So Long, Zach

Posted: October 18th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

We all knew this was going to happen, we just didn’t know when. On Friday, Zach Ertz was traded to the Arizona Cardinals for a 5th round pick and CB Tay Gowan. That’s the end of an era. Ertz was a terrific player and also a really good presence in the community. I seem to recall he made a couple of important catches in a game in February of 2018.

It was clear from the summer of 2020 that Zach Ertz was going to become an ex-Eagle. He wanted a new deal and the team wasn’t going to give him one. We thought a trade would happen this summer, but nothing came to fruition. Finally an offer came through that made Howie Roseman pull the trigger. Ertz is now an Arizona Cardinal.

Good for him. The Cards are 6-0 and have one of the best offenses in the league. Ertz will give them another weapon as they make a Super Bowl push. Ertz would love to become a Hall of Famer. Adding another Super Bowl to his resume would certainly help. I don’t think he is a HOF player at this point, but we’ll see how he does the next few years.

Ertz had a lot of interesting things to say in his farewell PC. Make sure to check this out if you haven’t already seen it.

Fran Duffy did an excellent piece on Ertz’s career.

I was a big fan of Ertz’s going back to his time at Stanford. I projected him to be the Eagles 2nd round pick in 2013 and they made me look smart by actually taking him. Even better, he panned out as a good player.

Here is my post on Ertz from draft day. It was fun to see Ertz develop over the years. He started off as a terrible blocker and worked hard to become effective. He was painfully bad at running after the catch. Jimmy Bama charted his issues for years. Eventually Ertz became effective at this as well. His specialty was getting open and catching the ball. TEs aren’t supposed to run routes as well as Ertz did.

Ertz will be in the Eagles Ring of Honor in the future.

Now let’s jump back to the present. The timing of the trade is a bit odd. Why now?

There is no simple answer. Howie Roseman talked about wanting to see Dallas Goedert get to be “The Man”. No more splitting reps. The Eagles also want to get Tyree Jackson on the field when he’s healthy (soon?). Jackson showed excellent potential this summer. He needs to get on the field.

Ertz knew the Bucs game would be his last with the Eagles. They took a risk by playing him, but wanted to give him a chance to play in front of Eagles fans one more time. The next two games are on the road. That was a classy move by the Eagles. Being an Eagle meant something to Ertz. It was good for him to get one final chance to play at The Linc.

As for the Eagles, they add another resource for the 2022 Draft. The Cardinals pick will likely be late in the 5th round, but you can still find players in that area. The 6th and 7th rounds are more of the long shots.

Gowan is an interesting player. I had him rated as a 4th round target for the Eagles back in April. Gowan lasted to the 6th round, likely in part due to the fact he opted out of the 2020 season. Gowan is 6-1, 186. He ran a 4.49 at his Pro Day.

Darius Slay and Steve Nelson are older corners. The Eagles need young guys to develop for the future. They drafted Zech McPhearson in the 4th round back in April and now add Gowan to the mix. We don’t know if either will pan out, but the Eagles need young DBs to try to develop so Gowan does make sense.

Are the Eagles a better team? No, of course not. Ertz is a proven player. The draft pick and Gowan are unknown commodities. But Ertz was going to move on at some point so the goal was to get what you could and focus on the future. The X-factor in all of this is Jackson. He’s big and athletic and looked like a good pass-catcher this summer. If he could develop into a good role player, that would give the offense a boost.

*****

The Dolphins lost to the winless Jags on Sunday, and the game was every bit as ugly as you might expect. That loss helps the Eagles, who own the Dolphins 1st round pick.

The only bad news…there aren’t any elite QB prospects this year.

Still, the draft should be a lot of fun this spring.

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The Blowout That Wasn’t

Posted: October 15th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

The Eagles trailed 28-7. Game over. Their offense could do nothing right and you aren’t going to come back on the Tampa defense, even with a banged up secondary. The only question was what the final score would be.

But…

Tampa went to sleep and the Eagles got going. They scored 15 unanswered points to cut the lead to 28-22. Suddenly it was a game.

But…

The Eagles couldn’t get the stop they needed and Tampa went into the victory formation.

This was a weird game. Tampa never felt threatened, even when the lead got down to six. The Bucs weren’t sleep-walking, but they sure weren’t in assassin mode. Last week Miami trailed 24-17 in the fourth quarter against Tampa. The Bucs scored 21 straight to win 45-17. That looked like a Super Bowl team.

