NFC East Day

Posted: July 20th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 34 Comments »

The NFC East is the best division of the Super Bowl era. The East has won 12 Super Bowls. No other division comes close. There are another 8 SB losses by NFC East teams. That makes 20 appearances in 48 Super Bowls. There have been amazing players and coaches. The rivalries are among the best in sports. The NFC East has been a great division.

But 2014 isn’t looking so good.

I wrote a piece on the NFC East for PE.com.

In studying the other 3 teams, it is hard to see them as very good. I know I can be biased toward the Eagles so I tried to be thorough as I took a look at their other rosters and overall situations. We see surprise teams every year in the NFL. You never want to casually dismiss a team without looking at everything.

I just don’t see the Giants, Skins or Boys as likely playoff teams, barring something major happening.

The Giants have a new offensive coordinator and new offense. That could help, but the O-line still has issues and the front seven might be a major mess.

The Skins have a new head coach and that can be a good or bad thing depending on how he works out. They were just 3-13 a year ago, but really fell apart, losing their final 8 games.

The Boys are the kings of 8-8, having finished with that record for 3 straight years. The defense will now be run by Rod Marinelli, but a coaching change won’t make up for a lack of talent across the board.

No one is saying the Eagles are perfect, but they sure seem to be the dog with the least amount of fleas.

Let’s talk about some rankings.

COACH

1 – Tom Coughlin
2 – Chip Kelly
3 – Jason Garrett
4 – Jay Gruden

OFFENSE

1 – Eagles
2 – Boys
3 – Skins
4 – Giants

DEFENSE

1 – Giants
2 – Eagles
3 – Skins
4 – Boys

Right now I would project the division to go like this:

1 – Eagles
2 – Giants
3 – Boys
4 – Skins

That said, the Skins are the team that makes me the most nervous. RGIII has great potential and they do have some good pieces on offense. The defense has Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. That should be the foundation for an effective 3-4 defense.

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Jimmy Bama has been having some fun with NFC East teams on Twitter.

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When Left is Right

Posted: July 19th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 34 Comments »

It is about impossible to truly appreciate offensive linemen as much as they deserve it. Those guys battle on every snap and their bodies take a real pounding. Shady McCoy can duck out of bounds. Nick Foles can slide. 2012 Jeremy Maclin can try to dig a hole to hide from DBs (but certainly not 2014 Mac…he’s a tough guy). OL pound defenders on every play. There is no hiding. Hit or be hit. Heck, hit and get hit anyway.

So let’s take a couple of minutes to enjoy the power, athleticism and dare I say…beauty…of Jason Peters and Evan Mathis in action. Has the left side of the Eagles O-line ever been better?

The video is courtesy of Larry Mitros. Give him a follow on Twitter if you like.

And if you don’t already…make sure to follow me as well.

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The Foundation: Inside Zone

Posted: July 18th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 17 Comments »

Football season is getting closer. We’ve spent a ton of time this offseason talking about the Eagles players and what they can/can’t do. It is always good to mix in some X’s and O’s and remember just what the Eagles offense is all about.

Sheil Kapadia wrote a great post on the inside zone and what it means to the Eagles offense. It is really amazing how good Sheil has become at taking Kelly’s football concepts and breaking them down into simple terms so that everyone can understand them.

When Kelly made the jump to the NFL last year, the inside zone served as the foundation for an offense that set franchise records in yards and points. So there’s a good reason why Stoutland yells the same number for the same call over and over again during practice. The pre-snap communication has to be mastered. The footwork has to be flawless. The combination blocks have to be executed. And the second-level linebackers have to be driven down the field with authority.

“It’s something we work on every day,” said offensive tackle Lane Johnson. “It’s always gonna be our bread and butter.”

Johnson estimated that 40 to 45 percent of practice time for the offensive linemen is rooted in perfecting principles associated with the inside zone. Kelce doesn’t think that’s an exaggeration.

“I would say yeah, we really spend a lot of time on our double-team blocking with our offensive line coach and trying to make sure that our offensive line is working together,” he said. “That’s not really exclusive to that play in particular. We do that on a lot of different plays. But that play, especially against a four-down defense, there’s a lot of the double teams that come around and everything. It’d be hard to put a number on it. But we definitely spend a lot of time on it.”

Kelly despises labels. Last year he joked that the Eagles ran the “see-coast offense.” If they were to see something they liked that could help them score points, they would run it.

And to a large degree, that was true. It was one of Kelly’s biggest strengths in 2013: figuring out what the defense was trying to do and attacking its weaknesses. Some games that meant running more sweeps. Other weeks, the screen game was prolific. And throughout the entire first season, the Eagles did damage downfield, leading the NFL in pass plays of 20+ yards.

But Kelly also believes in having an identity on offense, in addition to the different tools.

“If you give your players something to hang their hats on, they will perform,” he said during a Nike Coaches Clinic in 2009. “If they can run the offense with any scenario they may face, you will be successful in running the ball. If they have all the answers to the problems the defense may give them, they will be good.”

Given that philosophy, it’s no wonder that his offense spends so much time on the inside zone.

“What’s special about the inside zone is that it can hit anywhere,” Mathis said. “It’s not necessarily designed to hit in any certain gap. If it’s wide open left tackle to right tackle, it can hit there. The blocking for it is more of a downhill, smash-mouth type blocking and getting on your guys quickly.

