Let the Testing Begin

Posted: November 27th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 67 Comments »

The Cardinals come to town on Sunday. The 7-4 Cardinals, that is. I’m shocked at the season they have had. I just didn’t see that team coming together and playing well. Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer have resurrected the offense. The defense has taken another step forward from last year and is one of the best units in the league. This isn’t a crappy Cardinals team that the Eagles should roll with ease. This game will be a test.

Here is an excellent piece by Doug Farrar on the Cardinals defense. He did film study himself, but also got good info from Greg Cosell. Per Cosell, the Cards blitz more than any team in the NFL. We expected the Raiders to blitz a lot, but they didn’t for due to the fear of getting burned due to the tempo and matchups. The Cards will blitz. This will be a big test for Foles.

Arizona has 29 sacks, just 5 more than the Eagles. The blitz does generate a lot of turnovers. They have at least one in every game and are 4th in the league in takeaways. Foles has yet to throw an INT. Can he keep that streak going against a team that has a speedy back seven like the Cardinals?

Dave, aka Southern Philly on BGN/Twitter, wrote an excellent piece on a weak link in the secondary. CB Jerraud Powers is a player the Eagles should be able to exploit if they go after him.

Arizona is 8th in points allowed and 8th in yards allowed. Football Outsiders has them ranked 2nd in defense with the DVOA rankings. This is a good group. But let’s not make them out to be some juggernaut that can’t be dealt with. They have allowed more 30-point games (3) than the Eagles (2).
They have given up more TD passes than the Eagles, 19 to 17. The Cardinals have shut down some weak offenses and backup QBs.

The Eagles are in for a big challenge, but so are the Cardinals. Arizona has only faced one elite offense this year. The Saints lit them up for 423 yards and 31 points. The Eagles have some serious weapons and it will be interesting to see which team is able to get then advantage.

I hope the Cardinals are able to get some pressure on Foles. We know he can pick apart a defense when he’s given a clean pocket. It would be good to see how he responds when he’s got more than occasional pressure. QBs must show they can handle adversity within a game. QBs need a short memory. If Foles makes a dumb throw or bad decision, let it go and move on. Don’t let that mistake hurt you twice.

Another test angle to this game is whether Foles gets caught up in the situation. This is a home game. The Eagles won in the last home game, but had struggled at The Linc prior to that. Will that be a factor? Also, will Foles feel any extra pressure since the Eagles are battling for playoff position? Dallas plays on Thanksgiving. That means Foles and the Eagles will know if Sunday’s game is to tie for 1st place or take sole possession of it.

Kelly likes his players to have blinders on. He wants them to treat every game, every opponent and every situation the same. Kelly wants consistent excellence and that will only happen when players can focus directly on the task at hand and not get caught up in the hype and trappings that come with big games.

While I’m talking about this game as a test for Foles, it isn’t a pass-fail type of situation. A loss by the Eagles or bad game from Foles does not sink him. It just gives us another piece of evidence to consider. Then we’d focus on how Foles played the next week, trying to see if he could bounce back from a poor showing. The flip side of that is true as well. If Foles plays well in this game, we’ll watch the next week to see how he responds.

At the end of the season, we’ll review all the evidence and figure out just what we think of Foles.

Tim McManus wrote a good piece on Foles and the final 5 games.

Truth be told, that’s why the Eagles organization is tickled pink right now. They get to see how Foles, as well as the other young guys on this roster, react when the pressure is ratcheted up. Five games (at least) to dip your players and coaches in hot water and see how they respond. That’s invaluable for an organization trying to shape a contender.

Back in 2000, Andy Reid’s 2nd year, the Eagles started off 5-4. The team then went 6-1 down the stretch. They won a pair of overtime games and another close game. The only loss was a tight game with the Titans. That young team got to the playoffs and was ready for the situation. They dominated the Bucs in the Wild Card game before getting whipped by the Giants in the Divisional round. It was abundantly clear that Donovan McNabb was a stud QB and that Reid was a top flight coach. 

