Title Contender

Posted: August 31st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 80 Comments »

I wrote this morning about the Eagles strong showing in the preseason making me believe the team is now a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Not everyone was so keen on this.

There are a few things to discuss here.

First, I said the team was a title contender. I didn’t make the Eagles the top team in the league or the favorite to win the Lombardi Trophy. Green Bay and Seattle are proven winners. I think you have to list them as the NFC favorites. But each team looks a bit vulnerable right now.

Another key thing to consider is that I thought of the Eagles as a playoff team before the preseason began. This isn’t a situation where the team was 6-10 last year and a couple of preseason wins have gotten me convinced this is the 1967 Packers.

The Eagles went 10-6 last year. They were 9-3 at one point. That team was flawed, though. Chip Kelly spent the offseason working on those flaws and it seems like his solutions are working. I know the regular season is the real test, but you don’t want me waiting until frickin’ December to talk about how good the Eagles might be.

Preseason football has more value than you think. You have to know what to look for. This isn’t like Steve Spurrier calling his best plays and getting a false-read on how good his team was. The Eagles are running basic plays. They are just executing at a high level. I’m not all that focused on the Eagles being 3-0. The first half domination in games is what has me blown away.

While the Eagles are clicking on all cylinders right now, there are no guarantees. A couple of key injuries and this team could go 6-10. I’m not trying to create some false hype and I’m realistic about the fact this team still has a lot to prove.

I don’t expect the Eagles to go 16-0. I don’t expect them to blowout teams week in and week out. I do think this Eagles team has shown that it has a higher ceiling than the first two Chip Kelly squads. Time will tell just how high that ceiling is.

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The hype is building around this team, which is both fun and annoying.

It shouldn’t be a boring season.

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How Good?

Posted: August 31st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 223 Comments »

The Eagles are 3-0. In the first two quarters of the three preseason games, the Eagles have outscored their opponents 86-17. Think about that for a second. The average score at halftime (HALFTIME!!!) is 29-6. That is mind-blowing.

Just what the heck are we seeing?

I wrote about the Packers game and just how good this team might be for PE.com.

I have been watching Eagles preseason football since at least 1992. Before that, my memory gets a bit hazy on seeing them in August. Living out of town, that means I went to a lot of sports bars and other places with big satellite dishes over the years to see my beloved Birds in action. Plenty of those games were highly disappointing. Every now and then there would be a good summer, but nothing like this. The level of play this summer is unlike anything I’ve ever seen from the Eagles.

I think it is fair to now put them in the conversation as a legit Super Bowl contender.

As recently as a month ago, I had my doubts. There was so much change this offseason that I just didn’t see the team coming together and peaking this soon. One of the big reasons this team has looked so good is that the questionable areas on the team have mostly worked out to this point.

QB – Sam Bradford sure looks like the real deal. He has had limited time on the field, but has led TD drives every time out this summer. He has been smart and thrown the ball well. Sam showed he could take a hit and bounce right up. Think about this…Sam has about 30 plays under his belt in this offense. Matt Barkley has played 11 preseason games over three years. Which guy looks like he has been running this system his whole career?

There was hope that Mark Sanchez would play so well he would push Bradford for the job. That hasn’t happened. Sanchez did play well in Green Bay and might be one of the best backups in the league. QB could go from a question mark to a major strength.

OG – No Evan Mathis. No Todd Herremans. No problem. So far, anyway. Allen Barbre has played very well at LG. You can start to see why the Eagles were so confident in him. Andrew Gardner has been solid at RG. He is the weakest of the starting O-linemen, but has gotten the job done and is coming off his best game.

I have very mixed feelings on PFF, but this at least gives you some idea that both Eagles OGs are playing well.

FS – The Eagles tried to sign Devin McCourty, but that didn’t work out. Then we thought they would draft Damarious Randall, but he went earlier than expected. Then we thought Jaylen Watkins would make the full time move to Safety. He began there but at some point the coaches decided to give Walter Thurmond a shot at playing on the inside. And he looks right at home. Thurmond has the skill set the Eagles like. Beyond that, he has regularly made plays in practice and preseason games.

There is a lot of luck that comes in finding a solution like Thurmond, but that’s okay. Sometimes you need a bit of luck when putting a team together. Trent Green’s injury paved the way for Kurt Warner. The ’85 Bears had a pair of starters hold out for the season. I’d say their replacements did okay. LeGarrette Blount wasn’t even on NE’s roster last summer, but he ended up being a big help to their run game down the stretch.

We don’t know how Thurmond will play this season, but he has been terrific this spring and summer. He could end up being a key part of the defense.

