The Other Rookie

Posted: September 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 386 Comments »

Carson Wentz wasn’t the only rookie that came up big on Sunday. Coach Doug Pederson did an excellent job in his first NFL game. One game doesn’t give us any definitive answers for either Wentz or Pederson, but there is reason to feel good about both. We actually have a bit more to judge Pederson on since the offseason is such a critical part of a coach’s job. Still, today was the first chance to see him tested on the field and Pederson passed with flying colors.

Pederson runs the Eagles offense as well as the overall team. I thought he did an excellent job with the offense. He was creative, but not gimmicky. The Eagles used different formations and personnel packages. 4 different RBs got carries. Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews were the primary passing targets, but the ball was spread around as well. Pederson tried to get his young WRs going early. There was a good mixture of run and pass. The Eagles threw the ball 39 times and ran 34 times.

I thought Pederson did an excellent job of not holding back with Wentz. If you watched the Dallas game, you saw the Cowboys throw a lot of short passes. They also did a lot with rollouts. Those plays cut the field in half and make it easier for the QB to make reads. That was a drastically different gameplan than they would use for Tony Romo. I wondered if the Eagles might do some of that, but Pederson used Wentz like he would have any other QB.     Read the rest of this entry »


Eagles Dominate the Browns 29-10

Posted: September 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 174 Comments »

The Carson Wentz era is underway. So far, so good.

The rookie QB lived up to the hype and then some, throwing for 278 yards and a pair of TDs. He played really well, rookie or not. The Eagles offense did not look like a basic attack meant to protect the QB and keep things simple. They used multiple formations and did creative things. Doug Pederson called 40 pass plays, and that’s in a game where the Eagles always had the lead.

Wentz made some great throws. His 2 TDs covered 19 and 35 yards. Those weren’t gimme plays. They required Wentz to make the right read and then to make accurate throws into tight windows. He did just that on both plays. Wentz hit Zach Ertz on 4th/4 to move the chains prior to the long TD to Nelson Agholor. The throw to Ertz was really impressive. Wentz had a defender about to hit him, but put the ball exactly where it needed to be, low and in front of Ertz. There was another throw to Jordan Matthews that also impressed me. Wentz threw that low so Matthews could get it, but defenders wouldn’t be able to make a play on the ball. Smart and accurate.

Just watching Wentz at the line of scrimmage, he didn’t look like a rookie. He made adjustments throughout the game. This is a big part of what Pederson wants to do with his offense. Wentz did that in college as well so he’s used to reading the defense and making pre-snap changes. Wentz also used a hard count to get the Browns to jump on an early 3rd/short. Free 1st down.

Wentz went 22-37-278 with 2 TDs and no picks. That was a great debut. One game doesn’t make a career, but it sure feels like the Eagles got this pick right. Wentz is very talented. He’s smart. He’s humble, but also confident. Wentz is driven. His teammates seem to love him. Wentz looks like the real deal.

Wentz is the big story, but this was a total team win.

Matthews caught 7 passes for 114 yards and a TD. He and Wentz need to work on their chemistry a bit, but they made one impressive pitch and catch combo. Nelson Agholor was 4-57, including a 35-yard TD where he burned Joe Haden, a top flight CB. That’s the kind of big play ability Agholor has. The Eagles ran for 133 yards, with Ryan Mathews doing most of the work and Kenjon Barner showing some impressive wheels (4-42).

None of that happens if the O-line doesn’t control the line of scrimmage. It wasn’t a great day for the biggies, but they played pretty well, with some great moments.

The Eagles got big plays on defense and STs as well as offense.

The defense started red hot, not giving up a single 1st down in the 1st quarter. But then RGIII woke up and Cleveland started to make some plays. The Eagles pass rush seemed to disappear. Things changed in the second half. The Browns got sloppy again and the Eagles defense started making plays. The DL really came alive in the 4th quarter and roughed RGIII up. They sacked him 3 times and got some big hits on  him, in and out of the pocket.

