A Tricky Situation

Posted: September 30th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

The job of a coach is simple. Win as many games as possible. The job of a general manager is simple. Build as strong a roster as possible. Those descriptions are true under normal circumstances. The Eagles 0-2-1 start has muddied the waters.

Doug Pederson needs to win games. But he also has to think about developing the young players on his team. Losing games with a veteran roster is a waste of everyone’s time. When things go wrong, you want to make the most of the situation. In a bad year that means playing the young guys.

Howie Roseman is normally studying 31 other rosters, looking at potential trade targets. His job is to see if he can find some in-season help for the team. When the season falls apart, you have to make the switch from buyer to seller.

The challenge here is that the season isn’t lost yet. The NFC East is bad (again). Pederson owes it to his coaches and players to focus on winning for now. This could be the final season for Brandon Graham or DeSean Jackson, among others. You need to do what you can to get them back to the playoffs.

If the Eagles win this week and Dallas and Washington lose, the Eagles will be in first place. That is sad for the NFC East and the NFL in general. Still, if you can find a way to get to the postseason, you do it.

It is hard to look at the schedule and imagine the Eagles winning 8 games. This is a very banged up football team. They are a sloppy team. Right now, they are playing like a dumb football team. That’s not a good combination.

The craziness of football is that you never know when things will change. I’ve seen Eagles teams play like garbage and then come alive. The difference is that there are usually special circumstances (coach in his first season, switch at QB, etc.). This team has a veteran coach and QB. I’m not sure what spark would change things for this team.

Still, if the Eagles can stay near the top of the division, Pederson and Roseman will have to stay focused on winning.

If this team starts 0-5-1, which is possible with the Niners, Steelers and Ravens up next, that changes things. You have to then focus on the future. As much as it would hurt, put vets like Graham and DeSean on the trade block. Bench/cut/IR Jason Peters and get a young OT on the field. Find out if Jordan Mailata, Jack Driscoll or Prince Tega-Wanogho can play.

When you are dealt lemons, don’t try to make a 6-9-1 pie. Play the kids. Build for the future. Don’t let this be a season where you come away with questions on the young talent. Old, slow and bad is…wait for it…bad.

This team sure doesn’t seem to have strong chemistry right now so it sure feels more likely for the wheels to come off than this group going on a run.

Then again, this is the Eagles. They love to get hot when you’ve given up on them so that they can drag you back in and remind you just what an emotionally exhausting addiction this franchise is.

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More bad news today.

Butler was a terrific wide receiver in college. Some people really loved his tape and thought he could be a Top 50 pick. Butler slid to the 4th round. He spent 2019 on IR with the Cardinals. They cut Butler a few weeks back.

Now the Eagles are taking a chance on him as a TE. I like the move. With Goedert out, the Eagles could have signed a veteran. Instead they are taking a chance on a young guy with upside. This might not pan out, but I do like taking a chance on young talent.

Butler has a big frame. He’s fast. He can go up and get the ball. Butler is tough to tackle after the catch. We’ll have to see if he can block. That’s the biggest challenge for most guys going from WR to TE.

*****

The Eagles will get some help at WR soon. Alshon Jeffery will practice this week and will get back on the field in the coming weeks.

Watkins will need time to practice and get some conditioning time in. He’s another young player with explosive potential. I don’t know how ready he is to contribute, but this offense needs all the speed it can get.

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The New Normal

Posted: September 28th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

We all remember Doug Pederson talking after the Super Bowl about how playing into Februrary was going to be the “new normal” for the Eagles. He was fresh off winning a Super Bowl and had huge expectations for the future of his team.

Since that iconic victory, things have not gone as Pederson hoped. The Eagles are 19-18-1 since hoisting the Lombardi. That record is boosted by playing in the worst division in the league. In non-division games, the Eagles are just 10-14-1 over that span.

Yikes.

The Eagles did get to the postseason in 2018 and 2019. They have had to deal with an incredible amount of injuries. Let’s make sure to give Pederson and his players credit for what they did accomplish. In 2018, they weren’t that far from making it back to the NFC Championship.

Pederson envisioned a team that would play at a high level and contend for titles each year. Instead, the Eagles have started seasons 4-6, 5-7 and now 0-2-1. They had to claw their way into the playoffs in 2018 and 2019, but that sure seems unlikely this year. The NFC East is awful once again, but the Eagles are winless after going through arguably the easiest part of their schedule.

The 2017 Eagles won seven regular season games by double digits. The Eagles have won seven games by double digits since then.

The 2017 team won five games by 23 or more points. The Eagles have won three games by 23 or more points since then.

They aren’t winning as much. They aren’t winning as big. 2017 was the anomaly.

Jeffrey Lurie must have incredibly conflicted feelings right now. Pederson and Howie Roseman delivered him a Super Bowl and that’s not to be taken lightly. At the same time, the last two plus years have to be a bit troubling. The franchise QB has regressed. The talent level of the team isn’t where it needs to be. There really isn’t a sense of a plan right now.

