Posted: October 16th, 2016 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 89 Comments »
The Eagles O-line has played well so far this year. They have given Carson Wentz time to throw and have opened some nice holes in the run game. Unfortunately that was with Lane Johnson at RT. He is now gone for the next 9 weeks. Today Halapoulivaati Vaitai started in his place. Things did not go well.
Vaitai was a mess in pass protection. He had to deal with Ryan Kerrigan, a terrific edge rusher. Kerrigan has the speed to win to the outside, but he’s also a smart, veteran rusher. He knows to bull rush at times and mix in inside moves. Vaitai couldn’t just protect the edge. That’s what he tried to do, though. That left him vulnerable to the inside and Kerrigan beat him there several times, on run and pass plays. Can. Not. Happen.
More than a few people ripped Doug Pederson for not helping Vaitai. That’s not what happened. The Eagles helped him a lot. They kept TEs in to help him. They had RBs chip on Kerrigan. They even had a WR chip the rusher at least once. People didn’t notice this that much because when he got help, Vaitai controlled his rusher. Pederson let him block solo on some plays because you simply have to do that. You can’t chip and double someone on every single snap. This was nothing like the Winston Justice debacle from 2007.
Vaitai did get better as the game went along. On the 4th/24 series where Wentz got sacked twice, Vaitai had nothing to do with either sack. I’m not trying to tell you he had a good game or anything like that. Clearly he did not. That was a poor performance. It was encouraging to see him show some progress and not fall completely apart.
The most frustrating part of all this is that the rest of the OL played so poorly. The idea in playing Vaitai is that keeping the other 4 starters together would help with continuity and should make it easier to help Vaitai when he needed it. Instead, Allen Barbre played his worst game. Brandon Brooks was sloppy. Jason Kelce was very up and down. Even Jason Peters had some bad moments.
In a word, ugh.
Should the Eagles make a change? Doug Pederson said the team would stick with Vaitai at RT. I understand where he’s coming from. Vaitai now has a game under his belt. He will have a full week of practice before playing next week. The coaches can work on his issues. They can adjust the gameplan to help the situation.
I don’t think the Eagles are giving Big V a blank check. My guess is that he’ll need to play much better this week to keep the job. They want to see if he can become an effective starter. If not, they’ll need to move Barbre to RT and make Wiz the LG.
Pederson could always change his mind after studying the tape. I don’t think he will, but it is possible. He said after the game that he thought benching Vaitai would send the wrong message to the team. I think he’s talking about letting young/new players work their way through mistakes. If the mistakes continue, then you have to bench them. But there is something to be said for sticking with your guys and giving them a chance to improve.
Pederson has done a good job with pushing the right buttons so far this year. This is probably his biggest test so far. It will be interesting to see if any players (other than Wiz) question his choice. I don’t anticipate that right now. It would be one thing if Vaitai was the only culprit in today’s loss, but there were plenty of guys who struggled. This was a team loss. Nobody has the right to complain about who starts. Guys need to focus on what they did wrong and how they can be part of the solution for next week.
Posted: October 16th, 2016 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 234 Comments »
The Eagles lost to the Skins 27-20 in game that should not have been that close. WAS dominated the line of scrimmage, rushing for 230 yards and keeping Kirk Cousins from being sacked even once. There will be a lot of talk about penalties. There will be lots of discussion about the poor play of Halapoulivaati Vaitai. The bottom line is that the Eagles overall OL and DL did not get the job done, and the supporting players didn’t help them out.
If there is a positive to take from this mess, it is the fact that the Eagles got handled but still found a way to stay within one possession. Normally it feels like the Eagles are the team that dominates someone and lets the other team hang around. For 2 weeks in a row, the Eagles clawed their way back into a game, but just couldn’t overcome double-digit deficit in the 2nd half.
Plenty of people are ripping Doug Pederson. He punted the ball on 4th/24 late in the game instead of going for it. I have no problem with what he did there. The Skins had just swarmed all over Carson Wentz for the past couple of plays. He was affected by the rush at that point. The OL was really struggling on that sequence. The idea that they are going to block well, he’s going to be patient and then make an accurate throw to convert on 4th/24 is a real longshot. Pederson counted on his defense making the stop on the ensuing series, which they did not.
The Eagles are a good team, but they do not have elite talent. This team cannot win games when they are making so many costly mistakes. Fletcher Cox hits the QB late to give WAS a chance to score a TD, which they did. 4-point mistake. Zach Ertz fails to catch a slant pass inside the 5, which would likely have turned into a TD. 4-point mistake. Carson Wentz takes a sack late in the game with WAS rushing only 3. That created 4th/24. Nigel Bradham missed a tackle of Cousins on 3rd down in space and that drive ended in a TD instead of a punt. 7-point mistake.