I think we’re all pretty sold on Chip Kelly. Foles and the players are the guys who have a great opportunity in the final 5 weeks of the regular season. They get a chance to show what they can do in some meaningful games.

* * * * *

My PE.com column posted today. I covered the “test” angle there, but also wrote short stuff about a variety of items. Maybe the most interesting thing to me was seeing how Kelly is getting production from the passing game without having to throw the ball over and over and over.

_


  • ICDogg

    From what I understand the reason the Cards are ranked so well in defensive DVOA is that they generate a lot of turnovers.

    • A_T_G

      I heard somewhere that turnovers are going to be a major factor in determining the winner in this one.

      • Mike Flick

        I think Shiel said that.

    • Anders

      They only have 4 more turnovers than us.

  • BlindChow

    You know, I’d be perfectly fine if the Cardinals aren’t able to get pressure on Foles.

  • Insomniac

    The Cards still have Carson Palmer starting for them. I expect nothing less than 2 turnovers. Chip needs to score fast and furious to force them to throw on us.

    • GEAGLE

      And we are talking about an Oline that was so poor that they drafted a guard in the top 10, only to lose that guard for the season

      • Insomniac

        Jonathan Cooper will be a beast if he can develop though. Shit happens just glad it’s not us.

  • ICDogg

    Top 5 "pure arm talents" in NFL: 1. Stafford, 2. Flacco, 3. Cutler, 4. Rodgers, 5. Newton.— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) November 27, 2013

    • Jerry Pomroy

      Unfortunately being an elite QB requires something between your ears as well. Of those 5, I see one that stands out & above the other 4 in that department.

      Jeff George had some pure arm talent, but he was also lacking a screw between the ears.

      • ICDogg

        Yeah, it’s just fodder for chatter, nothing of significance

        • Jerry Pomroy

          I will say that I absolutely loved Cutler when he was with Denver. He’s kinda fizzled out in Chicago though.

    • RobNE

      How is that defined? This all seems to be a little silly. Like longest average tee shot in golf.

      • ICDogg

        According to the guy who wrote that tweet:

        “Arm talent” includes strength, release quickness, multi-platform throwing abilities and “wow” factor. Not consistency or mechanics.

        • Anders

          Andy Benoit is definition of an hack.

          Also not having Vick no. 1 or maybe 2 after Stafford is just stupid.

          Vick has the strongest arm, quickest release and 100% have that wow factor.

  • Jerry Pomroy

    I’m highly intrigued to see how the young players & this team overall performs down this stretch run. The men will be separated from the boys. Hopefully that means more than just what it says literally, with the Eagles separating themselves from the Cowgirls.

  • Jamie Parker

    This right now reminds me of 1985. The Eagles had just beaten the Cards and were standing at 6-5 and people started talking about the playoffs. The eagles proceeded to lose the next 4 games, including a big time 4th quarter collapse against the Vikings (they almost had a similar collapse against the Vikings to end the season as well). I hope history doesn’t repeat itself. Then again, the Eagles are rebuilding right now and this is just a test run.

    • RobNE

      I remember being at a Vikings game that was something like 23-0 then 23-28. Painful

  • Scott J

    I wonder if Chip will throw in some new plays or wrinkles since he’s had an extra week to spend in his laboratory.

    • GEAGLE

      Pistol formation run game is coming..

      The one thing I really like about this matchup is the cardinals offense should allow us to play a lot of Nickle which gets our playmaker on the field more than he has been the past two weeks

      • RobNE

        Boykin or curry?