Jordan Hicks had 4 solo tackles and tipped a pass that got picked off by Rodney McLeod. The defense forced a 4 & out late in the game. They also got a safety, but that was due to an awful snap by the Browns new Center.

The Eagles run defense was outstanding at times. The Browns ended up with 120 yards on the ground, but that is very deceiving. 59 of those yards came on runs at the end of the half or the end of the game when the Eagles were in a prevent defense and left the middle of the field open.

STs was a strength in the game. We all wondered if that group would lose anything with Chip Kelly gone. Say what you want about Chip, but he believed in the importance of STs play and it showed on the field. I’m happy to report that the Eagles look to once again be very good in the kicking and return game. Darren Sproles had a 40-yard punt return. Donnie Jones averaged 49 yards per punt and put a couple of them inside the 10-yard line. The cover guys were downfield to down those punts and pin the Browns deep.

Hue Jackson tried to trick the Eagles with a fake punt…without the punter on the field. Rookie Kamu Grugier-Hill read it and flew into the backfield for the TFL. What a horrible decision by Jackson. The Eagles think Grugier-Hill can be an impact player on STs.

The one concern is a missed FG. Sturgis was wide right from 46 yards out. Luckily, it did not hurt the Eagles.

This was a strange game for holdovers from the previous 3 years. The Eagles won the time of possession battle 39:20 to 20:40. That is a highly overrated stat, unless it is that one-sided. The Browns only ran 50 plays. Eagles defenders are used to being on the field for 70 snaps. 50 must have felt like a vacation. Training Camp was harder than that.

Great opening day for the Eagles, Wentz, the defense, STs and just about everyone. There are some things to work on (penalties and drops were probably the biggest issues), but I think you could see that this team has talent and potential. They may not contend for the Super Bowl this year, but anyone who thinks this group is at the bottom of the league is in for a big surprise.

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PHI 13, CLE 7 – 2nd Half

Posted: September 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 585 Comments »

Good start for Carson Wentz and the Eagles. Could have been better, but the team played well for the most part.

The offense has shown a lot of promise, but is still too sloppy. Drops. Missed blocks. Errant throws. This is not a well-oiled machine that is clicking on all cylinders. The encouraging thing is that you can see the potential. Wentz looks like the real deal. Jordan Matthews has had an impact in his first game action of 2016. The role players are doing some good things.

The defense has been good vs the run. Pass coverage has been up and down. Nolan Carroll had a rough opening half. You can see that RGIII’s athleticism is still a real problem for defenses. Jordan Hicks tipped a pass that Jordan Hicks picked off. That ended a promising drive.

Caleb Sturgis missed a FG. Eagles should be up 16-7. Can’t afford to make mistakes like that in a winnable game like this.

Need to clean some things up, but plenty of reasons to be encouraged.

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Game Preview – CLE

Posted: September 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 430 Comments »

Kickoff is less than 90 minutes away. We just found out the inactives.

Trey Burton got hurt on Friday and that will in turn hurt the team today. He is a core STer and also was going to be part of the 3-TE packages that Doug Pederson wanted to use. To replace him on STs, the Eagles re-signed Najee Goode over the weekend. The plan was to add him next week so that his salary wouldn’t be guaranteed, but that had to be sacrificed because of the Burton injury.

The Eagles have 4 RBs and 4 WRs to go along with 2 TEs. It will be interesting to see if rookie Wendell Smallwood gets any touches today. My guess is that he will, unless the Eagles are down double-digits and having to play catch-up.

What I’ll be watching:

Eagles WRs – Can they avoid drops and make plays? Get the ball to Agholor early and let’s see if we can get him going. I expect Josh Huff to get the ball on a screen or jet sweep. You want the ball in his hands. And you force the ball to DGB in the Red Zone.

Small Ball – I don’t think the Browns are good enough on offense to have long, methodical drives. Take away big plays and force them to move the chains. The Eagles have veteran Safeties and those guys are tasked with limiting big plays as much as anything. CBs also need to do their part.

DEs – Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham played well this preseason. They need to keep that going. Jim Schwartz’s scheme is built on pressure by the DL, especially the edge guys. Both Marcus Smith and Steven Means are active today. It will be interesting to see how much they play and how they do.

