Good Signs

Posted: September 15th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 3 Comments »

The more I reflect on the Eagles win in Sunday’s opener, the more impressed I get. This wasn’t a win for the ages or a perfect game, but that’s part of what impresses me so much. They beat the Falcons in a sound, methodical way. The Eagles were the better team in every way and it showed. They out-coached the Falcons. This was a total team win.

It should be a sign of good things to come.

I say “should” because openers can be tricky. Go back to 2000 and the legendary Pickle Juice Game. The Eagles destroyed the Cowboys, winning 41-14. The Eagles ran for 306 yards and physically dominated the game. They also recovered an onside kick. They piled up five sacks, had a pick-six and knocked Troy Aikman out of the game. That was a glorious day.

It also was an anomaly.

The Eagles lost the next week, 33-18. The following week they went down 6-3. The team didn’t run for even 90 yards in either game. That season opening performance was fun, but just the kind of game you can replicate. Running for 306 yards out of the I-formation just didn’t happen too often.

What we saw on Sunday wasn’t anything flukey. The Eagles didn’t force a turnover. They didn’t hit big on trick plays. The Eagles only had one play go for more than 25 yards.

We saw an offense that was efficient in both the run game and the pass game. We saw a D-line that dominated and a back seven that kept things in front of them and flew to the ball. The Eagles were sound on STs.

That was just good, smart, solid football. That can be replicated.

I can’t tell you they’ll beat the Niners this week, but what we saw in the opener is very encouraging for the upcoming season.

One of the real keys for me is how well-coached the Eagles were. They had an excellent offensive plan. Last year Nick Sirianni was coaching Philip Rivers. Jalen Hurts is pretty much the exact opposite of Rivers. Sirianni and his staff had a plan that took advantage of what Hurts did well and they put him in a position to succeed. That’s good coaching.

Compare that to Arthur Smith. Last year he coached the Titans and had Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown. It felt like Sunday’s gameplan was more for them and not Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts. Ryan had his fewest passing yards since October of 2019. And it wasn’t like he was going against some elite secondary.

I thought Jonathan Gannon had a good plan for the Eagles defense. I liked the way he used a lot of players and kept everyone fresh. They really were rotating as much as possible. Fletcher Cox played 41 snaps. Hassan Ridgeway played 26. That’s not 50-50, but it is a legit rotation. Rookie Milton Williams was in for 31 snaps!

Gannon wasn’t sure about the offense he would be facing so he didn’t build a lot of complex packages for the game. He kept things fairly simple and let his players play. Gannon didn’t panic when the Falcons got off to a hot start. He mixed in some different players, but also preached for his guys to use better technique and just clean up some mistakes. It wasn’t some genius adjustment that shut down the Falcons. Gannon got his guys to settle down and play better.

Michael Clay did a good job with his STs. The FOX crew pointed out how smart  Andre Chachere was when he didn’t touch a punt after being out of bounds. That would have been an illegal touching. Instead he pointed to the ball and directed a teammate to come down it. That’s good coaching.

In terms of game management, Sirianni was fantastic. He went for it on a pair of fourth downs. He went for 2 when a penalty moved the ball to the 1-yard line. Those are smart decisions. He had all his timeouts left for the final drive of the first half. The Eagles were organized and didn’t have to burn timeouts due to confusion. This team was prepared. Sirianni and his staff had a great day on Sunday.

I would love to tell you that Sunday’s performance drastically changes my outlook on the season, but we need to see more before I can go there. I do think we can see the Eagles have the potential to be a good team. If Hurts plays well and they win the LOS, the Eagles will win more than expected this year. The Niners have more talent than the Falcons and now they have tape to study. Sunday will give us a better feel for just how good this Eagles team can be.

The arrow is certainly pointing in the  right direction.

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What We Learned

Posted: September 14th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 3 Comments »

One game doesn’t give us any definitive answers, but it certainly gives us some hints on questions we had going into the season. With a new coaching staff so full of young coaches, there will be a lot to learn. Let’s take a look back at the Eagles 32-6 win over Atlanta to see what we learned about the team and coaching staff.

