Judgment Day

Posted: December 6th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 66 Comments »

Remember when Chip Kelly was revolutionizing the NFL? The 1st half of his first game was something straight out of a Hollywood movie. Remember when Todd Bowles looked like a great coach last year? Remember when Gus Bradley was coveted by teams? Remember when Jimmy Johnson went 1-15 and the entire NFL laughed at him as Joe College in way over his head?

You need time to evaluate a coach. A big part of being a good coach is being able to sustain success. Ray Rhodes motivated the heck out of his 1995 and 1996 teams, but that wasn’t sustainable. You can only go to that well so often. Good teams play smart and execute well. Trying to “get up” for every game is something that might work at the high school or college level. Not in the NFL.

A good coach installs offensive and defensive systems and then finds and develops players for them. If a coach is lucky enough to inherit the right players, he can win right away. Other coaches have to completely rebuild. Pederson was somewhere in the middle. With Sam Bradford, I thought the Eagles would go 9-7 or something like that. When they dealt him and went with Carson Wentz, I thought this would be more like a 6 or 7 win team. Rookie QBs are going to have some long days. Remember that Peyton Manning had a HOF runner (Marshall Faulk) and a HOF receiver (Marvin Harrison) and he still went 3-13 as a rookie. He lost 3 games by 23 or more points.

The popular talking point right now is to question if the Eagles have gotten better. They started 3-0 and have gone 2-7 since. Based on that, no the team isn’t better. But I think that is being short-sighted. The 3-0 start was a time when the Eagles were healthy and things were going well.

  • Lane Johnson was the RT and playing at a high level. Allen Barbre was the LG and playing well. The OL had good chemistry.
  • Ron Brooks was the nickelback. That let Malcolm Jenkins sit back and play S.
  • Josh Huff was the KOR and part of the receiving corps.
  • Nelson Agholor’s confidence hadn’t fallen apart. Remember he had that great TD in the opener that got us all excited.
  • Bennie Logan was healthy and playing really well. He was dominant at times vs PIT.

What you saw in the 3-0 start is how well this team could play when they were healthy and things were going well. What you’re seeing now is how this team looks when it is struggling. Andy Reid was 3-11 in his first 14 games. There were some close losses, but a few stinkers as well. That team won the final 2 games and offered promise for the future.

This team could get hot any week now. The Packers lost 4 in a row and have won their last 2. The Bengals were a 3-win team that played great on Sunday. You never know when a team is going to snap out of its funk and play well. That could happen Sunday or the Eagles might not win another game. We’ll just have to wait and see how things play out.

Some individual players have improved. Several rookies have impressed. Halapoulivaati Vaitai has shown that he could be the RT of the future. Isaac Seumalo showed promise in his start and has been an effective role player. Wendell Smallwood looks like a good RB. Trey Burton is playing the best football of his career. Mychal Kendricks has turned things around this year and is playing better. Jason Kelce is playing his best football of the year in the last few weeks.

There is no question that the overall team is in a funk right now. I just think we have to be careful about falling into the trap of thinking this definitively means Pederson can’t coach and needs to be replaced. We give rookie players the chance to learn from their mistakes and develop, but we seem to think that rookie coaches should know exactly what they’re doing.

Being an NFL coach is hard. You need the right players. You need the right assistants. And a little luck doesn’t hurt. Doug Pederson hasn’t had a whole lot of luck this year. He’s had to deal with suspensions, arrests, injuries, a poorly timed bye week, facing teams coming off a bye, etc. This has not been anything close to a normal season. Pederson has had good moments and given us all hope that he can be a good coach. He’s also had some bad moments and made us all wonder if he’s in over his head.

The next month will give us some clues, but we’re not really going to have a strong feel for Pederson’s ability until at least the middle of 2017. At that point we’ll have seen enough to have an idea if he is the answer or not.

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Shaming

Posted: December 5th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 129 Comments »

Chip Kelly didn’t believe in watching game tape as a team. He let the positional assistants do that with their groups. Doug Pederson comes from the Andy Reid school of coaching. There is some tape watching done as a team. I would suggest Pederson do that today, with an emphasis on critical and stupid errors. Players need to know that certain mistakes are not acceptable.

No team or player is perfect. A coach has to choose what is acceptable for his team. Here are some of the errors I would point out.

