Eagles Notebook

Posted: September 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 26 Comments »

Yesterday I had a couple of long form posts so that meant I missed some topics of interest.  Let’s talk about some things.  First up, the change at Punter.  Chas Henry is out.  Matt McBriar is in.  Why?

Henry boomed the ball in 2 of 3 games, but punting is about more than leg strength.  Obviously Bobby April wanted something different.  Hang time and ball placement are usually critical goals.  You want the ball in the air a long time so the coverage guys can get down the field.  You also want the ball to go to a specific spot so the coverage guys know where to go.

I won’t pretend to be any kind of expert on punting.  I haven’t studied each punt thoroughly to judge where it went vs where April wanted it.  Chas Henry did lead the NFL in having punts returned (14).  Next was 12.  He didn’t have the most punts, but they were getting caught and returned too much.  The average was 11.7 yards per return, which is 10th worst in the league so it wasn’t a critical issue, but it wasn’t what April wanted.

Matt McBriar is a veteran and really boomed the ball this summer.  He should do a better job of punting.  The question with him is about holding.  April can spend time with him and Alex Henery every day as they try to work through that situation.  I’d be lying if I said I won’t be nervous at the first key FG attempt.

* * * * *

Speaking of STs…Football Outsiders has them ranked as the #29 unit in the league.  The problem with young, talented return guys is the “young” part.  They are learning.  Neither Damaris Johnson nor Brandon Boykin has given us much in the return game.  And Damaris fumble was the turning point on Sunday.  Time for the young guys to step their game up.

With Jeremy Maclin returning to the lineup, it won’t shock me to see DeSean Jackson mixed in at PR in situations where the team needs a boost.  Sunday would have been ideal, but with Mac already out, I don’t think the coaches wanted to risk anything happening to DJax.

The coverage units do need to improve.  There haven’t been any home runs so far, but returners are getting too far upfield.  We need Colt Anderson and the fellas to pick up the pace and make some good coverage plays.

* * * * *

I didn’t comment on Vickgate…you know when Andy said Michael Vick is our QB for now.  I don’t know that Andy meant to say that.  He’s not the type of coach who sends messages to his players through the media.

I do think there might be some frustration with Vick starting to really creep in.

Donovan had his share of problems, but ball security wasn’t one.  That gave us a chance to win just about every week.  Vick had too many turnovers in 2011 and has been a turnover machine so far in 2012.  Andy won’t put up with this forever.

I don’t think Vick is on the verge of getting benched, but I do think it says a lot that we’re even discussing the possibility when the backup is a rookie QB.  Andy tends to be patient with his QBs.  2003 is the best example.  Donovan was awful for the first 4 to 6 weeks, but Reid stuck with him.  He had guys like Koy Detmer and AJ Feeley sitting on the bench ready to play, but Andy stuck with his guy.  Worked out well that year.

Some people point to the Kolb benching in 2010.  Different scenario.  Vick was coming off of 6 quarters of great football.  Kolb wasn’t so much benched as Vick was rewarded for playing so well.

The situation we face right now is about sticking with Vick.  He played poorly in the opener, but rebounded with a good game vs Baltimore.  He struggled on Sunday.  This can’t continue to happen.  I think Andy would need to see a couple of more bad games before he’d really consider pulling the trigger.

The flip side is that Vick can get right back to where he needs to be with a couple of good games.  It is up to him.  I know he doesn’t have a great OL and could use a better balance on offense, but if you go look at Derek’s great piece at Iggles Blog…Vick missed some huge opportunities that we needed him to make.

Right now Vick is struggling to see the field well and is making poor decisions.  That’s not good. Two of the most important qualities for a QB are vision and decision-making.  Vick needs to snap out of his funk in a hurry.

* * * * *

How much did we miss Jeremy Maclin?  A lot, per Reuben Frank.

Couple of nuggets:

1 – Eagles are 7-0 in the last 7 games with Mac.  They’re 0-3 in last 3 without him.

2 – Eagles are 29-17 and averaging 27 ppg with him.  Eagles are 2-3 and 18 ppg without him.

 

* * * * *

Reuben Frank mentioned on Twitter that Eli Manning said his hardest hit in the NFL came from Jerome McDougle in the 2004 season opener.  That was a great play.

I was disappointed that Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and Bryan Smith didn’t get mentioned.

* * * * *

The Eagles added LS Kyle Nelson to the practice squad and cut WR Jeremy Ebert.  Nelson is here in case Jon Dorenbos can’t go on Sunday due to his sprained ankle.

* * * * *

CB Brandon Hughes got a small extension.  The Eagles added another year to his deal.  Brandon is the best gunner right now.  He also is playing in the Dime defense.  He did a good job on Fitz on one play that came his way Sunday.

* * * * *

Man was I wrong about Jason Babin.  I picked him as someone who could disappoint us this year.  My rationale was that he played so well in 2011 there was no way he’d match it.  Wrong. He’s even better this year.

Eagles Jake put up a video of his snaps.  Good stuff.

