Answers

Posted: October 13th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 461 Comments »

On the road. Short week. NFC opponent with 4-1 record. Questionable officiating.

The Eagles had a lot to deal with and they showed a national TV audience just how tough this team is. They won a tough, physical game where both teams really battled. This game had the feel of January football. There was a lot of sloppy play, but I think the short week was responsible for some of that.

This wasn’t the prettiest win. The Eagles had so many chances to put the game away and just couldn’t do it. You do have to give some credit to the Panthers. They’ve got a strong core of players that has won a lot of games in the past few years. Those guys don’t quit and Cam Newton can make spectacular plays.

Somehow, the Eagles came up with an answer every time they had to have one.

This team is learning how to be good right before our eyes. They showed us hints last year, but couldn’t put things together. This team is more talented and experienced. It is also deeper, which was crucial tonight with injuries causing problems throughout the game. The Eagles were competitive in 2016. They are finding ways to win in 2017. They are 5-1.

The run defense was incredible tonight. A quick glance at the stat sheet shows Carolina with 80 rushing yards. But Cam Newton had 71 of those. The rest of the team had 14 carries for 9 yards. That is some serious run D. The Eagles front seven just dominated the line of scrimmage and hit RBs in the backfield over and over and over.

The D-line showed how good they can be in this game. There weren’t gaudy sack numbers, but Cam Newton threw 52 passes and only completed 28 and only got 239 yards. That is less than 5 yards per pass attempt. The Eagles collapsed the pocket over and over and over. Cam got loose and ran on some plays. He also got hit as he threw and that led to some errant passes, one of which Rasul Douglas picked off. That pick set up a TD that tied the game and the Eagles never looked back from there.

Fletcher Cox drove his blocker back into Newton to affect that throw and create the turnover. Cox had missed the last 2.5 games and he proved to be a difference maker tonight. I don’t know if the Eagles win without him. He pushed the pocket over and over and over.

Nigel Bradham had a huge game for the defense. He was in on 10 tackles, had a TFL and 2 PDs. Several of his tackles came on 3rd down situations and he got the runner or receiver down short of the sticks. Those might as well be takeaways. They get the ball back to the offense. Bradham was all over the field and that was important with Jordan Hicks missing due to an ankle injury. Mychal Kendricks got a lot of playing time and led the team with 15 total tackles. Good thing the Eagles didn’t dump him for a late round pick in the spring. Kendricks has been terrific this year.

It is easy to look at the Eagles offense and think they had an off game, but then you remember that Carolina was 3rd in defense coming into this game. The Eagles finished with 310 yards and 28 points, and did all of that without Lane Johnson. Halapoulivaati Vaitai started at RT. He made some mistakes, but played well enough for the offense to move the ball and score points.

Carson Wentz was up and down, as the Panthers blitz got to him early on. That led to some quick decisions and bad throws. Wentz still was pretty good on 3rd downs and the Eagles were 2 for 2 in the Red Zone. You don’t have to be perfect if you make enough key plays. Every time it felt like the game might be slipping away, Wentz made a big throw.

Eagles WRs combined to go 12-186-1 and they made some big plays. Alshon Jeffery delivered a 37-yard reception down the left sideline. Nelson Agholor caught a short pass over the middle and turned that into a 24-yard TD.

And I think we have to give Jake Elliott some credit. He was 2 for 2 on FGs, but I think his presence has an affect on the team. Anytime the ball crosses midfield, it feels like the Eagles are in scoring territory. It’s like having an Easy Button for the offense. All you need is a play or two to get to midfield and you think you’re in range. We’ve seen teams in the past where you needed to get to the 25-yard line to be comfortable.

This game presented a lot of tough questions and the Eagles were able to come up with the right answers. They are now 5-1 and have a couple of extra days to get rested up before they start getting ready for a rematch with the Skins.

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Gameday – PHI at CAR

Posted: October 12th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1,373 Comments »

Are you ready for some Thursday Night Football?

