Eagles linemen shrug off penalties in preseason debut

Chuck Bednarik is greeted by current players as he uses a walker to enter Franklin Field, where he starred for the Eagles. The Hall of Famer, 89, and other former players were honored during practice at the team's old home.
Chuck Bednarik is greeted by current players as he uses a walker to enter Franklin Field, where he starred for the Eagles. The Hall of Famer, 89, and other former players were honored during practice at the team's old home. (   DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: August 12, 2014

The Eagles expected flags to be plentiful in the preseason, when the officials have specific points of emphasis to make before the regular season begins. But two early offenders Friday were a pair of Eagles veterans who are considered technically sound.

Tackle Jason Peters and guard Evan Mathis, both Pro Bowlers last season, were flagged for holding in the first two series of the 34-28 preseason loss to the Chicago Bears. Mathis was whistled twice.

"I just wanted some face time," he joked after the game.

Both players emphasized that it was the first preseason game, and both have track records that would prevent panic. Mathis was flagged for holding just four times last season, and Peters was not penalized at all for holding in 2013. Yet when coach Chip Kelly evaluated the offensive line's performance before the Eagles returned to practice Sunday at Franklin Field, the penalties were the first issue he raised.

"The thing that hurt our offensive line, to be honest with you, is we got too many penalties," Kelly said, lumping Jeremy Maclin's face-mask infraction into the group. "We were moving the ball, and two of the penalties we had negated big gains for us. . . . But obviously, when you get that many penalties to start, you're only out there for three series, and I think they had three penalties. So the screen pass that we got some yardage on, we got a holding called on the backside that wasn't necessary."

Mathis' first holding nullified a 20-yard reception by Brent Celek. His second penalty came on a running play for no gain. Peters' holding call was the unnecessary one to which Kelly referred because it came on a short pass to LeSean McCoy to the right side, which is the opposite side from Peters.

Peters said the officials called a tighter game than they typically would.

"You're going to get penalties," Peters said. "You have first-year refs, trying to emphasize holding. They're trying to make a point to clean the game up. So when you do it, they're going to call it."

Kelly said leading up to the game that the Eagles had not been able to work with officials on penalties at the line. The visiting officials last week were focused on the league's new rules for pass coverage.

"I don't think it generally happens, but it can happen," Mathis said of penalties in the first preseason game. "It did happen [Friday]. We were obviously sloppy in a few aspects of the game. We luckily have time to work on this."

The starting offensive line was a strength for the Eagles last season. One of the reasons was continuity. All five Eagles linemen started every game for the first time since 2006. That is unlikely to happen this season because right tackle Lane Johnson already has been suspended for four games and Allen Barbre will replace him.

Barbre said he had "a few mistakes I'd like to take back," but he left the game without major issues. There were no hurries from his side, and a Darren Sproles 9-yard rush came around the right. Barbre had help at times, too.

Barbre said the blocking was a "little shady" and was not perfect for quarterback Nick Foles, although Foles was under pressure on only two of nine throws. He was not sacked. Peters said the player he blocked "didn't get close."

Kelly said the Bears played with four down linemen throughout the game and did not do anything schematically that the Eagles did not expect.

The consensus was that the Eagles' line must play tighter and eliminate the sloppiness. But the frequent penalties did not prompt concern from the veterans on the line.

"Everybody's got to get better," Peters said. "First game, just getting the bugs out."


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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