Doug and the Numbers

Posted: July 10th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

That sounds like the name of an awful band, but it is actually a good thing. Doug Pederson embraces analytics and uses them to help the Eagles win games. There will always be a mixture of feel and facts when it comes to coaching decisions, but Pederson handles that balance well. He trusts smart people.

Rotoworld recently ranked NFL offenses by analytics usage.

6. Eagles (HC Doug Pederson)

4th Down Aggressiveness: 2nd

Pass Rate on Early Downs: 10th

Pass Rate While Trailing: 31st

Play-Action Rate: 7th

Downfield Pass Rate: 23rd

Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 21st

Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 26th

Outside Run Rate: 3rd

Shotgun Run Rate: 8th

Offensive Pace: 17th

Pederson does a lot of things right. He’s aggressive on fourth downs (2nd), uses play action at a high rate (7th), and lets his running backs find space by rushing to the outside (3rd) and from shotgun (8th). Still, there’s some room for improvement. Of course, the Eagles’ receiver injuries affected this last season, but Philly shouldn’t have been 31st in pass rate while trailing in 2019, nor should they be using pre-snap motion at the 26th-highest rate. With more speed at receiver, Pederson could increase the Eagles’ rankings in both metrics, which would vault them into Tier 1 next offseason.

The Eagles obviously noticed some of these weaknesses.

The downfield passing game needed serious help. The team traded for Marquise Goodwin, spent a first round pick on Jalen Reagor and used mid-round picks on a couple of other speedy receivers. DeSean Jackson will be back (assuming he can avoid saying stupid, offensive things). While the team doesn’t have any elite receivers, that is a fast group of pass-catchers.

Expect Pederson and his staff to dial up more deep shots. They will want to use their new weapons. I’d be shocked if they are still down in the 20’s in Downfield Pass Rate a year from now.

Pre-snap Motion is another area the Eagles want to address. They didn’t add players for this. Pederson hired Rich Scangarello to join the offensive staff. Scangarello rank Denver’s offense last year. They were 8th in the league in pre-snap motion. Scangarello previously worked for Kyle Shanahan, who runs the #1 pre-snap offense in the league.

The Eagles didn’t use motion enough and it sure didn’t feel like they used it very effectively last year. Scangarello should help with play design and also how to use motion. How often do you mix it in? When do you mix it in?

The Eagles banged up and ineffective receiving corps was likely the main reason for the team being 31st in Pass Rate While Trailing. With a revamped group of receivers, expect Pederson to open the playbook up and be more aggressive this year.

I’m not sure why the Eagles were so low in using the middle of the field. It will be interesting to see if they change that this season.

*****

Some other notable rankings:

1 – John Harbaugh
2 – Andy Reid
3 – Bill Belichick
4 – Sean McVay
5 – Sean Payton

14 – Kyle Shanahan
15 – Frank Reich

Reich was obiously hurt by his QB situation. It will be interesting to see how his numbers look this year.

*****

I hate to veer away from football, but…

Ugh.

I understand Farrakhan means different things to different people, but anyone who embraces him needs to be fully aware of his anti-Semitic comments made over many years. You cannot just ignore that.

The Eagles need to have a team meeting. Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman need to make it clear to players that they need to be careful with what they say. Supporting your teammates is a good thing, but if they say something controversial, do not rush to their defense on social media. Malik took down that post so someone let him know it was inappropriate, but not before a lot of people saw it.

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DeSean Takes Dumb to a New Level

Posted: July 7th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

I have written about the Eagles in some way, shape or form for 17 years. I have seen a lot of noteworthy things. A couple of players changed their names. One player agreed to become an Eagle and then changed his mind. One guy got drunk and went on a racist tirade at a concert. The Eagles once signed a player fresh out of federal prison. Life is rarely boring in the Eagles world.

Still, I never thought I would have to write about a player apologizing for quoting Hitler. Especially a Black player.

Yikes, to put it mildly.

There are so many things wrong with this that it is hard to know where to begin.

