Posted: December 1st, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 65 Comments »
I can’t be the only one who is going nuts while waiting for Sunday to get here. The bye week was great for getting the Eagles rested and healthy, but I’m dying to see the boys go out and play.
The Cards are a weird opponent. The media is buying in on them. I did too, initially. The more I watched them play and studied the stats, the more I started to see some holes. The Cards are 5-1 at home. Their 2 road wins came in Florida, one vs the crappy Bucs and one vs the crappy Jags. Put the Cards in a favorable situation and they win. Challenge them and things are far less certain.
Watching the Colts game from last week wasn’t a ton of help. The Colts DL was awful in that game. The Cards don’t have a good O-line and seeing them control the LOS was not a good sign for Indy. The Colts OL struggled and Andrew Luck played poorly in part because of that. How far has that team fallen in recent weeks?
I’m fully aware that you can pick apart the Eagles just as well. Right or wrong, I just believe in the Eagles a bit more.
One of the key reasons is that the Eagles are good on the LOS. The OL can block. The DL can play the run and pressure the passer. The Cards have a good DL, but their OL has issues.
Maybe the best part of this game is getting to see Nick Foles go against a top shelf D. He’s faced some that were ranked relatively high, but none that had the buzz that the Cards have. There is a ton of hype about DC Todd Bowles and his players. A good NFL analyst suggested on Twitter tonight that Calais Campbell could be Def Player of the Year material. Patrick Peterson is a player who gets tons of hype. And Tyrann Mathieiu is another player the analysts love. These guys deserve the credit they get. Add in LB John Abraham, DL Darnell Dockett, ILB Karlos Dansby and ILB Daryl Washington and you have a talented defense that can make some plays.
If Foles and the Eagles can move the ball and score on these guys, the Chip Kelly hype will go through the roof. Probably true for Foles too.
I am curious to see how the Cards cover the Eagles. Does Peterson cover DeSean Jackson? If so, does he get Safety help or does that go to the CB on Riley Cooper? Jackson vs Peterson 1-on-1 would be very interesting.
I wrote a preview for PE.com.
There really are a lot of angles to this game.
* Playoff implications
* The return of Todd Bowles to Philly
* Bowles D vs Kelly’s O
* Mr NFL (Bruce Arians) vs Joe College (Chip Kelly)
* Can the Cards win on the road?
* Can the Eagles extend their home winning streak?
* Will the bye week affect the Eagles?
* Will we see Mike Vick as a role player?
* Can Nick Foles avoid turnovers against a Cardinals defense that thrives on takeaways?
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If you prefer visuals, check out this great All-22 piece from Fran Duffy. Superb preview of the Cardinals.
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Les Bowen wrote a good piece about the Eagles need to pick up the Cardinals blitzes.
The good news is that so far this season, Foles has been good under pass-rush pressure, in limited exposure. Pro Football Focus gives him a .676 accuracy percentage in such situations, with two touchdown passes and of course, no picks, because Foles hasn’t thrown any picks in the eight games he has played this season (five starts).
This isn’t all on Foles.
Foles agreed that the Eagles’ uptempo style could disrupt the blitz packages a bit – it’s hard for the defense to change personnel – but he said he figures the Cardinals have looked at that and figured out ways around it.
“Our line’s done a great job of really seeing what’s going on,” Foles said, when asked about his blitz success. “They’re able to give me just a split second longer to get a throw off. That’s huge . . . Our receivers and running backs have recognized when we are hot, to get their head around and get ready for the ball.”
Should make for an interesting match-up.
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The Eagles will wear black jerseys. What do you guys think of that?
I’m mixed. I don’t like the black jerseys on the players, but I think they look really good on fans.
Posted: November 30th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 58 Comments »
Bill Davis has been asked about Trent Cole since the day he was hired as Defensive Coordinator. Davis has had nothing but positive comments about Cole. At times you wondered if some of this was coachspeak. Was Davis really seeing the kind of pressure from Cole that he expected? Davis either has a good poker face or he legitimately was happy with Cole. The message he preached is that the pressure was there and that the sacks would come.