Football Can Be Fun

The 2020 season was miserable for a variety of reasons. The team went 4-11-1 and that’s never fun. Beyond that, the team was boring. The offense wasn’t very creative or productive. They never scored 30 points in a game. The team trailed by 10 or more points in almost every game. There wasn’t good energy on the field. There was way too much drama off the field.

The 2021 Eagles feel very different. I noted this going into the opener, but you do need to see the team in action to truly know. There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm on the field. The players had fun. Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni have a celebratory handshake. That might seem a bity cheesy, but Sirianni preaches the importance of connecting so something like that is cool to him.

The Eagles scored 32 points. They were aggressive. They won. And football was legitimately fun.

Everyone Gets To Play

Jonathan Gannon said that all of his guys would play at some press conference this spring. That might have sounded like coach talk, but it proved to be true. I saw #48 shoot up the field for decisive tackle. Cool. Wait…what the heck is Wes Hopkins doing out there? It took me a minute to realize that was rookie LB Patrick Johnson. He was playing in the first half of his first game. Gannon rotated guys all over the defense.

Sirianni played a lot of guys on offense. JJAW and Greg Ward were the fourth and fifth WRs and both guys played 16 snaps. Rookie TE Jack Stoll played 12 snaps. I was surprised to see Boston Scott only play STs.

Jalen Hurts Can Play A Complete Game

Hurts had a terrible habit last year of playing a good half and a bad half. He tended to start hot and then fade, but had at least one game where he started slow and then got hot. He never played well for a whole game. That certainly changed on Sunday.

Hurts played well for the whole game. Sure, he made some mistakes and had a bad series or two, but he never got into a prolonged funk. He threw TDs in the first quarter and the fourth quarter. He never turned the ball over. Hurts led the Eagles to 15 points in the first half and 17 in the second half. He played well for an entire game and that’s a great sign for the upcoming season.

Sirianni Looks Legit

Nick Sirianni was largely unknown when he was hired. He had an awkward opening press conference and the doubters were in full force. Sirianni shut those people up with his team’s performance on Sunday.

Maybe the best compliment you could give Sirianni is to say the Eagles looked well-coached. And they did. There were too many sloppy penalties, but that happens to a lot of teams in openers. The Eagles offensive staff had a terrific gameplan. They attacked the Falcons the right way, throwing short, quick passes most of the time. There were good runs and even designed QB runs.

The defense was more bland, but it worked. The DL took over in the Red Zone and for most of the second half. You got to see DBs facing the QB and attacking the ball instead of chasing receivers down the field. That was fun.

One game is just one game, but boy…it sure feels like the team is in good hands.

The Eagles Know How To Close

There is nothing worse than watching a team build a lead and then falling apart. The Eagles led 17-0 in the opener a year ago and completely melted down. This team got up 15-6 and stayed aggressive. Late in the game, when the DL could really tee off…they did. And they pounded Matt Ryan into the ground. That was fun to see.

The Kids Are Alright

DeVonta Smith ain’t Nelson Agholor. Or JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Or Jalen Reagor. Smith is the real deal. He looked like a veteran on Sunday, not a rookie making his NFL debut. Great pick and good job by the coaching staff of getting him ready to play.

A lot of other rookies played. Kenny Gainwell was the RB in the 2-minute drive late in the half. The coaches trust him, about the best thing you can say about a rookie.

Doug Pederson and his staff loved veterans. The new staff embraces young players as well as vets. “If you can play, we’ll play you.”

It wasn’t just rookies who helped out. Reagor looked good. He caught a screen late and raced in for a TD. Speed isn’t just about going deep. The coaches got a terrific performance out of Hurts. JJAW did well as a blocker. Shaun Bradley got regular reps at LB.

The future looks worlds different when the coaches show the ability to connect with young players and develop them.

