Number Two

Posted: July 5th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Carson Wentz has been the Eagles starting QB since 2016. Chase Daniel was the primary backup in that first year. Then Nick Foles came back to town in 2017 and 2018.

Things were more complicated last season. The Eagles were set to go with Nate Sudfeld as the backup, but he got hurt in the preseason. The team then signed Josh McCown and made him the primary backup. That was fine until McCown had to play most of the Wild Card game against Seattle. You could see his limitations in that game and the Eagles only scored nine points.

Heading into 2020, Wentz is back as the starter. Sudfeld is back as well, but rookie Jalen Hurts is now part of the mix. So who is the backup?

This shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who has followed the Eagles closely. The team likes Sudfeld.

But not everyone understands this.

I’m sure Marcus isn’t alone in his thinking. There are probably plenty of national writers and analysts who think Hurts is the Eagles primary backup right now. Heck, there are some Eagles fans who probably think this. You don’t spend the #53 pick on a player just to sit him, right?

In a normal offseason, there would be a legitimate competition for the backup spot. Clearly this is nothing close to a normal offseason.

Hurts will still have a chance to win the backup role, but the odds will be against him. The Eagles had online meetings, but that is hardly a replacement for minicamps and passing camps. Hurts has never called a play, taken a snap or thrown a pass on an NFL practice field. He will have Training Camp, but the preseason will be cut in half, or cancelled entirely.

Hurts has to learn how to play at the NFL level while competing for a job at the same time. That’s tough for a QB. He has to deal with more than any other player. The QB has to call the play. Then he has to make a pre-snap read of the defense and decide if any adjustments are necessary. The QB must have a full understanding of the protection scheme for that particular play. He needs to know if the receivers are going to adjust their routes at all. And then the QB must have good timing/chemistry with his receivers once the play is underway.

Sudfeld doesn’t have a lot of regular season experience. He has been part of the Eagles for three years, though. That is a lot of practice reps. He knows the playbook inside out. Hurts may have more raw talent, but experience is a huge factor at QB.

The Eagles do like Sudfeld. They talked to him about a long-term deal, but Sudfeld made it clear he wants a chance to start. He knows that won’t happen in Philly so he’ll wait until next offseason to see what his options are.

Sudfeld throws a good deep ball so having speedy receivers should be a good fit for him.

Too bad we won’t have a normal preseason this year. Could be a lot of fun watching Sudfeld throw to the new guys with all the speed.

*****

On a side note, I don’t think I remembered the other NFC East backups.

DAL – Andy Dalton
NYG – Colt McCoy
WAS – Kyle Allen

That’s the best backup Dallas has had in a while.

McCoy is a veteran backup who can help Daniel Jones. There won’t be any QB controversy in New York.

Allen played for Ron Rivera the last couple of years so that does make sense.

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Time for Concern?

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

We will have NFL football. We will have NFL football. We will have NFL football.

I hope.

I’m starting to wonder, though.

Mike only talks about a limited preseason in that clip, but you have to wonder if that will change as the pandemic continues to roll along. We are seeing the impact in other sports.

These are pro athletes choosing to sit out rather than play.

We are seeing college and pro athletes test positive as they gather for spring/summer training. Clemson’s football team has had 37 players test positive.

Then we hear stories like this.

https://twitter.com/ADavidHaleJoint/status/1276311388085014528

What about players who are vulnerable? What if they have family members who are vulnerable?

College football is tougher to control. You have 90 players, a big support staff and everyone is on a crowded college campus. Some of that will change, but getting 90 kids that are 18-22 to be smart and safe is a significant uphill battle. I don’t say this with any kind of judgment. My knucklehead friends and I would have been the same way if this happened while we were that age. “Forget Covid, we need more beer.”

Professional football players are a different story. There are still some knuckleheads involved, but most of these guys are going to handle their business the right way. Millions of dollars are on the line and we all know money talks.

The NFL is lucky that they still have another month to see what happens with the virus. Maybe cases will start to decline. Maybe testing will continue to improve.

