Coming Up Short

Posted: October 15th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

In the previous post I talked about how the Eagles were seen as having arguably the best roster in all of the league. Let’s talk about that. Some critics now tear that notion apart, but a lot of smart people believed it to be true. So what happened?

There isn’t one simple answer.

Injuries are the biggest issue. We expected Fletcher Cox to be playing at his usual level, as one of the most dominant players in the league. Cox is getting better each week, but hasn’t looked like the dominant DT we’re used to. DeSean Jackson has basically played in one game. He looked great, but has been missing since. Kamu Grugier-Hill had a great offseason and looked to be a breakout player. He got hurt and is just now getting back on the field.

Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan gave the Eagles great depth at DT. Jackson is done for the year and Jernigan hasn’t played much. Ronald Darby hasn’t looked 100 percent at any time this year. Avonte Maddox has had a few issues to deal with and is out now. Cre’Von LeBlanc hasn’t played a snap this year.

We haven’t really seen the team that everyone raved about in August. And we won’t. Some of these guys won’t be back this year.

Another issue is that there are too many underachievers right now. Mack Hollins is healthy, but he’s not producing. DeSean caught 8 passes in the opener. Hollins has 10 catches for the season. That isn’t good, no matter how you spin it. Nelson Agholor has 23 catches, but has had several key drops and he hasn’t been able to hook up with Carson Wentz on deep balls. Agholor’s production would be fine if he was just a #3 or #4 receiver. Right now he’s your #2 guy and he’s not getting the job done.

Jim Schwartz called out his LBs today, saying they aren’t making enough plays. He’s absolutely right. Nigel Bradham was a Pro Bowl type of player in 2017. He’s not played at that level since. I know he’s versatile and tough and the coaches like him, but he needs to be more productive. Zach Brown already got his walking papers.

As much as everyone loves Malcolm Jenkins, he’s not made a lot of plays this year. He’s had some coverage issues, as we saw on Sunday. Jenkins needs to play better.

The team paid Isaac Seumalo good money in the offseason and he hasn’t played to that level. He was dreadful against the Falcons and was probably the main reason the Eagles lost. Seumalo has been better since then, but still needs to play better.

Sidney Jones continues to disappoint. He’s good here and there, but not consistently. Rasul Douglas has been beaten for multiple long TDs. Yes, he expected help on some of them, but that’s why you want CBs to have good recovery speed. Go catch the WR and tackle him. When receivers get behind Douglas, they can start planning their TD celebration.

Josh Sweat and Vinny Curry have combined for 2 sacks. They have each had good moments, but aren’t productive enough.

One of the links with this issue is poor drafting. Howie Roseman has hit big on Wentz, Cox, Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Jason Kelce, and Dallas Goedert. Those guys are outstanding players. Derek Barnett, Miles Sanders, Maddox and Big V have all shown serious talent or been effective starters.

There are a lot of misses as well.

There are plenty of other misses over the years. And not everyone has to become a Pro Bowl player, but mid-round picks like Josh Sweat, Donnel Pumphrey, Josh Huff and Jaylen Watkins didn’t become starters or key role players.

To be fair, some of those picks are on Chip Kelly and some on Joe Douglas. This isn’t about assigning blame so much as it is pointing out the organization hasn’t done well enough in the draft. The pro personnel department has made up for that with some great trades and signings, but it is hard to maintain that. You need young, cheap talent and that means you must draft well.

One other problem with the 2019 Eagles is that they aren’t making key plays. We might feel very differently about this team if Agholor catches that pass against the Falcons and runs in for the go-ahead TD. We would feel very differently about JJ Arcega-Whiteside if he had caught the deep ball late in the Lions game. Part of what made the 2017 team so good is that they were so clutch. That team made key plays all year long. And not all by stars. Role players stepped up and helped get the job done.

Not now.

The final issue is that this team isn’t playing enough like a team. Four of five linemen will execute blocks correctly. One DB will blow a coverage. Or one will get called for holding on third-and-long. Carson Wentz makes a great throw only to have a receiver drop it. A receiver runs a great route to get open deep and Carson is off-target. Players must help each other to function at a high level. That isn’t happening with any consistency this year.

Pederson has talked about the fact the team doesn’t feel in sync. Schwartz talked about a situation Sunday when the offense needed the defense to step up and get the job done. Didn’t happen. This collection of coaches and players has to be better as a whole unit.

I still believe the Eagles have plenty of talent. They should be playing better than they are. The coaches can be part of the solution, but it sure feels like most of this is on the players.

Get healthy.

Eliminate sloppy mistakes.

Play up to your ability and help out your teammates.

There is no need for some crazy schematic change. There are no miracle cures. There is enough talent for this team to win games and get to the postseason. Winning on Sunday would be a great place to turn things around.

_


Modern Art

Posted: October 14th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 4 Comments »

Experts throughout the NFL universe agreed that the Eagles had a stacked roster, arguably the best in all of football. That was before the season. Six games into 2019, that sure looks like a grand illusion.

