Bill Davis on Preseason Football

Posted: August 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 98 Comments »

As I’ve mentioned quite a few times, I love Bill Davis press conferences. He is always interesting and informative, even if he’s not groundbreaking. He met with the media today. There wasn’t much that was newsworthy, but he did have a few interesting thoughts.

Davis talked about preseason football and what goes on. He explained that coaches keep things pretty simple (or vanilla) for a specific reason. They want to evaluate players. If the Eagles call a brilliant blitz, the coaches will know their play design worked and that the players can execute it, but what they won’t know is if the players on the field can pressure the QB on skill alone. This is the time to find out as much as you can about who can play and who can’t. That means a lot of base defense and simple calls.

Davis also explained that mistakes have value. If the coaches see a young player make a mistake, they can then evaluate how the young player handles the situation. Does he repeat the mistake? Does he let it affect his play afterward? Does he have the mental toughness to stay focused? Davis mentioned Jaylen Watkins giving up the long TD and then coming back to make the impressive pick. That showed maturity and toughness on the part of Watkins.

Someone asked Davis about giving the backups a chance to show what they could do against starters. He responded that this would happen on Tuesday and Wednesday in the joint practices with the Patriots more than in the upcoming game. While it would be interesting to see Marcus Smith, Beau Allen and Brandon Bair go against starters from other teams, Davis has to make sure he gets enough reps and the right kind of reps to his projected starters. We won’t get to see the practices so we’ll have to rely on media reports to get a feel for how the young Eagles look when going against top competition.

I didn’t mention Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry in regard to that situation. They are technically backups, but each player has enough game tape out there that the coaches know what they can do.

* * * * *

Speaking of the defense…here is a great post by the guys at Chip Wagon. They explain some rush concepts in the 3-4 defense and then show examples from last year, as well as Friday night.

One of the focal points of the post is the play of Fletcher Cox. As much as the Eagles could use a dynamic OLB, Cox could become a highly disruptive force. That would ease the pressure on the LBs and set the tone for the defense. Cox didn’t become an impact rusher last year, ala JJ Watt, but Eagles coaches did have Cox down for 21 QB pressures, which led the team. Can he get better than that?  The coaches certainly see him as someone on the rise.

Several of you have asked about Cox and whether he is a disappointing player. He looked very good as a rookie when he was allowed to attack up the field on every play. The scheme changed last year and that affected Cox in a major way. We need to see how he plays this season to have any kind of a real feel for whether he can truly be a player the Eagles should build around.

I love his size and athletic ability. I think you keep working with him as long as you can. Cox has tremendous potential. You don’t see it every down, but that’s okay. Sometimes young linemen take a while to get into a groove. One thing that will help Cox is being in the same scheme two years in a row. If his mind and his body ever get on the same page, Cox will be a regularly disruptive force.


Better on Special Teams

Posted: August 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 46 Comments »

The Eagles were disappointing on Special Teams in 2013. They made a concerted effort to be good on STs, but the plans just didn’t work. Chip Kelly once again focused on improving the unit this offseason. Based on Friday night, the results look pretty good.

* The highlight play was Josh Huff’s 102-yard KOR for a TD. Huff showed good speed on the play. He had a big hole to attack, but also had the speed to get through it and down the field in a hurry. He ran through one arm tackle. You want your KOR going fast enough and hard enough that he’s not going to be affected by an arm tackle.

* There was a blocked FG. The Gamebook says Joe Kruger, but the video showed Damion Square and Brandon Bair getting penetration in that area and then getting a hand up. Regardless of who did it, this was the kind of impact play you want to see.

* The Eagles came up with a fumble recovery after the Bears muffed a punt. Travis Long made the recovery. Chris Maragos also had a hand in the play.

* Alex Henery didn’t get a chance to kick a FG. He was 4 for 4 on the next extra points. More importantly, he had a pair of touchbacks. One of the focal points for him this offseason was getting better length on his kickoffs. Kicking in the warm weather is a help, but he did show progress. Now he needs to do that again  this week.