2 weeks ago Cole finally broke through and had 2 sacks. I didn’t think he did anything significantly different. Chris McPherson did a good interview with Cole for PE.com. Cole told McPherson that the light did go on for him and that he did make some small changes. Cole didn’t talk about them and said they were secret for now. I don’t know if this is a player BS’ing us or if he did really tweak some things in regard to rush angles or something like that. On Sunday we’ll see what he does vs the Cards. Carson Palmer has been sacked 30 times. Cole should have good chances to add to his sack total.
I’ve talked about the Eagles need to upgrade at ROLB, but I’d love Cole to get hot down the stretch and make me wonder about that.
What if he did figure something out? If the pressures turn into sacks, that will make a difference. Cole still isn’t going to be a dynamic force off the edge, but if he’s able to get to the QB on a regular basis, that might make him a player worth keeping around for another season. The Eagles still need to find a stud for that role long term.
Cole said that Kelly’s training methods have him feeling better right now than he’s used to feeling late in a season. Cole sometimes struggled late in seasons when it seemed that he wore down. This will be another angle to consider when evaluating him.
As for the other LBs, DeMeco Ryans is playing his best football of the year. I think he’s finally comfortable in the scheme.
Connor Barwin has played pretty well all year.
Najee Goode had to play a ton in the last 2 games and looked like a solid ILB.
We don’t know what to expect from Mychal Kendricks. He is healthy and will play Sunday, but has been erratic all year. Did watching from the sideline help him? Did the coaches figure anything out with Goode that will help Kendricks? The coaches did say that Kendricks was playing better as the season went along so he’s headed in the right direction.
Brandon Graham has had his moments, but still has yet to really stand out.
All in all, the LBs are playing their best football of the year. That’s crucial in the 3-4 defense. If the defense is going to play well down the stretch, the LBs are going to be a big part of that.
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Bob Grotz wrote a good piece on Connor Barwin and how he’s getting the front seven to bond.
“He’s a leader in so many different ways,” defensive end Vinny Curry said of Barwin. “He’s all about team camaraderie.
“That’s something he brought to the team. And just look at us now. Guys are out there making plays. Everybody is happy. Everybody is jumping around compared to last year. It’s fun to be a part of.”
Just another reason to love the Barwin signing from the offseason. Good on the field. Good in the locker room.
Posted: November 29th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 63 Comments »
Prior to Week 8, the Cardinals had not scored more than 25 points in a game. Since then, the Cards has scored at least 27 points each game. Last week they had a season high 40 points in the win over the Colts. Arizona has had at least 332 yards of offense in each of the last 4 games. The Cards had fewer yards than that in 4 of the first 7 games.
So what gives?
Has the Cardinals offense gotten better? Or is this due to playing some struggling defenses?
I think you can argue both ways. The schedule in recent weeks has been soft. But you can also see changes. Rookie RB Andre Ellington didn’t have more than 7 carries in a game until the recent hot streak. In the past 4 games, he’s averaging more than 11 carries per game. WR Michael Floyd is playing his best football of the season. The offense isn’t turning the ball over. Carson Palmer has had 4 of his 5 highest QB rating games of the year in the recent stretch.
If the Cardinals offense is truly playing at a high level, the Eagles defense is in for a big challenge. Most of the talk in the past few days has been about the Cards defense going up against the Eagles offense. I trust Chip Kelly, Nick Foles, Shady McCoy, DeSean Jackson and the Biggies up front to find ways to move the ball and score some points.
The bigger concern for me is shutting down the Cards offense. Palmer is a veteran QB. The Eagles this year are 1-5 against veteran QBs.
vs Philip Rivers – L
vs Alex Smith – L
vs Peyton Manning – L
vs Eli Manning – W
vs Tony Romo – L
vs Eli Manning – L
The wins came against RG3, Mike Glennon, Eli, Terrelle Pryor, Scott Tolzien, and RG3.
The flip side of this is that Palmer isn’t as good a QB as the other veterans listed above. I know Eagles fans love to rip on Eli and Romo, but those guys are good QBs. Palmer has his moments, but he’s not at their level.
The Eagles defense has played better since the Denver debacle. No offense has scored more than 21 points in that stretch. The Cardinals might be the biggest challenge since they have 2 big, talented WRs, a good slot guy, an athletic TE, an explosive runner and a veteran QB. The one thing Arizona doesn’t have…a good O-line. They rank 29th in pass protection per MMQB. Palmer has been sacked 30 times. That is the 2nd highest total of his career (and we’ve still got 5 games to go!).
