Posted: November 19th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 63 Comments »
It sure sounds like Mark Sanchez will be starting this week (and probably on Thanksgiving). It sounds like Jason Peters might be out this week. Ryan Mathews will likely miss the game as well. Wonderful, right?
We’re at a critical juncture in the season and key players are falling like flies. This is less than ideal. Can the Eagles win this week, and going forward, if they are missing key offensive players?
History has shown that teams can overcome injuries if the backups play reasonably well and the remaining starters do their part. Sanchez isn’t your typical backup QB. He’s got plenty of experience as a starter and knows the Eagles system very well. He’s not likely to make anyone forget Ron Jaworski or Donovan McNabb any time soon, but Sanchez put up okay numbers last year and had some good moments.
Mathews has been terrific this year, but was only the workhorse in one game. DeMarco Murray normally is the guy moving the chains, with Mathews stepping in to deliver fresh legs and some long runs. Without Mathews, the Eagles will mix in more of Darren Sproles and possibly Kenjon Barner. They will miss Mathews, but should still get solid production from the RBs.
The OL remains a mystery. Chip Kelly didn’t expect Jason Peters to practice on Thursday, but JP was out there and per Lane Johnson (via Les Bowen), it sounds like Peters will try to play.
“I think his back is feeling a little bit better than it has. I guess he’s expecting to go, as far as I know,” Johnson said. “He took a lot of reps today. He looked close to normal. That’s the most he’s done in a while.”
Isn’t this uncertainty a little difficult for the o-line, which played pretty well against Dallas with Johnson at left tackle and Dennis Kelly on the right, but was a disaster area against Miami?
“It’s tough, but it’s my job, so I just go out there and try to get used to it,” Johnson said. He added that moving from side to side, back and forth, “is a lot more difficult than people think it is.”
Johnson said he isn’t expecting this week’s Peters decision to come down to the final 90 minutes before the game, as last week’s did.
“I expect it’ll be a little bit different this week,” Johnson said.
This is a real Catch-22 situation. You want Peters on the field because he’s so good. But you also want continuity. Moving around during the practice week hurts all the guys it affects. I think the OL played well at Dallas because they practiced together. Last week Peters was at LT some of the time, with Johnson going back to the right side. Then on gameday Johnson has to switch and Dennis Kelly is back in the lineup. The OL struggled.
If Peters is going to practice, let’s hope he plays.
This offense can be successful. Murray is still a good RB. Brent Celek and Zach Ertz are good TEs. Sproles can be a playmaker. The WRs aren’t having a great year, but Jordan Matthews can move the chains and Josh Huff has flashed some playmaking ability. It would really help if Nelson Agholor would get back to 100 percent and start to really contribute. He’s got the best combination of size, speed, skill and athleticism.
The key is Sanchez.
Last year Sanchez took over against Houston and then made his first start vs Carolina. The Eagles could not run the ball in that game, but Sanchez played well, going 20-37-332 with 2 TDs and no picks. The Eagles got up 45-7 before winning 45-21.
He doesn’t need to be great for the Eagles to score points and win, but he needs to limit mistakes and make some plays. Both are a challenge for Sanchez. We’ll find out just how much he’s improved since last year, if at all.
Just how different are Sanchez and Bradford? The numbers are pretty similar.
Sanchez did have one advantage last year. The offense seemed to be clicking. He took over and the offense continued to click, at first. As the competition got better, things became erratic.
This year the offense has been erratic all year. The hope is that Sanchez will somehow get the group to play more consistently.
Sanchez will need help. He needs the guys around him to quit dropping passes and having dumb penalties. Maybe the change at QB will be the spark the other players need to get going and come alive. Sometimes a QB change, whether a coach’s decision or through injury, can give a team some life.
Soon enough, we’ll find out if that’s the case with the Eagles.
Actually, the last 5 times.
As wide open as the NFC is this year, this could be another addition to that list.
Gus was a great assistant. Hasn’t worked out so far as head coach. Currently losing to 2-7 Titans and their rookie QB.
Posted: November 18th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 157 Comments »
Sam Bradford is still going through the NFL’s concussion protocol. He’s still dealing with a shoulder injury. There are reports he wants to play this week, but that just seems unlikely to me. If Bradford can’t go, Mark Sanchez will make his first start of the 2015 season.
Sanchez was up and down against the Dolphins. He looked just like he did last year. There were moments when he was really impressive, but critical mistakes overshadowed the good stuff. Just like last year. To be fair to Sanchez, he hadn’t played since August. Shaking off the rust and getting a full week of practice with the starters can make all the difference in the world. This week should give us a better idea of whether Sanchez has made any progress or is the same guy, only a year older.