I don’t know that Babin will get 18 sacks, but his run defense is much, much better.  He’s playing really well right now.  He does have 2.5 sacks so far so he’s on pace for 13.  That would be impressive if he mixed it in with good run defense.

* * * * *

I assume most of you know about Derek from Iggles Blog, but for those who don’t…he was one of the best Eagles bloggers around.  He quit doing it due to time constraints (although I prefer to think he was dating super models and strung out on heroin – the blogger lifestyle).  Anyway, Derek is now posting weekly stuff at Iggles Blog.  I will link to his stuff, but you really ought to follow him on Twitter.  Smart guy, except when he disagrees with me.  Great writer.

Derek/IgglesBlog

And don’t forget BountyBowl and of course…Sam.  How could your Twitterverse be complete without these guys?

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  • http://igglesblitz.com Sam Lynch

    FranklinFldEBUpper from the EMB, who studies the Eagles’ kicking game more than anyone I am aware of, had a great take on Henry: it wasn’t just the inconsistency, it was the fact that he couldn’t control the ball well enough:

    ” In the fourth quarter, he had a chance to pin the opposing team deep in their territory — the Eagles had some degree of momentum at the time and although the odds that they might come back were not good they were still somewhat in the game — and proceeded to punt the ball only to the 18 yard line where it was fielded and returned by the Cardinals player. This was a HUGE play which flipped the field position badly in their favor. A similar thing had happened in the Ravens game. In that instance, he was punting from near midfield and was only able to hit the ball to the other team’s twenty. Contrast that with what other teams are doing. How many times has Damaris Johnson had to field punts inside the ten this year? The reality is that other teams’ punters are much more skilled at placing the ball. At the same time, Henry has demonstrated a complete lack of finesse in his game.”

    I think this is an excellent criticism of Henry, and to be honest, it represents a legitimate reason why they might have changed their mind on him based on the last three games. In the preseason, he was actually controlling the ball inside the 20 pretty well. But we didn’t see that during the regular season, and so he’s gone.

    http://boards.philadelphiaeagles.com/topic/338527-special-teams-blog/page__st__1470#entry16873010

    • TommyLawlor

      Good stuff.

      And I can vouch for FranklinFldEBUpper. He is a STs guru, especially with the kicking game. Great source of information.

      • http://igglesblitz.com Sam Lynch

        If the guys who ran this site were smart, they’d publish his weekly STs post on this site. But they isn’t.

        • TommyLawlor

          Yeah, I need to get in touch with him.

  • http://twitter.com/theguyotc the guy

    So my question, based on the W/L numbers: is Maclin actually that good or is he just the closest thing to a complete WR on the roster?

    • TommyLawlor

      I’ve been thinking about that since I saw Roob’s tweets (does that sound dirty or what?).

      I think part of it is that Mac can be a good possession receiver. Teams aren’t going to double him because they don’t fear him and that means Mac will get open on a regular basis. Marty/Andy can usually scheme a big play or two, but moving the chains can be tricky without Mac. That could change in time as Damaris gets experience, but for now we need Mac.

      • http://twitter.com/theguyotc the guy

        It’s startling to me how different a perception of the WRs I have from even a few months ago.

        I realize there are other important factors involved (Vick, OL, playcalling) and I’m saying this right after a bad loss. It just seems like there are 2 possession guys (Maclin, Avant), 1 inconsistent speedster limited by his size (DJax), 1 slower version of DJax (Johnson), and a big WR who plays small (Cooper).

        I used to think comparing the Giants (or even Cowboys) WRs to the Eagles was a fun discussion. Hopefully I will again some day soon.

        • Cafone

          Interesting point. But it may be unfair to judge by last week with 2 of the five out with injury. And I still think Maclin is more than a just a possession guy.

          We’ve got two good starters (+ Avant), but no #3 guy that is even close to challenging for a starting role.

      • A_T_G

        Those numbers are pretty startling. Maclin doesn’t seem to have the gaudy numbers that would seem to support the assertion that the difference is simply him catching balls though, does he? He is productive, but perfect with him and winless without him? Does he draw more coverage than we realize, opening things for Celek and Shady?

        Whatever the reason, I have a higher opinion of Maclin than I did before.

      • austinfan

        D Johnson isn’t a starting WR, lacks the deep speed to threaten teams outside, his future is as a slot receiver who can get open quickly off the snap, not that we need one of these guys since we don’t run those routes (expletive deleted!).

        Maclin should be feared, if healthy, he’s the best WR on the team now that he’s in shape (people don’t realize how courageous his play was last season after his nightmare). But more than that, he’s the only complete WR, fast enough to threaten deep, big enough to go over the middle, tall and athletic enough to compete for jump balls.

        However, this also reflects how they misuse DeSean, while he’s not as tough as Steve Smith, he’s got good instincts for avoiding the hit, so he can do a lot more than run go routes, and he consistently gets open when he’s not trying to outrun double teams.

        Cooper finally returns, this will help both the cover teams on ST, but also provide a big WR. Cooper is probably the most underrated player on the team, compare his three starts last year to Dez Bryant’s three best games. He’s still raw, but he worked hard this spring to improve and the collar bone was a bad break. Everyone wants to run the ball, well, with D Johnson and DeSean as your WRs, makes it harder to run those stretch plays. Put Cooper and Maclin outside, and DeSean inside on some plays.

