Safety Issue?

Posted: November 29th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Safety CJ Gardner-Johnson has been a terrific addition to the Eagles this year. He leads the NFL with 6 interceptions and has been a key reason the Eagles defense has allowed the second fewest yards in the league. Unfortunately, the Eagles will be without his services for a bit.

That sounds bad, but the team has actually seen something like this before.

CGJ said he’ll be back. He just didn’t say when. So how do the Eagles go about replacing him?

The in-house candidate is rookie Reed Blankenship. He played well on Sunday night and showed he belongs in the NFL. Blankenship is a good hitter and tackler. I loved the fact he attacked downhill so well. When he saw the runner/receiver, there was no hesitation. He attacked.

Blankenship also does what I heard Ronnie Lott talk about 30 years ago. Don’t run to the target, run through the target. That’s how you put guys down with force.

There is risk if the Eagles go with him. The Packers didn’t have tape to study or time to figure out how to really attack him. Other teams will go at him and try to confuse the rookie. That is a whole different test for Blankenship. He might pass with flying colors. He also might get exposed. After all, there is a reason he went undrafted.

What else could the Eagles do?

Jenkins will turn 35 in three weeks. He’s never played for Jonathan Gannon or in this system. Would this move make any sense?

Jenkins hasn’t played this year, but did start 16 games last year. He was the second leading tackler on a defense that allowed the 4th fewest yards in the league. Would he have anything left in the tank? There is precedent.

Last year the Rams brought Eric Weddle out of retirement when they needed safety help. He didn’t play at all in 2020 and made his 2021 debut in the postseason. Weddle helped the team to win the Super Bowl. And he was 37 at the time.

That was a major anomaly, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen twice. The circumstances have to be right. I think they are in this situation. Jenkins is healthy and interested. The Eagles have a good secondary and need a complementary piece, not someone to come in and completely save the day.

Nick Sirianni and the Eagles coaches studied Jenkins last year when the Eagles were gameplanning for the Saints. They will have a feel for how good he is (or isn’t). At the very least, the Eagles have to discuss this idea and figure out if it makes sense to them.

They might prefer to stick with Blankenship. He’s a young player with good potential. He knows the scheme. As much as you hate to lose CGJ, you are curious to see what Blankenship can do. Then again, this is potentially a Super Bowl team we’re talking about. There would be risk in relying on a rookie starter in that setting.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

*****

We love to hate Tom Brady, but this is pretty cool.

Throwing and running for 150 yards in a game is special. Hurts is having a great season and he’s doing some freaky things.

There is an alternate universe where the Eagles have Russell Wilson at QB and another one where Deshaun Watson is here. Those are terrifying thoughts.

Instead of having to embrace the fakest guy in the league and watch him play erratic football or try to discuss sexual assault on a weekly basis, we get to enjoy a good dude having a great year.

Thank you Jalen for playing like this. And thank you to the other guys for not wanting to come to Philly. They saved us a lot of misery.

*****

The Eagles are last on waiver claims so we’ll have to wait and see if any other team wants Abram. The former first rounder was cut by Oakland recently. He just had a short stint in Green Bay and will likely be joining a third team soon. Not a great player by any stretch, but could be worth taking a look at.

My guess is that some team with a good defensive coach will take a chance on him before the Eagles get a chance.

*****

The Eagles continue turning over the bottom of the roster, looking for the right developmental/practice players.

 

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Day After – Running Wild

Posted: November 28th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles ran for 363 yards against the Packers. That is a staggering number. You normally get excited when your team runs for 200 yards. If they go for 250…wow. Running for 363 yards is just insane.

According to noted hack Bo Wulf, that is the 8th most rushing yards in a game in the Super Bowl era. In the previous three games, the Packers gave up a total of 364 rushing yards. The Eagles had that total matched until the kneel-down at the end of the game dropped them down to 363.

Back in 2005, the Eagles didn’t hit 363 yards rushing until the first half of…Game 7! How is that for another crazy stat?

The Packers came into the game 25th in rushing yards allowed. They are now 31st. The Eagles averaged 7.4 yards per carry. That is an insane stat for a team that ran the ball 49 times. You normally have a figure like that when one long run skews the numbers.

I don’t want to harp on 363 yards too much, but I hope you appreciate what a staggering number that is.

*****

I mentioned last night that the OL had a really good game. They got movement on a regular basis. They sealed well, giving the runners defined running lanes. The OL got out in space and mashed on defenders at the second level.