One thing we can say about the Eagles is that they are a tough, resilient team. They trailed by 15 last week, but came back to win. They trailed by 21 on Thursday night and cut that down to just six. Give the coaches credit for keeping the players locked in and give the players credit for battling. That does matter.

Unfortunately, the Eagles did not execute with any real precision or efficiency. They used broken plays and pass interference penalties to help them score TDs. That isn’t something you can count on. The base offense works here and there, but with no consistency. And that has to change.

Part of that is on the coaching staff. The play-calling needs to be better. Part is on Jalen Hurts. He needs to make better reads and better throws. Much better throws. He missed some open receivers tonight. The O-line let some blitzers come free. The receivers dropped a few passes. That kind of stuff has to stop. This offense just isn’t good enough to overcome mistakes.

Nick Sirianni was peppered with questions about the lack of a run game, again. You can tell this is getting to him. His answers are shorter and are starting to have an edge to them. I normally get tired of run game questions, but when the offense puts up 73 yards in the first half, I think it is more than fair to talk about mixing in more run plays (not just RPOs).

The offense only had 88 yards at the half last week. Why is that important? The first half is very gameplan driven. These are the plays the coaches like the most. The players practice them over and over. The first 15 to 20 plays should be effective, not abysmal.

The Eagles defense was erratic, but did settle down after a slow start. Give them some credit for settling in and getting better. The Bucs only score seven points in the second half. Saint Brady even got picked off. He actually got picked twice, but the officials made a terrible decision and overturned an INT. Replay decisions can just be torturous.

After a brutal six-game stretch to open the season, the Eagles sit at 2-4. They have two wins, two close losses and two blowout losses. They now have 10 days to rest and make some schematic evaluations. The next two games are winnable. If the Eagles could get to 4-4, that would make the final nine games pretty interesting.

If the Eagles don’t clean some things up and start playing smarter, they could lose the next two and see the season get away from them.

This team is tough. They battle. They compete. But they must play smarter and start making plays if they want to win some games and show us something.

There are no moral victories in the NFL.Go make some plays. Go win some games.

And maybe mix in a few more runs.

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Progress Matters

Posted: October 12th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles have been plagued by mistakes this year. The team has committed way too many penalties. Five or six touchdowns have been wiped out by penalties. There have been blown coverages and missed assignments. Sunday was another sloppy performance, but there was progress. And that matters.

The Eagles were able to cut down on the mistakes and win the game. The Eagles committed fewer penalties (6 vs 9) and had fewer penalty yards (60 vs 69). That’s a step in the right direction.

It was the Eagles making crucial plays. They blocked the punt late in the game. They came up with 3 interceptions. They converted the third down so they could run out the clock.

The Eagles were be the better second half team. That wasn’t the case the previous three weeks, which were all losses. The Eagles closed this game out, on offense, defense and special teams.

There is still a lot of work to be done. There are plenty of issues to address from Sunday. Greg Ward had a dumb penalty wipe out a TD pass. That simply cannot happen. Miles Sanders ran out of bounds late in the game. Twice!!! I would have pulled him off the field after the first time. That’s Football 101. Unbelievable. The offense has a ton of issues to work out, with a lot of those being on the coaches.

The coaches will address those issues. They know the team has to play better. Everyone is happy about the win, but not the mistakes that made it tougher than it should have been.

Still, it is critical that the team got a taste of success. Think about people who go on a diet. They get on the scale every day. They are frustrated until they see five pounds go away. Or 10. They want to see progress.

The Eagles coaches have been preaching certain messages since the start of OTAs. After Sunday, they can show some progress.

Jonathan Gannon has talked about the need for takeaways. He wants his defense finding a way to get the ball. On Sunday, Eagles CBs had 3 picks and they were a crucial part of the win. Last year Eagles CBs had 2 interceptions all year long. It helps that Sam Darnold threw some bad passes, but the CBs still needed to get to the ball and finish the play. Think about how often DBs drop passes that get to them. Darius Slay and Steve Nelson made good plays.

All teams preach the importance of the four-minute offense. That is when the offense gets the ball late in the game and wants to work on the clock. They want to be able to grind out first downs. Time is more important than points.

The Eagles got the ball with 1:57 left on Sunday. Carolina still had all three timeouts so the game wasn’t over. The Eagles ran for a pair of first downs and then were able to go into the victory formation. The O-line did a terrific job of blocking and the runners moved the sticks. That’s winning football.

