OL Shakeup

Posted: November 27th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 12 Comments »

The Eagles offensive line has not exactly been stable this year. Ten games into the season, the Eagles have played 655,321 different combinations. That’s a loose approximation so don’t try to correct me if I left a couple out.

More changes are on the way.

Let’s start with the Lane Johnson news. I’m glad he’s packing it in and focusing on getting healthy. His leg hasn’t been right all year. This is a lost season. There is no reason to risk more damage to the ankle. Get the surgery, rest your leg and focus on 2021.

Johnson is a respected veteran. Teammates won’t question his decision at all. Nor should fans. Not only is his ankle in bad shape, but it is affecting his play. There were a couple of plays last week where DEs drove him back into Carson Wentz because Johnson struggled to plant and anchor. The ankle is only going to get worse so shutting it down is the prudent move.

I’m thrilled to see Jordan Mailata getting to play LT. The Eagles are on pace to get a Top 10 pick. Do they need to look for a LT or can Mailata be that guy? My apologies to Andre Dillard for leaving him out of the discussion.

Mailata is going to have ups and downs, but that’s okay for a young guy. Peters has had his struggles. There is no upside with him. This is the final year of his storied career. You don’t sit a young guy with big potential to play Peters.

Moving Peters to RG is a different story. The Eagles have been looking for an answer at OG all year. The return of Isaac Seumalo has solidified LG. There isn’t an ideal option for the right side. Nate Herbig has been the Eagles best OG outside of Seumalo based on my eyes, but something is going on with him. He’s been benched and we don’t know why. Sua Opeta is the other young guy and he’s struggled.

With Pryor taking over at RT, that leaves Peters as the best guy to plug in at RG.

Peters has never started at guard in the NFL. While he’s the best fit, there will be some ups and downs. I have no problem with the Eagles playing Peters at RG and not a young guy. None of the young players has shown enough to make you think they deserve the job. You don’t start them just because they have potential. They must show you something.

Peters can excel in the run game. He’s got the power to move defenders off the ball. He should be good on double-teams. The big concern is  pass blocking. DTs that use quick moves are challenging because they’re right on top of you. OTs can use space to help. They can run the DE wide and keep him off the QB. Life is different on the inside.

Why Pryor over Jack Driscoll? Pryor has played more this year and the coaches probably value that experience. Driscoll can come off the bench if needed.

I do think Mailata-Seumalo-Kelce-Peters-Pryor can be an effective OL, but it is hardly a slam dunk. There is real value in getting Mailata on the field so I’m happy about that. You need to see him play, even if he struggles. You need to find out if he’s a future starter or is best as a backup.

*****

Seattle is dead last in yards allowed. They are dead last in passing yards allowed. If there was ever a week for Wentz and the Eagles passing game to get it going, this is it.

The Seahawks have been better since acquiring DE Carlos Dunlap, but they haven’t allowed less than 21 points all year. Every team has thrown for at least 248 yards against them.

If the Eagles revamped OL can protect Wentz, the passing game might just come alive. Please feed the ball to Travis Fulgham

*****

Can the Eagles control Seattle?

As we know, the Eagles have struggled with running QBs. Russell Wilson is Seattle’s leading rusher. Ugh, that doesn’t bode well.

The defense will have to be disciplined and tackle well. Discipline has been an issue this year, especially with the young players in the back seven. This will be a huge challenge for them.

I do wonder if Jim Schwartz will do anything differently with his DL. This isn’t the game to have them flying up the field blindly. You want to keep Wilson in the pocket as much as possible.

One possible reason for optimism…Wilson has struggled with turnovers recently. If the Eagles can pressure and hit him, they will have a chance to take the ball away. That hasn’t been a strength for this defense, but this would be an ideal time to do it.

*****

Curry’s return means we aren’t likely to see Joe Ostman this week. Curry is a significantly better run defender so he’s a better fit for this week.

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Looking for Answers

Posted: November 26th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 3 Comments »

The hot topic right now is whether Carson Wentz should be benched. As with anything involving the 2020 Eagles, the answer is much more complicated than a simple yes or no.

Benching a QB for a full start or multiple starts is a big deal. A huge deal, really. It should not be done lightly. You don’t know how the QB will respond. Does it help him to sit and see things from a different perspective? Or do you permanently hurt the coach-QB relationship and affect the player’s confidence?

