Lots of QB Talk

Posted: November 6th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 190 Comments »

Nick Foles is out and Mark Sanchez is in. This was done due to injury, but was Chip Kelly considering the move before the injury? He said at today’s press conference that was not the case at all. Chip was pretty emphatic that he supported Foles and had no intention of benching him.

Was Chip telling the truth?

We’ll never know, but I tend to believe him. While Chip hates turnovers and Foles play had to be driving him nuts, benching a QB is a pretty drastic move. It can seriously affect the relationship between player and coach for a long time. I don’t think Donovan McNabb ever got over Andy Reid benching him for half a game (vs Baltimore) in 2008. Foles might be in his third season, but he’s only got 24 career starts. He is still a young player with a lot to learn. I think you are better letting the young guy try to play his way through the mistakes. The offense was scoring points. The team was winning. And Foles is a high character guy that has the support of his teammates.

It was interesting how emphatic Chip was about the situation. Was he trying to be protective of his young player? Does Chip just hate reports like that. They come out and can get the media and fans all riled up, even if they aren’t true.

There is a lot of excitement over Mark Sanchez right now, but not everyone is buying in. Adam Schein wrote a tough piece on Sanchez for NFL.com.

But let’s curb this misguided narrative about Sanchez. Stop turning him into some kind of sympathetic figure who was wronged in the Big Apple and, inherently, is now poised to become a long-term answer in Philly.

Here’s the truth: Mark Sanchez‘s worst enemy in New York was Mark Sanchez.

Oh, sure, there were obstacles. I’ve repeatedly expressed my feelings on Rex Ryan in this space. He’s a fine defensive mind, but not a head coach. Offense certainly isn’t his forte, and he just can’t figure out the quarterback position. Rex gave Brian Schottenheimer and Tony Sparano, the two coordinators during Sanchez’s starting days with Gang Green, autonomous control of the offense — and both bombed. Yes, the Jets did trade for Tim Tebow, which turned out to be an absolute nightmare. And no, the Jets didn’t provide the most talented supporting cast.

But don’t look past the real issue: Sanchez has a knack for turning the ball over.

The former No. 5 overall pick would look the part for stretches in New York, making nice throws to Jerricho Cotchery,Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller that would inspire the Jetsand their fans. And then he would collapse. Sanchez never developed a true feel for the moment, never refined his decision-making to the degree necessary for a successful NFL quarterback. Sanchez threw more picks than touchdowns with the Jets. He racked up 52 turnovers over his final two seasons as the team’s starter.Fifty-two. And he didn’t exactly light up the score sheet elsewhere. Over four years as the Jets‘ starter, Sanchez completed 55.1 percent of his passes. Point of reference: Geno Smith, who was just benched in New York, owned a 56.2 percent clip in 2014. Oh, and Sanchez’s yards-per-attempt average dropped every single season. That’s not good. That’s not a function of Rex Ryan or the New York media. That’s on Sanchez.

There is a lot of truth in what Schein has to say. Sanchez was a flawed player in New York. Part of that was on his supporting cast. Part was on his coaches. But a lot of that was on Sanchez as well.

The problem is that Schein acts as if that’s a done deal. QBs can be greatly affected by circumstances. Remember how poorly Kurt Warner played for the Giants? We all thought he was done. Then he went to Arizona and thrived in that offense and led them to a Super Bowl. Steve Young was awful for Tampa before going to SF and becoming a HOF player. Drew Brees was mediocre until his third year. He played well that season. But he didn’t become HOF Drew Brees until he got to the Saints and started playing for Sean Payton.

Sanchez may very well prove to be average or slightly above average. The more the plays, the more his bad habits and flaws may come out. This is all possible. But the counter to that is also possible. Sanchez may thrive for the Eagles. Sanchez didn’t always “get it” when he was with the Jets. He didn’t understand the price you have to pay to be an elite QB. He didn’t have the same kind of relentless drive that Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees do.

Why can’t Sanchez learn from that? He failed in New York. That’s humbling. Sanchez sat on the sidelines for all of 2013 and watched Geno Smith have an erratic rookie year. That had to have some impact on  him. Do we really think Chip would have signed Sanchez if he didn’t see the right mindset from him? When Sanchez sits in a room with Chip, Pat Shurmur and Bill Musgrave, that is unlike anything he experienced with the Jets. Playing for established veteran offensive coaches like that has to bring out the best in you.