I hope Bill Davis looks back at the Dallas game. He challenged his CBs to come up big against Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams. Davis was able to limit the Dallas run game and get pressure on Romo. I’d like to see that type of gameplan this week. I would rather see Davis be aggressive and take some chances than to sit back. If I’m Arizona, I’m throwing slants and fades left and right and challenging the Eagles corners.
The Eagles must get pressure on Palmer. He has thrown more than twice as many picks as all Eagles QBs combined (15 to 7). If you can get him to feel the heat, Palmer will take some chances. The front seven must come up big.
Dealing with the Cardinals receivers will be a challenge for the Eagles secondary. Last year that was a disaster, but this year the scheme is better and the players aren’t nearly as confused. Bradley Fletcher returns to action and that will help. Remember that he was on the Rams previously and faced Fitz and the Cards receivers twice a year. The scheme might have changed, but if Brad can offer any clues, it could help a lot.
A good game from the Eagles defense would be huge in the team beating the Cards and their hot offense.
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The Eagles are coming off the bye week. Andy Reid was gold with the bye week. He did a good job of self-scouting and making some changes. The frustrating part is that he didn’t do that better from week to week.
Kelly has done a good job with making adjustments. The question for him is what will he do coming out of the bye. Will Kelly have some wrinkles for the offense? Will he just focus on cleaning up some existing issues? I’m not expecting anything too major, but we’ll see.
The one wrinkle that I am curious about is mixing in Michael Vick as a runner in some situations. I didn’t think that would happen, but Vick told the press he would do it and was coy when asked about whether anything had been planned. If he’s willing and the situation is right, maybe Vick could be a good role player. Those QB sweeps from the first Giants game were really cool plays.
We also might see more of Brad Smith in the offense. He only had one play vs WAS. I could see the coaches coming up with specific plays for Smith. Let’s see what the guy can do.
Will the bye week hurt the Eagles in terms of momentum? The Birds have won 3 straight games. The rest was nice, but you don’t want the team to lose any momentum. During the Reid era, the Eagles only had one winning streak heading into the bye week and that was in 2004, the Super Bowl year. I have no idea what to expect in this area.
Posted: November 28th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 148 Comments »
The Cards and Eagles have one of the more overlooked rivalries/histories. The two teams used to play each other twice a year when they were NFC East rivals. That stopped in 2002 when the NFL went to 4 divisions in each conference. Here are some memorable games of the last 20 years.
1992 – The Goal Line Stand. Cards had 7 plays from the 1-yard line and couldn’t score. On a couple of those the Eagles were offside and that’s why they had to come up with 7 stops. Final score: 7-3 Philly.
1994 – The Return of Buddy. Arizona came to town with new HC Buddy Ryan, making his first trip to The Vet since his firing by Norman Braman. Fred Barnett had a huge game 11-173 and accounted for both TDs in a 17-7 win.
1995 – The End of Buddy. In the next to last game of the year the Eagles were 9-5 and fighting for a playoff berth. The Cards were trying to stop a losing streak. The Eagles led 21-20 late in the game when ARZ drove to the PHI 29. On 3rd/7 they decided to pass rather than run and that led to a sack. The ensuing FG came up short. The Eagles went to the postseason and Buddy was fired a couple of weeks later.
1996 – The Wildest Ride. After 3 quarters the game was 16-13, Arizona. The 4th quarter became a major shootout. The Cards built up a 29-20 lead with just 2:30 left in the game. Derrick Witherspoon took the KO and went 95 yards to cut the lead to 29-27. The Eagles then recovered an onside kick and marched down the field quickly. The Eagles got inside the RZ and went conservative to make the Cards burn timeouts. A FG gave the Eagles a 30-29 lead. Arizona got the ball at their 34 with :45 left and no timeouts. Boomer Esiason led a masterful drive that ended in a 24-yd TD with :14 left. That game was one of the longest, crazies non-OT games I’ve ever seen. So, so heartbreaking. It was the Eagles third loss in a row after a 7-2 start to the season.
1998 - The Stupor Bowl. At the end of 3 quarters, the score was 0-0. One announcer said that was a first in NFL history. I’ve never checked that stat out. The Cards offense “got hot” and they won 17-3. Bobby Hoying…ugh.