There is a great line in a film called Miller’s Crossing (make sure you see this if you haven’t).

“The reason you run this town is because they think you do. When they stop thinking it, you stop running it.”

That’s sorta true with QB. Players see the QB as their leader and the key to the team. When they stop thinking that, the effects are real. Donovan McNabb was never looked at the same way after TO questioned him. McNabb had been a great player and was the face of the Eagles, but that changed.

Wentz is still dealing with Nick Foles comments/questions. You don’t want to add another QB to that mix. It would really complicate matters.

If the Eagles were right at .500 or even better, but Wentz’s play was hurting the team, you could make an argument that sitting him needed to happen. You tell him he’s got to sacrifice for the good of the team. He might be able to wrap his head around that.

Wentz is the struggling QB of a bad team. If you bench him and go with Jalen Hurts (or even Nate Sudfeld), I’m not sure the results change all that much. You can certainly argue that it would be worth trying, but you really have to think big picture with Wentz. If you are committed to him long term, you can only bench him if he’s not functional. Things are certainly bad, but we’re not at that point.

Back in 1998, Bobby Hoying had a six-game stretch where he didn’t throw a TD pass and didn’t throw for even 125 yards in a game. That’s a guy who isn’t functional. Wentz is a mess, but he’s nowhere near that point. I think he’s still worth saving. How do you fix him?

Mike Kaye wrote a piece explaining that Doug Pederson and the coaching staff have tried changing things up and they just aren’t working.

Doug Pederson admitted in his press conference that the coaches are trying to simplify things, but not just for Wentz.

Jalen Reagor is a rookie. Travis Fulgham is in his first year as an Eagle. John Hightower is a rookie. Then you mix in all the OL changes and young guys playing there. That’s a lot of change/youth to build an offense around.

Pederson and his staff have not come up with the right answers for how to get the most out of this hodge-podge offense. And it isn’t easy. This isn’t about just call more of this or that kind of play and things will be fixed.

I would suggest that Pederson take a look at the Patriots offense and what they’ve done. They know they have a dysfunctional passing game so they turned into a running team. NE is second in the league in rush attempts and fourth in yards. It hasn’t led to a lot of wins, but they have very limited weapons in the passing game. They are doing the best with what they have.

Run the ball more and take it out of Wentz’s hands. Embrace ugly, defensive football. It isn’t like the Eagles are scoring a lot with the current play-calling.

I doubt this happens. Pederson seems to have other ideas on how to fix things. That’s fine. He’s the coach, I’m just the critic. The bottom line is that he needs to figure out something that helps his offense and his QB to perform better.

Wentz is still a very talented QB, but he has serious issues right now. Pederson’s ability to show some progress with Wentz will be his biggest selling point for keeping his job.

*****

Speaking of which…

I doubt Jeffrey Lurie told that to Schefter specifically. That is likely the feeling in league circles. If you have this bad of a season, someone has to pay.

*****

Once again Pederson made things far more difficult than they should have been when talking with the media.

Les Bowen broke down the confusing situation in detail.

Why does Doug talk in circles? Just say “Yes, Wentz is my starter.”

I know he gets frustrated with having to answer that question each week, but hesitating and giving odd answers mean that the questions will keep coming. Pederson talked about how the media can try to spin it or run with it, but that’s all on him. If he just said yes to the first question, the subject goes to the back burner.

Words matter.

How you say them matters.

I don’t know how Pederson doesn’t get this. I beg someone on the Eagles to please beat it into his head. Save him from himself.

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Where Things Stand

Posted: November 24th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

With the Eagles sitting at 3-6-1 and not much reason for optimism, fans are mad. Bench Carson Wentz. Have Doug give up play-calling duties. Heck, let’s go a step further. Fire Doug. And absolutely fire Howie. It’s time for a change.

I get those sentiments. Anyone suffering through Eagles games this year has had those thoughts. Sundays are supposed to be fun. That’s not the case this year. The Eagles are losing and almost as bad…they’re boring. The offense isn’t piling up points. The defense isn’t compelling. There’s no edge or personality to this bunch. They just lose games.

Then Wentz and Pederson get in front of the cameras and tell us they are going to keep working and will fix the mistakes. But they never do get fixed.

Ugh.

As Pederson loves to point out, the Eagles are still in first place. That will almost certainly change this week. Washington and Dallas play each other. One of them will get to four wins. The Eagles play Seattle on Monday night. Even the 2017 Eagles couldn’t beat Seattle. I’m not betting on this bunch to.

