Mac is Back

Posted: September 30th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 17 Comments »

There were a couple of key questions about Jeremy Maclin heading into this year. First, was he all the way back from the torn ACL of last summer? And how would he do in Chip Kelly’s offense, which needs receivers to run after the catch and be good blockers? These were valid questions for a player that was going to be a key to the offense.

So far, so good.

Maclin hasn’t shown any signs of being affected by the ACL. He looks as fast as ever. He is making quick cuts and looks comfortable on the move. He isn’t shy about getting hit in the legs. He looks normal, which is exactly what you want for someone coming off a major injury.

Mac has good tape and good numbers. He is on pace to set career highs in just about every category. Here are his projected numbers for a full season:

80 catches – 1,412 yards – 12 TDs – 17.6 ypc – 20 receptions of 20 yards or more

As a point of comparison, last year DeSean Jackson was 82-1,332-9-16.2, with 25 catches of 20 or more yards. You can see that Mac is putting up some impressive numbers.

Mac had the one gift TD vs the Jags when the deep Safety decided to focus on the run or TE over the middle and left the deep area wide open, but Mac has had to earn most of his yards. He has made some terrific catches this year. His diving sideline grab on Sunday was as good as anything I can ever remember from him.

I’m also impressed by Mac’s willingness to work the middle of the field. He’ll never be Anquan Boldin, but he looks a heckuva lot better than the guy who earned the nickman Self-Tacklin’ Jeremy Maclin back in 2012. That guy avoided contact at all costs and ran for the sideline any time he had the chance.

The questions about Mac coming into the season have been answered. He is healthy and he is playing very well in Chip Kelly’s offense.

The scary thing is that he and Nick Foles still arent totally on the same page, especially down the field. They have left several TDs on the field. Mac and Foles should get better the more they play together.

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Quick notes on some other players

* Brent Celek – What is going on? He has 3 catches for 15 yards. Last year he averaged 15.7 yards per catch. Age might have started to catch up with Celek a bit. It also looks like the timing is just off with he and Foles. Celek has been open a few times and the ball was just off target. Just as concerning, I think Celek’s blocking has taken a step back this year. That has hurt the run and pass game.

* Fletcher Cox – Remember all the Training Camp doubt on him. Cox had a quiet summer and everyone got worried. Cox has played very well and could be a Pro Bowl player by the end of the year.

* Brandon Graham – The OLB light has finally gone on for him. Graham still looks awkward at times, but he seems more comfortable and is making plays when given the chance.

* Riley Cooper – Is he off to a slow start or was 2013 a fluke? Fair question to ask based on what we’ve seen so far. I tend to think he’ll be okay, but Coop needs to get it going. He has dropped some crucial passes. They weren’t all easy, but he’s paid like a player you expect to make those kinds of plays.

* Earl Wolff – Disappointing start. Missed a game recently due to a sore ankle. Then missed a key open field tackle that gave the Niners a TD last week. I was hoping he would play well and steal the job from Nate Allen. No chance so far. Wolff is good enough to be a backup, but he’s got to play better if wants the team to have him as part of the future plays. Allen is a FA after this year. His job is there for the taking, but Wolff has to earn it.

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The Eagles practice sqaud got shuffled around. Brandon over at BGN has the details.

Out – OL Tyler Hoover and LB Brandon Hepburn

In – OL Kevin Graf and ILB Jake Knott

Graf got cut from the roster when Lane Johnson returned from suspension. I’m glad Knott is back. You wonder about what led to his return. Did the Eagles want to look elsewhere initially? Did Knott hope for a roster spot with some other team? Did the Eagles decide Knott was better than other guys they had brought in or looked at?

Knott has some potential so it is good they can work with him.

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Thoughts on Chip’s Thoughts

Posted: September 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 295 Comments »

I love Chip Kelly. I believe in him and think he is a brilliant football coach. So I was interested to get his reaction to Sunday’s debacle.

PE.com has his press conference.