The media asked Chip about how he could overlook the turnover issues that Sanchez had with the Jets. Chip answered that he didn’t know what was happening on those plays so he wasn’t focused on the results. Chip was more interested in the raw talent that he saw on film. He liked what he saw and felt Sanchez could help the Eagles out. Chip isn’t going to choose a backup QB lightly. He knows the importance of that position. You can bet that Chip had loftier expectations when he signed Sanchez than any of us did.

Sanchez told a good story in his PC. He talked about a play in Sunday’s game where JJ Watt got to him quickly. Sanchez said that in his Jets days he might have tried to make something happen and that he easily could have lost the ball or turned it over. Against Houston, Sanchez just went down. He didn’t want to risk the turnover since the Eagles were already in FG range. That is excellent situational awareness and helped the Eagles to get 3 points up on the board.

Sanchez was the golden boy when he got to New York. He came to Philadelphia as the butt fumble guy. That kind of a dramatic change has to affect someone. So far it seems like the changes are all good for Sanchez and the Eagles.

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Sub Hub

Posted: November 5th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 231 Comments »

There wasn’t a whole lot of angst with Eagles fans when Nick Foles went down on Sunday. He was playing pretty well, but an ugly pick-6 left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Bring on Mark Sanchez.

Then came the news of Foles injury and that he would be out most of the year, if not all of it. Momentary frustration was no longer part of the equation, but the reaction was mostly the same…bring on Mark Sanchez.

Part of this is a reaction to Foles and his highly inconsistent play this year. For every time you want to think of a touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews or great sideline throw to Jeremy Maclin or perfect pass to Zach Ertz, you can’t help but think of the fumble against the Rams or the bad INTs in the Giants game or the bad INTs in the loss to the Cardinals. Foles did more good than bad this year, but he made too many mistakes for anyone to be flat out happy with him.

Some wanted Foles benched. Not me. I have written more than a few times that he is a young QB and you have to let him work his way through the issues to see who he truly is. Now the choice is gone and Sanchez has the job.

Another reason that Eagles fans aren’t in panic mode is that we’ve been down this road before. Jim McMahon took over for Randall Cunningham in 1991. Ty Detmer took over for Rodney Peete in 1996. AJ Feeley took over for Donovan McNabb in 2002. Jeff Garcia took over for McNabb in 2006. Michael Vick took over for Kevin Kolb in 2010. Those years all ended with winning records. Only the 1991 team missed the playoffs, and that was largely due to McMahon getting hurt and his replacements being so bad they couldn’t even win with one of the greatest defenses of all time.

There is no guarantee that Sanchez will succeed, but he’s got a favorable situation. I wrote about the win over Houston for PE.com. One of the things I talked about in there is how the OL and RBs took over the game. Think about the TD drive in the 3rd quarter. Les Bowen could have been the QB for that. All Sanchez had to do was hand the ball to LeSean McCoy twice and then Chris Polk twice.

If the Eagles get back to their formula from last year (running the ball and throwing lots of play-action passes), Sanchez can thrive in this offense. Foles was throwing a ton of passes this year as the run game struggled due to blocking issues. Take out the short game from Sunday and the 62-pass game in Arizona and Foles still averaged 40 attempts per game this year. That brought out the worst in Foles.

If the Eagles can run the ball and limit Sanchez to about 30 passes a game, he’s got an excellent chance to succeed in this offense. PE.com got some quotes from Garcia and Feeley about their time as the starter. Both 2002 and 2006 were fun seasons. They didn’t end as hoped, but the team was a lot of fun to watch in those years. The make-up of the team makes this feel like 2006, but that team had gotten off to a mixed start and had to get hot down the stretch to win the division. The current team is already atop the NFC East. I certainly won’t complain if this group can get red hot and go on a 5-game winning streak.

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In case you wanted Joe Banner’s opinion on the QB situation…

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Too funny.

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More Changes

Posted: November 4th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 151 Comments »

Things are never boring for the Eagles OL. Last year’s tranquility is a distant memory. This season change is the only constant. Well, that and Jason Peters. He has started every game for the Eagles and all at LT. He has missed some snaps, mostly due to an ejection, but Peters is the one thing you could count on. He would be at LT.

Todd Herremans had played RG and RT this year, but now is headed somewhere else…IR. He suffered a torn bicep injury against the Cardinals. Herremans sprained his ankle in the Texans game and had to come out. With one good arm and one good leg, he was no longer effective.