Special teams coaches love to talk about the importance of the kicking game. They can make plays that change a game, especially a close game. Jake Elliott nailed a 58-yard FG late in the half on Sunday. Getting those points late in the half gave the Eagles a feeling of momentum as they went into the lockerroom. And those three points proved to be crucial.

Late in the game the punt return unit was able to make a huge play. STs coach Michael Clay had pointed out a potential block scenario during practice. The Panthers gave the Eagles the right look and TJ Edwards was ready. He came free up the middle and blocked the punt. That play gave the whole team a jolt of energy. The offense turned that into a quick TD and suddenly the Eagles had their first lead of the game.

The coaches can now show the players tangible proof of what they have been talking about for months. These are the takeaways we wanted. These are the STs plays we wanted. These are the clutch offensive plays we wanted.

This is how you win.

You and I can talk about draft picks and the future. Players and coaches live in the moment. Winning makes all the difference in the world to them. For a day or two, the Eagles can feel good.

Then it is time to think about Thursday night and Tampa.

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Hell and Heaven

Posted: October 10th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Carolina led the Eagles 15-3 late in the first half. Nick Sirianni and his band of performers were putting on a show titled “Offensive Ineptitude”. The score felt like it might as well have been 115-3, but the NFL is a funny league. When you have the best players in the world, sometimes a half of ineptitude can change in a heartbeat.

The Eagles got the ball with 31 seconds left in the first half. Jalen Hurts hit Jalen Reagor and DeVonta Smith to move the team up near midfield. The Eagles used a short completion and a Panthers penalty to get into field goal range. Jake Elliot hit a 58-yard FG as time expired.

That changed the score from 15-3 to 15-6. Hardly significant. But it gave the Eagles something to feel good about.

And hope.

Carolina has struggled all year in the second half. That didn’t change, with the Eagles outscoring them 15-3 in the final 30 minutes to win the game. This was the very definition of an ugly win. Think Nate Herbig with bitter beer face.

There is a lot to correct. There is a lot that needs to be addressed. Don’t let those issues make you ignore what did go right. The Eagles competed for 60 minutes. They battled.

More than anything, the Eagles were clutch. They made plays at critical moments. Some on offense. Some on defense. Even some on special teams. This was a total team win.

The play that really stood out was the blocked punt by TJ Edwards. That came with 4:00 left in the game and the Eagles trailing 18-13. It set the offense up at the Panthers 27-yard line and all of a sudden made you feel that the Eagles could pull this off. They just might win this game.

Hurts hit Dallas Goedert for a gain of 20 and the offense was knocking on the door. Hurts ran for the TD to put the Eagles on top. He then made an amazing play on the conversion, dealing with a bad snap and a free rusher. Hurts didn’t panic and got the ball to Smith for the two points. The Eagles then led 21-18.

CB Steve Nelson made the biggest play of his Eagles career by picking off Sam Darnold on the ensuing drive. That all but put the game away. Darius Slay had a pair of picks earlier in the game and Avonte Maddox broke up a long pass at the last minute. The corners made huge plays all game long.

The Eagles D-line had 3 sacks and were credited with 8 hits on QB Sam Darnold. That pressure affected him and he really struggled.

Fletcher Cox got his first sack of the season. He also drew at least one holding call. Cox was more disruptive than previous weeks. Javon Hargrave and Josh Sweat also added sacks.

Jonathan Gannon finally got creative on defense. He blitzed more. He changed personnel. It felt like he mixed his coverages up. He did have Slay following DJ Moore all over the field. The creativity seemed to help the defense. Or maybe that was just a combination of a mediocre OL and Darnold. We’ll see on Thursday when the Eagles host Tom Brady and the Bucs.

The Eagles still have a lot of things to clean up. Penalties were down, but still an issue. The Eagles lost a TD to a terrible OPI penalty by Greg Ward. Ugh. You cannot have a role player make a mistake like that. Alex Singleton had a dumbe unneccessary roughness penalty that gave a struggling offense 15 free yards. That stuff still needs to be fixed.

Miles Sanders ran out of bounds late in the game. Twice. I have been watching football since George Washington defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Valley Forge and I have never seen a RB do that twice.

Twice.

Once is mind-boggling. I have no words for twice. Thankfully it didn’t cost the Eagles, but that is a prime example of a mediocre team doing dumb things. You just can’t have that.

