Posted: September 22nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 287 Comments »

The O-line was a huge part of the Eagles success in 2013. The Eagles won games with 2 QBs. They won by throwing the ball and running. LeSean McCoy actually led the NFL in rushing. When it came to throwing the ball, it was spread to WRs, TEs and RBs. All of the points and yards piled up by the skill players were greatly helped by 5 guys up front.

The Eagles were able to start the same 5 O-linemen for the entire season, a rarity, and that group played well, very well at times. Not only did coach Jeff Stoutland have the same 5 guys, he had 5 talented players. Stoutland must have thought life in the NFL was pretty easy.

That was then, this is now.

The current Eagles OL needs name tags to keep up with everyone’s identity. For the final 10 minutes of Sunday’s game, the line was:

LT Andrew Gardner
LG Wade Smith
OC David Molk
RG Dennis Kelly
RT Todd Herremans

Smith has only been with the team for 2 weeks. Molk saw his first extensive action at C in the NFL. Kelly was playing his second game in 2 years. Gardner practiced at RT all week before having to slide to LT during the game. That is a drastic difference.

None of those 4 guys played one snap for the Eagles in 2013. That’s pretty crazy.

Todd Herremans must be the world’s loneliest man. All of his friends keep getting hurt and making him hang out with the new guys.

We found out today that Jason Kelce needs sports hernia surgery and will be out for a while. The question now is whether anything will happen to Jason Peters. Will he get suspended if the NFL feels like he threw a punch? Chip Kelly doesn’t think Peters will be suspended and I agree. It wasn’t a true punch. It wasn’t a cheap shot. And it wasn’t aimed at an innocent victim.

I’m interested to see what the Eagles do on the OL, assuming Peters is back. Let’s look at some options.

LT Peters
LG Kelly
C Molk
RG Herremans
RT Gardner

That would offer the most stability.

LT Peters
LG Smith
C Molk
RG Kelly
RT Herremans

This would give the Eagles the most experienced combination of players. Smith has a ton of experience at LG. Kelly has his most experience on the right side.

LT Peters
LG Tobin
C Molk
RG Kelly
RT Herremans

This would be an interesting group. Matt Tobin has been hurt since the preseason finale, but spent the summer playing LG and the Eagles really like him. You would keep Wade Smith on the bench and he could be the backup OG/OC. Kelly said Smith was the emergency C last week. Tobin has very limited experience so this lineup does have some risk.

One consideration is that Evan Mathis is going to miss another 6 or so weeks. It would be great to find someone to plug in at that spot and you could leave them there. That could be Tobin or Kelly or Smith.

The good news is that the Eagles will get back Lane Johnson next Monday. Hopefully he will be ready to play and that will help the Eagles establish some continuity up front.

I don’t think there is an obvious right move here. I really like the idea of Tobin getting on the field, but is he healthy and how much would his lack of experience be an issue?

Back to Kelce and his situation. Molk can be an effective replacement. He is a good athlete who has been part of the program since the offseason began. He is a natural Center. Back in 2012 you had Dallas Reynolds take over. He had played C, G and T in college and the NFL. Molk was a 4-year starting C at Michigan. He was a backup C for the Chargers in 2012. He’s been a C since joining the Eagles. Making line calls and setting the line will come naturally to him.

I don’t know if the Eagle will make a roster move or not. Kelce isn’t going on IR. If you want to add a C, you must cut someone. I just don’t know who you’re getting rid of. Jeff Maehl actually had an important catch on Sunday. You need LBs for STs.

The one thing I do know…Jeff Stoutland is going to earn his money this year. The Eagles scored 10 points in the final 10 minutes, which is when the makeshift OL was on the field. They weren’t good, but they were good enough. And that’s okay for now.


Being Clutch

Posted: September 22nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 314 Comments »

I am an Orioles fan and over the past few years I’ve become a big Buck Showalter fan. He is the Orioles manager and is a very interesting guy. The Orioles had a breakout season in 2012 and one of the reasons was their record in one-run games and extra-inning games. They had a historically good record in those situations. The media would ask Buck why his team was so clutch, when they came through with the big hit in the 12th or 13th or 14th inning?

Buck’s response was always the same. “Are we really clutch? Why didn’t we get that big hit in the 8th, 9th or 10th inning?”

You could argue that the Orioles were clutch, or that they simply outlasted opponents.