        • Anders

          both. This is the game where Cox and the DL has to dominate and get in Palmer’s face. Lucky Arians love the 5 and even the ancient 7 step drop so should have plenty time to get there. Also Palmer is the least mobile QB we face all year (P Manning is so good inside the pocket and gets rid of the ball soooo fast)

      • A_T_G

        Foles lined up in a pistol set with Vick to his left, Brad Smith to his right, and Shady behind him. At the snap the four of them huddle, then all walk away nonchalantly, whistling and looking at the sky. Suddenly they all spring into action and the defense has no idea who has the ball or what he is doing with it.

        The fifth consecutive time they work from this set, the time that Shady throws a TD to Foles from behind Smith and Vick blocking the camera will flash to Bowles’ head exploding.

      • BlindChow

        I don’t think Kelly likes the Pistol. He’s a shotgun man.

        Maybe he’ll introduce something new. The Machine Gun Offense.

        • Anders

          True, Kelly never used the pistol at Oregon to the best of my knowledge.

        • A_T_G

          Big guns beat up little guns.

    • OregonDucker

      There will be more “packaged” plays. These plays are designed to penetrate a defense in real time after the ball is hiked. They are based on tendencies and player weaknesses.

      • sprawl

        Are you thinking Chip will get around to installing some nifty packages for a 2-TE set?

        If you read the first article Tommy linked to you can see that the Colts were ‘stuck’ in a 2-back shotgun look because they couldn’t pick up all the pressure that Bowles and the Cards were sending.

        I think a team like the Eagles with McCoy and a couple dynamic tight ends like Celek and Ertz in there can pull something off… especially since Arizona has been having trouble with athletic TE’s this year.

        • OregonDucker

          Maybe TE sets but the packaged plays are options based on coverage and alignment. There will definitely be motion (Shady or DJax) but whether this is coupled with TE, maybe not. You might actually see 3 WR or something specific to the tendency of this defense. I guarantee you will be awed!

        • ICDogg

          The Cards apparently have more of a problem defending the tight end as opposed to other guys. See table at bottom of linked page

          http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teamdef

  • fran35

    Good post. As for being sold on Chip, I am. However, I do think his belief in a using the read option as much as he does is flawed. It exposes your QB too much. We have been spoiled this year by having two viable options at QB. However, this is the exception and we cannot rely on this. Mobile QB s are nice to get something out of nothing. However, a QB who uses his legs as a major threat is doomed for the IR or injured list. Additionally, other parts of the QB position get neglected. We have seen this time after time with running QBs. One read, maybe two-and they are gone. It only lasts so long. People gave McNabb flak for not running more, but I think he saw the “big” picture and realized this(as much as I can’t stand to hear the guy talk now).

    • Tony

      Didn’t know you were an IgglesBlitz reader, Mr. Arians.

  • ACViking

    Re: Chip Kelly Tires

    In the NFL the rubber meets the road in December.

    Reid’s Eagles always seemed to put together fantastic late season runs.

    What’ll happen with Kelly? Too early to say, for sure. But over time, if his teams put together the kind of Decembers (and late Novembers) that Reid did, Kelly’s Eagles should be annually in the hunt.

    ________________

    Speaking of the hunt . . . the hunt for MQBs [mobile quarterbacks]:

    I want to go on record here and now that, as far as a mobile QB is concerned, I am not now — nor have I ever been — a member of the “Chip Kelly WANTS a Mobile QB” Party.

    I believe only — as I wrote in the my comment in the prior post — that Kelly VALUES a QB who’s mobile. Just *values* that attribute. Not that he wants to replace Foles with a “scampering QB” (unless Foles doesn’t deliver in the next 5 games whatever Kelly’s looking for).

    POSTSCRIPT:

    In confess (contrary to my usual legal advice), I vaguely recall after the Vick signing in February 2013, I was a member of the “CKWAMQB” Party. But I renounce those beliefs. I strongly favor a more balanced view.

    And by the way, I rooting like hell for Foles to do well. Give him a pocket, and he’ll pick the defense clean. Not every time. But enough to make Kelly stop dead in his MQB tracks.

