Like I Said

Posted: September 20th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 67 Comments »

Remember when I said that Doug Pederson would stick with Isaac Seumalo as his LG?

Oops.

So what made Pederson pull the old switcheroo?

Warmack is bigger, stronger and more physical than Seumalo. Inserting Warmack into the starting lineup could give the run game a boost. I posted some info on him and his run blocking a few weeks back.

Seumalo struggled mightily in pass protection, but he also wasn’t doing much on run plays. Warmack will have his own issues in pass protection, but he will get some movement in the run game and that can be valuable. The Eagles must run the ball better. Having a LG who can move his guy off the ball can make a difference, especially with a runner like LeGarrette Blount.

There are a couple of possible reasons for making the switch now. There are 14 games left in the season. If you put Warmack in now, you give him and the rest of the O-line a chance to get into a rhythm. When an OL really gets it going as a group, they can have a huge impact on a season.

One other possible reason to make the switch is to avoid a snowball effect. Last year Nelson Agholor started to struggle and things snowballed over the course of the season. If you pull Seumalo now, he’s certainly going to be down on himself, but he had an up and down summer and one bad game. There isn’t a half a season of bad tape and tons of bad press hanging over his head.

The Eagles still have high hopes for Seumalo. I think he’s got a good chance to be the starting C in 2018. Some may scoff at that notion after watching his struggles from Sunday, but you can’t dismiss how good he looked as a rookie. Seumalo has shown NFL talent and ability. What he hasn’t shown is consistency.

Getting benched now doesn’t mean the season is over. All it takes is one injury and Seumalo can be called into service. Heck, he could the be the #3 Safety this weekend (slight exaggeration, hopefully).

I think Seumalo must get stronger. You could see holes in his game this summer. DL would overpower him at times. I thought getting on the field for 60 snaps a game would help him work through the issues, but he still had them in the first two weeks. Seumalo is smart and athletic. Those traits fit best at C, but he showed last year that he could play G and T well.

The key to Seumalo’s future is how he handles this. Nelson Agholor lost his starting job in the offseason, but embraced the situation and looks like he’s turned his career around (still a small sample size, but encouraging). Mychal Kendricks is another player who seems to have figured things out. Patrick Robinson struggled in the spring, but then moved to the slot in the preseason and has played much better.

Seumalo can’t control when he plays, but he can do everything possible to be ready when he does get back on the field.

*****

Apparently Howie Roseman picked up a hobby while away from football. He’s now the leading collector of former Buffalo Bills in the world.

It sounds like Jaylen Watkins and Rodney McLeod are probably out this weekend. The Eagles hope Corey Graham is able to play, but they have to wait and see. Chris Maragos and Malcolm Jenkins could be your starters. Kamu Grugier-Hill could be your key backup. Not ideal, to be sure.

The Eagles DL is going to have to be great this weekend to help out the guys on the back end.

Elston likely won’t play on defense this weekend. The coaches will do their best to get him ready ASAP so he can be ready if needed next week or beyond.

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Lots to Learn

Posted: September 20th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 140 Comments »

We are two games into the 2017 season. What definitive conclusions can we draw?

None, really.

A year ago the team was 2-0. They played a soft schedule, but the Eagles weren’t loaded with stars and had a rookie QB. We saw some real good signs. Fletcher Cox looked like he might be Defensive MVP of the league. Carson Wentz was making plays and protecting the ball. The team had a good vibe. They were confident, but not cocky. Life seemed good.

It turned out we didn’t know that team. They went 3-9 over the next 12 weeks and made us question a lot of things.

Two games is a small sample size. Too small, actually.

We have a lot to learn about this team. We’ll start with the run game since that is the hot topic. I’m not sure why everyone is so panicky about the situation. It seems that people need something to latch onto. Clearly the Eagles aren’t running the ball well enough or enough times. No one disputes that. It just feels like people are trying to make this into a defining issue for the season.