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A Great Start

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

There was a lot of mystery as the Eagles went to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. Both were operating under new coaches. Atlanta did have their veteran quarterback still in place and many thought that gave them an advantage. Jalen Hurts started his first season opener in the NFL, which had outsiders curious about how he would do.

Well…

Kid 1
Old Man 0

Hurts clearly outplayed Ryan. Heck, that was true in just about every matchup. The Eagles were better on offense, defense and special teams. Nick Sirianni out-coached Arthur Smith, who had a brutal day.

The Eagles didn’t just win. They dominated. The final score was 32-6, with the Eagles leading all but a few minutes early on. The Eagles out-gained the Falcons 434 to 260, despite running only three more plays.

When the Falcons had to throw late in the game to try to catch up, the Eagles DL went to work.

The Eagles finished with only 3 sacks, but did also force a couple of intentional grounding penalties that were almost sacks. They regularly collapsed the pocket and affected Ryan. He was 21-35-164 for the day. Ryan only had one game of less than 224 yards last year and that came when he threw for 185 yards in a 43-6 win. The Eagles defense really got to him today.

Hurts had a very different day, playing at a high level and enjoying good protection. Funny how those things kind of go together. Hurts was more efficient than explosive, but there is nothing wrong with that when the offense is moving the ball and scoring points. He went 27-35-264 and 3 TDs.

I was hoping for 60 percent completions. Hurts finished at 77 percent. Most of the throws were short to intermediate, but Hurts put the ball on the money most of the time and gave him receivers chances to make plays after the catch. Jalen Reagor caught a quick screen late in the game and raced 23 yards for a TD.

Hurts hurt the Falcons with his legs as well. He escaped pressure on several plays and there were also some designed runs. He was 7-62 on the ground.

Maybe most important of all, no fumbles or interceptions for Hurts.

DeVonta Smith caught an 18-yard TD to put the Eagles up 7-3 and they never looked back. Smith was 6-71-1 and looked like the real deal. Reagor, Smith and Quez Watkins combined for 15 catches and two scores.

There are things to clean up. The OL blocked well, but had way too many penalties. Crowd noise is always a factor in domes, but the guys up front were too sloppy in that area.

The defense struggled early on, but then settled down and got into a groove. Still, tackling was an issue. Hopefully some of that was due to the lack of live hitting and tackling in the summer. This bears watching in upcoming games.

The run defense needs work. Atlanta moved the ball too easily on the ground. The Eagles got better as the game went along, but Atlanta also had to go away from the run due to the score.

The Eagles weren’t hurt by the rushing yards in part because of field position. The Falcons had six possessions start inside their own 20, with a couple starting inside the 10. It takes a long time to move the ball 90 yards when you’re running it. Give new punter Arryn Siposs a ton of credit. He averaged 47 yards per punt and had three downed inside the 20.

This really was a team win.

Before we get too excited about the Eagles, we do have to point out the Falcons looked bad. That team has major issues. Still, the Eagles won by 26 and played well. That’s what you’re supposed to do when  you play a bad team.

The Eagles didn’t score 30 points in any game last year. The last time they did that was the 2019 season finale vs the Giants.

The Eagles hadn’t won a game by 26 or more since beating the Bears 31-3 in November of 2017.

Forget about context and enjoy this win.

Today was a good day.

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Gameday – PHI at ATL

Posted: September 12th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

The 2021 season is finally here. I’m stoked to see what the Eagles can do today. Every season begins with some type of optimism, but this year has an especially fresh feel with all the changes. Let’s hope they work out.

No surprises on the inactives.

Marcus Epps will start in place of McLeod. Epps has some experience so he makes sense for the role. Big opportunity for him.

Some goals for today:

  • More than 5 catches for DeVonta Smith
  • 60 percent completions for Jalen Hurts
  • 18 touches for Miles Sanders
  • A sack by Josh Sweat
  • At least one takeaway by the defense

Oh yeah, and a win.

Go Eagles!

