Game Review – PS3 – PHI 33, IND 23 – The Offense

Posted: August 29th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 217 Comments »

It’s Alive!!!

The Eagles offense has been the red-headed stepchild to the defense this spring and summer. Compliments have been few and far between. The offense has done little to make anyone feel optimistic about them.

That changed on Saturday night. The defense was still outstanding, but the Eagles offense finally came to life. They controlled the line of scrimmage, which meant time for QBs to throw and holes for the RBs to hit. Things finally clicked. I don’t think the Eagles will be setting any records this year, but the offense finally showed some potential and gave you a sense of some optimism.

Beyond just the players doing their job well, I liked how the coaches called the game. They were creative, in terms of plays and personnel use. There were times when they went with 3 TEs. They ran from that and threw from that. They would bunch them and run to that side. Creates good blocking angles for the TEs. They used a lot of the Ace formation (2 TEs, 2 WRs, RB). I’m a big fan of this. The 2003 Eagles used this a lot and did some great things with it.

One complaint with Doug Pederson. He didn’t call timeouts late in the half. The Eagles got the ball back with just 0:26 left. They didn’t need the ball to go get points, but it would have been nice to see the starting offense in a 2-minute setting.

For an idea of just what a blowout this was, the Eagles led 33-10 in the 4th quarter. The Colts FG came off an INT that put them in scoring territory. The TD came on a blocked punt that was recovered for a score. 2 Eagles mistakes, 10 points.

QB

Sam Bradford – 17-20-167. Threw for 2 TDs and an INT. The pick wasn’t his fault. Tried to hit Agholor over the middle. Nelson couldn’t make the grab and it bounced to a DB. Ideally you’d like that ball out in front of the receiver so he catches it at full speed and can add good RAC yards, but the Eagles used a 1st round pick on Agholor to make tough catches. I don’t know if Bradford threw a bad pass all night. He overthrew DGB in the end zone, but that was from 20 yards out and they’re still working on timing. Did a nice job on early 3rd/17. Rusher came up the middle. Sam stepped to the side and then hit Givens for a 1st down. Solid throw. Loved the fade to DGB for the score. Put the ball up there and let his guy go get it. The quick pass to Huff for the long gain was a good throw. Consistently put the ball where it needed to be so his guys could catch it and make plays.

For some perspective, Bradford threw 15 passes last year in the preseason. He threw 40 this summer. He’s healthy. He looks comfortable on the field and in the offense. Bradford was rusty when the regular season started last year. That won’t be the case this year.

Chase Daniel – 9-12-104. Had one TD. Good game. Once again looked comfortable running the offense. Made adjustments at the LOS. Had some nice throws. Hit Watford for a 28-yard TD. Watford was wide open, but the ball was on the money. Tried to hit Turner for a long TD, but the ball was about a step too far away. Mixed in quick throws as well. Was accurate with his short throws.

RB 

Ryan Mathews – 3-31 on the ground. Ran hard and looked good. Does not run like a back concerned about staying healthy. Fights for yards. Best run came late in the 1st Qtr. Started up the middle and then bounced the run wide left. Turned that into a gain of 16. Good vision and cutting ability, plus burst. Looks ready for the season. I was getting nervous watching him fight for yards. Normally I want a RB to do that. With Mathews, I’m like “Go down dude. We’re good.”

Kenjon Barner – Took over at RB in the 2nd Qtr. 6-39 on the ground. Seeing the field really well right now. Vision and instincts are tremendous right now. Also has the footwork and moves to get to the right spots. In a groove, at RB and as a RS. Best run was a 25-yard gain to the left side. Had really good blocking and didn’t hesitate. Late in the run, Barber popped the defender before going out of bounds. I liked that. Good to see him running hard and playing with a bit of an edge. Good chip block of Cole on 3rd down helped to keep Bradford clean.

Byron Marshall –  Another solid showing. You wouldn’t think he was last a RB early in his career at Oregon. Looks natural in the backfield. I’m really impressed with his inside runs. He’s no Earl Campbell, but he doesn’t dance. Will hit it up in there. Good burst. Still at his best in space. 10-40 on the ground.

