Youth is being served. Some of the most exciting plays on Sunday night, and in fact, all through training camp at Lehigh, have come from young players looking to make their mark.
Wide receiver Hank Baskett had perhaps the most anticipated showing. The young wide receiver, acquired from the Minnesota Vikings after this year's draft, got a shot with the first team and pulled in a catch on the Eagles successful first drive of the game. In fact, coach Andy Reid scripted a play especially to go Baskett's way early in the drive. "It's all about that first catch and that first tackle," said Baskett, who got both on the third play of the Eagles' drive. Getting those firsts out of the way ended the nervousness for the New Mexico State product.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the Eagles defense saw two young linebackers hold up well against the Raiders. Again, just as Baskett had done through camp, Omar Gaither and Matt McCoy have been impressive and the game action was no different. McCoy may have shown a little too much youthful exuberance when he brought down Raiders' quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo well after the young QB had crossed the sideline. For McCoy, once he zeroed in on his target, there was no stopping. The play drew a 15 yard penalty and allowed Sebastian Janikowski to kick a 51 yard field goal; youthful exuberance not well spent. Still, McCoy saw action in three quarters Sunday - the only player to do so - and recorded a tackle, a hurry and perhaps most importantly, a sack. For a team looking for a pass rush, McCoy showed what the coaching staff wanted to see. After not seeing much action last season, the second round pick is in a battle with veteran Shawn Barber for a starting spot on the Eagles.
Fellow linebacker Omar Gaither also saw a good amount of time and led the team with six tackles. His first coming in the Raiders' backfield when he crunched running back Justin Fargas for a one-yard loss. Like McCoy, Gaither was caught in a rookie mistake when he dropped coverage on Fargas later in the game to pursue quarterback Andrew Walter who was rolling out to Gaither's side. Walter calmly tossed a pass over Gaither's head to the guy Gaither was supposed to be covering and the play went for 29 yards. Gaither knew immediately that he made a rookie mistake and vowed not to fall for that one again.
With young players will come mistakes. With young players getting put into positions where they can learn from game situations, those mistakes will be minimized. That's all part of the plan for the Eagles, who are more than happy to give young players a chance to show what they can do on the field.