The thing that stands out when you watch Sanchez is how fast he runs the offense. The Eagles are fast, but things go up a notch when Sanchez is running the offense. He pushes tempo to the max. That is great when it gets the defense on their heels and the Eagles are able to move the ball.
The problem comes when the offense moves so fast that it makes mistakes. We saw this when Riley Cooper wasn’t lined up on the TD pass that got negated. If Sanchez gets that snap half a second later, the Eagles have a score. But he’s pushing for the ball as soon as possible. Cooper isn’t quite set at the snap and there’s a yellow flag. Is Sanchez at fault for not giving his guys time to get set or is Cooper at fault for not getting set fast enough? Only Chip can accurately answer that.
The Eagles got the ball at the 6:27 mark of the 4th quarter. They snapped the ball on the 6th play at the 4:32 mark. That final play was the INT. Sanchez had marched the offense down the field. He was caught up in the moment and was being aggressive. That led to the INT. It sounds like he made a poor read on the play. That’s one of those situations where maybe taking an extra second or two would have been beneficial. Plays inside the 10-yard line are critical, especially in that situation. Tempo may have hurt Sanchez in that situation. Precision was more important than speed at that moment.
Sanchez looked instantly more natural and comfortable in the offense than Bradford had all year. Part of that is the fact Sanchez has now been working in the offense for almost 2 years. Sanchez is also more mobile. That helps with the read-option plays and the movement passes.
I’m curious to see if Sanchez is more in tune with the WRs. There is a certain rhythm to the passing game. Bradford was up and down in his ability to get the ball to WRs. We’ll see if Sanchez does a better job. He hit Josh Huff for a gain of 16 the other day. He just missed Miles Austin for a long TD. Sanchez and Jordan Matthews have had great chemistry since the summer of 2014.
The fatal flaw with Sanchez has always been turnovers. His INT last week was crushing. It doesn’t look like anything has changed with him, but we can better judge him after another game. Sanchez will have time to get on the same page as his receivers. He will get plenty of reps with the starting offense. This Sunday will be his chance to show that he can play well and not turn the ball over. We’ll see how that goes.
I’m confident the Eagles will have some offensive success. Will they have enough? Will they win the game? The Bucs will be an interesting test for Sanchez and the team.
Jon Dorenbos had a terrible game on Sunday. Les Bowen wrote about the situation. As much as the Eagles love Dorenbos, on and off the field, they decided to bring in some long snappers for a workout.
Dorenbos knows he had a bad game and isn’t upset at the situation. He’s focused on figuring out what went wrong and fixing it.
“I was consistently off. I was high-right,” Dorenbos said. He said the fact that he kept doing the same thing should make it easier to correct than if he’d done different things wrong on different snaps.
“At least you can be like, ‘Is this tilted? Is that tilted? I’m too much right hand, I’m too much this. Maybe I’m not following through enough.’ . . . It’s all little things, and to me, the key is, forget about it, and just do what I’ve been doing for as long as I’ve been doing it. The worst thing a specialist can do is get in his own head,” Dorenbos said.
You would prefer he didn’t have bad snaps, but if they happen, you want him to acknowledge the problem and solve it.
Chip Kelly told the Tampa press that he thought all the talk of the changes on the Eagles offense were overblown. Jimmy Bama disagrees. His conclusion makes a lot of sense to me.
The offense has little continuity, and it isn’t playing well. The defense has a lot of continuity and is. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
Simple, but accurate.
Posted: November 17th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 172 Comments »
The Eagles are 4-5.
That’s pretty crazy.
I’m not trying to make you feel better about the Eagles mediocre season. I just find it wild that 1/3 of the league has the same mediocre record.
If’ I’m ranking those teams based on what I’ve seen…
The Skins and Bears are the most interesting teams on that list to me. Chicago is playing well recently and Jay Cutler seems to be doing well under the new coaching staff. The Skins confuse me. I can’t decide if they are close to being a good team or just have been good/lucky enough to go 4-5.
Football Outsiders has their newest DVOA rankings out. They have SEA, KC and PHI at the top of their 4-5 teams, with the Eagles being 11th in the league. Right now my eyes tell me the Eagles are a middle of the pack team. I can’t get mad when I see a power rankings listing them at 15 or lower. Right now this is a mediocre team.
The next few weeks will give us some interesting perspective on the 4-5 teams. Some will get hot. Others cold. Most will be up and down.