    • anon

      i think he prefers mobility for the RO benefits and it’s ability to keep defenses honest / improve the running game. I don’t think it’s the most important trait for him — but foles is slow but CK is going to continue to run RO w/ foles keepers. see mccoy’s ypc plummet since vick has been out. he’s got the most rushing yds but he’s also got the most caries.

      • BlindChow

        McCoy’s numbers this season are right at his statistical average. His big games (WAS-1, KC, GB) each included one or two big runs that skew his per-carry numbers.

        His 6.2 yards/carry in Green Bay was his second largest of the year. His 4.9 yards/carry in Tampa was his fourth largest. Who was QB during those games? BOOM, that’s who.

        But you can’t just look at averages to puzzle out why many of McCoy’s runs don’t pick up yards. The careful reader (as opposed to the knee-jerk reader) will have looked at the All-22 analyses showing frequent failures in blocking, McCoy trying to bounce runs outside instead of running where the play has been designed to open a hole, and the unblocked defender (the one the QB “reads” during a RO play) NOT being the one to bring him down.

        Plus there are other factors affecting a RB’s performance completely independent of how fast his QB runs the 40 (no really!). The strength of individual opponent’s run defense is the most obvious one, but there are others: were the Eagles nursing a lead and using McCoy to run time off the clock? (How many games was Vick trying to hold onto a lead?) What about the general ability of NFL defensive coordinators to adjust to a new offensive scheme? At the beginning of the year, the Chip Kelly offense didn’t have a lot of tape at this level. Naturally, as the season progresses, there will be a lot more for other teams to scheme accordingly.

        I realize this will probably fall on deaf ears, but I get irked when I see people clinging to tired memes propagated by uninformed national analysts, simply because they can’t be bothered to look deeper. Maybe success/failure just isn’t as simple as Vick=Fast, Foles=Slow?

  • Vick or Nick

    One of the unsung heroes of the team has to be Brent Celek.

    Last year when the team kept losing it was hard to find guys who actually cared that the team lost. Brent did. Every loss he accepted responsibility.

    Class act.

  • ACViking

    I love that Foles and the Eagles are playing a team with a +.500 record.

    Time to see where this team stands against better competition.

    3 of the Cards’ 7 wins have come against +.500 teams. 3 of the Cards’ 4 losses have come against Seattle, SF, and NO. The 4th against the 5-6 Rams.

    Rubber hitting the road.

    • GEAGLE

      We aren’t losing this STATEMENT game

  • GEAGLE

    I was worried about this game til Arians opened his fat mouth and called us a college offense…our guys adore Chip, this was the best bulletin board material we could have ever asked for…FOles is getting us this W..

    And I’m seeing visions of Rashard Jennings trampling the Dallas defense for an upset tomorrow!!!

    • RobNE

      Link to quote?

    • OregonDucker

      Chip never gets mad at an opposing team’s statements. He just gets even on the field. The Eagles O will be pumped!

      What a dumba*s Arians was to say this. He will pay a steep price.

  • Tumtum

    This game is strange. The Cards are obviously a good team. They are carried by their defense though. The offense has not yet had any sort of sustained success.

    This game most closely resembles the Chiefs. Wait we lost that game you say? I thought, in that game, the Eagles were the better team. There were a ton of crazy turn overs and lack of execution on 3rd and longs that lost it for them. If you gave a win/lose on every play of that game I bet the Eagles would have a winning grade on a large majority of plays in that game. Even the defense played well in that game Jam Chuck was held under 100 yards on 20 carries and the passing game was rendered mostly ineffective, save Donnie Avery crossing routes on 3rd and a mile.

    My biggest area of concern is really Larry Fitzgerald. We have done a pretty poor job of stopping #1 receivers. Vincent Jackson and Dez Bryant are the most comparable thus far and both of those guys torched us.

    We could easily lose this game, but I think it should be a W. The -3 line in the Birds favor seems right to me.