Carson Wentz didn’t get hit on the play. A block from Zach Ertz wouldn’t have made much of a difference, if any. But this is football. This is a physical, tough game. When you have a chance to hit an opponent and you’re 250 pounds, you sure as hell better do it. The next time that guy goes to chase someone, he might go slower because he’s focused on not getting lit up. Doing nothing there is simply unacceptable.

Unless there is some unknown factor I’m missing, Zach Ertz should be embarrassed by that. I know he was injured in the season opener, but this is December and the season is on the line. This is the time to sell out. He needs the team watching that and to have Pederson point out that is not Eagles football. If this team is 10-2 maybe you laugh at that play. But this team is 5-7 and there’s nothing funny about that.

Nigel Bradham had 2 penalties, one for a horse collar tackle and one for hitting a player out of bounds. Dumb. Times 2. He handed the Bengals 30 yards. They were already getting chunks of yards yesterday. You can’t help them out with yards and 1st downs. I would have considered benching him after the second penalty. Repeat stupidity is something I wouldn’t handle well.

He made other mental errors in the game. Bradham is really talented, but he has to play smarter. This team isn’t good enough to make stupid errors and still win on a regular basis.

Allen Barbre had false start issues. I don’t know if Jason Kelce or Carson Wentz was doing something weird, but Barbre is the one who went early twice. Can’t have that on a day when the offense is struggling to get yards and score points.

I would show Wentz’s 3 INTs and the 3 other passes that should have been INTs. The QB can’t be giving the ball away. Throw the ball out of bounds or into the turf. Punts aren’t the worst thing you can do. Don’t throw it to the other team.

Buddy Ryan said he knew his Bears defense was going to be great when they took responsibility for mistakes on their own. They would watch the tape and the players would talk about what they did wrong with Buddy having to point anything out or question what happened. The players held themselves accountable to each other.

Back in 1999 rookie coach Andy Reid cut DT Bill Johnson after an embarrassing 33-7 loss to the Carolina Panthers. That was a miserable game. Afterward, Johnson was joking around in the locker room. Reid found that unacceptable and cut him the next day. Johnson was a popular player and his teammates weren’t happy, but Reid’s message came through loud and clear.

I’m not saying Pederson should necessarily cut someone. You only do that if you feel like the player deserves it and the move will send the right message. But the time has come for Pederson to take a tougher tone with this team. He needs to get players out of their comfort zone. The most obvious ways to do that are cutting playing time, taking their jobs or calling them out in front of their teammates.

Pederson talked to his team after the Monday night loss, but the message either didn’t get through or didn’t stick with them. He needs to change up the delivery and make things more personal. This team needs to play better. And smarter. And tougher.

*****

The heat is really getting turned up on Pederson, but he’s figuring this team out as the season plays out. No coach knows his team completely, let alone a new coach dealing with a lot of new faces.

The last month will give us a good idea about his ability to get through to his players when things are not going well.

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Bad Day

Posted: December 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 175 Comments »

The Eagles played their worst game of the year on a Sunday when they were supposed to win. Instead the team was down 29-0 at one point, eventually losing 32-14. This is now the low point of the season.

There were very few positives to take away from a game like this. The defense couldn’t stop the Bengals for most of the game. Cincy scored on their first 6 possessions. That’s an astounding stat for a team with a mediocre OL and missing their best WR and RB. The highlight for the Eagles offense in the first 40 minutes of the game was a missed FG.

This was an embarrassing performance.

The 2016 season isn’t over mathematically, but it’s not far off. The Eagles were a long shot to make the playoffs even before today, but it was discouraging to see the team play so poorly in a game they needed to win.

Carson Wentz played one of his worst games of the year. He threw 3 INTs and was lucky the Bengals dropped several others. He made bad decisions and some bad throws as well. He finished the game 36-60-308. Throwing 60 passes was not the formula for winning this game, but that’s what happens when you fall behind 29-0 and have to play desperate football.

A few people hit me up on Twitter asking if they should worry about Wentz.

No.

All players have bad games. That’s especially true for a rookie QB playing in a game without his best WR. It also didn’t help matters that his defense couldn’t get a stop. That put a lot of pressure on Wentz and he didn’t respond well. Please understand that a bad game is a bad game. It doesn’t define a player. Wentz has had too many good games and too many good moments for anyone to panic in regard to him. Wentz is the real deal. I can’t guarantee you that he will be an elite QB and lead the Eagles to titles, but he looks like a franchise QB, someone you build a team around.

