Injury Update

Posted: September 12th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 41 Comments »

Sunday provided great results on the field for the Eagles, but the win over Washington came at a cost. Ronald Darby, Caleb Sturgis and Jason Peters were all injured in the game.

There are optimistic reports on Darby.

If true, that’s great. Doug Pederson wasn’t so optimistic. He didn’t offer any bad news, but would not concur with this report. Dave Spadaro said this in a piece.

Just how serious, and how long Darby will be out, is not yet known for sure. The defense would love to get him back at some point in this 2017 season. There is the matter of the possibility of surgery. No doubt the rehabilitation would be arduous. An ankle injury for a player who plays a position that requires so much quick-twitch movements makes for an even more difficult rehab.

The Eagles seem to be pumping the brakes on the idea of Darby definitely being back in 4 to 6 weeks. Is that cause for concern? The Eagles might just be playing this conservatively. If they push the 4 to 6 week narrative, that puts pressure on them and Darby to make that schedule. If they leave things open-ended, there isn’t as much pressure.

Pederson surprised me when he talked at his press conference about wanting to leave Patrick Robinson in the slot. I thought for sure Robinson would move outside, with Dexter McDougle taking over in the slot. The Eagles can leave Robinson inside and use either Jaylen Watkins or rookie Rasul Douglas outside. Neither is an optimal move. We’ll have to wait and see how the team wants to play this.

*****

It sounds like Sturgis will miss a few weeks with a leg injury. The good news…it is his plant leg. The Eagles will work out kickers, probably on Tuesday. They’ll have to make a quick decision on what to do. Do they cut a position player and give that spot to the new kicker? Do they put Sturgis on IR?

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Peters insists he will play Sunday. He probably will, but the Eagles will talk to him to make sure that’s the smart move. They don’t want him to do anything that could lead to the injury getting worse and causing Peters to miss an extended period. We’ll just have to wait and see how Peters responds to the treatment he’s getting this week.

I haven’t studied all the tape, but Big V did some good things on Sunday. If needed, he could be a functional LT for the Eagles. He played LT as a Senior at TCU and had a terrific season. You don’t want  him playing there the whole year, but he could be solid for a game or two.

Long term, Vaitai has shown starter potential. The Eagles are lucky to have Peters and Lane Johnson for now. That let’s Big V continue to develop so that when he does hit the field, he’ll have a better chance to succeed.

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Monday Morning Notebook

Posted: September 11th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 289 Comments »

Let’s start by talking about CB Ronald Darby and his injury situation.

Keep your fingers crossed. Darby isn’t a make or break player for the Eagles season, but he is the team’s best CB and you don’t want to be without that guy for all 16 games. The team could get by without him for 6 or 8 weeks much easier than the whole year.

Patrick Robinson will now have to step up and play well on the outside. He did that on Sunday, but doing it for an extended period will be a challenge for him.

It sounds like Darby will go on IR either way. Hopefully it will be IR, designated to return. If so, the Eagles might consider bringing back Ron Brooks to fill his spot. Brooks can play the slot or outside and is a solid STs player. The Eagles could go with C.J. Smith if they want a younger option. They could go for a CB from some other team. I don’t know the best options on the street right now.

Like I said, keep your fingers crossed.

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In some ways, the key possession of the game might have been the final drive of the first half. The Eagles 13-0 lead was gone and they suddenly trailed 14-13. Momentum was on Washington’s side.

That’s when Carson Wentz fired up the no-huddle offense and marched the team right down the field and into FG range. Then Caleb Sturgis came out and drilled a 50-yard FG to put the Eagles back in front, 16-14.

That drive had added value because the Eagles got the ball to open the second half and marched down the field and kicked a FG there. That put them up 19-14 and gave them a bit of fudge room. It helps when you are winning by four or more points. You don’t feel like every single play is about to put the other team back in the lead  (or to tie up the game).

*****

The Eagles players dumped the Gatorade bucket on Doug Pederson. Zach Ertz said after the game it was the players way of showing their support for Pederson in a week where a lot of speculation by a couple of sources about a possible power struggle. The players like Pederson quite a bit and wanted to let him know that and also to let others know that as well.

That doesn’t mean the anonymous reports will stop, but it does show Pederson has the support of his players.

*****

I re-watched the defensive snaps last night and two things stood out.

First, Malcolm Jenkins had a great game. His stat line won’t blow you away (4 tackles, 1 PD), but put on the tape and watch #27. He was all over the field. You see him in the box, playing the run and blitzing. You see him in man coverage, locked up with Jordan Reed. You see him playing deep and then attacking receivers in front of him.