I agree with a lot of what he said. The biggest problem on Sunday is that there wasn’t just one problem. The offense was like Whac-A-Mole. Solve one thing and the next thing goes wrong. There were literally only a handful of plays all day when all 11 offensive players did their job correctly at the same time.

The OL took turns missing blocks.

Shady and the TEs missed blocks.

Coop dropped the TD catch.

There were 2 fumbles.

Foles made bad decisions.

Foles made poor throws.

Who on offense had a legitimately good game? Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews might be the only 2. Clearly that isn’t a formula for success.

Kelly talked about how he thinks things can be fixed, and I think he’s right. The offense has been erratic this year, but was the #1 scoring group in the NFL going into the game. Let’s not act like yesterday’s struggles have been happening all year long. I know the offense has been sloppy, but there is a big difference between sloppy and awful.

I do disagree with Chip in regard to one specific area. He talked about how the running game was struggling no matter who was in the game. He said this was due to poor blocking. I don’t think anyone disagrees with that. Just look at this pick from Fran Duffy’s All-22 breakdown for PE.com and you can see the issue.

Yikes.

That said, McCoy is still a dancer by nature. Sproles hits the hole hard and is a natural N-S runner. I do think it would be wise to mix in more runs with Sproles. I’m not telling you that Sproles is going to get 5 yards a carry, but he might get 3 to 4 yards more consistently. And you just mix him in a bit. Shady is still the starter and key RB.

One other area I wish someone would talk to Chip about or that he would expand on is getting the ball to Shady in space. The Eagles have tried to throw him screens and even quick screens to the outside, but defenses can see these plays coming a mile away right now. Just line Shady up outside and let him run a vertical route. Line him up outside and bring him around on a fly sweep. Hand him the ball or fake to him. Line Shady up in the slot and see if he can get open on a drag route.

As much as you want to run the ball, you really want to feed it to McCoy since he is your best offensive player. If you do move him around creatively, that let’s you mix in Sproles at RB some more.

I do give Kelly credit for trying to be creative during the game. He ran from under Center and from the Pistol in the 2nd half. McCoy looked more effective since he was more downhill in those formations.

* * * * *

Jimmy Bama decided to rip on Riley Cooper. This is completely fair. Coop has dropped some passes this year and in the past. He must deliver better results. I don’t think he’s in trouble of losing his job to Jordan Matthews quite yet, but Coop needs to get going. He started slow last year before heating up. Maybe that will happen this season as well.

It better for his sake.

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Good and Bad From Sunday

Posted: September 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 327 Comments »

There are positive and negative angles to all NFL games. Since the Eagles lost on Sunday, let’s start with the bad stuff.

* Blocking – Notice I didn’t just single out the OL. Zach Ertz was called for holding on a run play. Shady McCoy got run over once by a blitzer. On another play late in the game, he failed to get outside quick enough and let the blitzer hurry Foles. Bradley Fletcher had a terrible “block” on the final punt return of the game. He got his hands on the back of the gunner and drew a flag. There was barely any contact, but the point is there should have been NONE. When you see the guy’s name on his jersey…do not touch. Nothing good will come of that. The Eagles should have been close to midfield, but that backed them up to the 30.

The OL did have a rough day. Jason Peters got beat right after Fletcher’s mistake and that put the offense back even farther. Ugh. Todd Herremans was once badly beaten to the inside. This isn’t all about Tobin and Molk. The whole Eagles team did a poor job of blocking on Sunday.

* Physicality – This ties into blocking, but then goes beyond it. Anquan Boldin caught a pass short of the sticks on 3rd down. He didn’t hesitate, instead running right at Nate Allen and bowling him over. The Niners have some “grown ass men” on their team and you aren’t going to block or tackle them unless you are a strong, rugged individual. Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde got way too many yards after contact. Receivers too. The Eagles didn’t match the Niners level of physicality.