We do have to understand that cases could continue piling up. If that happens, how does the NFL handle the situation?

What happens if a team has 10 positive tests a few days before a game in the middle of the season? You could see a team lose multiple starting players from the same position group. The entire OL has to be replaced. Or the entire secondary.

This stuff isn’t likely to happen, but we’re not talking about some insane idea like Sharknado. All it takes is one player getting Covid and he could infect those around him.

The NFL has to figure out how to keep players safe, fans happy and lawyers away. That is a nearly impossible task and I don’t envy them having to come up with plans that handle all of that.

It appears the NFL is considering just about anything.

I hope there is NFL season. I can’t imagine a fall without football. That w0uld be insanely weird.

But I think we’d be naive not to at least discuss the fact it might happen.

Keep your fingers crossed. As we’ve learned recently, there is no sure thing in 2020.

*****

Need something to cheer you up? This is one of my all time favorite NFL games.

Just glorious.

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Now or Never

Posted: June 29th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas have been disappointing since coming to the NFL. Each player has shown flashes of real potential and looked good, but the overall level of play hasn’t been there. They are just good enough to keep you hoping next year will be the breakout year.

That better happen in 2020.

Douglas picked off two passes as a rookie in 2017. He showed really good ball skills. Douglas played well down the stretch in 2018. He finished the year with three picks and seemed to be heading in the right direction. 2019 did not go as planned.

Jones story is more complicated. He got hurt at his Pro Day and then fell in the 2017 draft. The Eagles thought they got a steal in the second round. Jones played a few snaps in the season finale, just enough to get a feel for the speed of the NFL.

Jones was the slot corner heading into 2018. He played well early on, but then got hurt. He missed several games. Jones came back and really struggled. He had a strong summer in 2019 and expectations were high. Jones played the first four games before getting hurt. Davante Adams was torching him in that fourth game. It was ugly. Jones returned for the final month as a backup. Due to injuries he got on the field and had some good moments.

I think people overrate some of that play. Jones had five pass break-ups in that final month. A couple of those were really good plays. A couple came when the ball hit him in the back due to a poor throw. Is the glass half full or half empty?

Both Jones and Douglas have worked with DB gurus this offseason since they can’t do normal training at the NovaCare facility. That is a good sign that both players understand the critical nature of this season. We don’t know that both guys will even make the team.

Darius Slay
Avonte Maddox
Nickell Robey-Coleman

Sidney Jones
Rasul Douglas
Cre’Von LeBlanc

That’s six corners fighting for five spots. Maybe the Eagles keep six, but you sure can’t count on that.

Neither player is projected to start right now. The way injuries have hit the Eagles in recent years, both players should count on being needed. They need to prepare as if they are ready to start.

Jones is the more interesting player because of his versatility (slot or outside) and ceiling. He was a star in college. Jones shutdown receivers and made plays. He was a player that teams coveted. The injury really changed him. We haven’t seen the Jones from college so far in his NFL career.

Staying healthy is the biggest issue for Jones. He’s been hurt in each of his NFL seasons. That obviously affects him physically, but it also affects him mentally. He plays hesitant, not wanting to get beat. There was a great moment in All or Nothing when Malcolm Jenkins told him “If you’re not confident, we can’t use you.”

If Jones can manage to stay healthy, he should be able to play with more confidence and more aggression. That matters at CB. Jim Schwartz loves Jalen Mills in part because Mills is completely confident. He’s delusionally confident. But that’s okay at CB. Heck, it’s a good thing. If we could just transplant some of that confidence into Jones we might have a good corner.

Maybe the pressure of having to earn a roster spot will bring out the best in Jones. He knew he was going to make the team in previous years. This is different. He is guaranteed nothing.

Douglas has played in 46 of 48 games since coming to the league so durability is not an issue for him. His fatal flaw is simply speed. Douglas is a 4.6 corner. Some teams won’t even bother when a corner is that slow.