Wendell Smallwood – Got the final carry of the 1st half. No room to run. Lined up out wide in the early 3rd and caught a quick out. Good route, smooth catch. Next play he ran up the middle for 9 yards. Good burst on that. Took a big shot to the legs and went down. A defender might have hit Smallwood in the head with his knees as he rolled on the field. Smallwood let go of the ball for a second then grabbed it. Left the game to be checked for concussion. You saw some of his potential, but it is concerning for him to leave after so few touches.   Read the rest of this entry »


Homegrown

Posted: August 29th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 263 Comments »

D is for defense.

D is also for draft and develop.

It wasn’t all that long ago when the Eagles struggled to draft and develop defensive talent. Picks didn’t pan out for a variety of reasons – injury, attitude, athleticism, scheme fit, alien abductions. You name it. That led to more than a few mercenaries being brought in. Asante Samuel, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, Nnamdi Asomugha, DRC, Darryl Tapp, Ernie Sims and Will Witherspoon were among the many guys brought in between 2008 and 2011. These guys weren’t role players. They were brought in to be impact starters or key players.

Things have changed in a big way. Think about the DL.

DE Vinny Curry … Brandon Graham
DT Bennie Logan … Beau Allen
DT Fletcher Cox …. Taylor Hart
DE Connor Barwin … Smith / Means

Either 6 or 7 of the top 8 on the DL will be homegrown players. That’s pretty darn impressive. And Barwin wasn’t given mega-money to come here. He’s played his best football as an Eagle. Means has bounced around the league, but he’s really been developed by the current Eagles staff. He has played 12 games, but only has 6 career tackles so he is still very raw.

The Eagles best LB is Jordan Hicks. He’s homegrown. Mychal Kendricks can be a very good LB at times and he’s homegrown. Joe Walker looked very promising this summer. We’ll have to see how he comes back from the ACL, but he could still have a bright future.

The secondary is largely built on outside players, but there is even hope out there. Eric Rowe was a 2nd round pick last year and after a slow start this spring/summer, he’s been coming on as of late. Rookie Jalen Mills has potential. He’s been uneven this summer, but looked great in the spring. Fellow rookie C.J. Smith has come from nowhere to battle for a roster spot. None of these guys will be mistaken for Eric Allen anytime soon, but there is hope.

At Safety, Jaylen Watkins has really turned his career around. He’s playing the best football of his young career. Rookie Blake Countess is talented, but needs time to develop. I’m guessing he’ll be on the practice squad this year.

Who gets credit for all of this?

There isn’t one person. Howie Roseman certainly gets some. Eagles scouts have done a good job in the past 5 years of finding defensive talent early and late. You also have to give credit to the assistant coaches. Jerry Azzinaro did a very good job with the DL while here. Rick Minter scouted Jordan Hicks multiple times and then helped develop him last year. Jim Schwartz has done a great job of pushing players this year. He expects success and pushes them to live up to his standards. DL coach Chris Wilson has been a terrific fit with the scheme and players. LB coach Ken Flajole has done good things as well. Cory Undlin has more vets in his group, but he’s gotten some young players to step up.

It will be interesting to look back on this in January and see which players had good seasons, which disappointed and if any guys surprised us. No matter what, it does feel good to see the Eagles getting back to developing serious defensive talent. Let’s see if someone else from this group joins Fletcher Cox in the Pro Bowl this year.

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Eagles Make Some Interesting Cuts

Posted: August 28th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 125 Comments »

The Eagles have to be down to 75 players by Tuesday afternoon. They didn’t wait that long to start making cuts.

I was surprised they cut Givens. He did nothing to blow me away this summer, but the coaches seemed to like him. That gave me the impression he was good in practice and behind the scenes.

Right now I’m only sure about 4 players at WR – Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, DGB and Josh Huff. I like Paul Turner a lot, but he has physical limitations. I’m okay if they keep him, but there would be a case for putting him on the practice squad. The Eagles could then go with just 4 WRs or they could scan the waiver wire to see if someone of interest gets cut.

The Eagles knew they needed WR help and hoped that signing veterans to cheap deals would deliver at least one success. Nope. TJ Graham was cut last week and now Givens and Randle. Signing them was a low risk, so-so reward proposition. It failed, but I’m okay with taking chances like that. You also have to think if DGB wasn’t here that maybe Randle or Givens would have made the roster. Luckily a better option (DGB) came along.