What do you do?

The best case scenario for this year is that the Eagles go 8-7-1 (or something like that) and win the division, which is possible. Still, that would be a third straight underwhelming season. Lurie will be comparing the Pederson era to his time with Andy Reid.

Reid never could win the Super Bowl in Philly, but his teams were consistently strong in the first few years.

1999  5-11
2000  11-5
2001  11-5
2002  12-4
2003  12-4
2004  13-3

They won 10 or more games in 2006, 2009 and 2010. The 2008 team went 9-6-1, but almost got to the Super Bowl.

When Reid was hired, he talked about building a program. There was a plan. There was a process. Things didn’t always go as hoped, but you could see progress and success.

Pederson took over a team that was much further along. The Eagles were able to compete in his first year and then win it all in his second. Things have been downhill since then. Whatever plan Pederson had, it hasn’t worked.

One big difference here is that Reid had total control. Pederson relies on Roseman to bring in the talent and that’s been an issue the past few years. How many blue chip players have the Eagles acquired since the Super Bowl? One – Darius Slay. And the Eagles got him at age 29. There have been far too many misses in the past few years.

Lurie needs to decide what the bigger problem is…coaching or personnel. The really bad possibility is that both have an equal hand in this mess.

I’m not calling for anyone to be fired right now, but I think Lurie has to start doing some tough evaluations on his organization. I want to stress that this is not about playing the blame game. You don’t panic when things go wrong. But you also don’t ignore a troubling trend. If you rank the recent teams in order…

2017
2018
2019
2020

That is not chronological. That’s the quality of play of the teams. You’ll notice that isn’t going in the right direction.

I would talk to both Roseman and Pederson to get their side of the story. Lurie is close with both Pederson and Roseman so this won’t be pleasant. I would ask them some uncomfortable questions. Maybe they explain things in a way that makes sense and Lurie comes away thinking 2021 will be different.

It may seem crazy to some to be talking like this since the Eagles won the division last year. This isn’t the Jets or Jaguars. The point is that the Eagles feel like they are headed in the wrong direction. Each year they are getting further away from being a title contender. That’s not good.

Was last year’s team a resilient bunch that won the division or was that fool’s gold? Someone had to win the NFC East and it happened to be the Eagles. Lurie was patient with Reid when the 2011 team won the final four games of the season to go 8-8. Lurie gave his coach another year and that led to the disastrous 4-12 season of 2012.

I don’t know what is going to happen with the rest of this season. I don’t know what will happen in the offseason.

I do know Lurie should be asking the men who run his team some tough questions.

There is one key question for Lurie. Are they the right men to fix this mess?

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Thank You Notes

Posted: September 27th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

My mother raised me to show appreciation when people did nice things for me. I feel like we all need to say thank you to some people for the special gifts we received on Sunday afternoon.

Thank you to Howie Roseman for assembling such a young, dynamic group of players. Not just anyone could find all this talent.

Thank you to the Eagles coaching staff for doing such a great job of developing these players.

Thank you to Doug Pederson for making all the right calls to ensure the Eagles wouldn’t lose today. I will be walking around all week with my chest puffed out and letting everyone know my beloved Eagles didn’t lose.

Thank you to Jason Peters for selflessly making the move to play left tackle. I don’t know where the Eagles would be without you.

Thank you to Carson Wentz for spreading the ball around to as many people as possible, sometimes even guys in different uniforms. Sharing is caring.

Thank you to Jalen Mills for remembering social distancing is important in a confined space like the end zone. Make sure to stay 6-feet away from receivers.

Thank you to Eagles defenders for not taking the ball away from opposing teams. Thou shalt not steal.

Thank you to J. J. Arcega-Whiteside for your amazing consistency. Most people are up and down. You are are the same guy each and every week.

Thank you to the Eagles and Bengals for giving us free football. That game was too good to stop after four quarters. Such a troubled world needs more greatness and beauty. We got almost four hours of that today.

Thank you, indeed.

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Gameday – CIN at PHI

Posted: September 27th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

It is late September and the Eagles are searching for their first win. You don’t have to be a genius to know that’s not good. The 0-2 Bengals come to town and might just be what the doctor ordered for the Eagles.

WAS had a great DL. The Rams are one of the best teams in the league. There is nothing great or compelling about the Bengals. You can say that about the Eagles as well, but they are underachieving right now. The Bengals are in rebuild mode. In terms of pure talent, the Eagles have the advantage.

That doesn’t mean anything if the Eagles don’t protect the ball. Avoid turnovers and the Eagles should win this game.

Should.

We need to see the Eagles play well before we can believe in them. They must find a way to win today. I don’t care if it involves luck or is an ugly win. Just find a way to come up with a W.