I think Chip Kelly would like Showalter quite a bit. They have a different way of looking at sports. Conventional wisdom isn’t always so wise. Kelly might be impressed that his defense came up with a clutch stop at the end of the game, but he also might tell you that if they didn’t allow one of the two previous TD drives, there wouldn’t have been the same need to make that clutch stop.

You have to be impressed with the way the Eagles have responded at key moments in each of the first 3 games. They have been a clutch team. You just wish they would quit putting themselves into a position where they need to make such plays.

We’ve seen plenty of Eagles teams over the years that didn’t make those clutch plays so it definitely feels good to see the team step up when needed. Pressure can get to players. Last week the Colts had a huge opportunity when they got the ball with about 3:20 left in the game. I just knew Andrew Luck would lead them down the field for a FG. My question is whether the Eagles would respond. Instead, the Colts went 3 and out. Beyond that, Luck looked shaky on the 3rd down play.

You could see pressure getting to Kirk Cousins yesterday. I made the point all week that the Skins got up on the Jags and Cousins never had to deal with game pressure. He did yesterday and it affected him. As he was getting plays from the coaches, you could see in his mannerisms that he was uneasy. In the 1st half, he just sat there and covered his ears. In the 2nd half, he was more demonstrative. He wanted the call quicker. Or he seemed hurried as he tried to get the team lined up.

Cousins was 19 for 25 in the 1st half. He was 11 for 23 in the 2nd half. His accuracy went away. He still made some terrific throws, but there were errant passes mixed in as well. The Eagles got more pressure on him in the 2nd half, but he wasn’t getting knocked around left and right. The pressure of the game was getting to him more than the Eagles pressure.

I’m not ripping Cousins. He is a young player and had to deal with some tough circumstances that he’s just not used to. Time will tell if he is a clutch player or not. He just wasn’t yesterday.

Nick Foles has made the critical throws in the last 2 games. His pass to Zach Ertz to open the go-ahead drive last week was a thing of beauty. He put the ball out there and let Ertz get under it. That throw was accurate and had touch. The big throw yesterday was the pass to James Casey to seal the game. That pass was perfectly thrown. It had accuracy and velocity, but was also catchable.

Foles has proven to be quite the 4th Qtr QB. That’s a great sign for a team with big time aspirations. More than a few playoff games are decided in the final quarter. You need a QB that can step up to the moment and deliver. Foles play would lead you to believe he can be that guy. Hopefully we’ll find out in a few months.

* * * * *

The Eagles are averaging 34 points a game so far. That puts them on pace for 544. Last year they scored 442.

I would love to see the Eagles break 500. That’s when you know you’re dealing with a truly dynamic offense. The team would need to average 31.3 points per game for the season to get past 500. Here’s to hoping they do it.

* * * * *

The Eagles don’t have a sack in either of the last 2 games. That’s not good.

Before you hit the panic button, realize that the Skins didn’t sack Foles on Sunday, despite having Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo and Jason Hatcher going against a makeshift OL for much of the game.

The Eagles do need a stud pass rusher. That will be a key issue in free agency or the draft.

* * * * *

Bradley Fletcher did not have a good game on Sunday. But let’s also give him some credit. He never quit battling and did make some plays in the 2nd half. Fletcher broke up 2 passes and his coverage got better. He still is a major weak spot, but you at least respect the fact he didn’t get down on himself and that he kept competing.


Random Sunday Night Thoughts

Posted: September 21st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 241 Comments »

The Eagles sit at 3-0, one of just 3 teams that can say that. I’m assuming the Panthers will lose since they now trail the Steelers 23-6 and their offense has really struggled. The other 3-0 teams…Cincy and Arizona. The Bengals look like a Super Bowl team right now. They are playing stifling defense and blowing people out. The Cards are winning ugly, behind backup QB Drew Stanton. The Eagles look better than the Cardinals, but not as good as the Bengals to this point.

The 3-0 record is nice, but doesn’t tell us a thing. The 2004 team started 7-0 and went to the Super Bowl. The 1993 Eagles started 4-0 and finished 8-8, missing the playoffs. The 1992 team started 4-0 and finished 11-5, a wildcard team.

* Remember when the Eagles couldn’t win at home? The Linc is back to being a fun place to watch football. The Eagles are 2-0 at home this year and won their final 4 regular season games at The Linc last year. The Eagles lost their first 4 home games in 2013. The 2012 team lost everywhere.

* The Eagles did not give up a sack today, despite the makeshift OL. Nick Foles did take a beating, but still had time to throw for 325 yards and help the team score 37 points. I couldn’t help but think back to the Osi Game from 2007. Winston Justice had to start at LT and the Eagles were without Brian Westbrook. Andy Reid came up with an awful game plan that had the team passing 2 times for every run play. Donovan McNabb was sacked 12 times and the Eagles only scored 3 points.

