at one game apiece.
08/06 12:43:21 ET
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