Context on Carson

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

I just finished rewatching the loss to the Rams last night. Before posting my game review, I wanted to write something about Carson Wentz. He had another bad game and there were some really frustrating moments.

But we do need context in some cases of a player struggling and I think this is definitely one of them.

Jimmy had a reasonable take. Bryn hopped right on the hyperbole train. He’s not the only one, but his was the first I found.

As bad as Wentz has been…as much as the offense struggled…the Eagles scored 17 and 19 points the first couple of weeks. I think some of you have forgotten your Eagles history.

There was a 2-game stretch in 2013 when the offense put up one field goal. That is awful offense. The 2012 team had a 6-game stretch where they only got beyond 19 points once (23). Remember how explosive the 2010 team was? They scored 14 points in a brutal loss to the Vikings (on a Tuesdy night!) and then put up just 16 in the playoff loss to Green Bay. The 2008 team, which almost made it to the Super Bowl, was held to single digits twice. The 2007 Eagles were held to 16 points or less in 5 of the first 6 games.

As for QB play, Wentz is struggling. But something funny happened as I watched the Rams game. My expectations were so low due to the hyperbole that I was surprised to see some nice throws and some good plays. Wentz still has incredible talent. He still makes some big time throws. He’s just maddeningly inconsistent and picks the worst moments to make mistakes.

The INT to JJAW in the end zone was torture. The decicision was bad. The throw was just as bad. His front foot got ridiculously out wide and got him off-balance.

Wentz tried to hit Goedert when the TE got behind Jalen Ramsey. Big play potential. Wentz almost jumped as he threw that and the ball was off target.

There were other plays where I yelled at the TV. It was frustrating.

But again…we need context. This is not awful QB play.

1993 – Bubby Brister vs the Bears – Bubby threw 2 INTs…both to DL. The Eagles scored 6 points that day. This was the first game after Randall Cunningham’s season-ending injury. Miserable day.

1994 – Randall Cunningham vs the Steelers – Check out this stat line…9-27-59. I don’t even know how that is possible. The Ultimate Weapon was Incredibly Awful. The Eagles piled up 105 yards and 3 points.

1998 – The entire season.

1999 – Doug Pederson vs the Bills – Remember  him? Doug went 14-26-137. He didn’t throw any picks. The Eagles gained 169 yards and were shutout.

2003 – Donovan McNabb vs the Giants – McNabb was dealing with a wrist injury. He went 9-23-64. The Eagles won the game, amazingly, when Brian Westbrook had his punt return for a TD miracle.

2006 – McNabb vs the Jags – Donovan was healthy, but played like he was hurt. 18-34-161. The Eagles lost 13-6 in a miserable game.

2011 – Michael Vick vs the Cards – Another miserable loss. Vick struggled as a passer, going 16-34-128. He threw 2 picks. Vick was outplayed by John Skelton, something no one thought was possible.

2013 – Nick Foles vs Dallas – Foles was dreadful. He went 11-29-80 that day. He was knocked out of the game and Matt Barkley played better than Foles when he took over. Lost 17-3.

I’ll stop there. I’m fairly depressed at this point. Those were some nightmare games. Some awful QB play. Wentz is a mess right now, but you still see flashes of his talent. There are drives when the offense looks good and you buy in. Then they have some breakdown and things fall apart.

This is fixable.

Pederson is desperate to get his star QB back on track. Hopefully this is the week he finds the right message for Wentz.

The talent is still there.

_


The Right Message

Posted: September 23rd, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Coaches usually have one message for their team and one for the media. If you go back to the coaches bible, Finding the Winning Edge by Bill Walsh, he talks about the need for coaches to publicly protect their players. He preached that the smart thing to do was take the blame for losses and mistakes when talking to the media. Behind closed doors, you held players accountable. That was the time and place for honesty.

Andy Reid lived by this code. How many times did we hear “I’ve got to do a better job of…” from him? He was doing what the master had taught him.

Doug Pederson does the same thing. He just doesn’t do it as well. Andy could really lock in and stay on message. Doug tends to drift as he talks and that undermines what he’s trying to say.

Jim Schwartz had an interesting teleconference on Tuesday.

Schwartz accepted blame for the loss on Sunday. But he didn’t do this in a generic way. He explained that he had a poor gameplan for the Rams.

The Rams like to do a lot of things with motion, movement and tempo. They want to confuse you. Rather than going with a complex scheme that had very specific assignment for players, Schwartz decided to go with something simple.

The problem is that it required players to read and react. The Eagles are at their best attacking. You could see guys watching all the motion and fakes and then hesitating as they figured out what to do. They were caught flat-footed and that’s deadly in the NFL. Give a skill player a half-second advantage and he’s by you.

The Rams jumped out to a 21-3 lead and Schwartz decided to scrap the gameplan. He’s mad at himself for not doing it sooner.