I have complete faith that the Eagles will at least be good enough to string me along another month.
Mike is a fantasy football guru and knows the league well.
Are we selling the Giants short? Maybe…
The OL did not play well on Sunday. Instability may have hurt their performance. Per this piece by Tim McManus, Lane Johnson didn’t know for sure whether he would play LT or RT a couple of hours before the game.
“I think he tried to go and I think he was going to go but I don’t think Chip allowed him to go is what it was,” said Johnson. “When I got there I thought he was warming up so I was expecting to go right. In the locker room, I was kind of, ‘What the f— am I playing?’ and ended up knowing I was going left. It was kind of messed up.”
Dennis Kelly and Johnson played very well the week before. It was more certain earlier in the week they’d play. You wonder if trying to get Jason Peters back actually hurt the OL because the players weren’t sure where they would be playing, if at all.
The line must play better this week. Let’s hope Jason Peters is back so the guys can return to their best spots.
Jason Kelce shared some thoughts on his struggles.
Kelce was whistled for three penalties and he flung a shotgun snap over Bradford’s head.
“I think (setting the tone is) my job . . . It’s not like I’ve got to get with ’em each individually and coach ’em up or anything like that, I’ve just got to not make mistakes,” Kelce said. “Right now, I think I have 11 penalties through the season. The next closest center with penalties has seven, so I’ve got almost twice as many as the next guy down.
“That’s really what’s got to happen. I’ve got to eliminate those mental mistakes, the false starts, bad snaps. If we eliminate those things, I firmly believe we’ll get everything fixed.”
It would help the whole team if Kelce could clean up his issues and play better. The offense could move the ball better. That gives the offense more time to rest. When the offense has some success, that generally means they are winning the field position battle. And often the scoreboard.
Old friend Nick Foles got benched in STL. Sam Bradford hasn’t been Johnny Unitas, but Foles has struggled to even play like Donnie Unitas this year. He is 29th in passer rating this year, looking up at rookie Jameis Winston. Ugh.
Foles, always the team guy, took the news well. He is a heckuva person. Never takes credit and always takes the blame. If only he were a better QB.
Jeff Fisher said Foles will get the job back eventually. He’s just out for now.
Posted: November 16th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 218 Comments »
Sunday was not much fun, to put it mildly. Losing to a mediocre Dolphins team really hurt. The Eagles were up 16-3 and were in position to add more. Caleb Sturgis missed a chip shot FG and the whole team fell apart after that.
Needless to say, the frustration level with this team is pretty high right now.
The two most common complaints are that the team is either poorly coached or doesn’t have enough talent. The problem with those complaints is that they are generic and fit plenty of NFL teams. Heck, all kinds of sports teams. Generic complaints are good for venting, but don’t always mean anything.
The Eagles STs were a mess yesterday. There was the missed FG. There was a blocked punt. There were multiple bad snaps. There was a penalty that negated a good return. And so on. So was this bad coaching or bad talent?
The Eagles had the best STs unit in the league last year. They were pretty good in 2013. There are plenty of talented STers, from cover guys to blockers to returners. Dave Fipp didn’t suddenly forget how to coach.
There are going to be bad days. A defense with Reggie, Clyde, Jerome, Seth, Byron, Wes, Andre and Eric once let Gerald Riggs run for 221 yards. An offense with Donovan, TO and Westy once won a game 12-7.
I understand the complaints about talent and coaching extend to the whole team. My point is just to show that playing the blame game doesn’t always solve anything. There are times when it is completely clear that change is needed. Rob Ryan did an awful job with the Saints defense last year. They are on pace to be one of the worst defenses in NFL history this season. That is an extreme and obvious example where the coaching wasn’t anywhere close to being good enough. And that has cost Rob Ryan his job.
There are plenty of people who don’t like Chip Kelly as coach. Some hate him as the GM. Some dislike him in both roles. That’s fine. I’m still a believer in Chip and his ideas. Does that mean I agree with everything he does? Heck no. Does that mean he can’t have bad days? Of course not.
Would you rather have John Harbaugh or Pete Carroll as the coach right now? Both have Super Bowl wins on their resume. Harbaugh’s team is 2-7 right now and lost yesterday in incredibly embarrassing fashion. They are having a nightmare season. Injuries are a big reason, but that team is also making a lot of dumb mistakes. The Seahawks have the same record as the Eagles, 4-5. They have blown leads in all 5 losses. You can’t say that team lacks emotion or intensity. They’re making critical mistakes and it is killing them.