CB – Byron Maxwell isn’t Darrelle Revis, but he sure looks like a good CB so far. He has helped to stabilize the secondary. Nolan Carroll had a phenomenal offseason and is playing well this year. Rookie Eric Rowe has played well enough that the team is considering using him as the Nickelback. E.J. Biggers has been better than expected, although he didn’t have his best night in Green Bay. And Jaylen Watkins has taken a big step forward. He is showing good cover skills this year.

What seemed like a huge question mark could actually turn out to be a good group, with depth. And that’s without Brandon Boykin or rookiei JaCorey Shepherd. What a difference a year makes.

There will be some issues this year. Every team has them. The Eagles ability to handle those issues will go a long way to deciding if this team can play into late January. The question marks from the spring have mostly turned out good so that is encouraging.

Chip Kelly the coach is pretty darn good. Maybe Chip Kelly the GM will turn out to be special as well. So far, so good.

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Roster Update – Down to 76

Posted: August 30th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 162 Comments »

The Eagles have to be down to 75 players this week. They went ahead and made 12 cuts today. There weren’t any real surprises.

OL Mike Coccia
OL Jared Wheeler
OL Kevin Graf
WR G.J. Kinne
WR Josh Reese
WR Michael Johnson
TE Justin Tukes
DL Alfy Hill
DL Jeremy Towns
LB Dasman McCullum
CB Marc Anthony
S Brandan Bishop

Graf is the player who surprised me the most. He played well in the 2014 preseason and spent most of the year on the practice squad. He was actually on the roster for a couple of weeks. He struggled as a pass blocker, but stood out as a run blocker. This year he never really stood out at all.

Kinne is a cult hero to Eagles fans, but just lacks NFL ability.

There is one more move to come. I think the hesitation is due to Cody Parkey’s situation. If he can’t kick on Thursday night, Kip Smith needs to stay on the roster.

There will be some interesting names hitting the streets from other teams. Don’t make too much of this. Guys cut at this point tend not to be that good. If they were, their teams would keep them for the final preseason game. I’m more interested in the cuts that will happen next weekend.

The Eagles could look for help at a few spots.

* OLB – Will Marcus Smith play, be cut or put on IR? Brad Jones and Bryan Braman can be effective backups, but the team would be in big trouble if there was an injury.

* S – Jerome Couplin and Ed Reynolds are battling for the #5 Safety spot. Neither has secured the job, but both have looked okay. The Eagles might see someone they like better.

* OL – The Eagles have a good starting unit. Matt Tobin has played well as the backup LT. David Molk has played well as the backup C. Beyond that, things are wide open. John Moffitt and Dennis Kelly could make the team, but the Eagles could also look for help.

* TE – If Zach Ertz is healthy for Week 1, things are fine. If there are concerns, the Eagles might need to look for help. Eric Tomlinson has shown potential this summer, but hasn’t necessarily looked like someone you would count on in a real game.

* QB – I would love to see the Eagles let go of both Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow. Neither player has looked good in the last couple of games. I would prefer the Eagles to sign a young player with some upside. The Packers have 4 QBs. If they cut Matt Blanchard, he would be of interest. I know some of you would like to see the Eagles go after E.J. Manuel. I have no interest in him. Seems like he might stick in Buffalo at this point. Sean Renfree could be cut by the Falcons. He would be interesting. The Rams might cut Austin Davis, who played well against the Eagles last year.

None of these guys is anything special. The point is that we’ve seen next to nothing from Barkley. And Tebow remains a mystery. We don’t know how he would play when on the field with starters and a gameplan built specifically for him. To this point, he’s been slightly less than spectacular.

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BGN had a good piece recently on Titans OG Andy Levitre. He will almost certainly be cut. Should the Eagles go after him to play RG? That’s hard to say. At his best, he was one of the top OGs in the league. But that was a few years back.

Andrew Gardner has played well enough to make you feel comfortable this summer. But it would be interesting to add someone and then have Gardner as the #6 OL. He would be a terrific swing player at G/T.

I haven’t watched Levitre recently so I can’t comment on whether he would be a good target. One issue is that he’s mostly played LG. The Eagles need someone at RG, if anywhere.

I think it is more likely the teams adds an OL who would come in here to be depth and compete for time, if they make any move at all.

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Morning After Thoughts

Posted: August 30th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 258 Comments »

The Eagles led the Packers 39-14 at the half and that score did tell the story of the game. There weren’t a bunch of fluky turnovers or wild plays that created that score. The Eagles have been dominant in the preseason and last night was simply more of the same.

Let’s talk about some hot topics.