The most disturbing thing is that DeSean posted something blatanly anti-Semitic and somehow didn’t think it was anti-Semitic. That really is mind-blowing. He somehow thought that what he read was the kind of good information you want to share via your social media.

I get that DeSean isn’t a famous historian or political science major, but how on earth do you share a quote from Hitler and think it’s a good idea?

It wasn’t even a real quote from Hitler. DeSean saw something, liked it and shared it. He has 1.4 million followers on Instagram. I get nervous about writing something that will be read by 5,000 people. I can’t imagine if I had a platform like he does. Like it or not, when you have that many followers, responsibility comes with it. What you say matters.

DeSean didn’t help himself when he tried to explain things on Monday night.

He tells us he doesn’t hate the Jewish community while somehow not understanding that he just accused them of a centuries long global conspiracy. That’s just dense.

The Eagles didn’t say anything on Monday night, but they had this to say on Tuesday.

Some don’t think this is enough and want DeSean cut. I don’t think that is necessary. His posts on Monday proved to be more stupid than anything else. He clearly didn’t understand what he was saying. I’d rather DeSean actually take the time to understand just how hurtful and ridiculous his posts were and learn from that.

I wouldn’t be upset if the Eagles did cut him or if the NFL decides to suspend him. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences. Say what you want, but you might have to pay the price for it.

I don’t know if it was the Eagles or public backlash, but someone has DeSean’s attention now. He has released multiple apologies.

I’m guessing an agent and PR firm wrote at least a few of those words, but DeSean seems to now realize the gravity of the situation.

I hope something good does come of this. DeSean can use his platform in a healthy, productive way in the future. That isn’t to say he can’t have fun on social media or share something goofy, but he’s got to understand Hitler and anti-Semitism are very real. You don’t just throw around those words or ideas casually. They have a bloody past that has given them a meaning that will last forever.

DeSean doesn’t have to be an expert on history. I don’t need him to break down the Battle of Kursk or explain Operation Market Garden. But damn, you have to know Hitler. That’s just not someone you mention casually when discussing the subject of race or religion.

Words matter. Ideas matter.

I hope DeSean genuinely understands that now and remembers it in the future.

*****

A few people have brought up the Riley Cooper situation. That was very different to me. Cooper was drunk at a concert and made racist threats to someone working the show. That was a completely malicious incident. Cooper knew what he was saying and meant it.

The only reason he didn’t get cut is that Michael Vick and Jason Avant defended him. They stood up in the locker room and pushed for Cooper to stay.

It is easy to forget that Jeremy Maclin tore his ACL just a couple of days prior to the Cooper incident. If that didn’t happen, I don’t think his teammates would have been so aggressive in arguing for Cooper. That incident made the locker room a volatile place.

DeSean’s words will have little impact in the locker room. I don’t know if the Eagles have any Jewish players. If there are some, DeSean could go talk to them face-to-face and apologize. There are Jewish people in the organization, but that’s different than the locker room.

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Number Two

Posted: July 5th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Carson Wentz has been the Eagles starting QB since 2016. Chase Daniel was the primary backup in that first year. Then Nick Foles came back to town in 2017 and 2018.

Things were more complicated last season. The Eagles were set to go with Nate Sudfeld as the backup, but he got hurt in the preseason. The team then signed Josh McCown and made him the primary backup. That was fine until McCown had to play most of the Wild Card game against Seattle. You could see his limitations in that game and the Eagles only scored nine points.

Heading into 2020, Wentz is back as the starter. Sudfeld is back as well, but rookie Jalen Hurts is now part of the mix. So who is the backup?

This shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who has followed the Eagles closely. The team likes Sudfeld.

But not everyone understands this.

I’m sure Marcus isn’t alone in his thinking. There are probably plenty of national writers and analysts who think Hurts is the Eagles primary backup right now. Heck, there are some Eagles fans who probably think this. You don’t spend the #53 pick on a player just to sit him, right?