What about talent? Imagine having Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb on this team. Those two guys have lost 3 games in a row and yesterday scored 16 points against the #31 scoring defense in the league. Drew Brees only put up 14 points on the Skins and their questionable secondary. Dallas has a trio of talented WRs, a Hall of Fame TE, a solid RB and a strong OL. They put up 6 points on Tampa. 6!!!
The NFL is the ultimate grind, from year to year, from week to week and sometimes from quarter to quarter. You are only as good as your last play or your last game. The challenge is to play well on a regular basis and fight through those tough times that come around.
Look at the Dolphins. They had lost 2 games in a row and were down 16-3. That team didn’t mail it in. They kept grinding and suddenly things started to go their way. Next thing you know they’ve got a hard-fought win and there is life in their playoff hopes.
That’s life in the NFL.
This Eagles team has shown that it can battler. They were down big to the Falcons and Skins and then took late leads in those games, only to give them up and lose. The Eagles make a lot of mistakes during the course of a game. That puts them in a situation where they are playing from behind or have a smaller lead than they should.
And then when it comes to winning time, something goes wrong. The only close win was the one in Dallas. The Eagles might have won that game simply due to winning the coin toss.
Think about the tight losses. There are missed FGs in all 3 of them. There are crucial penalties, on offense and defense. There were dropped passes. Missed blocks. Missed tackles. Poor coverage. You name it, it was seemingly a problem.
The Eagles are talented enough to be in position to win these games.
But they don’t.
The mistakes happen and the team loses.
Is there something the coaching staff could do differently? That’s a tougher question. Look at Jason Kelce for example. He’s having a wildly inconsistent year. Some people talk about him being awful. No, not even close. Kelce is making mistakes, and crucial ones at that, but he is still above average most of the time. I’ve been an Eagles fan for more than 20 years. Awful OL get benched because they aren’t functional.
We’ve never seen Kelce have these kind of issues beyond the odd game here or there. Jeff Stoutland has coached him for 3 years now. He’s gotten Kelce to play at a very high level. Some have the theory that the new OGs have hurt Kelce since he’s trying to do too much. I don’t think that is the case because Kelce has some games where he looks just fine. His issues seem to come and go. This is some kind of a mental thing.
What should Stoutland and Chip do with Kelce? You don’t want to tell him not to have bad snaps. Then you’re just planting the idea in his head. The logical thing to do is stress fundamentals and hope the issues go away. I’m sure Stout and Chip have done that. Kelce was coming off a pair of good games before yesterday’s sloppiness.
This team has shown it can play well here and there. The next step is to play well consistently. That hasn’t happened yet. It can, but there are no guarantees.
The 2008 Eagles were 5-5-1. They went 4-1 down the stretch and then almost made the Super Bowl. The 1999 Eagles started 3-11 before winning their final 2 games, which helped set the tone for the next season. There are also teams that never put it together.
Obviously you would love a repeat of 2008. At the least, you’d like something like 1999 where a bad season had a silver lining to it. This team is impossible for me to figure out right now so I have no idea what to expect. The only thing that would shock me is for the team to fall apart and finish 5-11 or 6-10. Beyond that, just about everything else is on the table.
I know some people would rather the team fall apart to help them get a better draft pick. If you can’t win big this year, then lose, benefit and be better next year. I understand the thinking, but disagree. There are no guarantees in the draft. I’d rather have the team win games, even if they end up with a mediocre record. I’m a believer that young players can learn from those wins.
Carolina won their division last year with a record of 7-8-1. This year that team is 9-0.
The Eagles shouldn’t give up on this season. The NFC East is a mess and the Eagles are only a half-game out of first place. Keep grinding. Keep working on eliminating mistakes. Maybe the issues go away. Maybe they don’t. The future is unwritten. I’m still hoping for a happy ending. With this team, we could be looking at Requiem for a Dream or The Deer Hunter.
Remember the trees?
Posted: November 15th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 740 Comments »
The Eagles had everything going right. And then they missed a FG. The rest of the game was a slopfest.
This drops the team back to 4-5, in a tie with the Skins. Sam Bradford is hurt, but we don’t know how badly. Ryan Mathews has a concussion. And Mark Sanchez still likes to throw killer INTs.
Great 1st quarter, but terrible after that.
Crappy, crappy, crappy day. So much at stake and the Eagles blew it. They’re right back to scrambling for their playoff lives for the next month, if not the rest of the season.
This is going to be a long week. Please keep things civil in the comments section. We’re all a bit on edge. No reason to be over the top.