Doug Pederson is trying to figure out his new players. He is throwing the ball a lot and really trying to get it down the field. He is forcing the issue a bit, but that’s what happens early in a season when you have so many new faces. Game situations haven’t helped matters. The Eagles were in a tight game in the opener until late. Against the Chiefs, it was tight until the 4th, when the Eagles fell behind and went to pass-only mode.

There is also something just off about the run game. The blocking, the timing and the running just seem out of sync. I’m not going to dispute the fact that one way to work on that is by, you know, running it more. Pederson wants big plays. He wants points.

I expect the run game to come around. The Eagles have some talented blockers up front. This isn’t the 2012 team with Dallas Reynolds, Jake Scott, Dennis Kelly and Demetress Bell on the field.

While the current RBs aren’t going to make anyone forget the combo of Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook, I do think the Eagles have enough talent there to be productive this season. There is no feature back and that’s not ideal, to put it mildly, but RB by committee has worked for plenty of teams over the years. The one issue is that the players and coaches have to get on the same page and into a good working situation. That doesn’t exist right now.

When you have a stud, you feed him the ball. When you have the RBBC approach, you must figure out the best way to get the most out of each player. That hasn’t come close to happening so far. Pederson knows how to use the RBBC system effectively. He had to do that in KC at times. As a player, he saw that done when he was with the Packers.

I’m not trying to tell you that Pederson will wave his magic wand and the Eagles will suddenly turn into the 1978 Patriots (check out those numbers), but I do think the run game can be “good enough”. This team is going to go as far as Carson Wentz and the passing attack take it.

*****

As for the passing attack, we know it is vastly improved from last year, but we don’t know how good this group is. They haven’t hit on enough big plays. When you focus on speed and size, you expect chunk plays. The Eagles are doing better there than a year ago, but they need the deep shots to pay off in the form of completions or at least penalties.

*****

The OL is a real tricky subject. They have not played up to expectations. At the same time, if you listen to some people, they’d make you think this group was barely functional.

Did you watch the Giants on Monday night? That’s a bad OL. Their offense isn’t able to move the ball or score points (13 so far this year). The Eagles offense has put up 42 points this year. They are 5th in the league in yards. You don’t have that kind of success with a flat out bad line. The Giants are 30th in points and 28th in yards.

One of the issues for the OL is that the Eagles do want to throw vertically. That means holding the ball longer. Carson Wentz is an aggressive QB. That means holding the ball longer. There is no doubt that Wentz is getting hit too much, but we do need some context there.

*****

In regard to Isaac Seumalo, I wrote a bit about him for PE.com.

*****

The defense has been good this year. Outstanding at times.

But the defense could not make clutch stops on Sunday.

The offense put the Eagles up 10-6 and you could feel some momentum building. Then KC went 83 yards on five plays, scoring on the 53-yard TD run. That put them back on top. The Eagles tied it up with a FG.

The defense then got the ball right back for the offense. That’s when Wentz threw the disastrous INT. The defense got KC to 3rd down and had Alex Smith there for a sack, but Vinny Curry couldn’t finish him off and Smith scrambled for the 1st down. The Chiefs then scored on the next play to re-take the lead.

KC got the ball back with 5:27 left in the game. The defense absolutely had to come up with a 3 & out. Instead, the Chiefs drove for a TD and that all but put the game away.

This defense has tremendous potential. They have talent all over the place and despite some injuries, they have come together and shown immediate chemistry. I know the Chiefs are very talented and they had plenty of advantages on Sunday, but top flight defenses come up with stops in critical situations. The Eagles didn’t do that.

It doesn’t mean they won’t in future situations, but it is a reminder we don’t know how good this defense is right now. They made critical plays in the opener, but that was against a struggling Skins offense. The defense couldn’t make critical stops against Alex Smith and the red hot Chiefs offense.

Jim Schwartz isn’t going to be satisfied until this defense can get the job done against everyone.

*****

The season is young. We still have a lot to learn about this team.