Who do we blame today’s debacle on? Everyone.

Doug Pederson did not have a good day. Nor did Jim Schwartz. Nor did the OL or the RBs or the WRs. Or the DL or the LBs or the DBs. This was a bad team loss. Everyone had a hand in it. So how does this get fixed? Can this be fixed this season?

First, the Eagles need some key guys to get healthy. Jordan Matthews is a critical piece of the passing game. The offense missed him in a big way. It would help to get Ryan Mathews back at RB. Wendell Smallwood has played well this year, but Mathews is a better player right now. Getting Big V back at RT would allow Allen Barbre to move back to LG and would help the O-line out.

I don’t know what the solution is on defense. Last week the Eagles couldn’t get the Packers into 3rd/long very much and that made life less challenging for Aaron Rodgers. Today the Eagles got Cincy into 3rd/longs. Unfortunately that meant nothing. 3rd/9 led to a 23-yard gain. 3rd/8 led to a 50-yard gain. 3rd/11 resulted in a 21-yard pass play. And on and on and on.

The coverage wasn’t awful on those plays. There were some where the DBs were in the right spots. They just never seem to be able to find the ball to make a play on it. That’s what happens when a unit struggles. The rush almost gets there. The DB just misses the ball. Someone almost makes a big tackle. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, as the old saying goes. The Eagles D just isn’t making key plays to get off the field.

I talked early in the season about how Doug Pederson had a knack for pushing the right buttons. He made the right decisions and knew what to say to get the best out of his team. That is not the case right now. Pederson doesn’t seem to know what to say or do to get the team out of this funk. More than a few of you want to know if he’s the right guy for the job. We aren’t going to know the answer to that this season, whether the Eagles go 9-7 or 5-11. You need time to accurately evaluate a coach.

Pederson needs to figure out something to get this team back on track. Whether the team can close with any kind of a winning streak or not, they just need to play better. You can live with a loss if you play well, but the other team is just better. That’s not happening right now. The Eagles are playing their worst football of the year. They should be getting better, but that’s not the case.

We all agree the Eagles need more talent, but the current group should be playing better. That’s on the players, the coaches…everybody has a piece of this failure pie.

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Halftime – CIN 19, PHI 0

Posted: December 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 333 Comments »

I thought this might be an ugly game, but I didn’t see the Bengals whipping the Eagles. Unfortunately that is exactly what’s happening.

Highlights so far today:

  • Trey Burton has 3 catches for 34 yards.
  • Nelson Agholor hasn’t dropped a pass.
  • The Cincy PK missed an extra point.

That should give you an idea how bad this performance is.

Doug Pederson better wake this team up in a big way or he is going to feel a level of heat he’s never imagined.

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Gameday – PHI at CIN

Posted: December 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 220 Comments »

Big news. Jordan Matthews is out.

Not good.

He is far and away the Eagles best receiver. So what happens now? Nelson Agholor is playing and will have a big shot at redemption. This could actually be huge for him. It gives him a chance to get passes thrown his way. Sometimes being put in a tough situation brings out the best in a player. Agholor won’t just be playing for himself. His team needs him.

Neither the Bengals nor the Eagles have been scoring much recently so this becomes a defensive struggle with focus on the run game. The Eagles run the ball better and defend the run better so that should give them an advantage in this type of game. With Matthews out, the Eagles should run more than they usually do. RB Ryan Mathews is also out so that means extra work for Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles. This could also be a game to mix in more QB runs. Watch for that.

Donnie Jones is going to be a key player in this game. Punting is not a bad thing when you have a good defense and the other team struggles to score points. If the Eagles can play field position football and good defense, that helps in a game like this.

I wrote my game preview for PE.com, but that was before the Jordan Matthews news. His absence does change things.

This is a huge game for the Eagles. It will be interesting to see how the team responds. The last 2 weeks they lost to guys who will one day be in the Hall of Fame. Andy Dalton isn’t on that level. The defense has to make some plays today. The offense has to find a way to score points. It wouldn’t hurt if Sproles could break a long punt return to help the offense out. Every point could be critical in a game like this.

One note to Doug Pederson…don’t go for it in scoring territory. Kick the FG and put points on the board. Put pressure on Cincy to have to score.

This doesn’t have to be pretty. The Eagles just have to find a way to win.

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