The Blame Game

Posted: October 22nd, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

As soon as the Eagles game was over on Sunday, a whole new game began. The blame game.

The defense blew the game.

The offense blew the game.

Jim Schwartz blew the game.

Doug Pederson blew the game.

Carson Wentz blew the game.

The real answer is that everyone blew the game. You can’t pick and choose angles. You have to look at the game in totality. Think about the offense. They put up 342 yards. They had 7 pass plays of 20 or more yards. But they still only scored 17 points. In a season when other teams are lighting up the scoreboard, the Eagles have struggled to score all year long.

The offense needed to score more than 17 points.

The defense was handed a 17-point lead. They were well-rested after the offense’s 9-minute drive. They were at home. They were facing a mediocre passing attack that didn’t have explosive WRs. The defense couldn’t come up with one stop in the 4th quarter. Not one single stop. Ronald Darby had a chance for an INT, but it would have required a sensational catch. Fletcher Cox had a chance for a sack, but couldn’t get his hands firmly on a QB that is brutally tough to take down. The defense had a chance on 4th and 10, but Jalen Mills slipped and that’s all Carolina needed to get a big play.

The defense needed to make a 17-point lead hold up.

Schwartz mixed things up a bit. There was a zone blitz on at least one play. He had DBs press and play off. He blitzed at times. He mixed up his rush groups. Nothing worked.

Pederson gave up on the run. Carolina was going to load the box and dare the Eagles to pass so I get his thinking, but to only run once in the entire 4th quarter seems curious. Maybe there were several RPOs called and Wentz went with the pass. I still think you need to mix in some runs, to help out the OL and to keep the defense somewhat off-balance.

Carson Wentz is a great QB. The Eagles are lucky to have him and the future is incredibly bright. But he fell apart when the team needed him the most. After the pass interference penalty, the Eagles were at the 22-yard line. There was 1:11 left, an eternity. The Eagles had a pair of timeouts. The entire playbook was open to Wentz and Pederson.

Wentz played desperate. Or maybe he was trying to be the hero. The ball slipped out of his hand on the first play and should have been picked off. Wentz smartly audibled on 2nd down and Smallwood ran for 8 yards to set up 3rd and short. Wentz forced a ball to Alshon Jeffery, who was double-covered. That should have been picked off. Smallwood was open in the left flat. Wentz looked at him and decided to force the ball to AJ.

The final play was awkward. The receivers seemed to be going more for the end zone than the first down. Jeffery did come wide open over the middle, but a well-executed stunt by the Panthers DL didn’t give Wentz time to get the ball to him. Why are you not calling a quick-hitter to Ertz there? Or move Wentz out of the pocket and let him have the chance to run if needed?

There is no single player or side of the ball that is totally to blame. A meltdown like that requires failure across the board.

*****

From an internal perspective, the only finger-pointing ought to be from players to the guy they see in the mirror. If the players show the right kind of accountability, maybe something good can come of this.

Accountability matters.

The Eagles have high character guys so I’d be surprised if they are blaming anyone but themselves.

*****

This is the kind of thing that Pederson will be stewing over as he studies the game. Why go away from what was working?

_


As Bad As It Gets

Posted: October 21st, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

The Eagles were up 17-0. Life was good.

Three drives by the Panthers and the Eagles were down 21-17. The Eagles had a chance to steal the game back at the end, but blew that.

This was an absolutely torturous loss. I was throwing things around and yelling at various inanimate objects. Very rarely does football make my blood boil, but that happened this afternoon. Games like this make you want to give up on sports and spend your time collecting stamps, taking nature hikes or sitting quietly and contemplating the meaning of life.

The loss to the Titans was terrible, but sometimes you are going to blow a weird game. That was just a few weeks back. The memory is fresh in everyone’s head. To blow a game under even worse circumstances is just awful. Did the players and coaches not learn from the Titans experience?

Ugh.

This is a bad loss for the Eagles from a big picture perspective. They are under .500 at 3-4. This was a conference loss. This game also sent a message to the other 31 teams. You are never out of it when playing the Eagles. Get down 14-3? No worries. Get down 17-0 late in the 3rd quarter? There is still plenty of time.

The only real bright spot is that no one got hurt.

This was a total team loss. The offense didn’t score enough points or move the chains late in the game. The defense got shredded in the 4th quarter. They disappeared when all the team needed was one play. And STs…Jake Elliott’s missed FG turned out to be bigger than anyone knew.

The coaches made some strange decisions and I’m sure they’ll be second-guessing themselves when they watch the tape.

Doug Pederson said a loss like this can galvanize a team. That is possible. It can also have a very different effect. We’ll see how things go next week in London. Pederson pushed all the right buttons a year ago. He knew that team and how to deal with it. This is a different group and I don’t think anyone fully understands what is going on.

One thing we all know. The 2018 season isn’t going anything like we expected.

_


Gameday – CAR at PHI

Posted: October 21st, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Let’s get straight to the inactives.