Martin is very surprising, only because Doug Pederson talked about him as a virtual lock to make the roster. I’m glad the Eagles are letting him go and keeping Beau Allen, Taylor Hart and Destiny Vaeao as the backup DTs. Those are young guys who will bring good energy off the bench.

I love the fact the Eagles were able to put Alex McCalister on IR. He needs to get bigger and stronger. He can’t practice while on IR, but can lift weights and attend classroom meetings. McCallister can play in the NFL, but he needs this year to get his body ready. IR is perfect for him.

I have mixed feelings about the release of Gardner. I think he’s better than some players the Eagles are keeping, but the coaches just don’t seem to like him this year. Gardner can now go somewhere that he might get a fair chance to show what he can do. Listen, I know that Jeff Stoutland forgets more about football during his afternoon dump than I’ll ever know, but I’m just not a huge fan of what they did with Gardner this summer.

There is one big theme to these moves.

The team let go of vets and kept young, cheap players. There is something to be said for that in a season where the team clearly isn’t a juggernaut heading for the Super Bowl. Take chances on young guys and see who pans out.

Interesting that the Eagles got down to 73 guys. They will be working out a DE and WR from the Philadelphia Soul. They could sign them and try to force the guys into action on Thursday. The Arena season just wrapped up so those players are ready to roll. They would just need to learn some basic plays.

Beyond them, I expect the Eagles to possibly look for a WR and OLB. They could use depth at both spots.

This should be an interesting week.

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Eagles Roll in Indy

Posted: August 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 177 Comments »

The Eagles beat the Colts 33-23. That score is misleading, though. The game wasn’t anywhere near that close. The Eagles were efficient and explosive, while the Colts looked like a major mess until late in the game.

The defense had been outstanding the first two weeks and that continued tonight. The offense took a big step forward, gaining 388 yards and scoring all 33 points. There were no short fields off turnovers. This was good offense. We do have to factor in the Colts defense, which was missing their top 3 CBs and top pass rusher. To make matters worse, they lost another CB early in the game.

Sam Bradford had a clean pocket and picked the Indy secondary apart. He went 17-20 for 167 yards and 2 TDs. And a couple of those passes were dropped. He had time and made good throws. I liked the fact that Bradford spread the ball around and was willing to work downfield. He mixed in some checkdowns, but got the ball down the field on a few plays.

You can’t have a good passing game without some receivers to catch the ball and those guys came alive tonight. Josh Huff apparently decided keeping his NFL job was better than becoming Jimmy Kempski’s gardener or Les Bowen’s hair stylist. Huff caught a short pass and flew up the field for 38 yards. That’s exactly the kind of play the coaches have been waiting for. They know Huff is a weapon when he’s got the ball, but he has to show that he can catch it and make those plays. He later got the ball on a jet sweep and ran for a 13-yard TD. He has speed.

Chris Givens caught a 19-yard pass on 3rd/17. Dorial Green-Beckham caught a short pass and fought through a tackle to turn that into an 11-yard gain. He later caught a fade pass for a TD. See how easy that was? No one had to turn into Jerry Rice. Just go make some plays. One guy who didn’t do that was Nelson Agholor. He had one pass thrown his way over the middle and couldn’t make the grab. The DB beside him did make the grab and that set up the only points the Colts got in the 1st half.

The starting O-line had a strong night. Stefen Wisniewski played LG with them and they were even better than last week. I do think the Colts defense was part of that. Trent Cole, one of my all-time favorite Eagles, was supposed to be their primary pass rusher. That should give you an idea of how non-threatening they were. The OL opened good holes for the runners all game long. The Eagles were 23-131 on the ground (leaving out a Chase Daniel kneel-down).

Jim Schwartz got another strong performance from his defense. They sacked Andrew Luck 3 times, limited the Colts to 18-39 on the ground and took away big plays for most of the game. Oh yeah, and they picked off another pass in the end zone. Let’s hope that trend continues in the regular season.

The thing I liked most about the defense is that Schwartz mixed and matched players all game long. Marcus Smith played in the 1st half. CB C.J. Smith came into the game in the early 2nd quarter and stayed for a long time. Schwartz mixed his LB pairings in the Nickel to get reps for everyone and to see how guys played together. I thought Jordan Hicks had another outstanding game and Nigel Bradham played well.