You can make it in the league at 4.6, but you must be smart and you must be tough. You have to read routes well and use angles to your advantage. You must tackle really well. Douglas does too much guessing and he’s inconsistent as a hitter/tackler. It is fair to wonder if he might play better in a different system. There were rumors that the Eagles shopped him. If that happened, there weren’t any takers. Douglas even took a small pay cut. He knows this is a make or break year for him.

I do wonder about Douglas as a safety. He is at his best facing the QB, reading the play and going for the ball. That sure sounds like a safety to me. Again, his hitting and tackling would have to improve. Douglas does have some plays where he is impressive, but others where you want to hide your eyes. CBs can be sloppy tacklers. Safeties can’t (if they want to keep their jobs).

The Eagles love Darius Slay and are excited to have a stud CB. They love Avonte Maddox and think he can be a solid #2 CB. The 1-2 punch of Robey-Coleman and LeBlanc gives them terrific depth in the slot. The team needs Jones or Douglas to step up and win a job. Both players know the pressure is on. Let’s hope that brings out the best in them.

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The Same Page

Posted: June 25th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles made a concerted effort to get younger, faster and more explosive in the offseason. I think this was the right decision and that the team did a pretty good job of adding the right type of players.

In order for this to work the coaches must buy in.

The Eagles offense focused on bigger pass catchers in previous years. They traded for Dorial Green-Beckham in 2016. They signed Alshon Jeffery in 2017 and drafted Mack Hollins. Last year they drafted J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Those guys are all 6-3, 220 or so. Some even bigger.

This spring the Eagles drafted Jalen Reagor (5-11, 195), John Hightower (6-1, 189) and Quez Watkins (6-0, 185). They traded for Marquise Goodwin (5-9, 183). Tons of speed, but not much size.

I think the coaches saw the fatal flaws in the 2019 roster and will embrace the new receivers, but we do need to see this in action.

Last year L.J. Fort had a terrific preseason and looked just like the kind of athletic playmaker the Eagles needed at LB. Once the season rolled around, Fort sat and sat and sat. He was cut at midseason, then went to Baltimore and played well for the Ravens. Ugh.

There was some sort of disconnect between the coaches and personnel staff. I don’t know who liked Fort and who didn’t. Nate Gerry and Nigel Bradham were two of Jim Schwartz’s favorite players and I’m sure that was a factor. I don’t think Fort was going to be the next Seth Joyner, but he could have added some speed to the middle of a defense that had some struggles.

Now Schwartz has a pair of athletic rookies in Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley. He’s got a speedy free agent in Jatavis Brown. Will Schwartz and the coaches embrace the new LBs?

The defense has a pair of veteran pass rushers in Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett. In recent years the Eagles have had veteran backups like Chris Long, Michael Bennett and Vinny Curry. This year couldn’t be more different. You have Josh Sweat, Genard Avery, Shareef Miller, Joe Ostman, Casey Toohill and Daeshon Hall. That group has a total of 10.5 career sacks.

Will the coaches be okay with that much youth at such a critical position?

The front office built a young, speedy roster. There usually is good communication between the coaching staff and personnel staff with the Eagles, but 2020 will be a big test. All these young guys don’t mean a thing if they don’t play.

Coaches love veterans. They trust veteran players. They see experience as an invaluable asset. One of the old axioms in coaching is that it is better to play young guys two weeks too late instead of one week too early.

This will be an especially challenging situation due to the lack of passing camps and minicamps. Those are critical periods for young players. There is no hitting and limited contact so young guys can get good coaching and be exposed to a lot. There are also a lot of reps available, with veterans skipping some of the workouts. Young players get a chance to show what they can do.

This year players will learn in online meetings. They have to condition and practice on their own. And then they have to show up for Training Camp ready to roll.

It will be incredibly fascinating to see which rookies and young players handled all of this well and can contribute right away.

The Eagles could still add some veteran backups. Sure sounds like they made a run at RB Carlos Hyde. They are keeping in touch with Jason Peters. Vinny Curry and some other notable rushers remain unsigned.