It is fair for some to question if this is coach BS, but I think he’s being legit. That game changed after the Rams got up 21-3. The Eagles still gave up yards and points, but not like the beginning of the game.

  • First 17:45 – 3 possessions – 21 points – 196 yards
  • Last 42:15 – 6 possesions – 16 points – 253 yards

That is a stark difference.

That was an interesting explanation from Schwartz, but he said something beyond that which really resonated with me. He was asked about the problems the defense has had this year. Schwartz pointed out all the areas where the Eagles are usually good, but aren’t right now. He then said that he’s not as worried about those areas as he is “our response to adversity”.

This really got my attention.

Schwartz then talked about how in the past his defense had the ability weather the storm. They would find a way to make a big play or come up with a key sack. Those big plays might kill a scoring drive or even get the ball back for the Eagles. He talked about the defense needing the ability to “square their jaw” and get key stops.

I loved this message.

We can talk about players. We can talk about scheme. This group is good enough and this scheme is good enough to get the job done. They just aren’t making the key plays at key moments. They fail on crucial third downs. They fail on fourth downs. They fail in the Red Zone.

This team needs to play smarter and tougher to make those key stops. This isn’t about the need for a bigger LB or a faster DB. This is about having the mental and emotional toughness to handle the situation in front of you.

Football 101…Do Your Job. Right now not enough guys are doing that. All it takes is one player making a mistake and the whole defense pays the price. Guys need to be more disciplined. They need to be smarter. They need to win their 1-on-1 matchups. Do your job.

The scheme isn’t going to change once your in the season. The Eagles aren’t going to add Reggie White, Seth Joyner or Wes Hopkins in the next few months. Schwartz’s message to his players is that they are good enough to get the job done. Obviously it helps if he gives them a better gameplan than he did on Sunday.

Fans can look to the offseason with dreams of new coaches or new players. There are still 14 games left this year. Schwartz is saying the right things publicly, which makes me think he’s saying the right thing privately as well.

Can he get those players to handle adversity better? We’ll start to see if that message works on Sunday against the Bengals.

*****

Ugh.

Wentz is in a funk right now. Pederson has talked about how Wentz can work his way out of it.

One thing that will help is if Pederson calls better plays. Think about the first two games and how many plays really impressed you. Pederson has been a creative play-caller in the past. It feels like he is counting on Wentz and the skill players to execute right now.

Sean McVay did a great job on Sunday of getting his QB into a rhythm and helping everyone to play at a high level. Great coaching job.

The Eagles offense felt a lot more random than precise. It sure didn’t have a good flow.

Wentz and Pederson both have a hand in getting this thing fixed.

_


What’s Going On?

Posted: September 22nd, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Two games gives us hints, but not enough information to really know what a team is. Football is a process sport. You train and develop, train and develop. Being hot in September doesn’t mean a thing in December. Some good teams are good all year long. Others can get off to a slow start and then will improve as the season progresses.

The Eagles sit at 0-2. That hardly means the season is over. There is a ton of time left. Think about how different the run game looked from the opener to Sunday. Think about different the O-line looked from the opener to Sunday. You can fix things. You can improve.

Carson Wentz is off to a slow start, but think about the first half from the opener. He looked terrific until the late interception. Last December he carried the team on his back. We know this guy can play.

Doug Pederson is 38-28 as coach of the Eagles. He’s 4-2 in the postseason. He guided the team to a Super Bowl win while missing his QB, LT, MLB and PK. The Eagles have been to the playoffs the past three seasons. Winning in the NFL isn’t easy. Pederson has proven to be a winner.

Jim Schwartz has been a successful defensive coordinator for a long time. He’s had Top 10 defenses in three different stops. The man can coach.

There is every reason to believe the Eagles can turn this season around. They have the QB. They have the coaches. They can get this done.

That is what a glass is half-full person would say.

I’m an optimist and tend to see the glass as half-full, but this team worries me. There is 0-2 and then there is this 0-2.

https://twitter.com/FO_ASchatz/status/1308060565995216896

https://twitter.com/FO_ASchatz/status/1308060791237730306

Yikes.

The Eagles started 0-2 back in 2003. They finished that season 12-4. The first two losses were to the Bucs and Pats. Tampa had just won the Super Bowl and New England would win it that season. There was no shame in losing to them.

Blowing a 17-point lead to Washington and losing by 10 points? That’s bad with a capital B. I’m still at a loss for how that happened. Getting blown out by the Rams on a day when Aaraon Donald was a non-factor? That’s not good at all. This is not a good 0-2. This is troubling.

I do believe this team can still turn things around, but it is also possible this season could really fall apart. Wentz has to be a bit of a head case right now. He’s struggling in a way that’s foreign to him. He’s had a bad game before, but he’s not played this poorly in consecutive weeks. He could snap out of it right away or this could be a lingering issue. Did drafting Jalen Hurts bother him more than we know?