The only surprise is Ngata. He’s been battling a calf issue for a few weeks. The Eagles waived (injury) Destiny Vaeao this week and didn’t make any significant moves at DT so that made me think the team expected Ngata to play. Oops.

Now the Eagles have Fletcher Cox, Treyvon Hester and Bruce Hector at DT.

Doug Pederson said the Eagles had a plan, in regard to DT. He said it in an awkward way, leading me to wonder if they had something strange in mind. I speculated about rookie Josh Sweat playing some DT snaps. Maybe Peterson simply was talking about promoting Hector. We’ll find out soon enough.

***

It is a windy day in Philly. That could affect Cam Newton, who has really struggled with downfield passes this year. He’s only got one completion that went 20 yards in the air. Newton had shoulder surgery in the offseason and might still be feeling the effects of that.

***

One name is missing from the inactives…Jordan Mailata. It will be interesting to see if he plays at all. You could use him as a TE in the jumbo package. He could play on STs. Mailata’s height could help with trying to block FGs or PATs. Most likely he’s not playing unless this is a blowout, but Eagles coaches have surprised me before.

***

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Josh Adams get some carries in this game. Adrian Peterson had some success on outside runs last week against CAR. Adams is at his best on those outside runs.

***

More trade rumors this week involving the Eagles. That’s not worth getting into on gameday. I’ll cover them later.

_


Game Preview – Panthers

Posted: October 20th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Something has to give.

The Panthers have the #4 rushing offense. The Eagles have the #2 run defense.

Cam Newton has really struggled to throw the ball downfield. The Eagles…well you know.

Who wins those battles?

If this game comes down to the Red Zone, the Eagles have an advantage. They have the best RZ defense in the league. The Panthers are 31st. The Panthers don’t make it easy for you to get down to the RZ, but they are vulnerable if you get there.

I wrote my full preview for PE.com.

I honestly don’t know what to make of the Panthers. They needed a miracle to beat the awful Giants. They lost to the Skins, and at one point trailed 17-0. Carolina’s most impressive win came when they beat Cincy 31-21. The Panthers needed four takeaways to win that game.

At the same time, this team has Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Kawann Short, Thomas Davis, Greg Olsen and Christian McCaffrey. Rookie D.J. Moore was terrible last week (two fumbles), but has played well this year and has big time potential.

I think this is a game where the LBs will need to come up big. They must be able to cover McCaffrey. Sometimes Moore. Sometimes Olsen. They must chase Newton around and tackle him in space. That’s quite the challenge.

Jordan Hicks got hurt last year in Game 7. He missed out on the championship run. He’s playing well this year and you know he wants to stay healthy and make plays. Hicks should have lots of chances on Sunday. Carolina doesn’t have dynamic receivers or runners. The ball will be in the short to intermediate area a lot, right where Hicks will be. Hicks did create an INT last week, but doesn’t have a pick of his own this year. Maybe that changes on Sunday.

We’ll see if the Eagles can build on last week’s win. This is a great opportunity, with the team being at home and well-rested. They’re banged up, but most teams are. The Eagles have more than enough weapons to go win this game.

_


Still Shuffling

Posted: October 20th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

If the Eagles passing game struggles on Sunday, it won’t be Kamar Aiken’s fault.

With Destiny Vaeao gone and Haloti Ngata still hurting, the Eagles needed some help at DT. Hector is more about effort than talent, but DT is a position where that can work. Hector can give you some solid reps in a game.

Speaking of injuries…

Does Darren Sproles have the worst hamstring injury in history? Yikes. You wonder if the Eagles should just sit him until after the bye week. If he’s not healthy by then, do you just give him the Old Yeller treatment? Sproles has been a terrific player for a long time and I hate that his final season has gone like this. It would be great if he could get healthy and help the team with some big plays down the stretch.

The secondary is going to be without the #3 CB and the #3 safety. Clearly that’s not ideal. It will be interesting to see if Avonte Maddox focused on the slot and then Rasul Douglas plays some S. Or will the Eagles use Deiondre’ Hall or Tre Sullivan? If you’re going to have those guys on the roster, they should play at some point.

This is another situation where the bottom of the roster needs to step up and help the team.

*****

Jalen Mills tweaked his hamstring during the week, but Doug Pederson says Mills is ready to go. An injury to him would have really made things tough.

*****

A RB got traded and it didn’t involve the Eagles.

Hyde is a limited receiver. He’s not an explosive runner. He would have given the Eagles a big, physical runner that they are currently lacking, but you don’t trade picks for that. That’s a guy you sign cheap as a free agent (LeGarrette Blount).

Hyde is a better fit for the Jags and what they want to do on offense.

*****

Another sign of just how crazy offenses are this year. From PFT.

So far this NFL season, 94 games have been played. In three of those games, both teams scored 40 or more points.

From the 2014 season through the 2017 season, 1,024 games were played. Only twice did both teams score 40 or more points.

That should make you feel better about the Eagles defense, which hasn’t given up more than 27 points in a game.

On the flip side…that should make you feel worse about the offense, which hasn’t scored more than 34 points in a game. One of these weeks the offense is going to explode. Sunday would be fine with me.

_