Jenkins was very physical. Kirk Cousins ran the ball on an option play and got loose to the outside. Jenkins got over there and slammed him down hard. It was clean, but that’s what you want. Make the QB pay on those plays where he runs the ball. Jenkins broke up a pass when he was deep and then hit the receiver as he tried to catch the ball. He also was a handful on blitzes. Jenkins didn’t get to the QB, but he either ran over the blocking back or drove the guy back into Cousins on multiple plays.

It still blows me away that the Saints let this guy go. Jenkins was in his prime. Smart. Talented. High character. Durable. What an insane move.

*****

The other thing that stood out was the pressure on Cousins. Too often people think of pressure as multiple DL hitting the QB as he throws. Don’t get me wrong, that’s the fantasy of every defensive coach in football, but coaches are smart enough to know pressure isn’t always that blatantly obvious.

Cousins rarely had a clean pocket. He might have his OGs being driven back toward him. He might have Brandon Graham coming off a block and starting to the inside. He might have Tim Jernigan getting past his blocker. There were times when he saw blitzers flying at the line of scrimmage.

All of this affected Cousins. He got hit plenty, but even on plays where there wasn’t actual contact, the pressure affected him. There was a 2nd and long situation where he threw out to a checkdown receiver by the sideline for a minimal gain. I wondered about that live. The tape showed a rusher starting to come free so Cousins went ahead and got rid of the ball.

The INT by Jalen Mills came when Jenkins and Jordan Hicks blitzed up the middle. Cousins threw the ball while falling away and it sailed over his receiver and right to Mills for a game-changing play. Hicks pulled up rather than risking a roughing the passer penalty (so, so smart), but he affected the pass and created the turnover.

Beautiful.

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Big Time Statement Win!!!!!

Posted: September 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 258 Comments »

Just having a little fun with that title. It was great to see the Eagles win in Washington today, but there’s no need to try to make it into some franchise defining moment. It was a good win, on the road, against a division rival.

Here are some things that stood out to me.

Injuries – Ronald Darby is out for a while, if not the season. His ankle was not a pretty sight. It’s not something you can rest for a month and get back to playing shape. The Eagles overcame the situation by using a variety of players in a variety of ways. Give Patrick Robinson a lot of credity. He struggled this spring and early in the summer, but moving to the slot got his confidence back and he played well inside and outside today. My guess is Robinson stays outside with Dexter McDougle taking over in the slot. Jason Peters left with a groin injury. Big V took over at LT and did a good job.

That’s good news.

Caleb Sturgis got hurt on a kickoff late in the game. We have to wait and see what his condition is.

You don’t like injuries, but it was good to see the Eagles overcome them.

Defense – Kirk Cousins has a lifetime QB rating of more than 100 against the Eagles. The Skins averaged 28 points in their 5-game win streak. Put simply, their offense dominated the Eagles defense for 2 1/2 years. That changed today.

The Skins got 264 yards. They scored 10 points on offense. The Eagles defense had 4 sacks, 3 takeaways, scored a TD and one of the takeaways came in the Red Zone, preventing sure points. Skins RBs were 13-34 on the ground. Cousins ran for 30 yards himself, but you’ll never complain when he leads that team’s ground attack.

Nelson Friggin’ Agholor – Best game of his NFL career. Agholor hauled in a 58-yard TD to open the scoring. Carson Wentz did the hard work, but Agholor got open and caught the ball. He wasn’t doing that stuff last year. Agholor was open a lot in the game and caught 6 of 8 passes thrown his way. He finished 6-86-1. He was open for another deep ball, but Wentz was off-target. I loved the fact Agholor played with confidence. He wasn’t hoping to be good, he expected to have success.

Those Plays – If you watched the game, you know what I mean. The Eagles were in scoring position with a promising drive when Wentz threw a lateral to Agholor. The ball was off-target and the Skins recovered it. The Eagles later faked this play and threw a screen off it. Didn’t work well. They had some other WR screen passes that didn’t work well.

Pederson has two choices. Either coach the absolute hell out of those plays so that they are executed flawlessly 99 out of 100 times or quit calling them. My vote is to quit calling them, but that doesn’t seem likely. The timing on the plays wasn’t good. The throws weren’t good. The blocking was awful. I’m sure the plays make sense in theory, but if your players can’t execute them consistently, get rid of them.

One side note…I was happy that the botched play to Agholor didn’t affect him. Last year a play like that would have destroyed his confidence.

Zach Ertz – Last year Ertz was 6-58 in the opener. Today he was 8-93 and he made some big plays. This might actually be the year that Ertz plays at a high level all year long. He and Wentz have great chemistry and that showed today. Wentz trusts him and Ertz made some tough grabs.

