FOXBORO, MA (CBS) — The second NFL dress rehearsal is the door opener for players like Arrelious Benn, Jordan Matthews and Henry Josey. It’s those second-tier players that get the most opportunity in the second pre-season game to surface and show what they’re really capable of doing—and against the New England Patriots Friday night, they did.
The Eagles lost, 42-35, and again, there were a rash of penalties once again. The teams combined for 21 penalties for 169 yards. In the two games the Eagles have played, there have been a total of 44 penalties.
Benn made the biggest impact. The rangy 6-2, 200-pound second-round Tampa Bay draft pick out of Illinois in 2010 has shown promise—but torn left ALC injuries, one that cut short his 2012 season with the Bucs and the other occurred this time last year, has limited Benn in showing his potential.
Benn, playing in place of starters Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, both out nursing injuries, blocked a punt that led to one touchdown and caught a deflected pass for another.
“We never really got a chance to see them last year,” Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly said earlier this preseason about Benn. “The one thing about all three of those guys was that it was evident how important it was just to see how hard they worked in the off-season. [Benn] is in a lot better shape than he was this time last year. It’s starting to show and he’s making plays. I think the ability to play special teams is important and [Benn’s] size really helps him from that standpoint. He’s a big, physical guy and we’re real excited to see him play in this pre-season game Friday night.”
The compact Josey is a unique story. He missed the 2012 season at Missouri after tearing his ACL, MCL and patellar tendon against Texas in November 2011. He underwent three surgeries and came back to lead Missouri to the Cotton Bowl, where he was named Offensive Player of the Game after rushing for 92 yards and scoring three touchdowns.
Against the Patriots, Josey showed some nice explosion in gaining a team-high 56 yards on nine carries. And with Chris Polk and Matthew Tucker banged up, Josey could have a chance of making this team.
On the last play of the third quarter, Josey, a team favorite, made a fantastic play, weaving his way through defenders and hugging the sideline on a 27-yard TD off a screen pass from Matt Barkley.
And finally, there’s Matthews, who is in no danger of being cut, though his relentless drive and raised intensity makes it look like he’s playing for a job. He caught a team-high nine passes for 104 yards, including four receptions on the Eagles’ first third-quarter touchdown drive.
Matthews made a nice hands catch from Mark Sanchez on the initial touchdown drive, and a good diving catch later in the third quarter.
Long shot Alejandro Villanueva made a nice play midway into the fourth quarter, sacking Ryan Mallett for an 11-yard loss. The play helped forced a missed field goal.
Nick Foles made a return to form, completing eight of 10 for 89 yards and a touchdown. The special teams have looked very good. Last week they blocked an extra point and this week a punt, setting up a touchdown this week.
Among the players who didn’t help themselves is cornerback Curtis Marsh, who did a nice imitation of a bobblehead. He was the victim of three New England touchdowns. Marsh almost got burned a fourth time for a touchdown when Brian Tyms got behind him. But Tyms dropped the ball. Marsh couldn’t seem to locate the ball if it were dangling from the front of his helmet on a string.
But there are still problems with shutting down opponents on third down. The Pats converted their first seven third-down opportunities, finished the half 7-for-10 when the ones and twos were playing.
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