Some OL Talk

Posted: September 19th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 142 Comments »

The Eagles offensive line was a big part of the success last year. They gave Vick and Foles time to throw. They opened holes for Shady to get through. More than a mobile QB, great RB or specific type of WR, Chip Kelly’s offense needed a good OL.

The line play this year has been more erratic. There isn’t the same stability and that hurts. When you do put backups out there, you also lose ability. Evan Mathis is one of the best OGs in the NFL. You’re not going to plug in someone of equal ability. I think some of the Red Zone issues are tied to the OL. Because it is a condensed area, I think execution trumps scheme. Chip Kelly can’t draw up perfect plays to get guys open. You sometimes have to simply beat the man in front of you.

While injuries and the suspension of Lane Johnson have hurt the team, there is a positive side. The Eagles have a chance to develop some depth on the OL. I wrote about that for BGN.

Not all the answers are going to be good ones, but if Dennis Kelly, David Molk or Matt Tobin show they can be part of the future, that will really help. I left Andrew Gardner out because of his age (28) and the fact there isn’t an ideal position for him.

* * * * *

Make sure you check out this great PC from Bill Davis. He talks about adjusting to the Colts run game. He talks about how the coaches view sacks vs pressure, and his points are right on the money. Davis is complimentary of Casey Matthews and that’s hard to accept, but all coaches are going to break into coachspeak at some point during a PC.

I do love hearing Davis talk about defense. Smart and interesting guy.

* * * * *

Watching the JAX/WAS game felt almost like a waste of time. The Jags were just awful. Give the Skins credit for playing well, but that game was more about how awful Jacksonville is right now. Gus Bradley is a defensive guru, but they have left RBs, receivers and TEs wide open for the past 2 weeks. You can live with a play where Cary Williams bites on a fake and gets burned. That is one player making a mistake of aggression. When pass catchers are running around open, play after play…that is disturbing. The scheme works in Seattle. Are the Jags players that bad or is the coaching an issue?

I did come away impressed with Jay Gruden and the WAS front seven.

Gruden was smart to keep the stretch run game as a key component. That is perfect for Alfred Morris and the Skins OL, which still needs a lot of work. Gruden also kept the bootlegs, which are crucial to making the stretch runs so effective. Smart coaching to see that something was working well and didn’t need to be changed.

DE Jason Hatcher is playing lights out right now. He was a monster for the Skins last week. The JAX line played so poorly that RT Cameron Bradfield was benched in the game and then cut on Monday. Ryan Kerrigan gave him fits.

The Eagles OL is going to get a major test on Sunday.


Detailed Game Review – PHI 30, IND 27

Posted: September 18th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 113 Comments »

As with most things in life, context is everything. If you told me back in August that the Eagles would trail the Colts 20-6 in the 3rd Qtr on the road and would come back to win that game 30-27, I would have been ecstatic. That’s a pretty good team and beating teams like that on the road is never easy. And comeback wins are always fun. It is great to steal a game from someone who thought they were in the catbird’s seat.

But I’m not as giddy over the Colts win because it came on the heels of trailing the Jaguars 17-0 at halftime of the opener and needing to come back to win that game.

Yes, I like being 2-0. Yes, I like the way the team stepped up in the 2nd half. Yes, I like the mental and physical toughness the team showed in playing all 60 minutes. But this team is too talented and should be too good to be trailing by double digits at the half in consecutive games. The comebacks are self-inflicted. If this team was playing their best and not just “good enough”, then comeback wins would be great.

The 1993 Eagles started the season 4-0. In Games 2-4 they trailed by at least 10 points in the 2nd half, but still managed to win all 3 games. That was exciting because that team was mediocre. They had marginal talent on the O-line. They had no running game. Clyde Simmons and Tim Harris got hurt, leaving the team with no pass rush. The defense did have a great set of LBs and Pro Bowler Eric Allen at CB. And Rich Kotite was the coach. Winning ugly was okay with me.