1999 – Heartbreak City. The Eagles led the game 24-12 in Andy Reid’s debut as coach. The lead melted away to 24-22 late. Reid called a perfect pass play to WR Brian Finneran, who bobbled the ball and had it picked off by a DB. The Cards then drove down and kicked the winning FG. So much for the hot start with the new coach.
2000 – The Running of the Birds. Darnell Autry ran for a TD. In case you didn’t hear me, I said DARNELL AUTRY ran for a TD. His long run of the day was 6 yards. FB Cecil Martin had a 13-yard run. FB Stanley Pritchett had an 11-yard run. PK David Akers had a 15-yard run. That came on a brilliant fake FG. Koy Detmer flipped the ball over his shoulder and Akers got outside for a big gain. Beautiful play. Cards WR David Boston lost 17 yards on a run play. I assume he ran out of steroids and turned human right as tacklers hit him.
2001 – Another Blown Lead. The Eagles led 17-14 late. They had 4th/short, but were in FG range. Reid decided to kick the FG and trust his defense with a 20-14 lead. Jake Plummer led the Cards down the field. He then hit MarTay Jenkins with a 35-yard pass to win the game. Even worse, Troy Vincent was the guy burned on the play. He got turned around and left Jenkins wide open. Another ugh moment. In the revenge game out in the desert (meaning Arizona), Brian Mitchell ran a KO back 94 yards for a TD. Bill Gramatica tried to tackle him. Mitchell didn’t use a move, just ran straight at him at full speed. Gramatica suffered a dislocated left shoulder on the play. Mitch ran the ball harder than any return guy I’ve ever seen. He once gave LaVar Arrington a concussion when Arrington tried to tackle him on a KOR. Mitch was a great Eagle even though he was just here for 3 years.
2002 – Donovan McTough. McNabb got hit early in the game and complained of an ankle injury, but he never came out. The injury forced him to stay in the pocket and he did just that. He shredded the Cards, going 20-25-255. He threw 4 TDs and the Eagles won 38-14. We found out later that McNabb played on a broken leg.
2008 – Opposite ends of the spectrum. We played the Cards twice. The first meeting was a Thanksgiving night blowout. We won 48-20. Kyle Eckel had plenty of touches if that tells you how much of a blowout it was. The rematch came in the NFC title game. Kurt Warner and the Cards dominated the 1st half. McNabb led us back in the 2nd, but the defense gave up a late TD drive and we lost. Ugh. Again. Another blown lead.
2011 – Won’t get fooled again (yes you will). The hapless Cards came to Philly with some guy named John Skelton at QB. He sucked for most of the game, but got hot late and led the Cardinals to a pair of 4th quarter TDs and the win. Almost half of the Cards yards for the entire game came in the 4th quarter. The Eagles fell to 3-5 and proved to be every bit as hapless as the Cards. Another blown lead. Ugh, again.
2012 – Down and out. The 2-0 Eagles went to the desert and found out just how good Jason Kelce was. He tore his ACL the week before. Dallas Reynolds took over at C and essentially was the 12th Cardinal. They attacked the A-gap over and over and he was just overwhelmed. Michael Vick had to run for his life, but made things worse by turning the ball over. The Cards led 17-0 late in the half. The Eagles drove down to the 1 with just seconds left. Vick failed to see a wide open receiver in the end zone on one play. That was okay. There was still 3rd down and even if he had to throw that away, the team would get a chip shot FG and at least get on the board, right? Wrong, very wrong. Vick hesitated with the ball, got hit from behind and the ball came loose. James Sanders picked it up and ran 93 yards for a Cardinals TD. 24-0 felt like 10,000 to 0. I think that was the beginning of the end for Vick. At least the Eagles didn’t blow a late lead.
So as you can see, Sunday will probably be a boring, uneventful game. Nothing wild ever happens when the Birds get together. Yeah right. So let’s hear your predictions on what crazy things might happen Sunday.
Nick Foles runs for 100 yards?
Cary Williams covers Larry Fitzgerald tight for one play?
Chip Kelly runs the Wishbone?