One of the reasons the Eagles need to put him on IR is that Evan Mathis is set to return from his limited IR stint. The team has to open up a roster spot for him. According to this report from Jeff McLane, Matt Tobin will shift over from LG to RG. Tobin has been filling in for Mathis and will now slide over to replace Herremans.

The OL will now be:

LT Jason Peters
LG Evan Mathis
OC Jason Kelce
RG Matt Tobin
RT Lane Johnson

The backups will be:

C David Molk
C/G Julian Vandervelde
T/G Andrew Gardner
G/T Dennis Kelly

Herremans will have surgery to fix his bicep injury so he can be 100 percent for the offseason. He struggled for part of 2013, but I thought he played pretty well this year. I’m sure the Eagles would like some youth up front, but I would think Herremans comes back next year. He fits the system well and seems like a Chip Kelly type of guy.

Tobin has been okay so far this year. I thought he played pretty well against the Cardinals. I haven’t finished watching him in the Texans game. It looked like Gardner did a good job of run blocking against Houston.

Tobin will be a key evaluation at the end of the year. The Eagles have liked what they’ve seen of him in camps and practices, but they need to know if he is a potential starter in the future or more of a career backup type. There is no question that the Eagles could use another young body up front. The question is how much of a priority this is. If Tobin plays fairly well and Mathis looks like his usual self, the Eagles can afford to be selective. If Tobin is inconsistent and Mathis struggles at all, the Eagles might have to focus on OL help.

Gardner could be thought of as a good backup OG for next year. Allen Barbre will return from IR as the top backup OT. Neither guy is young, though, and that has to be factored in.

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The Eagles signed S Chris Prosinski to fill DeMeco Ryans roster spot. He is 6-1, 201 and was a 4th round pick of the Jags back in 2011. Prosinski can help on STs or add depth to the defense.

Here is something I wrote on Prosinski when he was drafted.

Later in the 4th round Jacksonville took Wyoming Safety Chris Prosinski. This is another Gene Smith pick. The Jags desperately needed Safety help. They passed on some big name guys to take the player that they were high on. Prosinski has a solid resume, but I do wonder if he’s the guy you want coming in to challenge for a starting spot. He has 5 career INTs and they came against Colorado State, Air Force, SDSU, and North Dakota State. That’s hardly murderer’s row in terms of passing attacks. Prosinski is a good run defender. He is a downhill player that likes to sit back in the Cover 2 and then attack his targets. He is generally a wrap-up tackler. Tackling has been an issues for Jags Safeties in recent years so I can see where they were attracted to Prosinski for that reason. Prosinski had a very good workout at his Pro Day and showed big time athleticism. I can’t say that he looked like a great athlete on game tape, but he’s definitely athletic enough for the NFL. Prosinski is another guy I’m real curious about. Is he good enough to start in the NFL? I do think he can be a very good STs player.

Nate Allen is dealing with a hamstring injury. Earl Wolff has dealt with nagging injuries all year. Chris Maragos, despite what Chip Kelly says at his PCs, is a STer and not someone you want playing a lot on defense. Prosinski does at least have some starting experience (8 games). The Eagles recently worked him out. Either they like Prosinski or felt he was simply the best available S.

Safety is a weak position around the NFL. Finding and developing good players is a major challenge.

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So what about Ed Reynolds? The Eagles obviously feel he isn’t ready to contribute. Don’t get too down on him. Safety is a position where players can be ruined if they aren’t ready to play. Reynolds missed time in the spring because of Stanford’s delayed graduation schedule. If the Eagles aren’t completely comfortable with him, let the kid develop on the practice squad so he can be ready for next year.

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Miami nabbed S Jordan Kovacs off the Eagles practice squad. The Eagles signed RB Kenjon Barner to take his spot. They’ve looked at Barner a couple of times this year.

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State of the NFC East

Posted: November 4th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 137 Comments »

Every team in the division has now played at least 8 games.

PHI 6-2

DAL 6-3

NYG 3-5

WAS 3-6

We figured the division would be the Eagles and 3 mediocre teams. Dallas has greatly exceeded expectations, but has lost 2 games in a row, including an ugly loss to the Skins. The Giants started off 3-2, but are now heading to rock bottom. They have lost 3 in a row and are getting blown out. The Skins have some real talent, but aren’t a good “team”.

