Foles Eve

Posted: December 16th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 15 Comments »

Are you excited? Nervous? Flat out worried?

Sunday is just one game, but it will set the tone for the final few weeks. Foles could come out rusty or he could come out and play at a high level. It will be a really bad sign if he really struggles. Opposing QBs have a rating of 99 against the Giants. This is a team you should be able to throw effectively on.

If you do want to feel optimistic, Fran Duffy is your man. Fran put together a great post at PE.com showing how and why Foles will succeed in the Eagles offense. Great job by Mr. D.

I’m optimistic, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some concern at all. Anyone who saw Foles play Dallas in October of 2013 knows what I’m talking about. He was 11-29-80. He was awful. Foles made poor reads. He made poor throws. He missed wide open guys. The Eagles lost 17-3. Foles played much better after that game and ended up having a great season. But you did see just what rock bottom looked like.

Sunday is going to be one of the most interesting 11-2 vs 2-11 matchups in a long time.

*****

Brent Celek might be in his final season. He’s certainly having some fun.

*****

I am curious to see what Jim Schwartz does on Sunday.

The Giants were conservative in the first meeting. They were very conservative last week, running a draw on 3rd/14 in the Red Zone.

Will Schwartz blitz and attack to disrupt them? Will he let them dink and dunk and focus on tackling? If you make them drive the long field, 5 yards at a time, life will be hard on Eli. But it also is frustrating for defensive players, especially pass rushers.

Eli was getting rid of the ball in two seconds or less sometimes in the first game. Rushers have no shot against that.

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Game Review – PHI 43, LAR 35

Posted: December 16th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 38 Comments »

What a win.

What a loss.

The Eagles went to Los Angeles and came up with their most impressive win of the year. It was also the most costly, with Carson Wentz tearing his ACL.

This isn’t the first time the Eagles have had a star QB go down. Randall got hurt in the 1991 season opener. Donovan went down in Week 10 in 2002 and 2006. In some ways, the game reminded me of 1993.

The upstart Eagles surprised everyone by going 3-0 and then traveled to the Meadowlands to face the Jets. Randall Cunningham went down in the game. The Eagles made a crazy comeback in a shootout to win 35-30. It was great to see the team get to 4-0, but the injury to Randall put a gloomy outlook on the rest of the year.

That was a great win and a terrible loss in the same 3-hour period.

There are huge differences between then and now. Bubby Brister was the backup QB on that team. For those who don’t know him, Brister was a mediocre talent with a strong arm. He lacked accuracy and poise. But other than that…

Nick Foles is worlds better than Brister. This Eagles team is also worlds better than that bunch. Age, injuries and poor drafts weakened the Eagles over time and that really started to show in 1993. In the 12 games without Randall, the Eagles scored 10 or fewer points six times. Using my special formula I can tell you that’s not good. I’d explain the formula to you, but I doubt you’re smart enough to understand all the complex variables (like points and games).

The 2017 Eagles are an outstanding team. Carson Wentz has been the key to the season, but this is a complete team. They are Top 5 in points scored, yards gained, points and yards allowed. That doesn’t happen because of just Carson Wentz. This is a good team.

And Sunday was a team win.

Wentz was picked off on the third play of the game. The Rams scored three plays later, and made it look easy. I was a bit nervous at that point, but part of me also thought that might work against the Rams. Teams that score really quickly can sometimes go flat. Sure enough, the Eagles were up 21-7 early in the 2nd quarter. They looked dominant. It was hard not to be excited at that point.

The Rams faced 3rd and 10 on the next drive. Jared Goff hit Cooper Kupp for what was going to be a 1st down. Rodney McLeod missed the tackle. Then Malcolm Jenkins missed a tackle. 20 yards downfield Patrick Robinson missed him. Kupp ended up getting 64 yards on that play. About 50 of them came after the catch. That was a huge turning point in the game. The Eagles had another chance to make things right. Goff threw a bad pass that Nigel Bradham should have picked off inside the 5, but Bradham dropped it.

Instead of protecting the 21-7 lead, the Rams scored to cut it to 21-14 and it was Game On.