The Kid – The Eagles are the better team today. Carson Wentz shouldn’t have to be spectacular to win this game. He needs to be smart and take care of the ball. And make a play or two with his legs. I do wonder if the Eagles try to go deep on the opening series. There is value in stretching the defense and that would give Wentz a chance to let it fly.

RGIII – He is 3-2 against the Eagles. He has played very well in some of those games. You might remember him giving Mychal Kendricks fits out in space. The Eagles need to contain him as a runner and limit his deep balls, as mentioned above. Make RGIII a pocket passer and if he beats you from there, so be it. Don’t let him get outside and create big plays on the move or by running the ball.

Dougie P – Pederson is still a mystery to me. We’ll start to see today if the Eagles made the right move in hiring him. This isn’t about winning and losing necessarily, but how he manages the game. Does he use timeouts well? Does he know when to challenge? Going for it on 4th down? Etc, etc, etc…

This is going to be an interesting season, possibly a lot of fun.

Go Eagles!

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The Adventure Begins

Posted: September 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 73 Comments »

The 2016 Eagles open their season on Sunday.

Doug Pederson opens his coaching career.

Most importantly, the Carson Wentz era begins.

The Eagles are not going to win the Super Bowl this year. Okay, there is that 2.37 percent chance that this turns out to be that magical season where things come together and you feel like destiny is part of the starting lineup. But realistically, this season is about the future as much as anything else. If you aren’t competing for a Super Bowl in a particular season, you want to do everything you can to put your team in position to be a contender the next year.

For the Eagles, that means playing Carson Wentz.

I wrote my weekend piece for PE.com on the beginning of the Wentz era. Don’t expect Wentz to come out on Sunday and look like a finished product. This is the beginning. There will be ups and downs. Enjoy the ride.

If Wentz pans out as the Eagles expect him to, this will change the fortunes of the franchise.

1995 – Rodney Peete
1996 – Ty Detmer
1997 – Peete/Detmer/Bobby Hoying
1998 – Hoying/Peete/Koy Detmer

Donovan McNabb arrived in 1999 and the world changed. He never won a Super Bowl, but McNabb brought a lot of success. 2000-2009 was about as good as you could want without winning the Lombardi Trophy. McNabb had plenty of help in all that success, but the point is that it makes all the difference in the world if you have a franchise QB. If you don’t, winning on a consistent basis becomes exponentially harder, if not impossible.

We don’t know if Wentz will pan out. We do know he’s very talented and everyone around him praises the young man like you wouldn’t believe. It feels like he should pan out.

This isn’t Bobby Hoying, the 85th pick in the 1996 draft. This isn’t Kevin Kolb, a 2nd round pick. This isn’t A.J. Feeley, a late round pick who didn’t even start in college. This isn’t a mid-round gamble on Mike Kafka. This isn’t a 3rd round pick on Matt Barkley, who you’re shocked is still on the board.

Wentz went second overall. He has a big arm. He is huge and athletic. Wentz won a pair of national titles at North Dakota State. He played well at the Senior Bowl, where more than a few teams fell in love with him. The Eagles were one of those teams. Tom Donahoe initially scouted him prior to the 2015 season and then tried to convince everyone he could that Wentz was the real deal. Pederson and Howie Roseman got their first up-close look at Wentz down in Mobile and clearly they were impressed.

It also helped that the Eagles needed a QB. Think about recent years. Kevin Kolb to Michael Vick to Nick Foles to Mark Sanchez to Sam Bradford. Matt Barkley wasn’t even good enough to compete for a job. Now the Eagles have Wentz. He offers talent, youth and stability at the most important position in sports. There is every reason to be excited.

*****

One added benefit of seeing Wentz in action, PE.com will have some new higlights to show. When Wentz gets interviewed and they mix in some highlights to punch up the video, we see the same 5 plays over and over and over and over. No more, and thank god for that. I am sick of seeing that pass to Ertz and the throw to Turner. Give me some new highlights.

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