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Game Preview – PHI at ATL

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

The 2021 season will open with the Battle of the Birds. The Falcons made it to the Super Bowl in 2016 and the Eagles won it in 2017. The NFL truly is Not For Long, as both teams won just four games last year. Both teams have new coaches and added star players in the draft, but neither team is expected to do all that much in the upcoming season.

At least one of them will get to 1-0 on Sunday (I can’t even bear the idea of a tie in Week 1).

I feel optimistic about the Eagles in this game. So does Jimmy Bama. Others, not so much.

Here is what Vic Tafur of The Athletic said:

Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons (-3.5) — Week 1 is tough because there are a lot of unknowns — especially on these two teams. So, go with what you know — the better quarterback is playing at home. FALCONS

That is simplistic thinking, but might actually be the smartest way to look at a game like this. New coaches. New schemes. New players all over the place. Focus on the knowns and not the unknowns.

We do know more about the Eagles from what we saw and heard this summer. The team played very well in joint practices with the Patriots and Jets. Those reviews came from media in Philly and the opposing teams. This wasn’t just summer hyperbole.

We know the Eagles are healthy right now. The only starter they’ll be missing is FS Rodney McLeod.

We know the Eagles have an outstanding O-line and D-line. You win games by winning the LOS so this is a huge reason for optimism for Eagles fans.

Jalen Hurts is probably the biggest X-factor. We just don’t know what to expect of him. He was highly inconsistent last year. He did play well in his one preseason game, but that was a limited showing. He looked good in the joint practices, but there wasn’t any gameplanning and defenses couldn’t tackle to the ground.

My guess is that Hurts will play well in the opener. The Falcons don’t have a dynamic pass rush. The Eagles OL should handle them up front, giving Hurts time to get the ball to his revamped WR corps. The Falcons don’t exactly have a shutdown secondary so that will help Hurts as well.

I’m guessing we see lots of short quick throws, hoping to get Hurts into a good rhythm and so his receivers can add yards after the catch. That was a missing element under Doug Pederson, but Nick Sirianni is a big believer in RAC yards.

Will DeVonta Smith prove to the the real deal? Yes. We saw hints of his potential in the preseason. I’m expecting big things from him. He will be the key receiver for the Eagles this year. No one cares about the rookie status. He is the best route-runner and has the best hands of the receivers. You feed that guy the ball.

I’m more curious about Quez Watkins. He went from role player to promising starter. Was that summer hype or legit? Watkins doesn’t have to be a volume receiver. His value would come as a playmaker. He had big time speed and good RAC ability.

I think the Eagles will score at least 23 points on Sunday. Sirianni is an offensive coach and he’s got some good pieces to work with. Doesn’t hurt that Atlanta’s defense was awful last year.

The Eagles defense has the potential to be good. Matt Ryan is a veteran QB and he will make his share of plays. I do think the Eagles pass rush will be the difference in this game. They’ll affect Ryan enough to make some mistakes and that will be the difference in the game.

I’m excited to see Alex Singleton and Josh Sweat in action. Both guys looked great this summer and could be poised for big years.

I’m curious about the Eagles secondary. Can they play well enough for the team to win this game and be a consistently good defense? There are some good pieces, but there will be a challenge as the Eagles play more zone. That can take time to adjust to. The defense could be up and down as the guys in the back seven adjust to the new scheme and each other.

It will be interesting to see how the Eagles try to defend rookie Kyle Pitts. He’s listed as a TE, but just think of him as an offensive weapon. He got the best of CBs at Florida last year. This is a rare dude. The Eagles will mix up coverages to try to contain the number four pick in last April’s NFL Draft. One of the keys maybe to get a physical jam on Pitts so he doesn’t have a free release.

2020 was miserable. The Eagles were bad. They were boring. They were dysfunctional.

I don’t know if this team will turn things around, but it sure seems like a more fun bunch. There is a good energy with this group. That can translate into on-field success, if they stay healthy.

Let’s get this thing going.

*****

Big news off the field today.

What a great story. Can’t wait to see a full season of Mailata mashing on defenders. Huge expectations for him this year.

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