In a normal offseason, there would be a legitimate competition for the backup spot. Clearly this is nothing close to a normal offseason.

Hurts will still have a chance to win the backup role, but the odds will be against him. The Eagles had online meetings, but that is hardly a replacement for minicamps and passing camps. Hurts has never called a play, taken a snap or thrown a pass on an NFL practice field. He will have Training Camp, but the preseason will be cut in half, or cancelled entirely.

Hurts has to learn how to play at the NFL level while competing for a job at the same time. That’s tough for a QB. He has to deal with more than any other player. The QB has to call the play. Then he has to make a pre-snap read of the defense and decide if any adjustments are necessary. The QB must have a full understanding of the protection scheme for that particular play. He needs to know if the receivers are going to adjust their routes at all. And then the QB must have good timing/chemistry with his receivers once the play is underway.

Sudfeld doesn’t have a lot of regular season experience. He has been part of the Eagles for three years, though. That is a lot of practice reps. He knows the playbook inside out. Hurts may have more raw talent, but experience is a huge factor at QB.

The Eagles do like Sudfeld. They talked to him about a long-term deal, but Sudfeld made it clear he wants a chance to start. He knows that won’t happen in Philly so he’ll wait until next offseason to see what his options are.

Sudfeld throws a good deep ball so having speedy receivers should be a good fit for him.

Too bad we won’t have a normal preseason this year. Could be a lot of fun watching Sudfeld throw to the new guys with all the speed.

*****

On a side note, I don’t think I remembered the other NFC East backups.

DAL – Andy Dalton
NYG – Colt McCoy
WAS – Kyle Allen

That’s the best backup Dallas has had in a while.

McCoy is a veteran backup who can help Daniel Jones. There won’t be any QB controversy in New York.

Allen played for Ron Rivera the last couple of years so that does make sense.

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Time for Concern?

Posted: June 30th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

We will have NFL football. We will have NFL football. We will have NFL football.

I hope.

I’m starting to wonder, though.

Mike only talks about a limited preseason in that clip, but you have to wonder if that will change as the pandemic continues to roll along. We are seeing the impact in other sports.

These are pro athletes choosing to sit out rather than play.

We are seeing college and pro athletes test positive as they gather for spring/summer training. Clemson’s football team has had 37 players test positive.

Then we hear stories like this.

https://twitter.com/ADavidHaleJoint/status/1276311388085014528

What about players who are vulnerable? What if they have family members who are vulnerable?

College football is tougher to control. You have 90 players, a big support staff and everyone is on a crowded college campus. Some of that will change, but getting 90 kids that are 18-22 to be smart and safe is a significant uphill battle. I don’t say this with any kind of judgment. My knucklehead friends and I would have been the same way if this happened while we were that age. “Forget Covid, we need more beer.”

Professional football players are a different story. There are still some knuckleheads involved, but most of these guys are going to handle their business the right way. Millions of dollars are on the line and we all know money talks.

The NFL is lucky that they still have another month to see what happens with the virus. Maybe cases will start to decline. Maybe testing will continue to improve.

We do have to understand that cases could continue piling up. If that happens, how does the NFL handle the situation?

What happens if a team has 10 positive tests a few days before a game in the middle of the season? You could see a team lose multiple starting players from the same position group. The entire OL has to be replaced. Or the entire secondary.

This stuff isn’t likely to happen, but we’re not talking about some insane idea like Sharknado. All it takes is one player getting Covid and he could infect those around him.

The NFL has to figure out how to keep players safe, fans happy and lawyers away. That is a nearly impossible task and I don’t envy them having to come up with plans that handle all of that.

It appears the NFL is considering just about anything.

I hope there is NFL season. I can’t imagine a fall without football. That w0uld be insanely weird.

But I think we’d be naive not to at least discuss the fact it might happen.

Keep your fingers crossed. As we’ve learned recently, there is no sure thing in 2020.

*****

Need something to cheer you up? This is one of my all time favorite NFL games.

Just glorious.