It seems like forever since the Eagles started the season 3-0 and looked so good. They have now lost 2 in a row and are just 1-2 in NFC games. I still believe in this team. They have played 2 straight sloppy games and have lost both, but just look back a year ago for some perspective. After 5 games, the Eagles were 2-3 with wins over the Jets and Saints. The Jets gave that game to the Eagles and the Saints defense was so awful that Eagles receivers were running around wide open all game long. When the Eagles fell behind in some midseason games (TB, DET), the team completely fell apart.
This team has a rookie head coach, new staff and rookie QB. They are 3-2, with all of those wins coming by 14 or more points. The losses were by one point and 7 points and the Eagles had a chance to tie or win each of the games. There is an emotional toughness to this team. They might get rattled here and there, but they settle in and battle you for 60 minutes. That’s a very good sign considering all the change.
Pederson has to clean up the penalties. That is going to be a point of emphasis this week. They will study the calls and see what could or should be done to eliminate them.
As to the overall sloppy play, teams are going to run hot and cold. That’s part of human nature. It took Andy Reid’s teams a few weeks to find their groove. This team seemed to be in a groove prior to the bye, but that’s ancient history now. This isn’t about teams getting game tape and figuring Pederson/Wentz out, this is about poor execution by the Eagles.
Last year KC started 1-5 and then won 10 games in a row. Pederson and Reid didn’t panic. They made changes that helped the team and then the team got on a serious hot streak. I don’t think the Eagles need major changes. They need to execute better and cut out the bonehead mistakes. This team isn’t good enough to win when they help the opponent out.
Pederson and his staff now have 2 games worth of mistakes to study. This isn’t a fluke, it’s a trend. We’ll see what the coaches do and how the players respond. This is a critical juncture in the season.
Posted: October 16th, 2016 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 540 Comments »
What an ugly 1st half of football.
WAS is outgaining the Eagles 285 to 42. They’ve got the run game going and Kirk Cousins continues to play well against the Birds.
The Eagles got on the board with a KOR and an INT return for a score. Those were huge plays that have helped keep the game within range. The Eagles offense has really struggled. Big V has been awful at RT. Making matters worse, the rest of the OL has been very up and down. Those guys needed to play well to help provide stability for Vaitai. Instead, it’s been gas on the fire.
Should the Eagles make a change at RT? That’s got to be a real possibility. Jeff Stoutland and Doug Pederson will certainly discuss it. The defense has been a mess today so the offense needs top score points. The coaches better believe they can get the OL straightened out or they need to make the change.
This is still a very winnable game, but the Eagles must quit making mistakes. They have been their own worst enemy today, just like last week.
We’ve got a huge half of football coming up.
Posted: October 16th, 2016 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 541 Comments »
Lots of angles on this one.
The Eagles have lost 3 in a row to Washington so there is the revenge angle.
The Eagles are coming off their first loss of the year so there is the bounce-back angle.
First division game of the year so there is the rivalry angle. I covered that in my preview for PE.com.
No matter how you slice it, this is a big game. The Eagles need to get back to winning. They don’t want any part of a losing streak, especially with the upcoming schedule. This is a game you really want to win. It would be great to create some separation in the division. The Giants already have 3 losses. If the Eagles win today, that would give the Skins their 3rd loss.
Today is all about the run game. WAS is 25th in the league in rushing. They only have more than 100 yards in one game so far this year. The flip side is that they play awful defense. They are 30th in rush yards allowed. They are dead last in yards per carry. RBs average 5.1 yards per carry against that defense. Wow.
The Eagles are 10th in the league in rushing and 3rd in run defense. Advantage Eagles on both fronts.
The big problem for the Skins on defense is that they are terrible tacklers. You see LBs and DBs miss tackles on a regular basis. The Eagles need to feed the ball to their RBs, both as runners and receivers. Runs and quick passes also work well with trying to get Halapoulivaati Vaitai comfortable at RT. You don’t want him blocking Ryan Kerrigan 1-on-1 on standard pass plays on a regular basis. You have to test him a bit, but quick throws, chip blocks and double teams can help the rookie out. If Vaitai shows he can handle the situation, then adjust. But you need to plan to help him.
With the Skins tackling issues, I would also throw the ball to DGB and Josh Huff. DGB uses his size and strength to get the best of tacklers. Huff uses his speed and running ability to move well in traffic.
I know a lot of people love to rip on Kirk Cousins, but he is a better player than they realize, especially against the Eagles. In 3 starts, he is 2-1 and the Skins average 32 points per game.
Stopping him won’t be easy. Jim Schwartz talked about the need for the Eagles DL to win the battle up front. It looks to me like the Skins OL is improved from last year so that is easier said than done.
I don’t know why the Skins are so pass-happy. Cousins averages 40 dropbacks per game. RBs average less than 20 carries per game. Matt Jones is a big, physical runner. You would think you would want to feed him the ball. The Eagles will want to get penetration to stop him. Jones isn’t as effective when he has to deal with trash in the backfield. He is a downhill runner and needs to get going to generate his power.