* The passing game – This is more than Nick Foles. Riley Cooper had the go-ahead TD go through his hands. You simply have to make that catch. Foles did have a poor game. He made questionable decisions and then was off-target way too much. I thought the Eagles focused on downfield plays too much. I’m not sure how much of that was Foles and how much Chip Kelly. The blocking for the passing game was obviously a factor.

The Eagles got very little in the way of RAC yards. They did get fumbles from Cooper and Ertz, but limited yards. Receivers have to make something happen when they get the ball on quick throws.

* The run game – Many of you wanted Chip Kelly to run on 3rd/goal from the 2. No way. The Niners were in a goal line defense at that point. The Eagles weren’t getting any push against their base. How on Earth do you expect them to get push against the GL defense?

The run game is a mess right now. The plays Kelly is calling are not working. Shady has no room to run. He sometimes makes things worse by trying to go outside and get the big play. Better to get upfield for 2 or 3 yards than go wide for 0. The biggest problem is the blocking. Most of that goes on the OL, but the TEs and WRs are not helping matters.

It is crucial to get the run game fixed. You must stick with it to balance out the playbook and make the defense honest. We’ve all see what happens when they focus on just the pass and that isn’t pretty.

* Run defense – If you take away Kaep’s 58 yards on the ground, SF still ran for 160. Unacceptable. My biggest issue is that the Eagles gave up the edge too often. Setting the edge is a huge priority for the Eagles defense. SF got the D in some creative looks and then ran to the outside. It wasn’t always easy to tell which player was at fault.

This isn’t about an individual. The Eagles defense must do a better job fo funneling runs to the middle. OLBs, DEs and DBs all had a hand in the sloppy defense.

* * * * *

And now for some good.

* Special Teams – The Eagles have won the STs battle in 3 of 4 games this year. They are getting impact plays. I would guess you have to go back to 2001 or 2002 to see this kind of play, and I’m not sure even those units were this good.

- Blocked FG
- Blocked punt for a TD
- 2 FGs of more than 50 yards
- Game-winning FG
- KOR for a TD
- PR for a TD

That seems like a season’s worth of big plays. And we just finished Week 4. Great job by Dave Fipp and his players.

Darren Sproles has been an amazing addition. He has more PR yards after 4 weeks (200) than the Eagles had all of last year. That stat just blows me away.

* Pass rush – The Eagles hadn’t sacked the QB in 2 games. Yesterday they got 4. Actually 5, but they took one off the board when accepting a penalty. The Eagles pass rush was outstanding on Sunday. They regularly got pressure on Kaepernick and forced him to move. He burned them a time or two, but that’s just part of his game.

Sacks really are a complicated stat. Kirk Cousins got rid of the ball quickly. The Eagles got some pressure on him, but no sacks. Kaep tends to hold onto the ball and look for big plays. The Eagles were able to get to him. If the QB focused on getting the ball out quickly, there just isn’t much you’re going to do about it. The Eagles were able to take advantage of a QB who doesn’t do that.

* Coverage – I haven’t re-watched the game, but I felt like the DBs did a good job. You have to give credit to the Niners receivers for making some incredible catches. And Kaep made some amazing throws. Anquan Boldin might be slow and 200 years old, but he can still come up big on 3rd downs. The Eagles saw that yesterday.

* Toughness – Last year the Eagles had 2 awful offensive games. They lost 17-3 to Dallas and 15-7 to the Giants. Yesterday the Eagles went on the road to SF and lost 26-21. And they had a chance to win at the end. Good teams find a way to stay in games even when things are going very wrong for them. We’ve seen this from Eagles opponents plenty of times over the years.

There is no question that the current Eagles team is having some issues. But the team is still finding ways to stay in games. That shows a kind of mental and emotional toughness, something that can often pay off in big games late in the year. Anyone can win with their A-game. How do you do when things aren’t going your way? Can you stay in games? Can you still find a way to win?

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Context

Posted: September 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 160 Comments »

The Eagles lost and that sucks. I hate losses. They make life less enjoyable. The sun isn’t as bright. The PBR isn’t as cold. The Funyuns aren’t as Funyunny. Megan Fox isn’t quite as Funyunny. And so on.