The 2014 Eagles are loaded with talent and should be one of the better teams in the NFL. They need to play to that level. And they have…in the 2nd half of each game. But the 1st half play is a real mess. And that has to change.

It is kinda weird that I never got too down on Monday night. As long as the Eagles stayed within 2 scores, I felt like they could come back. The Colts don’t have a juggernaut defense and we know the Eagles can come up with some explosive plays. The Eagles did get the benefit of several calls in the game. That stuff will balance out over the course of the year so I’m not going to apologize for that. The key is to take advantage of the calls. I’ve seen plenty of Eagles teams that got help from the zebras and did nothing with it.

A lot of people have made the comment that the Eagles would not have won the last 2 games under Andy Reid.  I do agree with that, if you’re talking about the Reid from recent years. The Eagles had some good comebacks early in the Reid era. In recent years, the team seemed to play dumber and more erratically. That has changed under Chip Kelly. The Eagles seem to be smarter and they just have a confidence and toughness about them that had been lacking in recent years.

We’ll see if this lasts, but right now the Eagles are a clutch team. That definitely was not the case in recent years.     Read the rest of this entry »

Some Foles Talk

Posted: September 17th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 298 Comments »

Nick Foles has been up and down through 2 games. Trying to analyze and discuss his play has become a bit of a tricky subject. No rational person is trying to make a definitive statement about Foles based on the first 2 games. He’s not suddenly a bad QB. He hasn’t been exposed. And so on.

At the same time, we can’t sit back and obsess on 2013 and act as if that season defines Foles. Player evaluation is fluid, not permanent. Players are judged every year. Even a player with a strong track record has to be evaluated. You never know when a player will decline. Sometimes that is based on age, sometimes health and sometimes circumstance.

Derek Anderson started for the Browns in 2007. He went 10-5, while throwing for 3,787 yards and 29 TDs. Since that year, Anderson is 9-17 as a starter, with 21 TDs and 28 INTs. Anderson was a good player in 2007. I don’t know what happened after that, but he was never the same.

Bobby Hoying showed great promise back in 1997. He looked like the Eagles QB of the future. Hoying was awful in 1998 and never really played again. What happened? Jon Gruden had been the OC in ’97 and left to be the Raiders head coach in 1998. Hoying also got married and had an appendectomy. It is hard for me to fathom the guy who looked good in ’97 could be so awful just because of those changes. But that is exactly what happened.

I think Foles is just off his game a bit right now. I don’t think he is Anderson or Hoying. It is way to early to make any conclusions about Foles, good or bad.

Donovan McNabb struggled for parts of the 2003 season. He then played lights out in 2004. Eagles Nation got very testy when discussing McNabb back in 2003. I will admit to calling for him to be benched. McNabb had an injury and just wasn’t playing well. I thought putting in AJ Feeley, who had gone 4-1 as a starter the year before, would have been the prudent move. Andy Reid stuck with McNabb and that proved to be the right move. You have to let your QB play through some struggles.

Chip Kelly isn’t going to bench his QB any time soon. Foles showed enough in 2013 that he deserves a chance to work through his struggles. And be careful when reading that word…struggles. I’m not saying Foles is playing like Mike McMahon or Doug Pederson. I’m comparing his performance to the way he played last year.

Chip Wagon put up a terrific post taking a look at some issues.

Foles is playing well enough for the team to win. He is making enough plays that the offense is still able to move the ball and score points. But Foles and the Eagles are not taking advantage of all the opportunities are there. This offense should be scary good.

Foles did get better from the opener to the Colts game. I would love for him to play lights out on Sunday, but I’ll settle for Foles simply taking another step forward. I still believe Foles is a good young QB and is a good fit for this system.

* * * * *

The offense is doing some amazing things, but Foles is not alone as an inconsistent player. Brent Celek and Riley Cooper dropped TD passes on Monday night. Jeremy Maclin is still finding his place in this offense. Jordan Matthews has dropped a pass or two. The O-line has had some issues.