Thursday Night games are the worst, but all teams have to play them so you just deal with it as best you can. The Eagles do have some good news.

You need all hands on deck when going against Cam Newton so it is great to see Fletcher Cox back in the lineup. He can push the pocket up the middle and help the DEs to collapse things from the outside.

Wendell Smallwood is out again. I hate that, but the Eagles managed without him last week.

It is interesting to see Justin Hamilton playing and Elijah Qualls inactive. Not a big deal, obviously.

*****

The key to the game on defense will be discipline. Carolina does a lot of creative things on offense. They have a brilliant dual-threat QB in Newton and all kinds of interesting weapons. Rookie Christian McCaffrey does just about everything. He is both a playmaker and a decoy. The Eagles can’t get caught up in motions and fakes. They have to be assignment-sound.

Playing the Chiefs in Week 2 was good practice for this game. They don’t do the same things exactly, but they are similar in how they like to confuse you. The Eagles played great defense in Kansas City for almost 3 full quarters before falling apart late.

The Panthers have some huge WRs so this is an ideal game for Rasul Douglas. Wouldn’t shock me to see him make a big play.

Carolina has an outstanding defense, led by MLB Luke Kuechly. They can rush with the front four and make plays with the back seven. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles play against such a stout D.

RT Lane Johnson is out and Big V is in at that spot. There is a drop-off with that, but it sounds like Stefen Wisniewski will be the LG for almost the entire game so the that helps the offense. Wiz has been clearly better than Chance Warmack this year.

The Panthers don’t have a stud CB and that could mean more throws for Alshon Jeffery. Remember that he’s faced some really tough CBs (Peterson, Hayward, Jenkins, Peters, Norman). Carson Wentz has done a good job of distributing the ball rather than forcing it so we’ll see if this makes any difference.

I think the Panthers have an advantage in playing on the short week because they’re at home and they do so much creative stuff on offense that you really need a full week to be ready for that. At the same time, I think the Eagles are the better team. They’ve been more consistent this year.

One thing to watch in this game is how it starts off. The Eagles have played with a lead for most of the past 3 games. The last game that they were even or behind was the loss to the Chiefs. Can the Eagles get off to another hot start and put the pressure on the Panthers?

I don’t have a good feel for this game because it just has an odd vibe to it. I am excited to see how the Eagles stack up against an NFC team with a 4-1 record. Plus, it’s a road game. Lots of little tests there.

Let’s see what the fellas can do…

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Game Review – PHI 34, ARZ 7

Posted: October 12th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 150 Comments »

The Eagles finally played a complete game. They played porous 2nd half defense in recent weeks, letting the Giants and Chargers make games closer than they ever should have been. That didn’t happen against the Cardinals.

The Eagles stormed out to a 21-0 lead and never let Arizona get closer than 21-7.

It had to feel good to coaches and players to see the team finally play a complete game and show what it is really capable of. The Eagles offense combined big plays and ball-control to pile up 419 yards and 35:47 of time of possession. The defense dominated Arizona until the 4th quarter, when it gave up some empty yards.

The Eagles were good, not great. You can’t ignore the fact that the Cardinals are a mediocre team right now. Still, I think it is a good sign when a team plays someone like that and puts them away early. Mediocre Cardinals teams have beaten the Eagles more than a few times in the past.

COACHING

Doug Pederson’s team got up so big so quickly that he didn’t have many crucial decisions to make. He punted in the 1st half on 4th/1, but was already up 21-7 and felt like the reward wasn’t worth the risk. Arizona was struggling to move the ball. Why help them out?

The offensive coaches had a nice gameplan. They stuck with the run, which was a bit of a question. Arizona had one of the better run D’s in the league coming into the game. The coaches used Kenjon Barner really well. You wouldn’t think that was the first game without Darren Sproles.