* It seemed like new players Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman helped the STs, which is what they were brought in here to do. Maragos had a hand in the fumble recovery. He blew up a KOR by knocking the crap out of a blocker. Braman was on the field for the KOR TD. Those guys need to make plays, but also help the guys around them to play better.

STs got off to a good start, but they can’t rest after one good game. The group needs to show they can be counted on all year long. Consistency is the key.

* * * * *

Is everyone now more comfortable with Mark Sanchez?

It is easy to see the butt-fumble and think of Sanchez as this awful player. That’s just not the case. He is a talented QB. Sanchez never looked like a franchise QB when he was with the Jets, but he also got poor coaching and had few weapons to work with. In Philly, Sanchez is getting good coaching and he is part of a very talented offense. It also helps that he is completely healthy.

No one is rushing to put Sanchez in Canton (except maybe Brian Baldinger), but the guy is a talented player who can help the Eagles if called upon. I hope Nick Foles stays healthy, but as Eagles fans we know that the starting QB rarely is on the field for all 16 games. In the last decade, the Eagles only had the starter for every game once – Donovan McNabb in 2008.

You better have a backup QB that can help your team.

* * * * *

I am behind on getting a full game review posted. I had a couple of things come up this weekend that kept me away from the computer. I’ll be working hard tonight to get that done.

* * * * *

Sunday and Monday are limited practice days for the Eagles. They’ll be going against the Pats on Tuesday and Wednesday. Those will be tough, physical practices. Thursday will be situational stuff. Then Friday is the next game.


Blame the Blockers

Posted: August 9th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 142 Comments »

Nick Foles looked shaky, but I figured out a big reason why. The offensive line struggled in a big way on Friday night. I was surprised to see them play so sloppy. And it was “them”…as in the whole line. Actually, Todd Herremans is the one guy who I didn’t see get clearly beat or make a major mistake.

Jason Kelce got driven right back into Foles lap on one play. Evan Mathis had 2 holding penalties. Jason Peters had one holding penalty. Allen Barbre struggled in pass pro on a couple of plays. The line didn’t magically just start to suck. This isn’t about age or talent. They just played poorly. The one thing that stuck out to me with Mathis and Barbre is that they let defenders get into their body. Linemen need to get their hands on defenders quickly to try and control them. The guys were slow to do that and the rushers got the best of them.

Brian Baldinger went on and on about how the Eagles lack of hitting in camp was the problem. Maybe. But I sure remember plenty of very physical Andy Reid camps that produced poor preseason results as well. I just think the guys had a bad night and the Bears came out ready to play. Some games you can get by with sloppy play. That wasn’t the case on Friday night.

* * * * *

There was no rhythm to the game. Part of that was due to penalties…on both sides. There was one play where the Eagles got 6 yards on a run by Shady. That set up 2nd and 4. But there was a penalty on the Bears. That stopped the flow. The Eagles got the Bears off balance early on and they called a timeout. That killed the momentum of that drive. The Eagles had a good pass play over the middle, but that was wiped out by a bizarre facemask call on Jeremy Maclin. That drive stalled.

The no-huddle needs some rhythm to really work. That didn’t happen for the starters.

* * * * *

Vinny Curry loves summer football. He is unblockable in the month of August. Part of that is because he’s going against backup OL. Still, we’ve seen Curry give starters fits in real games. There is no doubting his explosive quickness and ability to be disruptive.

But we need to calm down on all the talk of him needing to start. Listen, I’m not a 3-4 guy. But Chip Kelly is. That scheme is here to stay and Curry will never be a 3-4 starter. I do agree that the coaches need to play him more. Curry is disruptive and that’s the number one quality I want in a defensive lineman. I hope they embrace him more and use him creatively.