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Monday Morning Notebook

Posted: September 18th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 347 Comments »

Let’s talk some more about the Eagles 27-20 loss to KC and the team in general.

Ertz was 5-97 on Sunday and he’s off to a terrific start for the season. He and Carson Wentz have developed great chemistry, which is crucial for a TE and QB. The next step for them is to get better in the Red Zone. Ertz should be a mis-match down there, but that hasn’t really worked out so far.

*****

I re-watched part of the game and one bit of good news is that Jason Peters played better than he did in the opener. He was up and down against WAS. He had some good run blocks and was solid in pass pro in the plays I watched. If the OL is going to get better, they need Peters to play like the stud LT he is.

*****

I struggle with Pro Football Focus. They do some good things, but then they have moments like this.

Wentz struggled in the 4th quarter. He looked outstanding at times in the game. Did he make mistakes? You bet. He made some poor decisions and some poor throws, but overall played well.

How you could watch that game and say he “struggled mightily” is beyond me. Stuff like that just kills your credibility.

*****

We know PFF loves the Eagles DL, so I’m sure they got good grades. The DL has played well through the first two games.

Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox have combined for 4.5 sacks so far. You want your stars to play…like stars. Those guys have been outstanding so far. And this isn’t just about the pass rush. The Eagles have clogged the running lanes this year. Kareem Hunt got free for the one long run yesterday, but struggled other than that. The Skins had no room at all. They ran all over the Rams on Sunday, making the opener that much more impressive.

Good start for the guys in the trenches.

*****

Dallas was awful in Sunday’s loss at Denver. The score was 35-10 early into the 3rd quarter. I was shocked (and pleased). I actually thought Dallas would win that game. As good as the Broncos defense is, they have been vulnerable to the run at times. That wasn’t the case on Sunday when they held Ezekiel Elliott to less than 10 yards rushing.

At least he hustled on this play.

*****

The Eagles host the Giants on Sunday. The G-men play tonight and it will be interesting to see if their offense is any better than it was in the opener.

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Sunday Night Reflections

Posted: September 18th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 82 Comments »

Prior to the season, I hoped the Eagles would start 1-1. Going 2-0 would have been great, but expecting to win at Washington and at Kansas City seemed greedy, and unlikely.

So now the team sits at 1-1, where I hoped they would be. And things worked out about the best they could. Winning in Washington was more important because it is a division and conference game. The Eagles played KC tight, before things got away from them in the 4th quarter. There is nothing to be embarrassed about in the least.

The Eagles certainly do have some issues they need to address, but there is more right than wrong with this team. Carson Wentz has taken a big step forward this year. He has some talented receivers and is doing a good job of getting them the ball. The D-line has been dominant at times in the first two games. They’ve made all kinds of plays. The secondary, unquestionably the team’s biggest weakness, has overcome injuries and played better than expected.

Isaac Seumalo has been a major disappointment so far. The team was excited to get him on the field after a promising rookie year. Seumalo had a bad game in KC and his performance hurt the whole offense. The coaches have to decide whether they trust him moving forward or if there needs to be a competition for the LG spot.

The run game obviously is an issue. LeGarrette Blount ran for 46 yards in the opener and then disappeared in KC. Darren Sproles ran for 48 yards in KC. Wendell Smallwood hasn’t run anywhere. Every time he’s in the game, the defense seems to live in the backfield. I don’t know if that is bad luck or he’s tipping plays or what’s going on.

Wentz isn’t going to survive a season where he has many games that involve him dropping back to pass 56 times (46 passes, 4 runs, 6 sacks). The coaches must get more balance in the offense, in terms of calling run plays, but also getting more from them. All you need are 3-yard gains for the run to help out. You’d obviously prefer to average 4 yards per carry, but you can live with less.

Everyone has a hand in the struggles of the run game. The coaches aren’t calling enough of them. You can question which runs they do call. The OL isn’t blocking well enough. Nor are the TEs or WRs. The runners aren’t doing their part. They need to hit the hole and make the right read on where to go. They need to be able to make someone miss on some plays.