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Now or Never

Posted: June 29th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas have been disappointing since coming to the NFL. Each player has shown flashes of real potential and looked good, but the overall level of play hasn’t been there. They are just good enough to keep you hoping next year will be the breakout year.

That better happen in 2020.

Douglas picked off two passes as a rookie in 2017. He showed really good ball skills. Douglas played well down the stretch in 2018. He finished the year with three picks and seemed to be heading in the right direction. 2019 did not go as planned.

Jones story is more complicated. He got hurt at his Pro Day and then fell in the 2017 draft. The Eagles thought they got a steal in the second round. Jones played a few snaps in the season finale, just enough to get a feel for the speed of the NFL.

Jones was the slot corner heading into 2018. He played well early on, but then got hurt. He missed several games. Jones came back and really struggled. He had a strong summer in 2019 and expectations were high. Jones played the first four games before getting hurt. Davante Adams was torching him in that fourth game. It was ugly. Jones returned for the final month as a backup. Due to injuries he got on the field and had some good moments.

I think people overrate some of that play. Jones had five pass break-ups in that final month. A couple of those were really good plays. A couple came when the ball hit him in the back due to a poor throw. Is the glass half full or half empty?

Both Jones and Douglas have worked with DB gurus this offseason since they can’t do normal training at the NovaCare facility. That is a good sign that both players understand the critical nature of this season. We don’t know that both guys will even make the team.

Darius Slay
Avonte Maddox
Nickell Robey-Coleman

Sidney Jones
Rasul Douglas
Cre’Von LeBlanc

That’s six corners fighting for five spots. Maybe the Eagles keep six, but you sure can’t count on that.

Neither player is projected to start right now. The way injuries have hit the Eagles in recent years, both players should count on being needed. They need to prepare as if they are ready to start.

Jones is the more interesting player because of his versatility (slot or outside) and ceiling. He was a star in college. Jones shutdown receivers and made plays. He was a player that teams coveted. The injury really changed him. We haven’t seen the Jones from college so far in his NFL career.

Staying healthy is the biggest issue for Jones. He’s been hurt in each of his NFL seasons. That obviously affects him physically, but it also affects him mentally. He plays hesitant, not wanting to get beat. There was a great moment in All or Nothing when Malcolm Jenkins told him “If you’re not confident, we can’t use you.”

If Jones can manage to stay healthy, he should be able to play with more confidence and more aggression. That matters at CB. Jim Schwartz loves Jalen Mills in part because Mills is completely confident. He’s delusionally confident. But that’s okay at CB. Heck, it’s a good thing. If we could just transplant some of that confidence into Jones we might have a good corner.

Maybe the pressure of having to earn a roster spot will bring out the best in Jones. He knew he was going to make the team in previous years. This is different. He is guaranteed nothing.

Douglas has played in 46 of 48 games since coming to the league so durability is not an issue for him. His fatal flaw is simply speed. Douglas is a 4.6 corner. Some teams won’t even bother when a corner is that slow.

You can make it in the league at 4.6, but you must be smart and you must be tough. You have to read routes well and use angles to your advantage. You must tackle really well. Douglas does too much guessing and he’s inconsistent as a hitter/tackler. It is fair to wonder if he might play better in a different system. There were rumors that the Eagles shopped him. If that happened, there weren’t any takers. Douglas even took a small pay cut. He knows this is a make or break year for him.

I do wonder about Douglas as a safety. He is at his best facing the QB, reading the play and going for the ball. That sure sounds like a safety to me. Again, his hitting and tackling would have to improve. Douglas does have some plays where he is impressive, but others where you want to hide your eyes. CBs can be sloppy tacklers. Safeties can’t (if they want to keep their jobs).

The Eagles love Darius Slay and are excited to have a stud CB. They love Avonte Maddox and think he can be a solid #2 CB. The 1-2 punch of Robey-Coleman and LeBlanc gives them terrific depth in the slot. The team needs Jones or Douglas to step up and win a job. Both players know the pressure is on. Let’s hope that brings out the best in them.

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