* Kiko Alonso didn’t play. Chip Kelly says not to be concerned, Alonso’s leg was bothering him so that sat him out. This isn’t ACL related so we can all relax. I guess I’ll buy that. Still would be nice to see him play.

* Cody Parkey also didn’t play. He was dealing with a minor leg injury so the Eagles just rested him.

* Now to the guys who did play. Sam Bradford was close to perfect. He was 10-10-121 with 3 TDs. The team scored a TD on every one of his drives. Bradford looked like the real deal. That led to me say this on Twitter.

I know, I know. This is only the preseason. He could struggle when the games are for real. He could get hurt in Week 2. But this is the best Sam Bradford has looked since he was at Oklahoma. He is now 13-15-156 with 3 TDs this preseason. All four of his drives ended in TDs.

I wondered what the heck Chip Kelly was thinking when he made the deal. The more I read and watched, I began to understand. Kelly explained himself well over the spring, which helped. Actually seeing Bradford play has completely sold me.

I get it.

And now I can’t wait to see Bradford play in a real game.

* Bennie Logan was dominant in the opener. He was somewhat quiet last week. He abused the GB offensive line last night. They had no answer for him. There were some backups in there, but the C was the starter and he struggled with Logan.

* At this point I would not keep Matt Barkley or Tim Tebow. I don’t think either one of them has won a roster spot. Barkley is in his third year. I know he plays with backups, but so do other third string QBs. Bryn Renner from Baltimore and Matt Blanchard from Green Bay both showed real promise in the fourth quarter of games. I’m not seeing any of that from Barkley. Go beyond the stats. I just don’t see a guy in control out there. And I don’t see anything special physically. The promise he showed in the opener has disappeared.

Tebow has had good moments, but has looked very rusty at other times. He hasn’t had real success throwing the ball since the opener. Based on what you’ve seen this summer, there is no way you would guess that he has starting experience and even won a playoff game.

Kelly may keep Tebow based on something he’s seen in practice or the desire to have an athletic QB who can do creative things. He certainly won’t keep him based on preseason play.

* Andrew Gardner looked to have a good game. He had a couple of blocks that stood out. On one he got to the second level and walled off a LB. On the other, Gardner pulled and kept a defender from getting to the RB on an outside run play. He looked solid in pass pro.

* Trey Burton had a good game. He caught 4 passes for 21 yards and a pair of TDs. Burton isn’t going to be a starting TE this year, but he can be an effective role player. He lacks the size to be a consistently good in-line blocker, but makes up for that with his athleticism, which makes him dangerous as a receiver in space.

* I’m starting to really like Walter Thurmond as the FS. He isn’t as physical as I’d prefer, but you get an athletic DB with good cover skills. And good hands. He picked off a pass last week and another one last night. TE Richard Rodgers slipped and the ball went right to Thurmond. He secured it and then high-stepped into the end zone.

There will be plays where his lack of physicality hurts the defense. That is part of the trade-off you have with him. And it is okay as long as he makes plays in the passing game.

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Instant Reaction – Eagles Are Kinda Decent

Posted: August 29th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 135 Comments »

The Eagles went to Lambeau Field and led 25-0 at the end of the 1st quarter. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t playing. There was no gameplanning. But this was still the Packers and it was still at Lambeau.

Crazy.

Sam Bradford was 10-10-121 with 3 TDs and the Eagles offense was like a machine in the first half. Add in a long kickoff return and a pick-six by Walter Thurmond and you have one hell of a game, let alone a half.

Best of all, there were no major injuries.

The Eagles look great right now. Yes, it is the preseason, but you see the Eagles starters dominating everyone they go up against. And it isn’t like the schedule has been easy. Colts. Ravens. At Packers. Those are playoff teams. The Eagles have dominated them with a variety of weapons.

The regular season is the real test, but you can’t ignore how well the Eagles have played this summer. Someone tried to explain to me that the 2008 Lions, who went 0-16, finished 4-0 in the preseason and that showed you just how meaningless summer football is.

Wrong.

The Lions did go 4-0, but they won two close games and two mild blowouts. That team won the preseason games, but they didn’t do anything special in them. Nobody was watching that team and wondering if they might be Super Bowl material.

The point of the preseason isn’t that the Eagles are 3-0, but rather that the team has played so well and looks like a juggernaut. I’m not ready to put the Eagles in the Super Bowl quite yet. I have been blown away by how well this team has played. I’ve never seen anything like this by the Eagles. I need to do some thinking to see who this team reminds me of.

I’ll have a lot more on the game on Sunday. For right now, enjoy thinking about how good the team has looked this preseason.

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