The Rams took control of the game in the 3rd quarter. They scored an offensive TD and then blocked a punt and returned that for a score. The Eagles 24-14 lead was gone and the Rams led 28-24. They also had momentum on their side. The Eagles looked a little shell-shocked.

Wentz then led a TD drive that put the Eagles back on top, 31-28. The happiness that brought was short-lived. Wentz headed into the medical tent and then walked to the locker room with a towel on his head.

Gulp.

I didn’t think the injury was all that serious initially, but the reports coming out changed that in a hurry.

The Rams showed no sympathy. They went right down the field and scored to re-take the lead, 35-31.

Nick Foles came into the game and nobody knew exactly what to expect. He led the team down the field and they got a FG to cut into the lead. That was encouraging. Foles had done his part and now it was up to the defense to theirs.

The Rams offense had gone through the defense with ease for parts of the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Schwartz said the coaches and players talked about making adjustments, but decided it was more important to just execute better. That’s exactly what happened.

Chris Long made the play of the game when he strip-sacked Goff and McLeod recovered the fumble. That set the Eagles up in scoring position and they got a FG to take the lead back at 37-35. The defense held the Rams to a 3 & out, giving the ball back to Foles and the offense with 2:02 left.

The Rams had the 2-minute warning and all three timeouts so this wasn’t some glorified kneel-down situation. The Eagles had to have a 1st down. Foles hit Nelson Agholor for 9 yards on 3rd & 8 to move the chains and all but end the game. The Rams did get the ball back with a second left, but their desperation play turned into a Brandon Graham TD and celebration for the Eagles.

That was a wild game with all kinds of twists. It would have been easy for the Eagles to fold after the blocked punt or the Wentz injury. Didn’t happen. The team kept grinding away and they dominated the 4th quarter. Goff has been brilliant this year for the Rams, but he looked nervous with the game on the line. The Eagles made clutch plays and came away with the W.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was certainly beautiful.

That was the kind of exciting, compelling, important game that should be talked about for years, but the focus will always be Wentz tearing his ACL.

COACHING

Doug Pederson was conservative in Seattle, but that changed this week. He went back to being aggressive and it paid off in a big way. He threw on 3rd/1. He went for it on 4th downs twice, throwing passes both times. He challenged a bad spot.  Read the rest of this entry »


The Backup Plan

Posted: December 14th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 141 Comments »

Nick Foles is the new starter. Everyone knows that and has 1000 percent complete faith he will play at an elite level for the next couple of months. Right?

But what happens if Foles gets hurt? Your backup is…Nate Sudfeld.

I’m sure Sudfeld is a terrific person. I bet you would enjoy chugging some PBRs and listening to Three Sides Live by Genesis with him. Or maybe discussing the role of Admiral Nelson in the Battle of Copenhagen. That’s all well and good, but the real question is whether Sudfeld can be a functional NFL QB.

He has never thrown a pass in an NFL game. That means he is about as raw as you can get. Sudfeld has been with the Eagles since cutdown day, when the Skins let him go. The Eagles put him on the practice squad for about half the season. The Colts talked about adding Sudfeld to their roster, but the Eagles ended that idea by adding him to their active roster.

The Eagles coaches say they like Sudfeld and see him as a player to develop.

I was not a fan of Sudfeld’s when he came out of Indiana. His highlights were good, but I saw a player who was just too inconsistent for me. He does remind me of Nick Foles. Both are big pocket passers with some mobility. Sudfeld has the better arm. I might not be the only one who sees Sudfeld and Foles as similar. For those who don’t remember, Doug Pederson was the Eagles coach who worked Nick Foles out prior to the 2012 draft and who really liked him.

Sudfeld did play in the last two preseasons. He played the entire preseason finale for the Skins this summer, going 22-33-228 and leading them to a dominant crappy 13-10 win over the ’85 Bears crappy Bucs.

Here are some preseason highlights.

Here is a good game of his from his days at Indiana.

There is no question that Sudfeld has some talent. He makes some impressive throws. He puts good touch on his passes and gives his receivers a chance to make a play. You want a guy who throws a catchable ball. I think his skill set fits the Eagles offense. I think Sudfeld could develop into a solid backup.

My concern for now is relying on him in such crucial games. If Foles stays healthy, who cares. But what if Foles does get hurt? Man, you’d have no idea what to expect from Sudfeld.