But…

I don’t get some of the rage that some Eagles fans are showing today. I get venting a bit after a crappy day. We’re all human and you just hate to see the Birds lose. But where is the over-the-top anger coming from?

A year ago the Eagles were 1-3. Right now they are 3-1.

The Saints are now 1-3 and got dominated by Dallas. Rob Ryan’s magical defense from a year ago looks completely gone. That team has some major issues.

The Panthers are 2-2, but their defense is struggling in a big way. They have been blown out the last 2 weeks and their defense has allowed just 8 fewer points than the Eagles.

Atlanta is 2-2 and has bad losses to MIN and CIN.

The Packers and Bears are both 2-2 and have looked highly erratic.

The Niners needed today’s ugly win to get to 2-2 and they still have a ton of issues.

Even the Seahawks are less than a juggernaut right now. They’re 2-1 and last week’s game went to OT.

It is simply too early in the season to know much about any team. Last year the Lions were 3-1 after 4 games, but finished only 7-9. The Panthers started 1-3 and finished the year 12-4.  Teams are done with a quarter of the season. We have some clues about who they will be, but no definitive answers.

It is absolutely fair to be frustrated with the Eagles, 3-1 record or not. The team has played sloppy football all year long. I guess it boils down to how you look at things. Are the Eagles a sloppy football team that got lucky for 3 weeks and will now be exposed? Or is this a team that is good enough to win ugly and will be a real force if they ever put all the pieces together?

I trust Chip Kelly. I still see a lot of talent on the Eagles roster. I believe this team will play better in the coming weeks. I still have high hopes for them.

That doesn’t mean it will happen. You can feel just the opposite and that’s fine. I just don’t get the rage. This team was never going to go undefeated. There is no shame in losing at SF. Sure the Eagles were sloppy in the other games, but look at some of the other teams and the awful losses they had. The Eagles played a stinker today and lost on the road by 5 points. This is hardly the end of the world.

The biggest issue right now is the O-line. Their struggles are affecting Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy and the rest of the skill players. Let’s hope Lane Johnson is in great shape and is ready to go. Putting him at RT and sliding Todd Herremans back to RG would help the line in a big way. Every week that goes by means the return of Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce should be closer. If the projected starting OL can be together for the stretch run, that will be huge.

I don’t think there is any need to panic. If you have learned any lesson in the Chip Kelly era, it should be to let things play out. Games aren’t over at the end of the 1st quarter and neither are seasons. You play for 60 minutes and 16 games a year. Kelly has proven to be a master at making adjustments and getting improved play. And it is always better to work on problems when you are 3-1 instead of 1-3.

I wish the Eagles were playing great football and looked like a juggernaut, but that’s not the case right now. I see plenty of reasons to question Kelly and the players, but I don’t see any reason to write them off and act as if this team is a lost cause.

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Bad Game

Posted: September 28th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 209 Comments »

The Eagles lost 26-21. Regardless of the score, that was a bad game.

The Eagles made a ton of mistakes. Sloppy football is going to catch up with you at some point and that’s exactly what happened today. The Niners defense played well, but the Eagles offense had a lot of self-inflicted wounds. Chip Kelly didn’t call a good game. Nick Foles didn’t play well. The makeshift OL had a bad day. Zach Ertz fumbled the ball to SF and set up a short TD drive. Riley Cooper let the potential game-wining TD pass go through his hands. And on and on.

The good news is that as bad as the Eagles played, they were right there at the end of the game. The Niners made some sensational plays, especially the WRs, and they needed all of those big moments to win a slopfest.

Lane Johnson comes back to the NovaCare tomorrow and not a moment too soon. All the talent in the world doesn’t do you any good if the blocking up front isn’t good enough.

Don’t make too much of this loss. We don’t need to fire Chip Kelly, bench Foles or Shady McCoy or anything like that. Kelly and the coaches will work through the issues. The players need to eliminate the mistakes.

More on the game later.

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