“We do it a lot so we get pretty good at it. At first, it took awhile. There’s a few of those blocks on the inside zone that took awhile to get comfortable doing. But over the course of the season, the more repetitions we got, the more we saw it on film, the more we learned the intricacies of the play. Our experience really came to help us.”

That is just part of the post, but gives you an idea of how good it is. Make sure to go read the whole piece.

The funny thing about Chip Kelly is that for all of his innovation (smoothies, music at practice, Sports Science, etc.), he really is an old school coach in a lot of ways. Kelly believes in the run game. He believes in running the ball to the inside. He stresses blocking more than any Eagles coach in decades. Whether you are a O-lineman, TE or WR, you will block in the run game or you will be replaced.

Kelly isn’t trying to re-invent the wheel. He is simply taking the wheel and presenting it in different ways to make it look different.

One of the reasons I don’t think people are going to shut down the Eagles offense in Year 2 is that Kelly isn’t running some gimmick attack. If you have a talented RB and good OL, you should be able to run the ball. You can do it from the I-formation, from a 2-TE set, a 3-WR set or however you like. Blockers block and the runner runs.

There is no “secret” for defenses to figure out so they can magically solve the Eagles offense. Certainly they can study it and look for trends or potential tips, but the offense is based on fundamentals and execution.

Defenses will have a better feel for the Eagles offense this year, but so will the Eagles. With better, more consistent execution, the offense could be even better in 2014.

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PFT Ranks the Eagles

Posted: July 17th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 63 Comments »

Pro Football Talk is doing a countdown of how they’ve ranked the 32 NFL teams. The Eagles rank 13th overall. Here are their comments:

There were some blips along the way, but there weren’t many questions about whether Chip Kelly could devise a winning NFL offense by the end of his first season as the Eagles’ head coach.

Philadelphia went 10-6, took the NFC East title with a Week 17 victory over the Cowboys and scored the fourth-most points in the league behind Nick Foles‘ 27 touchdowns and two interceptions. Even with DeSean Jackson in Washington, there’s every reason to think that the offense should be just as good in 2014 if not better thanks to a year’s experience in the system.

That makes the Eagles a good bet to contend for another division title and our panel ranks them No. 13, which is higher than any of the other NFC East teams. To vault even higher, the Eagles will need to make strides on defense and our voters appear to need some convincing that those strides will take place this season.

This all seems pretty reasonable to me. I love ripping on PFT when they say dumb things, but I don’t have a problem with someone picking the Eagles as the 13th best NFL team.

You can certainly make a case that the Eagles will be better than that. There are only a handful of teams I think are definitely better. There are several teams where you can argue for both sides.

PFT also did a preview of the Eagles that seems reasonable. Here’s the overall conclusion.

The Eagles won the division last year and there isn’t a team that’s clearly better than them heading into this season, so a repeat should be their goal.

Barring injuries, the biggest reason to think that the Eagles may take a step back is that Foles is unlikely to throw 27 touchdowns against two interceptions again this season. More turnovers would put more pressure on a defense that’s still finding its way and that could lead to worse results this time around.

Given how strong the offense looks, though, Foles would have to pick up some of Sanchez’s habits from the Jets to keep the Eagles from competing in the NFC East even if the defense doesn’t make any major strides this season.

I don’t get too caught up in power polls and rankings. They’re fun, but don’t mean much. Getting to the playoffs and winning in the postseason is far more important than rankings in July. Or even October.

Teams I see as clearly better than the Eagles:

Seahawks
Niners
Broncos

That’s it.

You can certainly argue about:

Saints
Panthers
Packers
Patriots
Bengals
Colts
Chiefs
Cardinals
Bears
Lions

I probably lean toward the Eagles being in the Top 10, but then again I’m probably a bit biased.

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The TO Effect?

Posted: July 17th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 40 Comments »

The Eagles drafted WRs in the 2nd and 3rd round this year. Most people are confident that the players will pan out. Heck, Jordan Matthews is already slated for stardom by some. How times have changed.

Take a look at this list of WRs drafted by the Eagles from 1999-2012.

Na Brown
Troy Smith
Todd Pinkston
Gari Scott
Freddie Mitchell
Freddie Milons
Billy McMullen

2004

Reggie Brown
* Hank Baskett
Jason Avant
DeSean Jackson
Jeremy Maclin
Brandon Gibson
Riley Cooper
Marvin McNutt

Notice anything?

What the heck happened in 2004? Either the team learned how to draft receivers or Andy Reid and his staff learned how to develop them. Donovan was erratic early in his career, but was a polished QB by 2004. I’m sure that’s part of the situation. It just amazes me how different the 2 groups are in terms of success and production.

The first group has 24 career TDs.

The second group has 118 career TDs. Heck, Reggie Brown has 17 TDs by himself.

I’m not here to bring conclusions to you. I’m curious as to what your theories are for what happened? Did the team get better at scouting? Did Reid and the staff improve? Did McNabb simply get better? Did everybody learn something from TO that helped with WR development?

Any other theories?

I don’t think this is just a coincidence. Seems too definitive to be random.

Thoughts?

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