This offense has a lot more talent than that group, but maintaining some sense of balance, even when the run game isn’t working, is important. Chip Kelly also mixed short, quick throws with downfield plays. He helped the OL out as much as he could. His “Equal Opportunity Offense” really does keep defenses off balance. Brilliant guy.

* The Niners lost today to fall to 1-2. That team has some issues. I did not anticipate the Eagles being 2 games up on them when the team met. The Eagles travel out to SF to play them on Sunday.

* Another game with 30 points for the Eagles. They had 3 straight 30-point games late last year. They also did that in 2010. If they can put up 30 next week, that will be pretty impressive. I went all the way back to 1990 looking for the last time the Eagles scored 30 or more in 4 straight games. Couldn’t find that. We’ll have to let Reuben Frank dig up that stat.

I thought it might have happened in 2004, but that team actually scored fewer points than you think.

* Cody Parkey is pretty darn good. He kicked off 8 times on Sunday. Parkey had 5 touchbacks. Beyond that, his kicks are deep enough that they generally are well-covered. The Skins had 46 KOR yards. Add in the fact he was 3-3 on FGs, including a 51-yarder and you can see what a weapon he has become. Many of you were mad at the Eagles for not replacing Henery sooner or bringing in better competition. The Eagles got lucky in finding Parkey as they did, but they finally did get PK right.

* Cary Williams shot his mouth off about not liking the Eagles practices. Apparently he feels they wear him down and that affects him on gameday. If that’s his opinion, so be it. I do wonder if the fact this game came on a short week has any impact on his thinking.

Kelly isn’t about to change his schedule or practice style. Williams needs to talk to him or this could lead to some friction. If Cary genuinely feels like this, he’s not going to stay quiet about it.

This just comes across to me as Williams making excuses It will be interesting to see if this story has any legs or dies quickly.


Welcome Back Nick

Posted: September 21st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 294 Comments »

That was a great win today. It certainly wasn’t perfect and the Eagles have plenty of issues to deal with, but any time you play an emotional division game and win…that’s big. It means more in the standings, but it also means more to the people involved. A loss to the Colts would have been “meh”. A loss to the Skins would have stuck with people for a few days.

The other part of this is that Washington played really well for parts of the game. Kirk Cousins made some great throws. Pierre Garcon had a terrific game. There weren’t any tricks or gimmicks. The Skins just executed really well. When you can overcome a good showing by your opponent, that means something.

WAS shut down Shady McCoy and the run game. The Eagles OL ws a mess at the end of the game. You had:

LT Gardner – LG Smith – C Molk – RG Kelly – RT Herremans

That group had never played together. Smith’s only been here for a week and a half or so. With a makeshift OL and no run game, it was up to Nick Foles and the passing game to carry the load. That’s exactly what they did. Foles played his best game of the year. He got the ball to his WRs and they delivered a lot of big plays. The Eagles had 6 more plays of 20 or more yards. Jeremy Maclin played his best game in a long time. Jordan Matthews caught 2 TD passes.

Foles took a major beating and kept getting back up. He made some great throws, but you can argue that the toughness he showed today was the most impressive part of his game. There were several times when I was sure he’d be out of there. He never missed a snap. Foles finally looked like the guy we watched last year.

The Eagles absolutely won the STs battle. Chris Polk returned a KO 102 yards for a TD. Cody Parkey continues to be a touchback machine. He also nailed a 51-yd FG at a key juncture in the game. Darren Sproles almost took a PR for a big play, but got tripped up after only a good gain. And the Skins missed a FG, which led me to say this on Twitter.

Feels great to see the Eagles get to 3-0. Let’s hope Jason Kelce is going to be able to recover quickly. He’s one guy up front that you really don’t want to miss.


2nd Half – PHI 21, WAS 20

Posted: September 21st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 851 Comments »

Bizarre 1st half. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman went on and on about the Skins domination. They acted as if the KOR TD didn’t count. And they also seemed oblivious to the fact that the Skins defense never came close to stopping the Eagles. The Eagles ran 23 plays and gained 202 yards. Sure, the Skins had long, methodical drives that were impressive, but the Eagles did it quicker and easier.

2nd half should be interesting. The Eagles get the ball first. A TD here would put a lot of pressure on the Skins. How would they respond to that?

We ain’t no Jaguars.