Brandon Graham got his big pressure when he lined up at DE in a nickel look and then shot hard to the inside. The LG had no chance vs his quickness. Graham is really meant to play in a 4-3. Curry has a role in the current scheme, but Graham is awkward. He tried to cover a TE in the flat and got juked out of his shoes. I was really hoping Graham would look better in space this summer. That wasn’t the case on Friday.

* * * * *

LT Andrew Gardner had a good game. He did a solid job in pass pro. He showed nimble feet and was active with his hands. I also was impressed by his physicality as a run blocker. He knocked the crap out of DE Trevor Scott on one run play. On Tucker’s second TD run, Gardner fired off the ball and got good movement, which created a running lane for Tucker.

I have yet to study the whole game thoroughly, but Gardner really caught my eye. Matt Tobin did some good things as well.

* * * * *

Ifeanyi Momah started and caught 2 passes. I can’t believe how far this guy has come since last summer. It is probably too soon to start calling him Momahtron, but I’m so glad he’s showing real ability this year.

About Jordan Matthews and drops…this has been an issue for him for a long time. Some guys are born with great hands (Cris Carter). Others work to develop great hands (Jerry Rice). Then you have players that are good receivers, but drops are an issue for them. The prime example is Terrell Owens. He worked hard to develop good hands, but was among league leaders in drops plenty of times.

Matthews had a rough game, but there is no reason for concern. He’s just got to keep working on the hands. And I do think part of it was him trying to live up to the hype. Just go play and be yourself.


Eagles Almost Don’t Lose

Posted: August 9th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 100 Comments »

The dream of the Eagles going undefeated in the preseason is over, but I don’t think we should throw in the towel on the regular season quite yet.

The starters were very up and down. That’s never fun to watch, but you don’t want to make too much of this in the preseason. Remember that Michael Vick was nearly flawless last summer, but was erratic during the season. Nick Foles was sloppy tonight and there’s no debating that. If this spills over to next week, then we’ve got an issue. For now, I’m not too worried.

The overall game was quite sloppy. Penalties. Turnovers. Dropped passes. Missed tackles. Players slipping. All they hype of Training Camp disappeared in a fog of ugly football.

Still, there was plenty to be happy about. The biggest victory is that the team emerged from the game pretty healthy. No major injuries.

And there were plenty of players who did impress. Let’s start on defense. Malcolm Jenkins had a good game. He brought energy to the defense and was a physical presence. I was also impressed by Nate Allen. He had an INT. I thought he took better angles to the ball and was more aggressive as a tackler. That’s progress. I didn’t get a good feel for Earl Wolff.

The backup DL was terrific. We all expected Vinny Curry to make plays. He’s gold in the summer. Rookie NT Beau Allen lived up to his hype and then some. He was stout vs the run. He got good push on a couple of pass plays. He chased down a screen pass and made the tackle. Allen also was quick off the ball and showed some disruptive potential. The guy who came from nowhere was Brandon Bair. I had to look up and find out who #93 was. Wow. He was the backup RDE. Bair was quick off the ball on some plays. He was stout vs the run. He had a good motor and relentlessly went after the ball. I was really impressed.

Young guys Taylor Hart and Joe Kruger also had some good plays. Kruger really needed to get going so it was encouraging to see him show up in a positive way. All of a sudden the Eagles have a bunch of DL they’ll want to keep. That’s a problem, but definitely a good problem.

We do have to be careful about making too much of this.

Brandon Graham was up and down. He did get pressure, but a guy with his ability should be backup blockers. His pressure on one pass led to an INT. Graham had a good block on the long KOR. But he also missed a tackle out in space. He just doesn’t look like a natural LB. That’s the area where we wanted to see growth.

Rookie Marcus Smith was somewhat the opposite. He didn’t stand out as a rusher, but was athletic and active. He looked like a LB. Smith broke up a pass with a quick reaction. He made a good tackle out in space. He did show excellent burst on one pass rush, but the blocker rode him wide of the QB. Smith is talented, but still needs plenty of work.