Jim Schwartz did some creative things on defense. He had Patrick Robinson play on the outside more than usual. He had Malcolm Jenkins cover Larry Fitzgerald a lot. Schwartz was nervous all week about the Cardinals speedy receivers,  but the Eagles did a good job of not letting guys behind them. Part of that is on the players, part on the scheme. Arizona was forced to play small-ball and it hurt them. They only had one play all game that covered 20 or more yards.

PLAYERS

Carson Wentz played his best game of the season, going 21-30-304. He threw a career high 4 TDs. The only real negative was an INT he threw before halftime. Wentz was impressive because he was good in so many ways. He made terrific throws. He avoided pressure in the pocket and ran when he needed to. He used hard counts to get Arizona to show pre-snap blitz looks. Then he adjusted plays. They also jumped offside a couple of times.

Played great situational football. 11-12-225 on 3rd downs. Threw a pair of Red Zone TDs. At his best when the Eagles needed him to be.

Wentz had a clean pocket for much of the game and took advantage of it. He let his receivers get open and then got them the ball. There were times when he was pressured. He took some big hits. Got popped by blitzer on TD to Ertz, but focused on completing the pass. Showed his strength when he avoided sack by throwing the ball away with player holding onto his ankle.

Good touch throw to Burton for the early TD. Accuracy wasn’t ideal, but gave his guy a chance to make a play on the ball and that’s what Burton did. Read the play before the snap and went to Burton right away. Hit Torrey Smith for 59-yard TD. Put the ball where Smith could go get it. Hit Agholor for a 72-yard TD. That came on 3rd/19. Wentz and Agholor communicated before the snap so that must have been a look they were hoping for. Wentz showed good deep accuracy on that play and put the ball out in front of Agholor. Saw Barner vs LB outside in the 4th and threw to that spot. Barner drew PI flag on the LB. Smart to see that mismatch and to attack it.

Wentz ran 4 times for 13 yards before kneel-downs to end the game. Almost broke loose for a good gain, but was tripped up at the last second.

Biggest mistake came before halftime. Wentz forced a ball to Ertz, thinking it would be incomplete at worst. The FS made a great play and picked it off. The Eagles were up 21-7 and in FG range. There was no reason to force that ball. On the play just before that, Wentz forced a ball along the sideline that was almost picked. Had a bad moment in the early 3rd. Eagles had a 3rd down in the Red Zone and Ertz was wide open over the middle. Wentz made a terrible throw right into the ground. Looked like the ball got stuck in his hand or something. Should have been easy pitch and catch for 1st down.

Overall, an excellent performance.    Read the rest of this entry »


The Best of Carson

Posted: October 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 175 Comments »

Carson Wentz is going to be a hot button topic in the football world for a while. Those who didn’t like him before the draft continue to find ways to nitpick his game, seemingly changing the arguments against him on a weekly basis. Eagles fans don’t help matters, telling his critics about every TD throw or big play as soon as they happen.

Those in the middle who are trying to honestly evaluate the young QB can’t decide what to say. There is no question that Wentz is very talented and he has some great moments, but he still has moments where he reminds you that he’s a young QB and has a long way to go. It is too soon to say that’s he has definitely taken the next step and is now a consistently good QB. You need 10 or so games to make a call like that.

I do know that Wentz is playing the best football of his young career and I wrote about that for PE.com. His stats are all trending upward, which is a good sign. At the same time, we do know numbers can lie. Just look at Nick Foles 2013 season of 27 TDs and 2 INTs.

Wentz is passing the eye test as well as posting good numbers.

Foles had a couple of big plays where WRs were covered, tipped the ball, caught it and ran past the DBs for TDs. Those clearly are fluke plays and they were made by the receivers. Compare that to Wentz’s amazing play from the opener.

Wentz made that play. Agholor certainly helped, but it was Wentz who did the heavy lifting.

He’s making big time throws, avoiding pressure in the pocket, running for 1st downs and protecting the ball better. I also love that he’s playing smarter. Remember when Ertz couldn’t make the catch in the end zone? Carson had the coaches run the play again, from a slightly different formation. Ertz got open again and this time he and Wentz connected for the TD.