    • ICDogg

      Arizona is a team that Eagles fans including myself historically expect will be an easy team to beat but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. So there’s always some apprehension that we’re underestimating a pretty good team.

      Still, I can’t help but think that this will be a good matchup for the Eagles.

      • BlindChow

        I’m too haunted by the last two years against them to have any faith.

        My only consolation is McCoy averaged 5.8 and 5.4 yards per carry in each of those games, and this year we can at least count on Kelly not abandoning the run game when it’s working so well.

      • Anders

        I dont think anybody is underrating this AZ team

    • D3FB

      Worst part is apparently Michael Floyd has started to come on recently so we cant just bracket Fitz.

    • Michael Winter Cho

      I guess the Football Outsiders would have tabulated who won on every play of the Chiefs game, but I don’t know how to access that information.

    • Tumtum

      That -3 line was a good one! It just sucks that it moved to 3 1/2 when I did the spreads with my buddy (every game every week stupid thing) and I lost the bet :(

  • Steag209

    Can someone help me out here, what’s that quote from earlier in the year about the best trait of a QB is durability or something? I’m trying to make a point with someone and can’t find that quote anywhere

  • Eagles_Fan_in_San_Fran

    Sorry, but this Cardinals team is simply not that impressive:
    1) They lucked into four Ws by having played against the 4 worst teams in the league: ATL, HOU and JAC each at 2-9 and TB at 3-8.
    2) Their D is good, but not great. And they look good mainly because they went against 4 of the worst offensives in the league (ATL, HOU, JAC and TB are all ranked in the bottom 8 of the league).
    3) Carson Palmer is still Carson Palmer – good enough to lose. His QB rating was under 80 each of the first 6 games. And even though his rating has been between 90-120 the last four games, in two of those games he didn’t throw for that much yardage-wise, while the third of those games was against JAC. So basically he’s had one truly impressive game all year (against Indy last week). Since his 2 glory years (way back in 2005-2006), he’s been a career 80-85 rating QB, throwing 127 TDs against 102 INTs. This year, he’s at an 83 rating with 16 TDs and 15 INTs.
    4) Even that seemingly impressive W against Indy last week has to be taken with a grain of salt. The Colts had been getting pasted in the first half the previous 3 weeks and it continued against the Cards, who were up 27-3 at halftime.

    So, given the above and the fact that this is a home game for us and we’ve had 2 weeks to prepare, we should win this game, hopefully going away.

    • MFGor

      Also Palmer threw couple of sure picks but defenders unfortunately dropped them.

  • Mike Flick

    Happy Thanksgiving all. Lots to be thankful in Eagles nation.

    We got a new coach who is has the potential to be great, a new QB who has a potential to be great. And we got a chance to win our division in our rebuilding year.

    Not have it handed to us because everyone else stinks, but a chance to beat decent teams to make it. What more could you want?

    • A_T_G

      Mike Shannahan to sign a 10-year contract with a clause that provides a financial incentive for each new family member he brings onto the staff?

      Tom Coughlin to have surgery to attach a large thermometer to the top of his head, like in the old cartoons, so when he gets angry, the thermometer starts to turn red and expand comically?

      Dez Bryant caught in bed with Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Goodall? Them get caught when a technition accidentally plays a clip of the episode on the big screen?

  • GermanEagle

    Guys
    I will be in NY the next two weeks. Can you please recommend a sports bar to watch the Eagles game on Sunday? It should be in Manhattan and ideally full of Eagles fans.
    Thanks in advance!

    • GermanEagle

      Is the bar called ‘upvote’?! ;)

    • mksp

      Wogie’s is the your best bet for a bar full of eagles fan. But get there early to stake out a seat. It gets really crowded.

  • McNabbulousness

    that one loss during that 6-1 stretch in McManus’ piece to the titans, was that the game where del greco hit a 50yd field goal at the gun? which was pretty much the only kick he made that year (and HAD to make it against the eagles, im still very incredulous with regards to that kick)

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