Shutout Perspective

Posted: October 15th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 97 Comments »

My column covered the shutout and tried to offer some perspective for it. I had forgotten how close the Eagles came a couple of times. The worst was a 2009 game vs the Falcons when they scored on the final play of the game. The final friggin’ play. Ugh. But that’s past us now.

The previous shutout came back in 1996. I started thinking about just how long ago that was.

* I didn’t own a computer in December of 1996.

* I knew the internet existed, but had no real understanding of it. What I basically knew is that my friend Steve would find pictures of naked ladies using his computer. I didn’t understand how, but that was okay as long as he kept finding the pics.

* For keeping up with the Eagles, I lived and died with Eagles Digest. I couldn’t wait for each issue to come in the mail. Being a long distance fan back then was incredibly difficult.

* Andy Reid was the TEs coach in Green Bay. I had no idea who he was.

* Chip Kelly coached the RBs at New Hampshire.

* Jim Johnson was the defensive coordinator for the Colts. I didn’t know a thing about him.

* Brian Dawkins was a rookie. So were Terrell Owens and Jon Runyan.

* Donovan McNabb was a Sophomore at Syracuse. Nick Foles was 7 years old.

* My favorite Eagles player was a tie between DT Andy Harmon and DE William Fuller. Loved those guys.

* My buddy Bob and I dreamed of a channel dedicated entirely to football. At the time, we watched ESPN2 for the info tracker at the bottom of the screen. That was a good source of info.

* My favorite TV shows were The Simpsons, The X-Files and Homicide: Life on the Street. There was nothing better than seeing the Eagles win on Sunday and then getting to see Scully later that night. She was sexy without trying to be sexy.

* PBR was hard to find. I drank a lot of Rolling Rock back then.

* The Linc didn’t exist. The Eagles still called The Vet home.

* Nobody knew who Mike Mayock was.

* Matt Millen was a reputable broadcaster that some said should get involved with running a team.

* The biggest difference between now and then? Dave Spadaro had hair. It wasn’t a full head of Bo Wulf quality hair, but it was still enough to make him the sexiest member of the Eagles Digest staff. Apologies to Bob Kent.

As you can see, the world was very different in 1996.

Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 18 years for the next shutout.


The Wade Smith Era is Over

Posted: October 14th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 111 Comments »

It is with heavy heart that I must report some sad news…Wade Smith is no longer an Eagle. I’m sure half of you are fighting back tears, while the other half is going “Who is Wade Smith?”.

But there is a silver lining to every cloud.

The Eagles re-signed C/G Julian Vandervelde to take Smith’s place. Vandervelde is one of those guys who has seemingly been around forever, but hasn’t really played. I think he is the last remaining Eagle that played with Reggie White. Vandervelde is more of a C than a G. Adding him now makes sense because there was no ideal backup for David Molk. Smith could play C, but was a natural G.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Jason Kelce returns from injury. The Eagles could cut one of the backup Centers and then add a player at another position. Or maybe they stay heavy with backup OL due to all the injuries this year. Better safe than sorry, or something to that effect.

I’m also curious to see what happens in the offseason. The Eagles would love to have someone behind Kelce that they are completely comfortable with. Both Molk and Vandervelde have their issues. At the same time, Molk has shown the potential to be an effective starter. Maybe he’ll win the long term backup C job.

* * * * *

OLB production

2013: 16 sacks, 5 FFs, 1 INT, 10 TFLs

2014: 11.5 sacks, 7 FFs, 0 INTs, 6 TFLs

The 2013 stats cover all 16 games. This year the team has only played 6 games. The OLBs are playing well and they are making some big plays. The big difference is that Connor Barwin is getting sacks instead of pressures and Brandon Graham is now comfortable playing LB. Last year the coaches had to play him to give Trent Cole some rest. This year Graham is playing for both Barwin and Cole. And Graham has become not just an effective backup, but a good player.

I still don’t know what his future is in this scheme, but maybe he will end up sticking around.

As for Cole, he’s probably my favorite Eagle. It is great to see him still finding a way to be disruptive and making plays. He’s not going to beat LTs off the edge on every play, but the coaches have found different ways to use him and still get good production. And I love the fact that Cole is open to new ideas. He just wants to pound on the QB. He doesn’t care if that means rushing off the left side or the right side, or flying up the A-gap.