It would be nice to jump 10 years into the future so we could see what happened. Did Wentz become a truly great QB? Did he lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl win? But that would also spoil the fun of the journey. We have a lot to learn about Wentz and the Eagles.

Right now we know he is talented, looks like Opie on steroids and loves North Dakota about as much as I love PBR and chocolate pudding. His future hasn’t been written yet.

Remember that Daunte Culpepper once looked like a major star, but he faded quickly. Alex Smith looked like a bust until he met Jim Harbaugh and Andy Reid. At this point in his career, Aaron Rodgers was still more than a year away from becoming the starter. Brett Favre and Tom Brady had barely become starters. Wentz already has a career record of 11-10 and looks like a player on the rise.

Enjoy the ride.

Enjoy the tests.

We’ll see a good one on Thursday night when the Eagles play the Panthers and their #3 defense. A strong performance there will be another piece of evidence to put in the Wentz is Really Good file.

*****

Just for fun…

One thing we absolutely do know…dude has big time talent. He is a gifted QB.

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The Hard Way

Posted: October 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 304 Comments »

The Eagles are 4-1 and atop the NFC East. They are tied for the best record in the NFC. They have the best point differential in the NFC.

What makes this so impressive is that the Eagles aren’t having some magical season. Think about the Pro Bowl for a second. No runner or wide receiver is up for Pro Bowl consideration. Zach Ertz definitely is. Carson Wentz might be, but has tough competition with the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Cam Newton. Any of the offensive linemen could make it. That is one area where the Eagles are loaded.

Fletcher Cox should be a Pro Bowl’er if he stays healthy. Brandon Graham has a shot, but there are a lot of good edge rushers. No LB or CB will make it. Malcolm Jenkins absolutely should. Let’s say you’re looking at five Pro Bowl players. That’s good, but nothing crazy.

Last year when Dallas had its breakout season, Dak Prescott posted amazing numbers. Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing. Receiver Cole Beasley had the best season of his young career. Sean Lee stayed healthy, playing in a career high 15 games and setting a career high in tackles. Young players like Byron Jones, David Irving and Benson Mayowa had breakout seasons.

The Eagles have been more methodical than magical. They’ve had to deal with a lot of injuries, which has led to some sloppy play. The Eagles are playing well this year, but guys aren’t performing at unexpectedly high levels.

The good news is that winning like this is better. When a team has a lot of things go right and players peak, it is hard to repeat that. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott remain incredibly talented players, but they aren’t putting up the freakish numbers that they did last year. Dallas has already lost as many games in 2017 as it did in 2016.

The Eagles are doing things the hard way. This is something that can be repeated over and over. As the team gets better and the stars begin to really emerge, that’s when you might have something special. We saw that with the 2004 Eagles.

The current group isn’t special. I do love the fact they seem very much like a team more than a collection of stars. Give Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz credit for some of that. Also give credit to other leaders like Jason Peters, Cox, and Jenkins. This is a team where everyone seems to have bought in and they play as a group more than as individuals.

It is possible this team could be something special by the end of the year.

I think it is exciting to see the Eagles be able to win playing good team football. The 2013 team made the playoffs, but Nick Foles had that insane year (27 TDs, 2 INTs) and there were a lot of lucky plays. The 2010 Eagles were a lot of fun, but Michael Vick was doing some crazy things and that just couldn’t last. I guess you’d have to go back to 2009 to find the last Eagles team that played this kind of football.

I’m really interested to see how the Eagles evolve over the course of the season. I do think there is a high ceiling for this team.

*****

One thing this team has in common with the 2013 Eagles is strong OL play. Jason Peters started the season slowly, but he’s gotten hot.

Good blocking is contagious. You see TEs and WRs doing a good job as well. Zach Ertz is having the best year of his career as a blocker!!! Who knew that was even possible?

If this line can stay healthy and continue to block well, this season could prove to be a lot of fun.

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