It would be great if the Eagles could get Sudfeld some reps somewhere in the next three weeks. Build a big lead on Sunday or against the Raiders and see what the kid can do. Just let him get a feel for the speed of the NFL game. You could argue that the Eagles could let him start a game if they clinch homefield advantage. There is risk in that, as Jimmy Bama points out. You don’t want to take away from the Eagles momentum heading into the playoffs. Foles also needs all the reps he can get.

If the Eagles are up 31-10 or 27-9 or something like that with less than 10 minutes left on Sunday, I’d put Sudfeld in. You need a three-possession lead in the 4th quarter. If the Eagles somehow have a huge lead, definitely put him in. The Eagles should win on Sunday, but with Foles at QB you just don’t know how much the Eagles will score.

The Eagles could add a veteran QB, but there just aren’t good options at this time of the year. Matt McGloin played for the team this summer, but he was awful. RG III is on the market, but hasn’t played in a while. Colin Kaepernick is healthy, talented and has Super Bowl experience. But he’s also sat for a while and would bring all kinds of attention to the team. Some of you would object to Kap for political reasons. I would tell you to put that argument on hold, go look at the Eagles trophy case and then get back to me.

I want this team to do whatever they feels improves their chances of getting to and winning the Super Bowl. Go sign Tony Romo, Troy Aikman or friggin’ Benedict Arnold. Do what it takes to win.

The counter argument is that Sudfeld has been here all year and knows the system. Adding a talented veteran who doesn’t know the system and is rusty is hardly an ideal option. It takes time to get into football shape and have any kind of timing. This is mid-December. There isn’t much time to spare.

There is one angle to this that I do like. Pederson has preached Next Man Up all year. He’s shown confidence in the backups and they have mostly played well when given the chance to help. Sticking with Sudfeld means sticking with the philosophy and there is something to be said for that. This team has great chemistry from top to bottom, in part because every player feels like they contribute.

Hopefully Sudfeld’s contribution will be kneel-downs in blowout wins.

*****

Stefen Wisniewski was limited in practice today. That’s better than nothing, but still makes you nervous for Sunday. Jason Kelce had an interesting mishap. Go read Les Bowen’s practice notes for the details and a funny Carson Wentz story.

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Clean It Up

Posted: December 13th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 149 Comments »

The Eagles won on Sunday. They did this despite:

  • Nigel Bradham dropping a pair of INTs, including one in the Red Zone
  • Mack Hollins dropping a TD
  • Giving up a blocked punt for TD
  • Missing multiple tackles
  • Allowing 5 plays of 20 or more yards
  • Having a false start inside the 1-yard line
  • Allowing the Rams to go 4 for 4 in the Red Zone

The Eagles won that game because Carson Wentz played so well for three quarters and the team was clutch in the 4th quarter, winning in all three phases.

They won’t be able to make those kinds of mistakes with Nick Foles as QB. I’m not saying the team has to be perfect. This isn’t a flawed team that is .500 and fighting for their playoff lives. That was the 2006 Eagles. This is an outstanding team.

But this team doesn’t just want to have a good season. They don’t want to just make the postseason. They want to win the Super Bowl.

To win games down the stretch and in January, the Eagles are going to need to cut down on mistakes and make plays when they those chances come up. That game might have been very different if Bradham caught the ball in the Red Zone. That would have killed a scoring drive and deflated the Rams. That game might have been very different if Corey Clement blocked the correct rusher on the punt. The Eagles still had the lead at that moment.

The fact the Eagles did make those clutch plays in the 4th quarter says a lot about this team. And Foles had a hand in some of those plays. There was real pressure in that game on Sunday. Foles handled it well. That is something that will translate well to the postseason.

The defense really struggled in the 3rd quarter. Jim Schwartz said they were awful. Forget the desperation play at the end and the Rams ran 10 plays for 15 yards in the final quarter. It wasn’t like Jared Goff and Todd Gurley were sitting out, either. The Eagles just outplayed them when it mattered.

The Eagles need to start playing clean football on Sunday. The Giants are hardly tough competition right now, but the Eagles need to get back to good habits.