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Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Posted: November 27th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 67 Comments »
The Cardinals come to town on Sunday. The 7-4 Cardinals, that is. I’m shocked at the season they have had. I just didn’t see that team coming together and playing well. Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer have resurrected the offense. The defense has taken another step forward from last year and is one of the best units in the league. This isn’t a crappy Cardinals team that the Eagles should roll with ease. This game will be a test.
Here is an excellent piece by Doug Farrar on the Cardinals defense. He did film study himself, but also got good info from Greg Cosell. Per Cosell, the Cards blitz more than any team in the NFL. We expected the Raiders to blitz a lot, but they didn’t for due to the fear of getting burned due to the tempo and matchups. The Cards will blitz. This will be a big test for Foles.
Arizona has 29 sacks, just 5 more than the Eagles. The blitz does generate a lot of turnovers. They have at least one in every game and are 4th in the league in takeaways. Foles has yet to throw an INT. Can he keep that streak going against a team that has a speedy back seven like the Cardinals?
Dave, aka Southern Philly on BGN/Twitter, wrote an excellent piece on a weak link in the secondary. CB Jerraud Powers is a player the Eagles should be able to exploit if they go after him.
Arizona is 8th in points allowed and 8th in yards allowed. Football Outsiders has them ranked 2nd in defense with the DVOA rankings. This is a good group. But let’s not make them out to be some juggernaut that can’t be dealt with. They have allowed more 30-point games (3) than the Eagles (2).
They have given up more TD passes than the Eagles, 19 to 17. The Cardinals have shut down some weak offenses and backup QBs.
The Eagles are in for a big challenge, but so are the Cardinals. Arizona has only faced one elite offense this year. The Saints lit them up for 423 yards and 31 points. The Eagles have some serious weapons and it will be interesting to see which team is able to get then advantage.
I hope the Cardinals are able to get some pressure on Foles. We know he can pick apart a defense when he’s given a clean pocket. It would be good to see how he responds when he’s got more than occasional pressure. QBs must show they can handle adversity within a game. QBs need a short memory. If Foles makes a dumb throw or bad decision, let it go and move on. Don’t let that mistake hurt you twice.
Another test angle to this game is whether Foles gets caught up in the situation. This is a home game. The Eagles won in the last home game, but had struggled at The Linc prior to that. Will that be a factor? Also, will Foles feel any extra pressure since the Eagles are battling for playoff position? Dallas plays on Thanksgiving. That means Foles and the Eagles will know if Sunday’s game is to tie for 1st place or take sole possession of it.
Kelly likes his players to have blinders on. He wants them to treat every game, every opponent and every situation the same. Kelly wants consistent excellence and that will only happen when players can focus directly on the task at hand and not get caught up in the hype and trappings that come with big games.
While I’m talking about this game as a test for Foles, it isn’t a pass-fail type of situation. A loss by the Eagles or bad game from Foles does not sink him. It just gives us another piece of evidence to consider. Then we’d focus on how Foles played the next week, trying to see if he could bounce back from a poor showing. The flip side of that is true as well. If Foles plays well in this game, we’ll watch the next week to see how he responds.
At the end of the season, we’ll review all the evidence and figure out just what we think of Foles.
Tim McManus wrote a good piece on Foles and the final 5 games.
Truth be told, that’s why the Eagles organization is tickled pink right now. They get to see how Foles, as well as the other young guys on this roster, react when the pressure is ratcheted up. Five games (at least) to dip your players and coaches in hot water and see how they respond. That’s invaluable for an organization trying to shape a contender.
Back in 2000, Andy Reid’s 2nd year, the Eagles started off 5-4. The team then went 6-1 down the stretch. They won a pair of overtime games and another close game. The only loss was a tight game with the Titans. That young team got to the playoffs and was ready for the situation. They dominated the Bucs in the Wild Card game before getting whipped by the Giants in the Divisional round. It was abundantly clear that Donovan McNabb was a stud QB and that Reid was a top flight coach.
I think we’re all pretty sold on Chip Kelly. Foles and the players are the guys who have a great opportunity in the final 5 weeks of the regular season. They get a chance to show what they can do in some meaningful games.
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My PE.com column posted today. I covered the “test” angle there, but also wrote short stuff about a variety of items. Maybe the most interesting thing to me was seeing how Kelly is getting production from the passing game without having to throw the ball over and over and over.