TE Jack Stoll deserves praise for his performance. He blocked well. Sometimes that meant sealing the back side. Sometimes that meant sealing the front side. Other times he was on the move.

The Eagles mixed in Cam Jurgens to give a 6 OL look to the Packers. That worked well.

We also have to give credit to the receivers. AJ Brown stood out on a couple of downfield runs. You love to see star players willing to do some dirty work.

*****

No update on CJ Gardner-Johnson. Nick Sirianni, whose team ran for 363 yards on Sunday night, wouldn’t say if CGJ will go on IR or just miss a couple of games. With a rib injury, the biggest issue is usually pain. That’s not good for a safety who is supposed to be involved in a lot of collisions.

If CGJ does miss times, Reed Blankenship might prove to be a good replacement. He played very well on Sunday night, making plays as a tackler and in coverage. He read plays well and played decisive, downhill football. When he saw something, he attacked it.

Before we get too fired up about Blankenship, I must caution you that NFL history is littered with one-game wonders. I remember Artis Hicks playing LG against the Giants in 2003 and looking like a revelation. He proved to be a functional starter, but never was as good as that game. LB Ray Farmer looked like the next Seth Joyner in a win over the Giants in 1996. He never came close to that level again. Ryan Moats ran for 114 yards and 2 TDs against the Giants in 2005. Maybe there is just something about the Giants???

More recently, we saw Travis Fulgham look dominant for a month in the 2020 season. He’s basically been AWOL since then. That one still confuses me. He looked so good.

Blankenship showed the ability to be a good NFL safety. The hard part is playing like that consistently. Hopefully he can do that. Bo has some good stuff on Blankenship in the link above.

These comments from Slay are hilarious.

https://twitter.com/JeffKerrCBS/status/1597104609021263872

*****

Eagles – 500 total yards of offense
Packers – 349 total yards of offense

When you add in return yards…

Eagles – 591 yards on 83 touches
Packers – 521 yards on 54 touches

Yikes. That shows you the impact that STs can have.

Nick Sirianni has said a lot of good things about Coach Mike Clay. He wasn’t saying them on Monday. Sirianni took the blame for the failings, but you can tell he’s frustrated with STs being a problem all year.

It will be interesting to see how the Eagles address the issue.

*****

Landon Dickerson got hurt on Sunday night and was replaced by Andre Dillard. This shocked some people. Not me. The Eagles put Dillard at LG a few weeks back late in a game. They have obviously cross-trained him in practice and wanted to see how he’d do. He’s done enough to make Jeff Stoutland trust him so Dillard got the call last night.

The Eagles prefer to have eight OL in games. There are the five starters. Jurgens is the backup center and can play guard if needed. Jack Driscoll can play LT, RT or G.

When Dillard was hurt, Sua Opeta got the nod. He’s pretty much a pure OG. Dillard can play G or T so the Eagles would rather have him for gamedays. I wonder if he and Driscoll are backups by side. Dillard fills in at LG and LT while Driscoll plays RG and RT.

Opeta has proven to be a functional OL. I think the Eagles just prefer Dillard’s versatility.

*****

Miles Sanders ran for a career high 143 yards on Sunday night. That gives him 900 yards for the season, also a career high. He’s got 8 TDs, another career high. Sanders is averaging 5.1 ypc.

I’m not saying Sanders is now a great RB, but it is impressive to see how well he’s playing this year. He’s running more physically than in the past. Sanders is trusting his blocks better now, rather than bouncing plays out wide way too often. He’s done a good job of protecting the ball. He’s moving the chains well. I’m really impressed with his vision and decision-making.

Sanders is blocking better than ever and he’s got a career-high catch percentage (although with fewer targets).

He made critical plays each of the past two weeks. In Indy, he got open deep and drew a PI call that set up the winning TD. Against Green Bay he converted a third down at the end of the game to seal the win.

It feels like Sanders has bought in to what the coaches want from him. That’s helped him to play at a high level.

*****

Give the Packers some credit. They were down 13-0 and then led 14-13. They fell behind 34-20 and kicked a FG. Aaron Rodgers was hurt on that drive, but the offense didn’t give up. They scored 10 more points. The defense had no answers, but the team sure felt it had multiple chances to quit. The Eagles didn’t put them away until the last minute of the game.

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Ground n’ Pound

Posted: November 28th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

Last week the Eagles needed a comeback to win a defensive struggle against the Colts. On Sunday night, the Eagles won a shootout with the Packers, largely by running for an amazing 363 yards. The Eagles finished with 500 total yards and 40 points.

Sounds great, right?