I can see where fans of the other teams might look at the injuries to Nick Foles and DeMeco Ryans as potential game changers. I think the Eagles can overcome both. Mark Sanchez is now the QB and he showed plenty of potential on Sunday. Mychal Kendricks is back at ILB and his return can  help to offset the loss of Ryans. The Eagles are a flawed team that plays sloppy but they win. And they lead the NFC in point differential so it isn’t like they win each week by just a point or two.

I’m not sure what to make of Dallas. They didn’t have Tony Romo on Sunday, but still had a terrific OL, great RB, great WR, great TE and more. And they essentially scored 3 points. There was a pick-6 and a late TD, but for the most of the game the team couldn’t score points. The Cardinals defense is good, but not that good. Maybe QB Brandon Weeden is that bad. Romo will play this week, but it is hard to say what his future is. Bad backs are a concern every game.

And I don’t believe in the Dallas defense. They  have overachieved this year, but part of that is due to the offense. Dallas is 3rd in the league in time of possession. You can’t move the ball on their defense if their offense has the ball. If the offense starts to struggle even a little, that will have a trickle down effect on the defense.

The Giants have now lost 3 games in a row, with 2 of them being embarrassing losses. In the past Tom Coughlin could get the Giants to string together 5 or 6 straight wins, but those teams were loaded with veterans like Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, David Diehl, Chris Snee and so on. The current Giants are a mixture of young players, veteran fill-ins and a few longtime Giants. Think about it. That defense has DRC, Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson. I love Patt, but the other two are not high character leader types. JPP is playing better than the previous couple of years, but he isn’t the guy from 2011 who could simply take over games.

Coughlin tried to re-invent the Giants by installing a new offense. That has helped Eli to play better, but the O-line is still a work in progress and the skill players are not exactly Murderer’s Row. The Giants have 24 plays of 20 or more yards. The Eagles have 39. The Giants have had some bad luck with injuries to Rashad Jennings and Odell Beckham, but all the NFC East teams have had to deal with injuries. The Giants won’t be getting any sympathy from anyone on that front.

I don’t think the Giants will totally fall apart like the 2012 Eagles did, but I could see them being a 5 or 6 win team. They don’t exactly have an easy schedule the rest of the year.

The Skins are at the bottom right now, but have the potential to win some games. They have firepower. I still think RG3 can be a really good QB. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are a terrific set of starting receivers. Jordan Reed is a gifted TE and Washington has a solid run game. The pieces are there for a very good offense. The Skins need better blocking and more consistent QB play, but the offense appears to be heading in the right direction for the long term.

The defense is a mess…again. They shut down the Jags and Texans, but that’s it. Jim Haslett must have pictures of someone. I don’t know how he keeps his job. But I’m glad he does. I certainly don’t anticipate that defense getting substantially better down the stretch.

The Eagles are the best team in the NFC East, both long term and short term.

Unless Mark Sanchez really falls apart, I expect the Eagles to win the division this year. I know some will think this is me being a homer, but I think the Eagles have the most talent in the division. I’d love to tell you the Eagles had an elite roster, but part of that is that the other NFCE teams have some major holes. The one downside to this is that sometimes you need the teams around you to be good in order to push you to become a great team. After all, the goal is to win the Super Bowl, not just the division.

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Some fun stat comparisons

JPP – 39 tackles … 3.5 sacks … 4 TFLs … 5 PDs … 1 FF
Brandon Graham – 20 tackles … 3 sacks … 5 TFLs … 0 PDs … 3 FFs

This isn’t about saying who is better since so much goes into that. JPP gets double-teamed a lot more, but he also plays about twice as many snaps. I just think it is interesting to compare the numbers and see tangible production.

Maclin – 45-790-8 … 17.6 ypc … 13 catches of 20 or more yards … 83 targets
DeSean – 36-784-4 … 21.8 ypc … 11 catches of 20 or more yards … 60 targets

Stats aside, Maclin has been a very clutch receiver this year. He has made some terrific grabs along the sideline on key drives at critical points in games. I haven’t seen enough of the Skins to comment on DJax.

To appreciate Mac’s numbers…look at his best in each category.  70 catches, 964 yards, 13.8 ypc, 10 TDs, 15 catches of 20 or more yards. He is on pace to blow those numbers away. Mac already has a career high in catches of 40 or more yards. He’s got 5 this season. Mac will be getting some big bucks soon enough.