  • phillyfan1978

    McNabb/2003 and Vick/2012 were both playing poorly. I do think that Vick can snap out of his funk and be a decent QB. He’s not THAT bad. (I hope.)

    However, I think there is a big difference between the two situations. A 26 year old McNabb was more likely to develop as a QB overall than a 32 year old Vick. At the very least, you knew that McNabb had several years before his physical abilities would diminish. I think it is safe to say that, at this point, Vick has an established ceiling on his potential and a relatively short window before his speed is gone, which makes him quite different from McNabb/2003.

    In 2008, Reid was willing to bench a 31 year old McNabb and replace him with a 24 year old Kolb.

    • TommyLawlor

      Interesting perspective.

      Do remember at the time of McNabb’s benching we had scored a total of 13 points in 7 quarters. He had completed less than 49% of his passes in consecutive games and was 8 of 18 when he got the hook. 3 games in a row at less than 50% completions is awful in the modern passing game. That’s a lot of crappy QB play in a short time.

      Vick was bad in the opener, but won.

      Vick was good vs BAL.

      Vick was bad vs ARZ.

      We’ll take a look back at the numbers after Sunday night. A bad game from Vick will definitely hurt his cause. A good one will keep us confused, but maybe optimistic.

      • http://twitter.com/theguyotc the guy

        Here’s a topic for discussion: you have to pick a low completion % and low turnovers, or high completion and many turnovers. In an Andy Reid offense.

        What do you do, hot shot? What do you do?

        • http://twitter.com/apple4ever Matthew Butch

          Low turnovers, no doubt. Turnovers are KILLERS. Lower completion means its harder to win. Turnovers means its almost impossible to win.

          Easy for me. Its why I loved McNabb til the end.

        • TommyLawlor

          Many turnovers? Never take that.

          Some turnovers? That I could live with.

        • Anders

          Why cant we have both? The WCO is designed for a high completion percent and low int rate.

      • phillyfan1978

        Yeah, the 2008 situation isn’t a perfect comparison either. McNabb was playing horribly at the time, definitely worse than Vick right now. It just shows that Reid is willing to bench a QB fairly quickly if his play is bad enough and he has a potential long term replacement on the bench. Reid is probably thinking about more than just this season and about how he and Roseman could potentially spend Vick’s salary elsewhere*.

        This is honestly much, much easier for Reid if Vick just has a small injury that causes him to miss a game or two. If Foles looks great, he takes the job. If not, we go right back to Vick without a QB controversy.

        * You can certainly argue that Reid is only thinking about this season because his job is on the line, but I personally just can’t see Reid letting his contract issues impact his decisions. It’s just an opinion, but I think he’ll continue to do whatever he thinks is best for the franchise until he is no longer a part of the franchise.

    • Cafone

      Personally, I’ll take Vick over McNabb in a heartbeat. When McNabb really needed to score for a win, you would just know he was going to blow it and he almost always did, standing around in the pocket, not throwing it to anyone. Vick may throw an interception, but at least he’ll throw the damn ball. He at least gives the Eagles a chance.

      People will say that McNabb never had the receivers Vick has, but I think it’s too bad we don’t get to see Vick playing with the blocking McNabb always had.

  • A_T_G

    I thought your insights on Reid the other day was a fantastic article. I keep coming back to the thought that, just once, I want to hear Andy take the blame in the postgame for running the ball too much and almost costing us the game because of it.

    “We saw some things there that we thought we could exploit on the ground. I might have gone back to that a little much. All four backs are pretty sore and the lineman were cramping a bit from firing off the line, but we will get them fixed up and they will be good to go. Time’s yours.”

    • TommyLawlor

      That’s like Bizzaro-World from Seinfeld.

  • SteveH

    Tommy, my life feels empty and incomplete without a new helmet to helmet show. It’s like someone took the last PBR and didn’t restock the fridge. What gives?

    • TommyLawlor

      Jimmy and I will record one tonight. He’s been working on projects and then got a visit from family. Or maybe some disgruntled Cowboys fans got hold of him.

  • http://twitter.com/francoistanguy Francois Tanguy

    If Nelson is added on the roster on sunday, who would be cut? I have hard time seeing a player usually inactive on sundays that would go through the waivers and that we could get back after. Especially as Nelson would have to spend at least 3 weeks (if I’m right) on the roster…

  • JRO91

    I am hoping that McNutt and Cunningham turn out to be the receivers they were in college. I would love a squard of Jackson/Machlin/McNutt/Cunningham/Johnson. Move Mcnutt to the slot in place of Avant and hope Cunningham beats out Cooper. Finally some receivers that are 6 feet plus!!

    • Anders

      Why do you not like Avant and Cooper? Avant got great hands and Cooper have shown, that he can be productive when giving the chance.

  • NoDecaf

    Tommy please make sure the suicide prevention hotline is in place for the Giants game. I’m very worried that with the makeshift OL and Vick holding the ball, they’re going to Mallachi him.