* * * * *

A cheesecake pic for the ladies.

Sexy, sexy, sexy.

* * * * *

The Eagles are 5-1. The previous two seasons, the team was 3-3 at this point. The two previous years the team was 4-2.

Getting off to a good start doesn’t guarantee anything, but it sure does help your postseason chances. Under Andy Reid the Eagles got off to .500 starts a lot and then played really well in the second half of the season. The team followed that same formula last year.

It feels good to see the Eagles winning early. They still need to get a lot better, but it really is important to win as many games as you can. Steve Young explained that Bill Walsh told his teams to think of winning games as putting money in the bank. Winning on Sunday night doesn’t mean anything in and of itself, but it helps put you in the right position at the end of the season.

The last time the Eagles were as good or better than 5-1? 2004, the Super Bowl season. That team looked great from the get-go. This team needs some more games like Sunday night before it is anything like that team. Still, love the 5-1 start.


Play Smart

Posted: October 14th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 354 Comments »

Nick Foles is a pretty smart young man. He is humble and shows good self-awareness. He is willing to take the blame when things go wrong and he seems to understand why things went wrong, which is always important.

But there are times on Sundays when he makes you want to pull your hair out and scream “WHY???”.

Foles threw a pair of INTs on Sunday night that were just awful.

* 1st/10 – from the Giants 16 – up 20-0 … It is freaking 1st down. Throw the ball away. You’re already in scoring position. Foles threw to Sproles quickly and didn’t see that he was covered. Foles has to know that things are condensed in the Red Zone. You can’t assume someone on the backside will be open because they were on previous plays. It is better to be safe than sorry in that situation.

* 3rd/5 – from the Eagles 35 – up 20-0 … Chip Kelly said he thought Foles might have been trying to throw this ball away, but it sure looked like it was headed right for Jeremy Maclin. Foles has got to have better situational awareness. When you are up by 20 points, don’t force things on 3rd down. Punt the damn ball. Punts can be our friend. They aren’t all bad. The defense and Tom Coughlin bailed Foles out on this, but he’s too smart to be making mistakes like this.

So what’s happening?

Over the course of the weekend I saw a slew of awful INTs. Colin Kaepernick made the worst decision of them all on MNF when the Niners were in the RZ and he basically threw a pass up for grabs while being slung to the ground. Amazingly, it wasn’t picked off. And he was bailed out by a penalty anyway, but that might be the worst QB decision of the year.

It seems like young QBs are just forcing things when they don’t have to. It’s one thing to not see a defender on a play over the middle or for a Safety to make a great pick on a deep throw. I”m talking about QBs throwing a pass when there is literally no way the outcome can be positive.

I wonder if part of Foles problem is not his background. Arizona was a mediocre team during Foles time there. As a Senior, Foles led the team to 31, 41, 27, 31, 21 and 29 points…in losses. That team was desperate for every point they could get. Foles had to take chances. He had to force things.

Foles is now part of an elite offensive unit. He has playmakers all over the place. There is no reason to force things in the average game. There are going to be times when the Eagles are struggling and he has to do that, but Sunday was just the opposite. The team was dominating. You have to adjust your QB brain setting to “We’ve got a big lead…play smart”.

There is plenty more to discuss with Foles and some areas he needs to improve. I can live with a lot of things, but not the QB being dumb, especially when he’s a smart guy. Foles knows better. He’s got to start playing smart. The Eagles won’t always be able to pitch a shutout (still sounds so beautiful, huh?).

And don’t turn this into “Foles sucks, we need to bench hm” or “Why is everyone so hard on Foles”. He is a good young QB that is working through some issues. I have no problem with being patient. All QBs need time to develop. Theses brain lapses should be easy to fix, in theory. Footwork and mechanical issues often have to wait for the offseason.

* * * * *

Great news about Darren Sproles. The Eagles have a bye this week and Sproles will be evaluated week-to-week after that. It is possible he won’t miss any time, but more than likely will miss a game or two. Based on what Michelle Tafoya said on Sunday night, it sure sounded like the initial check on the field meant bad news, possibly a torn ACL. The medical staff did a further check in the locker room and that led to the conclusion that this was an MCL sprain. And a mild one from the sound of it.