The defense had another coverage breakdown. You’ll never guess where it happened…in the Red Zone. Easy TD for Carolina.

Jason Kelce had a bad snap that went for a safety. The Eagles got lucky on that. Hurts tried to pick it up with one hand and easily could have been a TD for them. Get that ball out the back of the end zone.

The play-calling was a huge issue in the first half. The Eagles went pass heavy. I can live with that when it is working. It wasn’t. And they threw a ton of screens. They weren’t working. At halftime, Hurts was 15-24-74. And he had to get hot to get to those numbers. Seriously. There was a point where he averaged 2 yards per pass attempt. That is nuts.

Sirianni believes in throwing to get the lead and then running the ball. I get that. But when the passing game isn’t working and the opposing run defense struggled mightily a week ago, consider running the rock.

Sirianni did a good job in the fourth quarter. He mixed in QB runs and got the offense into a bit of a rhythm. He used some option plays on the final drive. They worked well and the Eagles were able to run out the clock.

Head coach Sirianni needs to have a long talk with play-caller Sirianni about not being so stubborn and helping his players out. The Eagles had 88 yards at halftime and more than a third of them came on the final drive. That was some ugly football.

Give the defense a ton of credit for bouncing back after two long weeks. They got a ton of criticism (deservedly so). With the offenses struggles today, it would have been easy for the defense to break or have some kind of letdown. Instead, they did everything they could to keep the game close. When the offense did finally come alive, the Eagles were able to pull out the win.

Hurts showed he could lead a comeback. The defense showed it could make some big plays. STs did their part. This was a team win and should give the Eagles some confidence.

At least until Thursday night.

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Game Preview – PHI at CAR

Posted: October 10th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Sunday’s game between the Eagles and Panthers is important for a few reasons. First, the Eagles need a win. They have dropped three straight games and are in the middle of a tough stretch of games. This game feels winnable so it is imperative for the Eagles to come out on top. A win would get them to 2-3.

Getting to 2-3 would keep the Eagles in the playoff hunt. Many of you will roll your eyes and question why I’m even bringing up the playoffs. Coaches and players want to win. They want to get into the playoffs, even with an ugly record. While you and I are fine with a mediocre year and getting a high pick, guys like Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox and Rodney McLeod want to get to the postseason. And in the NFL, you aren’t out of it until you are mathematically out of it.

Beyond winning and losing, this game will be a test for a lot of people.

The Panthers have the #3 defense in the league. How will Nick Sirianni do in coming up with a gameplan to attack this group? Against the bad defenses of the Falcons and Chiefs, the Eagles scored 30 or more points and moved the ball very well. Against the Niners and a stout defense, the Eagles struggled. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles attack Carolina and if they are successful.

The Panthers blitz more than any other team in the league. That will be a good test for Jalen Hurts. He did well against the Chiefs blitz last week, but that defense is struggling in a big way. Carolina will be a much tougher test. Hurts has to read the blitz correctly and then make good decisions.

The Eagles will have a different OL group today.

LT Andre Dillard
LG Landon Dickerson
C Jason Kelce
RG Jack Driscoll
RT Jordan Mailata

How will Dillard do against Carolina’s speed rushers and their blitz attack?

How will Driscoll do at RG? This will be his first NFL start at OG.

How will Mailata do at RT? Would you ever consider a long term plan of Dillard at LT and Mailata at RT?

Jonathan Gannon will be under a microscope today. His defense has given up 75 points in the past two games. They didn’t force a single punt last week. Sirianni had some tough talks with Gannon and the defensive coaching staff.

It will be interesting to see how Gannon shakes things up today. One of the big topics this week was the limited production of Cox. Will Gannon blitz more to get better matchups for Cox? Will Cox get moved around?

LB play has been a major disappointment so far. Davion Taylor is healthy today so you wonder if he’ll get more snaps. Gannon has to do something to try to get better play and more production from the middle of his defense.

Overall, the Eagles are healthy.

Carolina is 3-1, but they’ve played a weak schedule. Dallas was their first real test and the Cowboys beat them 36-28.

Sam Darnold isn’t Patrick Mahomes or Dak Prescott so the Eagles defense better look a lot better today.

This game is an opportunity. The coaches can show that they can identify and solve problems. The players can show progress. And some players will have the chance to show if they can handle new spots/challenges.

There is a huge difference between 1-4 and 2-3, especially with Tampa on the schedule for Thursday night. The Eagles need to play well and win this game.

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