Among the ILBs, Najee Goode stood out. I didn’t focus on the other guys. It almost looked like Casey Matthews had a solid game, but that could be my eyes playing tricks on me.

Safety Chris Maragos had a terrific showing. I think he is going to become one of my favorite Eagles very quickly. He is physical. He does his job very well. And Maragos seems very much like a team guy. He comes across as a natural leader. Good player. Rookie Ed Reynolds caught me off guard. I’ve never found him to be a compelling player, but he had some good moments tonight. Keelan Johnson is going to really regret ever talking to that cop. Reynolds jumped over him and might stay there.

Rookie Jaylen Watkins had more bad than good, but somewhat redeemed himself by making an impressive INT. Watkins has the talent. He just made rookie mistakes. The same can’t be said for Roc Carmichael. Ouch. He led the team in solo and total tackles…because the ball kept coming his way. According to TV analyst Brian Baldinger the Bears weren’t picking on Carmichael, the ball just happened to come his way a lot. Isn’t that what picking on a DB means? The play of the backup CBs led to this tweet.

I echo that sentiment.

The offense put up points, but didn’t have a smooth game. Mark Sanchez looked solid. He threw the ball well. There was only one major mistake, when he pulled the ball on an option play and threw out wide. The offense was at the 1-yard line. You have to run inside there. The Eagles did score right after that so it wasn’t a big deal.

Matt Barkley was less impressive. I didn’t like the way he threw the ball. Too many of his passes lacked ideal velocity. He finished 7 for 16. GJ Kinne didn’t impress me either. He played the whole 4th Qtr as if there were only 10 seconds left in the game. I hope that was simply a case of him being too caught up in the moment.

Matt Tucker had a mixed game. He had a 24 yard run and a pair of TDs, but also had a bad fumble and some other plays where he wasn’t so impressive. I was hoping for a better showing. David Fluellen looked faster than I anticipated and went 6-25 on the ground. He also caught a TD pass. Nice showing. Henry Josey was disappointing. He struggled to catch the ball and when he did just didn’t do anything special.

Rookie Jordan Matthews had a couple of drops. That surprised some people, but he’s had drops issues for a few years. Matthews needs to keep working on his hands. He can get better. Matthews did make one catch on 3rd down that moved the chains. He finished with 4 catches, but only gained 14 yards. Fellow rookie Josh Huff failed to stand out as a WR, but did have a 102 yard KOR for a TD. That was terrific.

The backup OL did some good things. I thought LT Andrew Gardner was solid on runs and in pass pro. LG Matt Tobin got movement on a couple of the TD runs. I didn’t see much of Dennis Kelly or Lane Johnson.

I’ll be re-watching the game and writing more detailed reports in the next few days. I’m glad Eagles football is back. I’ll be even happier when good Eagles football is back.



Preseason Opener – 2nd Half Thread

Posted: August 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 74 Comments »

The Eagles lead the Bears 21 to 14, but the score is pretty meaningless in preseason. The Eagles starters were sloppy. Don’t make too much of that. The opener is the least important preseason game there is.

This game has actually been a success so far. The biggest key…no major injuries. Beyond that, some young players are playing well and showing that they might be able to help the team this year.

* Josh Huff with a long KOR for a TD

* Damion Square with a blocked FG

* Backup DL Brandon Bair has been excellent at RDE

* LB Marcus Smith has shown good athleticism so far

* NT Beau Allen is playing his butt off. He’s all over the place

* LG Matt Tobin has played well

* WR Ifeanyi Momah actually has a couple of catches against NFL starters…didn’t expect that

I was also impressed with Malcolm Jenkins and Nate Allen. Earl Wolff didn’t catch my eye. There are plenty of veterans who looked good or flashed, but I don’t want to get into all of that right now.

There are several things to be concerned about. We’ll be discussing them for the next week.

For now, cheer for no injuries and more young guys to play well.