It was, except when the defense or STs were on the field. The Eagles gave up 349 yards and 33 points. They allowed 172 kickoff return yards. Yikes and yikes. As we saw, the downside to scoring was kicking off. Green Bay had two drives start inside the Eagles 40. They had three others that started near midfield. That’s not a good formula for stopping a team from scoring.

Let’s go back to the offense for a minute. The run game worked for a few reasons. The OL was fantastic. They continually got movement and gave the runners room to run. Miles Sanders ran for a career high 143 yards. He scored a pair of TDs and kept the chains moving all game long. Kenny Gainwell and Boston Scott combined for 63 yards and a TD.

Jalen Hurts was the X-factor. He ran 17 times for 157 yards, a franchise record for a QB. He had runs of 42, 32, 28 and 24 yards. The Packers simply had no answer for him. Some of those runs were scrambles. Others were designed runs.

Hurts was solid as a passer. He threw a pair of TDs, one to Quez Watkins for a 30-yard score. He made a couple of key throws on third down. The Eagles were 8 of 15 on third downs. That was important when you’re trying to win a game by running and playing ball-control.

The defense had some good moments. They came up with 3 sacks and a pair of INTs. They only allowed one third down conversion all game. It is kind of crazy that Green Bay was able to score 33 points.

CJ Gardner-Johnson left the game in the first half with a rib injury. Uh-oh. Rookie Reed Blankenship took his place and played really well. He led the team with 6 total tackles and even picked off a pass. Aaron Rodgers tried to hit a TE over the middle. Blankenship read the play and jumped the route. That showed good awareness and a good burst to the ball. He also had good hands. Not every DB makes that grab. Blankenship was a phyiscal hitter and tackler. He played confident, aggressive football.

There were a couple of mistakes. Blankenship took a poor angle on a pass over the middle and that turned into a 63-yard TD for Christian Watson, who can really fly. Still, he was impressive for a young safety.

The Packers had 6 plays of 20 yards or more. They ran the ball well and got chunk plays in the passing game. RB Aaron Jones hurt them as a receiver, going 3-56-1.

It wasn’t a perfect performance by the Eagles, but they improved to 10-1. It was great to see the Eagles offense come alive. They had 38 points in the past two weeks combined so scoring 40 tonight was good to see. The offense did have some issues. AJ Brown had a costly fumble and a turnover on downs put the defense in a bad situation.

You can see how good this team can be on each side of the ball. It would be nice for them to play a complete game, something they haven’t done since beating the Steelers 35-13.

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Gameday – GB at PHI

Posted: November 27th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

It feels like the Eagles last game was a long time ago. I guess sitting through football games all day Thursday, Friday, Saturday and today has caused that feeling. I am ready to see the Eagles play. Hopefully they are ready to play a good game.

Here are some key things I’ll be watching tonight.

Get a Lead

The Eagles have trailed most of the past two games. They held at least a 12-point lead in the first eight games of the season. That streak came to a crashing hault. It would be great to see them play well and build a lead tonight. The reason for the deficits the past two weeks was a lot of sloppy play. The Eagles need to get out of their funk and back to playing good and smart football.

TE Play

The Eagles love using 12 personnel. They have packages for 13 personnel as well. Last week they played too much 12 and 13 personnel. When they went 11 personnel in the 2nd half, the offense looked better. I don’t think that was a coincidence.

That said, they do need to get production from the TE spot. They do need to give the guys chances to make plays. That is too valuable a position to just put it on the back burner. I’m curious to see what the Eagles coaches do and if they mix in some specific plays to get the ball to the TEs.

Robert Quinn

Quinn has played the Packers a lot in his career. He knows their scheme and their blockers. Maybe this will be the game he finally breaks through and gets a sack. He got some pressure last week, but you know he’s dying to get to the QB.

Miles Sanders

The last three weeks, starting RBs have gone for at least 81 yards on Green Bay. Six teams have run for 150 or more yards on them. This is a team you can run on. Sanders could have a big game if the Eagles will feed him the ball. He has only one game of 90 or more yards in the past six outings.

Tackling

The Eagles must control the GB running attack. Aaron Jones is strong and fast. AJ Dillon is a powerful runner. The Eagles must tackle those guys well. They need to get a lot of players to the ball and make sure to go in strong. Reaching for them won’t work. You better wrap and be physical.

*****

The Eagles are pretty healthy (aside from the guys on IR). No surprises on the inactive list.

Packers LB De’Vondre Campbell is inactive. Rookie Quay Walker is the team’s leading tackler and will be running the defense. You can bet the Eagles coaches will try to confuse him with RPOs and different looks.