Chemistry might not be ideal with this team. Jason Peters made it clear where his head was when he refused to play LT without a raise. Zach Ertz is worried about his contract. Alshon Jeffery isn’t in an ideal situation. Brandon Graham knows this could be his last year with the Eagles (age/price). DeSean Jackson is likely playing his last season with the team. Throw a bunch of rookies into the mix and you have a lot of different agendas and mindsets. That could lead to issues.

Pederson was hired by Jeffrey Lurie in part because of his emotional intelligence. He inherited a team from Chip Kelly that needed to be fixed both on and off the field. Pederson did that and delivered amazing results.

This is a different challenge. Pederson has to fix his own team. He’s not here to clean up someone else’s mess. Pederson’s press conferences have always been bad and that trend continues. He was offering up excuses on Monday and that’s not the right message to the public.

Ugh.

Pederson’s message behind closed doors has been effective. Can he keep that going? Can Pederson push the right buttons to fix this team? He won’t be using excuses when talking to his players. He will defend them publicly, but privately he will be honest and let them know this is unacceptable.

I honestly don’t know what to expect from this team moving forward. I’ve lowered my expectations and now am more curious than anything else. It will be interesting to see if I get mad when watching them on Sunday or if apathy has set in. That has never happened to me in September, but this is a very unusual Eagles team.

*****

I haven’t had a chance to rewatch the game. Fran has his All-22 piece up so make sure to check that out.

_


What Happened to the Defense?

Posted: September 21st, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Jim Schwartz got exposed. And the back seven? What a joke. The Rams made the Eagles defense look bad. Jared Goff was efficient. The run game went for more than 100 yards. Something has to be done. Get rid of someone!!!

Right, you say. Something has to change. You aren’t going to win with that group.

But wait…I was actually talking about the 2017 game, when the Eagles won 43-35. Schwartz had a Top 3 defense. They had veterans all over the back seven. Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod and Corey Graham were the safeties. Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks were the LBs. Patrick Robinson was in the slot. That group of players handled the middle of the field and they got lit up.

They also won a Super Bowl a couple of months later.

I knew the back seven was going to be challenged. From my preview:

I have two major concerns. First, the Eagles back seven handling the fakes and motion and movement. If they blow assignments, there will be receivers open and big plays available. This is a critical day for playing smart. Know your assignment. Execute your assignment.

The Rams run somewhat of a simple offense. They don’t have a huge, complex playbook. But they use a lot of pre-snap motion, shifting and fakes. It requires great discipline to shut them down. The Eagles were terrible yesterday in terms of playing assignment football.

The Rams didn’t catch them off guard. There weren’t any crazy new plays. There was just great execution.

How does this happen?

The best thing I can compare the Rams offense to is the Princeton offense from college basketball. I’m not sure if that’s something the average sports fan is aware of anymore, but it used to be something all the big schools feared. Princeton would run an offense that featured a lot of motion and cutting. Their players mastered it and it gave good teams fits because they didn’t face it anywhere else. That offense required precision more than talent and allowed Princeton to play well against significantly better opponents.

The big issue is that teams couldn’t simulate the offense in practice. They knew what plays were coming, but the backups wouldn’t run them well enough in practice to truly get the starters ready for it.

As McLeod said after the game, the Eagles weren’t surprised. They knew what plays were coming. But there is no way Eagles backups could execute those plays anywhere near the level of the Rams. Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and the rest of those skill guys have been in that offense for multiple years. They know how to sell fakes and execute all the looks to keep maximum pressure on the defense.

The Eagles just couldn’t get them off balance very much. There was a time in the second quarter when the Eagles started to get pressure and Goff started to miss throws. He began 13 of 13 and then went on a 5 of 12 stretch. That’s what happens when Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson are in your face when you throw. The announcers kept going on about Goff missing an open RB for a TD. They brushed aside the fact he was hit as he threw the ball.

When Goff did have time, it was no contest. You can’t play fast when you’re thinking. The Eagles started guessing and that led to a lot of errors. Nate Gerry really struggled. You saw on multiple plays where he watched the ball and then reacted half a second late. He didn’t trust his eyes. He was processing the action too slowly. Half a second can be an eternity in NFL pass defense.

As frustrating as Gerry and the LBs were, the DEs bugged me even more. Over and over, they bit hard on fakes, leaving Goff tons of space to move in when he rolled outside. DEs have to play outside-in. They have to make sure the QB doesn’t have the ball before crashing down in run support. I could have lived with this if the Eagles were shutting down the run, but that sure wasn’t happening. We got the worst of both worlds.

That was just a brutal day for the defense.