Jalen Hurts is your #2 QB.

Jalen Reagor is out so Deontay Burnett will play. Maybe rookie receiver John Hightower will step up and make some plays. The offense needs someone to do that.

Genard Avery gets the nod over Casey Toohill at DE. Avery is more experienced so I get that move.

The big news is that Fletcher Cox is active. The Eagles may limit his snaps, but he will be out there playing. With the team desperate to win a game, you want the best players on the field. This would be a great week for Cox to make a huge play.

There is one thing to watch.

No idea what’s going on here. JJAW hasn’t done anything this year, but if he can’t play for some reason, the Eagles only have 4 WRs. We’ll see what happens. I hope Pederson feeds the RBs, via run or pass. Get them lots of touches and the offense can look good.

The Eagles need a big game from the DL. Javon Hargrave and Derek Barnett were rusty last week. They must be more impactful today.

I don’t have any gut feelings heading into this. This team is still a mystery to me.

Just find a way to win.

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Game Preview – CIN at PHI

Posted: September 27th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

The Bengals are 0-2 and one of the worst teams in football. That is no surprise. The Eagles are also 0-2 and one of the worst teams in football. That is a big surprise to me.

No one was predicting the Super Bowl for this Eagles team, but no one expected them to be this bad. More turnovers than touchdowns. An offense that won’t quit shooting itself in the foot. A defense that can’t stop giving up points. Tons of injuries. Bad vibes all around.

Sunday will be a big test for the Eagles. The key is for Doug Pederson to push the right buttons so his team is in the right frame of mind. They can’t undo the first two weeks. If they bring that baggage into this game, it will only hurt them. Pederson needs to get the team to be positive and play with a lot of energy. It would also help if they would quit turning the ball over.

I’m not going to talk about X’s and O’s in regard to this game. I think this week is more about fundamentals (blocking and tackling) and intangibles. Players need to have fun and play with energy. They need to be mentally tough. There will be some bad moments and the players need to handle that adversity. That hasn’t happened the first two weeks.

How do you get a bad team to do this?

That’s where Pederson comes in. He’s usually had the right answers when his team has been backed into a corner. This is a bit different. The team is 0-2 for the first time. Carson Wentz is really struggling. The O-line is a different group each week. The defense is missing leaders like Malcolm Jenkins and Nigel Bradham. There are quite a few rookies and young players on this team. There are different buttons to push.

Let’s talk about some reasons for hope. The OL played well last week. Nate Herbig had a strong game as the RG. He’ll move to the left side this week. The coaches are doing that to help out Matt Pryor, who struggled at LG. He’s more comfortable on the right side. Herbig has the right mindset and is embracing the challenge of moving to LG.

The line gave Wentz time to throw last week. He wasn’t able to take advantage of that. Wentz and the coaches had a week to see what went wrong and come up with some solutions.

The run game came alive last week, with good blocking and the return of Miles Sanders. Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson and Herbig were terrific in the run game. They got regular movement and blocked well on the second level. They should be able to open lanes again this week.

Sanders was 20-95 on the ground and brought some real juice to the run game. But he was incredibly frustrating to watch. Sanders danced way too much. He left yards on the field because he wasn’t more decisive. That needs to change on Sunday. When you have room to run, hit the hole.

Someone must step up for the passing game to come alive. A lot of that is on Wentz, but he does need help from his receivers. They need to make plays when they have a chance to.

With Jalen Reagor out, Burnett gets to play. Burnett had a terrific showing this summer. Maybe he will embrace this chance and make some plays.

Jim Schwartz talked this week about the various areas where the defense is struggling. They will go against a rookie QB this week. Normally the Eagles defense would be excited by getting to face a rookie. The way this season has gone, it is the rookie who is probably excited about facing the Eagles defense.

Schwartz took the blame for last week, saying he went with a bad gameplan. He’ll go with a different approach this week and it will be up to the players to execute it.

We don’t know if Fletcher Cox will play. He hasn’t been a great pass rusher this year, but he’s been good against the run. Javon Hargrave was quiet in his Eagles debut. I’m sure part of that was rust so I expect him to play better this week.

One player who has been terrible this year is Nickell Robey-Coleman. We heard how good he looked in camp, but he has struggled in coverage and as a tackler this year. I would love to see Cre’Von LeBlanc get more snaps over NRC.

The Eagles need to win this game. I’m not a big believer in talking about “must win” situations until the math tells you it really is must win, but this season has a funny feel to it. A loss would put the Eagles at 0-3 and I could see things falling apart.

A win would not guarantee anything, but it would get the team to 1-2 and headed in the right direction. You aren’t going to fix everything in one week. You do need to start by winning a game.

If the Eagles can just play smart and do the little things well, they will win this game. I didn’t think I would be writing that sentence about a Bengals-Eagles matchup, but here we are.

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