STs were up and down. They gave up a blocked punt and missed an extra point. Caleb Sturgis nailed a 47-yard FG. Kenjon Barner had a 25-yard PR and a 35-yard KOR. Wendell Smallwood added a 30-yard KOR. It looked like the gunners did a better job this week.

There were some injuries. Smallwood took a big hit on an inside run and left the game with a possible concussion. Taylor Hart got hurt. Vinny Curry has a knee injury, but it doesn’t sound serious.

The Eagles are now 3-0. I could care less about that. I am happy that they have improved each week. This was a fun game to watch, but I can’t stress enough that we have to factor in how poorly the Colts played for 3 quarters. I watched the game on NFL Game Pass and we got the Colts announcers (who were dreadful). They said several times that Eagles penalties were the Colts best plays of the game (until late). That’s not good.

As a quick aside…how bad were the announcers? The play-by-play guy got their backup QB’s name wrong for most of the 3rd quarter. Scott Tolzien was somehow Scott Tolziel. The guy corrected himself, apologized and then got it wrong again. They listed the Colts offensive coordinator as Rod Chudzinski. His name is Rob. And then this.

Nice.

*****

Quick thoughts on a few players

  • Matt Tobin appeared to have a really good game.
  • Josh Andrews played LG and C. He had some good blocks.
  • RB Byron Marshall is a quality prospect. He will block. He runs better inside than I would have guessed. Should be PS guy.
  • CJ Smith played well. I think he is in the mix for a roster spot.
  • Marcus Smith had a quiet game.
  • Rodney McLeod looked terrific. Can’t wait to watch him this year.
  • Beau Allen had a sack. I’m loving this guy in the 4-3.
  • Mychal Kendricks failed to stand out, good or bad. He was playing late in the game. My guess is that the coaches wanted him to get reps, but he might have taken that as an insult.
  • Trey Burton was 5-35, including a TD. Glad to see him get the ball and show his skills.

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The Dress Rehearsal

Posted: August 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 392 Comments »

This isn’t real. This doesn’t count. But the third preseason game is as close as you get to real football until the season actually starts. Tonight we have the Eagles going against the Colts.

Things I’ll be watching:

Wendell Smallwood – The rookie RB will get his first action of the preseason. It will be interesting to see how he runs, catches and blocks. He has to prove he can do everything if the coaches are going to trust him and use him freely during the regular season.

OL – Tonight we get Stefen Wisniewski at LG with Isaac Seumalo out. How will Wiz play? And what about the backup OL. Will Andrew Gardner move into the backup RG spot? How will the coaches use Barrett Jones?

Stephen Tulloch – How much will he play? How will the Eagles use him?

The WRs – Nelson Agholor took a step forward last week. He needs to build on that. Josh Huff needs to up his game in a big way. The coaches seem to like Chris Givens, but he’s been basically invisible so far. Oh yeah…and we need to see what that DGB guy can do.

Young CBs – Eric Rowe was better last week. He needs to keep that momentum going. Jalen Mills missed the PIT game. Both guys feel like a lock to make the roster at this point. They’re fighting for the confidence of the coaches and playing time.

Young DEs – I’m curious to see if Steven Means and/or Marcus Smith gets mixed in with the starting D at all. We know who the Big 3 are at DE. We don’t know who will be the fourth and how much that person will play. Means has had the better offseason, but Smith might have more upside. Both played well last week so it will be interesting to see how and when the coaches use them. I’d love to see Smith go against starting O-linemen. We’d see very quickly if he’s really gotten better or just looked good against backups last week.

*****

Obviously we all want to see the starting offense throw the ball effectively. The last 2 weeks have been less than overwhelming. The Colts are sitting some key DBs and their best pass rusher so the Eagles have a favorable situation. Sam Bradford needs to get the ball to his playmakers, who have to get open and then catch the ball when it does come their way.

The Eagles won’t be using their best plays and they won’t be gameplanning like normal, but that is no excuse. They need to throw the ball effectively tonight. That doesn’t mean 300 yards or 3 TDs. There are no specific targets. They just need to pass the eye test. We need to see:

  • Good protection
  • Accurate throws
  • Crisp routes
  • Smooth catches

This isn’t on one player or unit. The whole offense is part of this.

*****

Most importantly…stay healthy.

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