*****

I’m not a big uniform guy, but I know some people love that stuff. The Eagles will have black uniforms and black helmets. That’s not my cup of tea, but I’ll learn to love them if the Eagles go get a win in them.

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Game Preview – GB at PHI

Posted: November 27th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

If I told you back in August that the Eagles and Packers would have combined for 8 losses when the teams met, you would have figured the Eagles would be the team struggling. Maybe Jalen Hurts didn’t pan out or injuries struck in a big way. Nope. The Eagles are 9-1 and the Packers are the disappointment, sitting at 4-7.

The most amazing thing about them being 4-7 is that Aaron Rodgers hasn’t missed a game. He has dealt with a broken thumb, but Rodgers biggest issue is…Aaron Rodgers. You just don’t get the feeling he’s all in on this season. I’m not questioning his effort, but it just seems like something is off. He wasn’t happy about losing Davante Adams, which is completely understandable. When that does happen, you have to embrace the new guys. It sure doesn’t feel like Rodgers did that for most of the year.

Rodgers has talked to the media about players making too many mistakes. You don’t hear him talking about his issues. Every game you see replays where some guys are running wide open and Rodgers is holding the ball and looking for Davante or Jordy Nelson or some other receiver from the past. He’s not happy with the offense. He’s been openly critical of the plays being called. He doesn’t like the system. There is too much motion for his liking. Rodgers misses the west coast offense.

Rodgers is still a gifted passer, but something isn’t right. He was the MVP the past two years. This season he’s erratic. You see flashes of Good Rodgers, but there are also times when he looks flat out bad. A friend texted me after the last Packers game and said “This is just sad.”

As a whole, the Packers are erratic. They have a 3-game winning streak and a 5-game losing streak. They scored 9 points in a loss to the Lions. The next week they put up 31 points in a win over the Cowboys. They are 15th in yards on offense and 14th in yards on defense. They are 26th in points scored. They can compete, but they struggle to make key plays.

The key is their run game. In 3 of their 4 wins, they ran for 199 yards or more. They averaged 28 points in those games. Limit their run game and the Packers will struggle to score points. This will be a good test for Jonathan Gannon. He focuses on limiting big plays and going against Rodgers in theory should make him want to keep his safeties back. But study the numbers and you can see stopping the run is the key to this game.

The Packers passing game is showing signs of life. Rookie receiver Christian Watson has 5 TD catches in the past two games. He had really struggled up to that point, with some costly drops.

The Eagles defense played well last week, limiting the Colts run game after the opening series. New additions Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh really made a difference. They are the kind of stout, physical defenders you need to play the run. Milton Williams played his best game of the year last week. I’m curious to see if he can build on that or if it was an anomaly.

There will be a lot of attention on the Eagles offense, looking to see if they can bounce back from last week’s season-low 17 points. The Colts are a very good defense so you have to give them plenty of credit. They also played the RPOs better than any other opponent this year. Still, a lot of the Eagles issues were self-inflicted. They need a much better showing tonight to get back on track.

I’ll be interested to see how the coaches build this gameplan. The Packers struggle against the run (25th in yards). They love to blitz. Do you just come out running and force them to stop you? The Eagles love to be aggressive and try to score early. That would mean passing. You can burn the blitz, but it can also burn you.

Jalen Hurts struggled against the blitz early in the season, but has gotten a lot better in that area. The Eagles should have a chance to make plays if they do want to be aggressive. Hurts needs to be sharper than last week. He was great at making plays with his legs, but the passing game wasn’t efficient.

Turnovers have been a problem the past two weeks. You can bet Nick Sirianni is focused on getting that fixed. Those turnovers cost the Eagles the Washington game and almost cost them the Colts game.

The coaches should be able to make adjustments. They used more 11 personnel in the 2nd half last week and that worked well. They can look at what the Colts did vs the RPOs and figure out the best way to counter that. The coaches must find a way to get more production from the TEs. It wouldn’t surprise me for an early play to be designed to get the ball to a TE. Maybe you try to get Tyree Jackson free in space. He’s athletic enough to make a play after the catch.

The Packers are one of the few teams in the league that are worse than the Eagles on STs. Maybe that will be a factor.

Green Bay might have more of an edge since their season is on the line, but that was the situation last week and they lost that game. They really are a hard team to read. The Eagles should locked in, hoping to get back to playing good football. They trailed most of the past two games. That needs to change.

If the Eagles can get out in front, the run game should work and they can get back to playing good football.

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