The Blitz – Jim Schwartz was aggressive all day vs the Skins. He blitzed more than he does most of the time. He sent LBs, CBs and Safeties. He attacked up the middle and off the edge. The blitzers didn’t get any sacks, but one blitz was huge. Schwartz had multiple guys go up the middle on a Red Zone play. Cousins threw falling away and his pass sailed over Jamison Crowder’s hands and right to Jalen Mills. That prevented points and may have saved the game. Schwartz prefers to rush four and cover with seven, but he wanted to make darn sure Cousins didn’t get comfortable in the pocket. And he never did.

Blocking – The O-line struggled this summer. I thought playing extended snaps together would get them into a rhythm and things would be fine. Nope. The OL struggled today. Wentz was under way too much pressure. Run blocking wasn’t as good as it needed to be. And you can’t blame this on the Peters injury. I actually think the line was better with Vaitai in there. Sometimes losing a key player will get everyone else to step up their level of play.

Wentz – 26 of 39 for 307 yards. 2 TDs, 1 INT. Rating of 96.8. Wentz had a good game. He had some real highlight moments and he had some poor plays as well. The good far outweighed the bad. His deep accuracy was a problem. The Eagles missed at least three long TDs due to errant throws. Wentz has to get better at that so he can take advantage of his new weapons.

His ability to avoid sacks and keep plays alive is a huge plus. Wentz is so strong that he’s not going down on casual contact. He’s incredibly elusive for a big man and he can give rushers fits. The best part is that he keeps his eyes downfield and that can lead to some big pass plays.

STs – Dave Fipp’s guys did not have a good summer, but that all changed today. The coverage units were great. Caleb Sturgis was 3-3 on FGs (but did miss an extra point). Donnie Jones had a strong day, pinning the Skins at the 1-yard line with one punt. The return game was the only thing lacking.

*****

This was far from a perfect performance by the Eagles, but they played well overall and won the game. Great way to start the season.

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Gameday at WAS

Posted: September 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 821 Comments »

Kickoff is fast approaching. Are you starting to get a little excited?

Here is the inactive list for today.

I was curious if they would go with LB Joe Walker or DE Steven Means. Obviously they went with the LB. Walker will make his NFL debut.

I also wondered about Jaylen Watkins vs Dexter McDougle. Watkins is more versatile and knows the scheme. That combination probably got him the nod. We’ll see if McDougle gets to play in a week or two.

It is nice when your team is healthy and the coaches have tough choices to make.

*****

The Skins have owned the Eagles recently, but I feel pretty good about today. The Eagles are better on the OL and DL and with their skill players. I don’t know that WAS is improved.

The last two times the Eagles played the Skins in the season opener (1996 & 2013), the good guys won. Let’s hope that trend continues.

Let’s also hope this is a fun season.

Here we go…

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The Must-Win Statement Game of the Century

Posted: September 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 9 Comments »

The Eagles open against the division rival Skins. Must Win.

The Skins have owned the Eagles in recent years, winning 5 in a row. Must win.

This is a road game, where the Eagles struggled mightily last year. Must win.

The season opener sets the tone for the season. Must win.

So if the Eagles lose to the Skins and then 15 in a row…what does that mean? I know, I know. The Eagles aren’t going to win 15 in a row. So let’s say the Eagles go 10-5 the rest of the way. That’s possible. The point is that saying the Eagles MUST win this game is silly.

But it’s a statement game!!!

Remember when the Eagles beat Dallas in the 2000 season opener? The score was 41-14 and the game wasn’t even that close. What a statement, right? People actually forget that the Eagles lost the next two weeks and fell to 1-2. The Giants beat them 33-18 and the Packers won 6-3. That was some putrid offense. The win over Dallas showed how good the Eagles could be when things went right, but it didn’t show the Eagles were a great team and would be playing at that level all season. It also showed how far the Cowboys were about to fall.

The Eagles dominated Dallas on Thanksgiving in 2014. That put the team at 9-3 and people saw them as having a possible shot at the top seed in the NFC. Chip Kelly was asked if that was a statement game. He responded by saying that’s not how the NFL works. What you do in one game only means something if you make it mean something. The Eagles lost three in a row after the Dallas win and ended up missing the playoffs. Clearly that wasn’t a statement game.

This can be a statement game, if the Eagles win it and then back it up in the coming weeks.

*****

Be careful about making too much of what happens today, good or bad.

The NFL season is a marathon. One game is one game. Last year the team began 3-0 and finished 7-9.

The season is short enough that every game means something, but it is long enough that no one game is everything. In college football, every single game is life and death. In the NBA, NHL and MLB, one game means virtually nothing. The NFL is in the middle of that.

The key is to stay as healthy as possible. That gives you the best chance to finish the marathon in good position.

*****

Eagles-Skins Preview

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