Winning the NFC East would be fun in a weird way, but the best thing for this organization would be to continue to lose so they get a high pick. There would be benefits to winning the division. Wentz would get a playoff start and that has value. Vets like Jason Peters, Brandon Graham and Jason Kelce would get another taste of postseason action. The rookies would also benefit from the experience.

Still, the thought of adding an impact player who could help the team for the next five years or more is enticing. The lazy joke is to wonder if the Eagles would waste the pick, but they’ve done well with early picks: Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Carson Wentz. Those guys were all Top 15 selections. Once you get to the 20’s, things get a lot more erratic.

I’m not cheering for the team to lose, but reality says it will happen and it really would be the better option.

As much as Pederson loves to talk about the Eagles still being alive, there is a legit chance the Eagles could finish last. That would be quite the accomplishment, finishing last in the worst division in modern NFL history. Just the idea of that has to get Jeffrey Lurie’s attention.

If I were Lurie, I would call Pederson to my office today. I’d tell him this is still his team. He makes the calls on how things happen (who calls plays) and who plays. I would let him know that there would be a thorough review at the end of the year and he better have good explanations for his decisions.

When asked after games why Carson didn’t throw on the move more or why Jalen Hurts didn’t play more, Pederson responds “I probably should have done more of that”. He can get away with snarky answers like that to the media, but he sure as hell better have detailed explanations for Lurie.

Pederson is coaching and talking his way out of a job. He won a Super Bowl and he’s won games the past two years, but this team is such a mess that it has eaten through a lot of goodwill that he built up. Beyond that, Pederson makes the team look bad each time he meets the media. He’s defensive. He offers countless excuses. He delusionally focuses on the positive angles (“These deck chairs look shiny” said the crew member on the Titanic).  Pederson offers messages that would make sense for a good team going through a rough patch. This is a bad team. The messages to the players and the public need to be very different than what we’re hearing.

I still think Pederson is a good coach, but he obviously isn’t doing a good job this year.

I would want Pederson to know that he’s got the right to keep Jason Peters at left tackle, but that he will be held responsible for that decision. Owners should never dictate to a coach who to play. You just have to let the coach know there will be repercussions for his decisons. Is Peters playing over Jordan Mailata worth risking your job? That is Pederson’s decision.

The gloves must come off, with Lurie dealing with his coach and with Pederson dealing with his players. Things are only going to change if there is true accountability.

As for Howie Roseman, I would fire him. Howie has made some terrific moves over the years and he built a Super Bowl roster in 2017. Kudos. He’ll forever have a place in Eagles history.

Howie’s decisions since then have not worked out as he hoped. Since bringing the Lombardi to Broad Street, here are the five best players Howie has brought to Broad Street:

Miles Sanders
Darius Slay
Dallas Goedert
Josh Sweat
Travis Fulgham

That’s hardly the foundation of a Super Bowl run.

You could argue that Malik Jackson belongs in there over Fulgham and we certainly don’t know how the 2020 rookies will pan out, but that’s part of the point. We haven’t seen anything great from the group. There are compelling rookies all over the NFL…just not in Philly. The moves just aren’t working out any more.

There are holes all over this roster. Just as bad, there doesn’t seem to be a plan. It feels as though he’s grasping at straws. There is a clear need for someone with vision running the personnel side of things.

There is no need to keep Howie around. You could let him go now and start the search for a new GM. The roster is what it is. What Pederson does between now and January matters. The same isn’t true with Howie.

I have no idea if Lurie will even consider putting Doug and Howie on the hot seat, let alone do it. Lurie tends to be a smart, patient man. But this organization is heading in the wrong direction. Letting Howie try to fix it would be a mistake. If he had the answers, the team wouldn’t have these problems.

Pederson is worth keeping if he can explain things and is open to change. There is a real need for honesty as to what has gone wrong the past three years. And that means that a coach or two that he likes is probably going to have to go. There needs to be more accountability than loyalty. The NFL is about winning, not friendship.

Normally I’m a very optimistic person. Heck, I thought this team was actually going to be good back in August/September. It wasn’t until the Bengals game that it really hit me that there were real problems.

The more I’ve seen of this team, the more frustrated I get, on and off the field. They lose and then the messaging to fans and the media comes off as delusional. This team is a few plays from being 1-8-1 and yet we’re continually hit with optimistic takes.