TE Jordan Reed is out, but Cousins still has plenty of weapons. Rodney McLeod will have the challenge of not letting DeSean Jackson get behind him. McLeod has never faced Jackson so he’s about to find out just how fast DJax is. Jamison Crowder in the slot is a tough matchup. I’m not sure Ron Brooks can handle his speed and quickness. I also think RB Chris Thompson can be challenging. He has big time speed.
The Eagles should try to be methodical and run the ball a lot. That keeps Cousins and his weapons over on the sidelines as spectators.
Don’t overlook the importance of STs today. Crowder is the leading PR in the league. The Skins are #2 on KORs. They also ran a fake punt for a big gain a couple of weeks ago. Lose the kicking game and you might lose the overall game.
Going by the numbers, the Eagles should win this game. But WAS has won 3 in a row on the season and against the Eagles. That tells me this game will be tougher than the numbers say.
If the Eagles run the ball well and Carson Wentz plays like he usually does, the Eagles should win this game.
Eagles going light at CB with McKelvin out and Smith inactive.
Posted: October 15th, 2016 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 49 Comments »
The Eagles offense gained 346 yards and scored 23 points. They played well enough to win on most days.
Unfortunately the defense struggled so much in the 1st half that the offense needed to play at a really high level to win that game. That didn’t happen. Penalties, turnovers and general errors proved too much to overcome.
The Lions had one of the worst pass defenses in the league. I don’t think the Eagles exploited that as much as they needed to. TEs had lit Detroit up all year, but Doug Pederson either didn’t make them a big enough part of the gameplan or Carson Wentz just didn’t get them the ball enough. Brent Celek didn’t have a catch. He wasn’t even targeted. Trey Burton and Zach Ertz combined for 4 catches for 42 yards.
I do think falling behind 14-0 and then 21-7 affected the gameplan. The Eagles only ran the ball 21 times. Pederson never abandoned the run game, but it was too sporadic. I was happy that neither Pederson nor Wentz panicked. The Eagles didn’t start throwing a bunch of desperation passes. They stayed methodical. There was one sequence that bothered me.
The Eagles were down 21-17. Matt Stafford fumbled the ball and the Eagles got it at the DET 16-yard line. I wanted Pederson to run the ball here and take control of the game, physically and on the scoreboard. He threw for the end zone on 1st down. Incomplete. Then a short run. Then another throw to the end zone. Incomplete. I understand the desire to go quick strike after a turnover. I also understand the desire to grab the lead. I just thought it would have been smarter to put in Matt Tobin and the 3 TEs. Run the ball and then throw a play-action pass if you want. The Lions have struggled all year with TEs. Instead, Pederson focused on the WRs, the weakest group on the Eagles team.
I previously wrote about the 3rd down run play for Mathews at the end of the game.
I wasn’t a big fan of the 3rd down play the Eagles ran where Ryan Mathews fumbled the ball away. He was having most of his success between the tackles. To suddenly toss him the ball and ask him to run outside felt weird. I would have preferred a rollout with Wentz where he had the run-pass option. That puts more pressure on the defense. Still, Mathews cannot fumble that ball away. He had it in his inside arm and that didn’t help matters. Getting the 1st down there is huge, but the one thing you can’t do is give them the ball with a turnover.
I also covered the final play in that post.
Wentz played a very good game up until the end. He made a bad decision and compounded that with a bad throw. You can yell and gripe all you want about Nelson Agholor, but watch the play. That ball is to the outside. He’s looking over his shoulder and trying to get outside to the ball. He can’t because the CB is right there in perfect position. That ball needs to be away from the CB, which is to the inside. Agholor certainly didn’t help matters, but that is a bad throw.
It was also a bad decision. Wentz had a clean pocket and got greedy. Instead of finding an underneath receiver or even throwing the ball away, he decided to heave the ball downfield. Dumb. You just don’t do that in that situation. When you trail by a point, have a hot PK and 1:20 or so on the clock, you don’t have to force things. Play smart.
If Wentz, Mathews and the team learn from those late game mistakes, losing to the Lions could actually be a good thing. Better to make those mistakes against them early in the season than in a division game or in a critical matchup in December. We’ll see.
Carson Wentz played well. Good passing numbers, 25-33-238 with 2 TDs. Rating of 102.8. First INT of the season came on the final offensive play. Ran twice for 14 yards. Both were read-option plays. Wentz made good reads on those runs and later made a good read when he handed the ball off on a zone-read.
Made some terrific throws in the game. Best came on 2nd/25 when he hit Matthews for a gain of 27. Lions were well-blocked. Wentz rolled right to buy time. Signaled to Matthews what he wanted him to do and then fired a strike to him along the sideline. Wow. That’s a play Nick Foles just can’t physically make. Good Sam Bradford…maybe, if there wasn’t a checkdown option in front of him. Mark Sanchez doesn’t have that kind of accuracy…or patience. Read the rest of this entry »