The Eagles lead the NFL in dropped passes. The defense is ranked 28th against the pass, and they’re only that high because they faced the awful Jets in Week 5. Derek Barnett has more penalties than sacks. Mack Hollins has one catch in the past three weeks, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside can’t beat him out for playing time. You get the point. There are problems all over.

It is easy to be down on this team right now. Anyone who saw the team play on Sunday has serious questions.

Doug Pederson feels differently. He is very confident in his team, noting the film shows they are just a few plays away. While there is some truth in what he says, there are legitimate problems with this team. Is the secondary a fatal flaw?

Let’s say DeSean Jackson comes back and is lights out. The rest of the receiving corps stars making plays and stops dropping passes. Let’s say the Eagles average 28 points a game. Can the secondary keep good offenses under that on a regular basis?

Rasul Douglas lacks the pure speed to handle fast receivers. Sidney Jones has confidence issues and can’t stay healthy. Avonte Maddox isn’t healthy. He could be a few weeks away. Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are getting closer to playing. Darby was getting targeted left and right before he got hurt. Mills hasn’t played in a year and he wasn’t exactly Deion Sanders when he was healthy last year.

So exactly who is the answer?

The Eagles were able to win a Super Bowl with Darby and Mills starting outside. The Eagles were 17th in passing yards allowed that year. To be fair, the pass rush was better and the LBs were playing at a higher level. Right now the whole defense is at fault. Aside from the run defense, nothing is working consistently right now.

I do think this team can get things turned around. As Pederson pointed out, the Eagles are 3-3. This isn’t the 1-5 Falcons or the 2-4 Chargers, who have lost 4 of 5, with the only win coming against the Dolphins. Those teams are having disastrous seasons.

The Eagles are disappointing and there is no question about that. I still believe that having a coach like Doug Pederson and a QB like Carson Wentz means you have the most important pieces in the NFL and that gives you a chance to win.

Something is just off right now. I don’t know what. The coaches don’t know either.

Good move.

Listen, I was a fan of signing Brown. I thought he was a talented veteran who would help the LB corps. Brown struggled all spring. He was better in the preseason, but that really didn’t translate to the regular season. Then he ran his mouth prior to the Vikings game. To make matters worse, he didn’t play well.

When the Eagles are at their best, they have a great locker room and winning culture. The players bring out the best in each other. Clearly Brown wasn’t part of the solution.

Nigel Bradham isn’t 100 percent right now so you can question the timing, but this is a sign from the coaches and front office that they want the right guys and not the biggest names. They trust Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry and rookie T.J. Edwards to get the job done. Another LB will be added to replace Brown, but I’m not expecting a big name.

There will be a lot of talk about who the Eagles should trade for. Do they go for a CB, DT, WR or DE?

I think adding talent from another team could be a big help, but no outsider is going to solve all the problems. The biggest answers are going to come from within. The dropped passes have to stop. The dumb penalties have to stop. Missed blocking assignments have to stop. Blown coverages have to stop.

Players need to hold each other accountable. The coaches need to hold the players accountable. Doug Pederson needs to hold his staff accountable and Jeffrey Lurie needs to hold Pederson accountable.

I am curious about Pederson. He got snippy with the media on Monday. That’s not a good sign. He’s usually at his best when he’s loose. When Pederson is uptight, the players can sense that. Then again, maybe that is what this particular team needs. Pederson was loose last week and that didn’t work too well.

There will be a lot of talk this week about his “guarantee”. Pederson said the Eagles would win this week in Dallas and the media ran with that. He tried to explain he wasn’t guaranteeing anything, but just showing confidence in his team. Talk radio and Twitter rarely parse words that carefully. They’ll be obsessing on the guarantee angle. To me, that’s much ado about nothing. I’m more focused on whether Pederson can solve his team’s problems than worrying about one comment on a radio show.

Pederson doesn’t panic. There were real tough stretches in 2016 and 2018. Pederson kept his team together and was able to right the ship. He handled all the injuries of 2017 and kept that team playing at a high level. He’s got another big challenge on his hands right now.

Trying to figure out the Eagles right now is like looking at a piece of modern art. Is this blur of lines and colors a unicorn riding into the sunset or Satan hurling a ball of fire toward New Jersey?

Pederson sees the Eagles as a fixable team. He believes in this group of players. He sees the unicorn.

Time will tell if he’s right.

_


Rough Day in the Land of Purple

Posted: October 13th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 4 Comments »

The Eagles played great on Sunday, for about a third of the game. Unfortunately, that wasn’t anywhere close to being good enough.

The Vikings got up 24-3 to take control of the game. The Eagles came storming back, scoring 17 unanswered points. That got the game to 24-20. The Vikings then scored the last 14 points and won going away.

There are plenty of issues to discuss, but none bigger than the Eagles secondary. Stefon Diggs was 7-167-3 and Adam Thielen was 6-57-1. There were some impressive catches, but for the most part, they had it easy. Too easy.