Hopefully the whole group will get into a groove and start to play more efficiently. And a few more explosive plays are acceptable as well.


Reasonable Criticism

Posted: September 16th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 256 Comments »

The Buffalo Bills have not made the playoffs since the 1999 season. Those fans are desperate for the team to get back to the postseason. They’d love a division title, but would gladly accept a wildcard berth. They just want to get back to the playoffs. I completely get where they are coming from. When you’ve had a drought like that, you are desperate for any kind of success.

The Eagles won the NFC East in 2013. And 2010. And 2006. They were a wildcard team in 2008 and 2009. That is a fair amount of success since the Eagles made it to the Super Bowl in 2004.

I’m greedy. I want to see this team compete for a title. That means the Eagles need to play at a high level. They don’t have to be perfect. They don’t have to go undefeated. They just have to look like a top flight team. Anyone who watched Denver last year could see a Super Bowl contender. KC started 9-0, but didn’t look the same. They played lesser competition due to a weak schedule and the Chiefs were better than those teams, but didn’t look like the Broncos.

Everyone is excited to see the Eagles off to a 2-0 start. Winning is fun. But I want more than that. Winning games will get you to the postseason. The team has to play well in order to win games in January. The Eagles have not played well to this point.

If you think that is unreasonable criticism or some obsession with negativity by me, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m generally accused of being too positive.

One of the reasons I am holding this team to a high standard is that I think it has tremendous potential. I want this team to do great things. I think this team can play a lot better than it is. That does not mean I expect perfection. Mistakes are going to happen. Andrew Gardner had some rough moments in the game. He’s the 3rd string RT. I am not going to judge him the same way I do Jason Peters.

Celebrate the Eagles being 2-0. Enjoy the heck out of it. But also be honest about this team. They need to play better if they are going to be a title contender this season.

* * * * *

The Eagles offense is pretty incredible right now, despite not playing as good as it can.

* The Eagles lead the NFL in points and yards.

* The Eagles are tied for the lead in plays of 40 or more yards (4).

* The Eagles lead the NFL in plays of 20 or more yards (12). They are on pace for 96, which would be close to what they did last year.

* Keep in mind that the Eagles are 27th in the NFL in Red Zone offense. They threw an INT in the opener and then missed a chip shot FG last night. At the least, that should be 6 more points on the board.

There are a ton of other missed opportunities. Jeremy Maclin was wide open for a long TD last week and Foles didn’t see him. Riley Cooper failed to catch a pass in the end zone last night. It would have been a tough grab, but that’s why you’re paying him $5M a year. Maclin got open deep last night and Foles couldn’t connect with him. The OL had some issues with blocking in the Red Zone last night.

It is kinda crazy to think how good this offense can be if the players start to click.

This group could be right on par with last year’s Broncos, the best Pats offense or the classic Rams teams that were the Greatest Show on Turf. I hope the offense does work out the kinks. I would love to see this group play elite football. Anyone who watched the 1991 Eagles knows what it was like to see truly great defense. We’ve got a chance to see the offensive equivalent of that.

* * * * *

Right now the Eagles defense is 13th in yards allowed and 17th in points allowed.

That’s about what I expected from the defense. Cary Williams was awful for part of the opener, but has played much better since then and that’s helped the overall defense. I was disappointed with the run defense last night, but it looked like the Colts had some scheme wrinkles that caught the Eagles off guard. Their unbalanced line set gave the Eagles fits for about 3 quarters. Good job by the Colts coaches.

It took the Eagles a while, but they did adjust and played that look much better as the game wore on.

* * * * *

STs was great in the opener, but less so last night. The jury is still out on this group.


Lucky Win

Posted: September 16th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 401 Comments »

First, let’s be honest about the Eagles and Nick Foles. Both are erratic right now. The team is 2-0, but has hardly looked like anything special. They fell behind 17-0 last week and 20-6 this week. Coming from behind is impressive, but you want to quit falling behind teams. Really good teams have the ability to win games coming from behind and also win on those days when they don’t have their A-game. However, they do both things rarely because really good teams usually play really good football on a consistent basis.