The Eagles can get by without Sproles for a week or two. Losing him long term would have been a huge problem. Sproles has been a big time playmaker this year and you just can’t afford to lose those guys during the season.

* * * * *

Vinny Curry had 4 sacks last year. He’s already got 4 this year. The coaches know how to use him this year and Curry is making plays.

The funny thing is that a couple of those sacks are gifts. One time he was unblocked. Another time the QB ran out of bounds and Curry was the closest defender. Curry has nothing to apologize for, though. He is incredibly disruptive on a regular basis. Sometimes he draws penalty flags. Other times he gets held, but there are no calls. Sometimes Curry forces the QB to move or rush a throw. Curry shows up on tape.

It will be interesting to see if he wants to leave in free agency so he can play in a 4-3 or if he’s now happy as a backup / specialist in the Eagles 3-4 scheme.

The DL and OLBs are playing well this year.

* * * * *

I loved the reverse to Josh Huff on Sunday. Okay, the execution was bad, but I loved the call. Sproles tossed the ball under his off arm and the ball hit the arm. Ugh. I really wanted to see Huff on the move with the ball. He had good RAC skills at Oregon. It would be nice to have another player to get the ball to on short throws who can then make things happen.

I hope that stays in the playbook.

The Eagles tried to get the ball to Huff on the final offensive play. He just dropped the quick screen. I think Huff is dying to make something happen and his lack of playing time and touches is killing him. He had one big play in every Oregon game last year. Huff did have some good blocks and some good moments on STs so he’s at least willing to do the dirty work. A lot of young players struggle with that concept.


Not So Big Giants

Posted: October 13th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 422 Comments »

That was the longest 4th quarter of my life. It felt like time stood still. The Giants had a big goose egg on the board and the shutout was right there for the taking. But I’ve been through this before. The Eagles gave up points late to the Falcons in 2009 and to Dallas in 2011. You can’t take anything for granted. The backups get in and they want to move the ball and have some fun. That’s when things really get dangerous.

I went nuts when Josh Huff dropped the pass on 3rd down inside of the 2-minute warning. That could have bled 35 more seconds off the clock. Then I really went nuts when the Giants started calling timeouts in the final 90 seconds of a game they were losing 27-0. That’s about the uncoolest thing a team could do.

But the defense came through for me. They kept pressure on Ryan Nassib and made some good tackles in the open field. The final sack clinched the shutout and I could finally breathe.

I agonized over every second of that 4th quarter. I knew the Eagles were going to win at that point. I wanted the shutout. It has driven me crazy for years that the Eagles have played such good, even dominating defense at times, and they haven’t been able to get a shutout. The last one was in 1996, against the Giants no less.

I’ve waited a long time and I have to say it feels great to finally get one. The defense played 60 good minutes. Bill Davis put together a terrific plan and the players executed it brilliantly. The Eagles played their base defense early on even when the Giants had 3 WRs on the field. This basically dared the Giants to throw the ball. They did and the pass rush was able to get home.

I wrote in my preview that Eli had a very clean pocket last week and that the Eagles wouldn’t let that happen. I didn’t expect the defense to deliver 8 sacks and a pair of FFs. Eli never got into a comfort zone. And this wasn’t all about the rush. Some of those were coverage sacks. We have to give credit to Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams for doing their part.

Feels pretty damn good to be sitting here sipping a PBR and writing about a 27-0 Eagles win over the annoying Giants.

* * * * *

The run game did come alive tonight for the first time all year and that was great to see. The OL dominated up front and that brought out the best in LeSean McCoy. He ran hard and made good decisions. There was little to no dancing. It looked like the TEs also blocked well. That helped McCoy get to the outside, where he picked up a few big runs.

I’ll write about Foles and the passing game tomorrow.

* * * * *

The one big concern is the status of Darren Sproles. He left with a knee injury after a nasty tackle. Keep your fingers crossed that this is a minor injury. Sproles has been vital to the Eagles success this year.



Posted: October 12th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 131 Comments »

Eagles 27
Giants 0

Tommy is on Cloud 9.

Bill Davis for president. Or emperor or whatever.