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There are questions about why Zach Ertz isn’t playing more. The Eagles need Brent Celek on the field as a blocker. When the Eagles go 3-WR, that takes Ertz off the field. When the Eagles want to use the power run game, they go with 2 TEs, but James Casey is the other guy out there. Ertz is a terrific receiver, but his blocking needs a lot of work.

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3-Headed Monsters

Posted: November 3rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 229 Comments »

Back in 2003 the Eagles had a great set of RBs. Duce Staley was the workhorse. Correll Buckhalter was the big back. Young Brian Westbrook was the playmaker. Together, they were known as the 3-headed monster. None of them put up great numbers that year, but as a group their production was terrific.

On Sunday the Eagles unleashed the new version of the 3-headed monster.

LeSean McCoy – 23-117 rushing , 2-6 receiving

Darren Sproles – 3-17 rushing, 4-46 receiving

Chris Polk – 8-50-1 rushing

That is 236 total yards and a TD.

McCoy had his best game of the year. His numbers were better against the Giants, but I really liked the way he ran the ball on Sunday. Even Chip Kelly said after the game that there was “no dancing”. McCoy ran as N-S as possible and wasn’t constantly trying to make guys miss. He lowered his shoulder and plowed into defenders a couple of times.

Sproles was more of a weapon as a receiver. He caught a pair of short passes and turned them into 1st downs. He dropped a pass on a play where he had a chance for big yards. We’ll forgive him for that.

Polk came in toward the end of the 3rd quarter and helped the Eagles take control of the game. McCoy used 2 long runs to get the Eagles down to Houston’s 30-yard line. Then Polk rambled for 22 yards to put the ball inside the 10. That was an outside run. Good blocking sealed the corner and let Polk get wide, where he could then turn his shoulders upfield and run behind his pads. Jeremy Maclin was 20 yards downfield blocking. That was just a beautiful play. On the next play, Polk got the ball and went up the middle for the TD. He had to fight through one tackler, but there was no way Polk was getting stopped.

The beauty of this trio is how talented and different they are.

McCoy is the most dynamic RB in the league. He makes phenomenal cuts and is absolutely electric when he’s in space. Sproles has a great burst and really fires into the hole when he gets the ball. He can be elusive in space, but is more of a N-S runner than people expect. Polk isn’t as fast or quick as the other two, but runs hard and has the most power. He rarely goes down on first contact. My first memory of him was from a college game where he dragged Notre Dame defenders for extra yards on every carry.

Defenders have to adjust to each RB when he is in the game. They know ahead of time who is getting the ball, but when the body is used to one style, adjusting to another on the fly can be tricky. Watch Polk’s TD run. There is no wasted motion. He gets the ball and hits the hole right away. Shady might have gone a millisecond slower so he could read the blocks. Polk just ran. The next thing you know he’s at the 1-yard line and fighting his way into the end zone.

All 3 of the RBs are good pass protectors. All 3 can catch the ball. I sure hope Chip Kelly feeds them the ball over and over in the second half of the season. This offense is at its best when the RBs are getting a lot of touches. Feed ‘em Chip…feed ‘em.

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Sadly, ILB is now going to become a 3-headed monster as well. Mychal Kendricks will become the focal point of that position. The Eagles will have Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho platoon in DeMeco Ryans spot.

Matthews is thought of as the better run defender. He will play a lot in the base defense and on run downs. Acho will play in passing situations or when the coaches think he might match up better.

The Eagles have used a lot of their dime package in recent weeks. That is when Nolan Carroll comes in as a LB and plays with either Ryans or Kendricks. The Eagles may play even more of this going forward.

Obviously there is no one guy who will replace Ryans, as a leader or LB. Matthews and Acho did a solid job filling in for Kendricks so this isn’t something totally new to them or the team. That said, Ryans was the stabilizing force that helped them play well. Kendricks now has to step up, as a player and leader. He’s got to be the alpha dog of the ILB group.

I mentioned yesterday that this could be the end of Ryans career. He will turn 31 next summer. He’s already lost a step. Ryans was smart enough to overcome that by always knowing where to be a step ahead of time. He has having a good season. But dealing with a major injury at his age and in a declining body means he has a tough outlook for the future. I hope he proves me wrong, but don’t count on it.

The last time he tore his Achilles, he didn’t start playing well until the following December. And that was several years ago. Maybe Sports Science will work its magic, but we have to be realistic about this. ILB just became a huge position of need for the upcoming offseason.

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