Howie Roseman and the front office want a younger roster so they are going to push for the young players to get a chance to show what they can do. If things don’t look good in mid-August, calls will be made.

I really do hope the coaches embrace the young players. 2020 is going to be an odd season with the pandemic looming over everything. And 2021 could be affected as well. The salary cap is based on revenue and we know that will be down this year. Teams might have to focus on younger players next year.

The Eagles could be ahead of the curve if they embrace the kids this year and work to get the most out of the young players.

*****

Here is a young player doing everything he can to be ready for a big 2020 season.

https://twitter.com/JClarkNBCS/status/1276240252513005569

Sanders was terrific as a rookie and can be even better this year.

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Make It Count

Posted: June 23rd, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

The Eagles were the best team in the NFL in 2017. They also won the Super Bowl. That seems like common sense, but things don’t always work out that way. I thought of that today when I stumbled across this on Twitter.

The Ravens went 14-2 last year. They lost by five at KC, the eventual Super Bowl winner. Baltimore lost to the Browns by 15 in a fluke game where they turned the ball over three times and gave up more than 500 yards of offense.

The Ravens were the top scoring team in the league and number three in points allowed. They were so good that even when they rested starters in the season finale, Baltimore won 28-10. They were the best team in the league.

And they lost 28-12 in their only playoff game.

You cannot count on having another amazing season like that.

Lamar Jackson had one of the greatest seasons in NFL history. He set the league record for rushing yards by a QB. He had a passer rating of 113.3 and threw 36 TD passes. Those are staggering numbers.

As I said…you cannot count on having another amazing season like that.

The Ravens have lots of great memories from 2019, but no trophies. They got the same Division Winner t-shirts and hats that the 9-7 Eagles did. Yikes.

I’m not ripping on the Ravens. They just happened to come up short in an otherwise great year. My point is to appreciate what the Eagles did in 2017. That team started 11-2, but lost QB Carson Wentz. They overcame that and a slew of other key injuries.

And the Eagles didn’t have any shortcuts. They had to face Matt Ryan and the Falcons in the first game. Atlanta had been in the Super Bowl the year before and Ryan was a talented, veteran QB with a Hall of Fame WR in Julio Jones. Then the Eagles had to deal with the Vikings and their record-setting third down defense. The Eagles put up 31 offensive points on that team, even with a backup QB at the helm.

Then the Eagles went to Minneapolis and beat a pair of GOATs in Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. That’s how you take care of business.

Go beyond the Ravens.

Dallas has had a star QB and star RB duo for the past four years. Dak Prescott has started 64 straight games, while Zeke Elliott has started 56 games in that span. We can debate how good Prescott is, but there shouldn’t be any doubt that he’s an above average player who has some great moments.

That duo combined with Amari Cooper, Jaylon Smith, a very good OL, DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones and some other talented players to win two division titles and one playoff game (Wild Card round at that).

Talk about a waste of talent. How on earth did Jason Garrett keep his job that long?

Think about the Eagles from back in the Reid era. They had a star QB in Donovan McNabb and a star RB in Brian Westbrook. Unfortunately those two guys had trouble staying healthy at the same time.

They were healthy in 2004 and the Eagles went to the Super Bowl.

Both started most of 2007, but McNabb was coming off an ACL injury and not his usual self. The Eagles went 8-8.

Both started most of 2008 and the Eagles came just short of another Super Bowl trip.

No trophies, but the duo of McNabb and Westbrook was outstanding when they were both healthy. They won some big games and came through in some key postseason situations.

I’m interested to see what the duo of Wentz and Miles Sanders can do in the coming years. They are both incredibly talented. If Wentz stays healthy and Sanders takes another step forward, the sky is the limit.

Just keep Jason Garrett away from them.

*****

If you need something to really entertain you, Jimmy Bama is halfway done with his annual dumpster fire series.

Cowboys

Giants

Glorious work, Mr. B.

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