This Eagles team is 2-0 and that’s great. They’ve shown the ability to win ugly. In the coming weeks, they need to play better. Penalties, dropped passes and poor tackling all hurt the team last night. Those are the kind of execution errors that must get cleaned up.

As for Foles, he threw for 337 yards and a TD, but did not play well. He was good enough to get the job done, but had another game where he didn’t see some open receivers and threw some off-target passes. I’ll need to write a full post on Foles since this is a lengthy subject, but don’t try to come to any conclusions about him right now. The guy is in a semi-funk. He doesn’t need to be benched. He’s not a bust. Foles is going through a rough time.

If this lasts for another month, then we’ve got something to discuss. He was better last night than in the opener. Hopefully he’ll be better next week than he was last night. You have to be patient with young QBs. There are going to be ups and downs.

I have to say that I am shocked by the play of Darren Sproles. In 3 years with the Saints, Sproles had 3 plays that went for 40 or more yards (runs or receptions). In 2 games with the Eagles, he has 3 such plays. Wow. Sean Payton is a great offensive mind. Drew Brees is a great QB. It sure seems like Chip Kelly and Darren Sproles are a perfect match for each other with that kind of production. I fully admit I didn’t think the Eagles would have interest in Sproles. I was dead wrong and thank god for that. Without him, the team isn’t anywhere close to 2-0.

The best part about Sproles is his strength / toughness. We all knew he was quick and elusive. And boy is he ever. But watch that TD run. Man, he is like a bowling ball the way he bounces off defenders. And then on the long screen pass…I thought the stiff arm was going to get him into the end zone. He kept the tackler off him for 5 to 10 yards before being dragged down at the 6-yard line.

We got a big scare on defense when Mychal Kendricks went out. There is hope on that front.

Casey Matthews was awful when he came in. I didn’t see enough of Emmanuel Acho to have an opinion on him. Before you start ripping the Eagles for their lack of depth, they had some but Najee Goode got hurt last week. Go look around the league. You won’t find many 3-4 teams that have 4 good ILBs.

If Kendricks is going to miss time, the Eagles will have to make a move. We’ll discuss that when it seems like we know what’s going to happen.

Fletcher Cox came up big again last night. He had 4 solo tackles, a TFL and a key FF. He’s playing at a Pro Bowl level right now. DeMeco Ryans was in on 10 tackles and had a big game as well. The defense had a rough night, but came up with 2 takeaways and made some key stops to keep the team in position to win.

Plenty of folks in the media and certainly all Colts supporters are making the point that Brandon Boykin got away with a penalty and that cost Indy the game. Faulty thinking. Even if the refs throw that flag, the game isn’t over. Whose to say the Colts don’t fumble on the next run play? Maybe Luck throws an INT on a play-action pass? His passes had been getting tipped all game long.

The Eagles did benefit from several calls last night. There’s no disputing that. I’m just glad the team took advantage of it. I’ve seen other teams get some favorable calls and do nothing with them.

It wasn’t a good night for STs. The coverage units were sloppy. The return game was pedestrian. Cody Parkey missed a 38-yard FG that could have been very costly. But the Football Gods decided to give Parkey a chance for redemption. He was able to kick the game-winner. Twice, actually. I wasn’t all that nervous after the timeout. His kick had been smooth and Chip Kelly said something to Parkey. I was guessing Chip asked him if they should call a timeout to let him clear his head. Whatever Parkey said, Kelly went back to the sideline and let his rookie kicker do his thing…which was to nail the winning kick. Clutch. And it must have been sweet considering the Colts were the team that Parkey was with this summer.

Flawed performance last night, but a huge win. The Eagles remain out in front in both the NFC East and the AFC South. Last year the Eagles started 1-3 and took forever to really climb out of that hole. Being 2-0 makes such a huge difference. Now if we can just get the team to play some good football.