The offense could have helped, as they did in the 2017 game. The Eagles gave up yards and points in that meeting, but the offense made big plays as well. They out-gained and outscored the Rams.

The defense put the game away with a TD at the end. That wasn’t a good day for Schwartz, but his group did enough to win. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. They couldn’t come up with a takeaway. They couldn’t get Red Zone stops. They were beaten every way possible.

I knew things might be rough, but I thought they would make enough plays to put the Eagles in position to win.

Schwartz and his coaches have a lot of teaching to do. They have to use Sunday as a lesson for the young guys. And the young guys better learn fast or this is going to be a long season.

_


Tough Day Leads to Tough Questions

Posted: September 20th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

The Eagles loss to Washington in the opener was bad. The team got out to a 17-0 lead and then fell apart. This week was supposed to be different. That loss woke everyone up. It got their attention. Things were going to be different.

Stylistically, yes.

Instead of blowing a big lead, the Eagles fell behind 21-3 and lost the game 37-19. There was a good comeback in the middle. The Eagles cut the lead to 24-19 and marched down into the Red Zone. Momentum had shifted. Things were finally going the Eagles way.

And then it happened. Carson Wentz threw a horrible interception, forcing a ball to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the end zone. It was picked off and the Eagles were on their heels the rest of the game.

The defense was slightly less than awesome. The Rams scored 37 points and piled up 449 yards. They ran for 191. Jared Goff had a passer rating of 142. The Rams were 7 for 12 on third downs. They were 4 for 5 in the Red Zone. The defense came up with one sack and no takeaways.

Yikes.

When the Eagles beat the Rams in December of 2017, that game was a shootout. Stopping the Rams isn’t easy. The Eagles offense played at a high level that day. That didn’t happen today in Philly. The offense gained yards, but turnovers and key mistakes limited them to just 19 points. The offense needed to make plays and score points. Neither happened.

The Eagles now find themselves at 0-2, with a pair of discouraging losses. The Rams are good so there is no shame in losing to them. But losing by 18 and looking so sloppy is a different story. The Eagles are not a good team right now.

The Super Bowl win of 2017 is starting to get further and further away. The team needed hot streaks each of the past two seasons to get to 9-7. The Eagles haven’t been more than one game over .500 outside of late December. Now they are 0-2 with a defense that is allowing 34 points a game and an offense that has only scored 36 points this year.

Yikes.

I’m not calling for anyone to get fired or saying the season is over. Football is a marathon sport. You don’t have to start 2-0 or look great in September to make it to the Super Bowl. But man, this team is a mess right now. I do think it is fair to start questioning the big names…Howie Roseman, Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz.

The Eagles are 19-18 in their last 37 games. The new normal is mediocrity. The current team has consecutive losses by double digits. Injuries have been a factor in the last three years, but that’s part of the equation. Has the organization hired the right medical/training staffs? Has Roseman brought in the right players? Is Pederson doing something wrong (too much or too little work)? Is Wentz the right QB?

This isn’t a good look.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this team coming into the season. They brought in a big rookie class. When you do that, there is going to be a learning curve. I could live with youthful mistakes, but that’s not all we’ve seen. Jason Peters played worse than rookie Jack Driscoll in the opener. Zach Ertz dropped a fourth down pass last week. Veteran Richard Rodgers had a terrible block attempt on a pass play. Derek Barnett had a dumb offside penalty today. Nickell Robey-Coleman doesn’t seem to understand how to tackle.

And Wentz…he’s made crucial mistakes in both games. I still think highly of Wentz, but this is a bad start for him. There is no question that he’s physically gifted. His decision-making has been a major issue. The announcers compared him to Brett Favre during today’s broadcast. That’s good and bad. Favr had a Hall of Fame career, but he only won one Super Bowl, in part because of his fatal flaw. He forced the ball too much and took too many chances.

Wentz had no business forcing the ball to JJAW today. It was first down. The Eagles were down five points and had momentum on their side. That’s not the time to play desperate. That’s not the time to take a chance. You have to play smart there. Wentz just couldn’t help himself. He wanted to make a play. Instead he gave the Rams a huge gift. The Eagles might have lost that game anyway, but that was a devastating moment.

Just last December we saw Wentz carry the team on his back. He looked so good, despite having so little to work with. He was smart. He was a playmaker when needed. Wentz looked like what you want in a franchise QB. That guy hasn’t been on the field in the last six quarters. Wentz has to play a lot better if there is any hope for this season.

Pederson has to figure out what is going on with this team. This goes well beyond scheme and play-calling. It almost feels like the Eagles are still in preseason mode, trying to figure out what is working and what needs to be fixed. That doesn’t work when the opponents are in regular season mode.

There is a lot of football left to be played this year, but that’s not an exciting thought with the way this team has looked so far. The Eagles better find some answers in a hurry.

_