We know the Eagles DBs aren’t elite talents, but the problems were compounded due to confusion and discipline. Rasul Douglas was burned for a pair of long TDs. On one, it looked like the Eagles were in quarters coverage and the Vikings had a great call. Rodney McLeod took a crosser, leaving Douglas alone with Diggs. If McLeod doesn’t do that, the crosser is wide open. You wish Douglas had better long speed so he could make up ground on that play and at least prevent the TD.

There was another long ball TD. Douglas acted like he expected deep help, but there was only one DB behind him. I don’t know who was at fault there. We are in Week 6. This defense shouldn’t be having those kind of issues.

Douglas was called for holding twice and both times he was guilty of grabbing jersey with his hand and tugging so blatantly that Stevie Wonder could have seen it. Those can be back-breaking penalties.

Sidney Jones started across from  him and struggled big time. He was replaced at one point by Craig James.

The Eagles aren’t going to face many teams that can run the ball as well as the Vikings and have a pair of dynamic receivers. But any team like that will give the Eagles fits. The secondary just can’t cover well consistently right now. Will the return of Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills be enough?

The Eagles offense had their share of issues as well, but they put up 20 points and 400 yards on a Top 5 defense. Carson Wentz was brilliant for part of the game. He made some great throws. He finished with 306 yards and a pair of TDs. RB Miles Sanders was 3-86-1 as a receiver. He’s becoming a real weapon in the passing game.

Doug Pederson made a controversial decision late in the half. The Eagles were down 24-10. They had picked off Kirk Cousins and got the ball down inside the Red Zone. They lined up to kick a FG on fourth down, but Pederson called for a fake. Jake Elliott was looking for Dallas Goedert, but the Vikings had him covered and picked off the pass.

I did not like this one bit. If you hit the FG, you’re down 24-13 and you get the ball after halftime. You have momentum. You start to feel good about yourself. Instead, the Eagles got nothing. Vikings fans went nuts and the players went into the break pumped up.

Some argue that Pederson was smart to go for it, arguing that the defense was struggling and the team needed seven points. I get that, but I just don’t like the odds on a trick play like that. You’re asking Elliott to come up big in a critical situation. If Pederson really wanted the TD, just leave the offense out there and go for it.

In the end, the fake FG didn’t affect the outcome.

This was a tough loss. The Eagles have two more road games in a row and tough opponents for the next month. The coaches and DBs need to figure some things out. DeSean Jackson needs to get healthy to help out the offense.

The Eagles are 3-3. If the Jets (up 14-3) actually upset Dallas, the Eagles will still be tied for the division lead. This is far from the end of the world. But it sure was a tough, frustrating day.

There is a lot to improve for this team to start playing good football.

_


Halftime – MIN 24, PHI 10

Posted: October 13th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

What a crappy half of football. The secondary couldn’t cover anyone. The offense struggled to get going. Doug and his staff have their worst day of coaching for the season. Not a good combination, obviously.

The Eagles were down 24-3 and then scored a TD. That made me start to think things were turning around. Then they get a late INT at midfield. Go get some points and have momentum heading into the half. The coaches go for a fake FG and that blows up.

Ugh.

The Eagles do get the ball to start the 2nd half. If they can go score some points, that will keep pressure on the Vikings.

_


Gameday – PHI at MIN

Posted: October 13th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Gameday is here. Eagles at Vikings. The weather is getting colder and this has the vibe of a big game. Let’s start by looking at the inactives.

Sidney Jones is active. He was last week as well, but didn’t play. The difference is that he did practice this week and that’s a huge deal for coaches. Expect Jones to play today. Doug Pederson talked about Jones and his need to fight through injuries so it will be interesting to see how Jones reacts to that. Will that bring out the best in him? Pederson usually knows which buttons to push with his players.

Boston Scott is active and he’ll be the #3 RB today. I’m curious to see if they work him into the offense by design or if the coaches just want him as an emergency option. Scott could be the team’s PR. That job is up for grabs with Darren Sproles being injured.

I feel good about the Eagles run defense being able to Dalvin Cook and the Vikings. I’m not feeling so good about the Eagles CBs vs Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Those guys are outstanding route runners. I could see them Rasul Douglas fits with their cuts and moves. As for Jones, you just wonder how confident he is. That’s a big part of being a CB. Jones needs to go out there and believe he’s Troy Vincent, Eric Allen and Asante Samuel rolled into one.

I think the Eagles offense will be okay, if not flat out good. The last time Mike Zimmer really shut down the Eagles, Big V was the RT and Josh Huff was the team’s leading receiver. This is a much better group. Pederson has shown the ability to scheme well against top DCs. Receivers just need to remember to hold onto the ball. Drops are bad, guys.

The Eagles defense has multiple takeaways in 3 of the past 4 games. Keep that up and the Eagles will come away with a win.

Josh Sweat comes up with another sack today and the Eagles DL has another strong showing. That pressure is enough to help the DBs and the guys in green find a way to win this game.

_