*****

Doug Pederson said that Zach Ertz is out of concussion protocol and will play on Sunday. That’s the good news.

Stefen Wisniewski sat out practice with a bum ankle. That’s not good. The offense struggled when he went out on Sunday. The combination of Chance Warmack and Isaac Seumalo were not nearly as effective at LG as Wiz had been. That hurt the offense.

Foles is more nimble than some realize, but there is no question that pressure will bother him more than it did Wentz.

The Eagles need the O-line to stay healthy. If Wiz needs to sit Sunday to get back to 100 percent, do it. You can beat the Giants with Seumalo at LG. You aren’t going to win much in January with him. You need Wiz for that.

*****

More than a few people have questioned the Eagles schedule. Just a week ago I wrote about that idea and the need for context. Things change quickly in the NFL.

The Eagles now have wins over:

Chargers 7-6
Panthers 9-4
Cowboys 7-6
Rams 9-4

All of those teams except for Dallas are atop their division or tied for the lead. We’ll see where things end up, but any notion that the Eagles have played a completely soft schedule and beaten only bad teams is just wrong.

Oh yeah…all of those wins came on the road. Even more impressive.

*****

I used to love reading stuff like this. Now it leads to mixed feelings. Love what Wentz did, but it is kind of scary/depressing to have to think about life without him.

*****

Speaking of Mr. wentz…

I can’t believe that slacker isn’t halfway done with his rehab yet.

Get going, #11.

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Win the Week

Posted: December 13th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 163 Comments »

Doug Pederson’s message all year has been to “Win the week”. All coaches preach something like this, but Doug seems to get this team to really buy into the message. That’s how this team avoids trap games and seems to overcome whatever is in front of them.

It is imperative that Pederson stay on message and that the players stay focused. The Eagles can’t go win the Super Bowl this week. They’re just playing the Giants. The Eagles can help their chances by winning and securing a playoff bye. They could hurt themselves with a sloppy performance. That could hurt their bid for home field advantage. It could also erode their confidence, which is still pretty high.

I love the movie Miller’s Crossing. There is a great line in there where Tom tells crime boss Leo, “You don’t hold elected office in this town. You run it because people think you do. They stop thinking it, you stop running it.”

I think that applies to the Eagles to a certain extent. This team doesn’t have a great track record. They’ve come together quickly and played at a high level, but part of that is because they believe in each other and play with such confidence. Corey Clement and Mack Hollins aren’t stars, but they are key contributors as rookies. Patrick Robinson was a player that no one wanted. Now he’s one of the best slot corners in the league. Jake Elliott went from being cut by the Bengals to being the King of Philadelphia.

If any doubt starts to creep in, it will hurt the team, possibly in a big way.

Right now, everyone is confident in Nick Foles. Doug Pederson loves him. Jim Schwartz and the defense believe in him. Frank Reich believes in him. So do the players.

Zing!!!

I get Les’s point. Some of the support for Foles seems a bit over the top. That’s a tough balancing act. You want to support your player/teammate, but also risk sounding a bit delusional if you’re too positive.

That said, I’d rather have players too optimistic than the other option. Easier to make a confident guy doubt a little than to make a doubter feel confidence.

Sunday will be a really interesting day. I wasn’t sure this would be a compelling game as of last week, but now this will be one of the most anticipated Sundays in a while. We all want to see just what Foles can do. (fingers crossed)

*****

I wrote a piece for PE.com on the Rams game and Foles taking over at QB. I mixed in a few stories to show how this can work.

Some people brought up Jeff Hostetler leading the 1990 Giants to the Super Bowl. He went from being Phil Simms backup in December to starting for the G-men in the playoffs.

And of course Frank Reich can also share his experience of going from Jim Kelly’s backup in 1992 to starting for the team in the playoffs and leading them to a Super Bowl appearance.

When you have a strong overall team, you can mix in a backup for a short time and still win big games.

*****

The Eagles have not played great on STs recently. Braman was a key STer in the previous few years. Adding him in should only help the units.

*****

The coaches are probably excited to get a look at him. We’ll have to wait and see how he can perform. Jones has worked hard off the field, but getting back on it, as a rookie no less, is tricky. Doesn’t seem likely he’ll play this year, but let’s wait and see how he does on the field.

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