The Eagles are not hitting on all cylinders right now. This is a team that is figuring things out. That doesn’t bother me because I focus on the talent. This team is more talented than they were a year ago. Part of that is due to new players and part of it is due to the development of returning players. Wentz is better. Nelson Agholor is worlds better. Jalen Mills is much better. Even a guy like Mychal Kendricks is clearly better.

This team has some really good pieces in place.

Talent isn’t enough. You must execute. Torrey Smith dropped a TD. Sproles fumbled on a punt return. Seumalo missed multiple blocks. Jake Elliott missed a FG. Corey Graham missed a tackle on the long TD run. Vinny Curry missed a sack in a key situation. Wentz made some bad decisions and some bad throws. These players were put in good positions. All they needed to do was execute. Not overachieve. Not do anything special. Just do your job. They didn’t and that’s the reason the Eagles lost.

Losing a winnable game will eat at the players and coaches. When you get whipped, you just admit it and move on. Losses like this will have the players and coaches thinking about the handful of plays that gave the game away.

The players and coaches will study the tape and the tape doesn’t lie. They’ll see what went wrong. They’ll come up with solutions for the future.

In order for this team to go where it wants to go, the players must get better each week. During Andy Reid’s tenure in Philly, we saw plenty of his teams start somewhat slow. They might start off 1-2 or 3-3 something like that. Things would then click and the team would play lights out for a big chunk of the season. This Eagles team has that kind of potential.

Make plays.

Limit mistakes.

Win games.

That didn’t happen on Sunday and the Eagles blew a chance to get off to a 2-0 start. There’s nothing wrong with being 1-1 after a couple of tough road games, but this team needs to start playing better if they want to be a playoff team.

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Frustrating Loss

Posted: September 17th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 260 Comments »

The Eagles lost a winnable game.

That’s the biggest takeaway for me.

KC is the better team. They were at home. This was going to be an uphill battle. But there the Eagles were, tied at 13-13 in the 4th quarter. They had knocked Alex Smith around and shut down the KC offense most of the day. Then Carson Wentz threw a weird pick, where the ball deflected off a helmet and was caught by a DL. The Chiefs scored a TD there and that was the beginning of the end.

The game was right there for the taking, but the Eagles made mistakes and the Chiefs made crucial plays.

It would have been so much easier to take a loss where the Chiefs were clearly better and they methodically took apart the Eagles. Instead the two teams felt basically the same until the middle of the 4th quarter. That’s when the Chiefs played like veterans, like proven winners. The Eagles played like a team that is still trying to find itself.

Winners aren’t built overnight. It takes time for the players to gel and figure things out. The Eagles have the talent to be a good team this year, but they found out on Sunday that you can’t count on the opponent to make mistakes. WAS fell apart at times in the opener. The Chiefs didn’t make those mistakes.

The Eagles now sit at 1-1 after the first two games of the season. That’s a solid start when you consider that both games were on the road and they came against teams that had winning records last year. No gimmes.

Quick Hits

Isaac Seumalo had a bad game. One penalty and I think he gave up 3 sacks. Very discouraging. The Eagles had high expectations for him coming into this season.

Jake Elliott missed a chip shot FG, but made all his other kicks.

The DL was dominant at times.

Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks played well. Hicks can be a punishing blitzer.

Torrey Smith failed to catch some early passes. Gotta make those plays.

CB Rasul Douglas played a lot and looked good. Very encouraging beginning for him.

You won’t be mistaking Corey Graham for Brian Dawkins any time soon.

The run-pass balance was bad…basically non-existent. Sproles was good on some runs. Smallwood didn’t seem to have any room. Need to watch the tape to get a better feel for what happened. Pederson said after the game he knows they need better balance and that they will keep working on fixing the run game. Something has to happen.

*****

I’ll post some extended thoughts later tonight.

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