The 2020 season has been miserable and boring, but the upcoming offseason could be very interesting. If Lurie does stick with Doug and Howie, he’s playing with fire. Fans would turn on this team at the first sign of trouble next fall. That’s why this is the time to make tough decisions.

This is the time for change.

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Lost

Posted: November 22nd, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

Another week, another L. The Eagles lost to the Browns 22-17 in an ugly game on a rainy, sloppy Sunday afternoon. There were mistakes on offense, defense and special teams. There were questionable coaching decisions. In other words, the Eagles stuck to their 2020 script.

Ugh.

We keep waiting for the light to go on. No one expects perfection, but some signs that this team is working past the mistakes that have plagued it all year long. The offense finally has playmakers back. Miles Sanders looks terrific. Jalen Reagor and Travis Fulgham give the Eagles a pair of young, athletic receivers. Dallas Goedert is coming alive. Isaac Seumalo came back and gave the team a good OG for the first time in a while.

Despite that, the offense struggled in a major way. They needed some luck to get to 17 points (both TD drives started in CLE territory). Carson Wentz produced nine points for the Browns, throwing a pick-six and taking a sack in the end zone. Both plays involved clear hesitation on Wentz’s part. He remains physically gifted, but he’s a mess between the ears right now.

Wentz said after the game that he’s playing aggressive, confident football. Clearly he’s not watching the guy who plays QB for the Eagles.

The offense wasn’t particularly compelling from a schematic standpoint. If your QB is struggling, help him out. Figure out how to get him in a rhythm. And stick with the running game when it is working.

What’s so troubling is that the Eagles limped into the bye off a pair of ugly wins. They had extra time since they played on a Thursday night before the bye. The coaches had a chance to self-scout and find ideas for fixing the offense. The team started to get healthy and key players returned. The results have been two bad losses and only 17 points per game in them.

Right now it feels like no one has a clue how to fix Wentz and the offense. And that’s a big problem.

If this team was losing due to injuries and the weird season, you could live with that. That happened back in 2005. When you had Mike McMahon, Darnerian McCants and Ryan Moats trying to replace McNabb, TO and Brian Westbrook, you could understand losing and struggling. We’re looking at Wentz and Sanders and Reagor and Fulgham and Goedert. These guys are the key to the offense for the next few years.

Jeffrey Lurie should be very worried. Something is lost in translation. What is the problem: the messengers, the message or the guys receiving it? The franchise QB is a mess. That’s enough to make you question everyone, but then you look at the rest of the offense and there really are problems everywhere. There isn’t anything compelling about the Eagles offense right now.

The defense is hardly perfect, but they were the better unit today and they’ve been the better unit this year. The defense needs talent more than anything. Avonte Maddox has shown that he’s not meant to be a starting outside CB. Put him in the slot or back at safety. Alex Singleton has developed into a solid LB, but it sure would be nice to have an impact player in the middle of the field (S or LB).

The defense did have three offside penalties on Sunday. That’s been a problem recently and they tend to come at key moments. The lack of discipline is frustrating. Jalen Mills blew a coverage that led to a big play and resulted in a field goal. The whole point in having Mills at safety is to take advantage of his cover skills. He doesn’t have CB speed, but is okay for safety. Mills is average as a blitzer, hitter and tackler. If he’s making coverage mistakes, why play him?

Special teams continues to be an erratic area. They blocked a FG, which prevented three points, but Greg Ward failed to field a punt deep in Eagles territory. The ball was downed at the 2-yard line. That resulted in the safety and a subsequent FG. You’re giving away five points there.

The Eagles are now 3-6-1. They will fall out of first place next week (unless they shock Seattle). Reality should be starting to set in for Doug, Howie and the organization. This is a bad team. They need to have one eye on this year and one on the future.

2020 is a lost cause.

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Gameday – PHI at CLE

Posted: November 22nd, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

Looks like a nasty day on the field. Normally I say that after watching the Eagles play, but today we’re talking about the weather.

I’d say that’s an advantage for the Browns. They want to run the ball anyway. The Eagles love to try to pass the ball. We’ll see if the weather has a major effect on Doug’s gameplan.

As for inactives…

No Nate Herbig. I’m guessing he’s replaced by Matt Pryor, but we’ll find out for sure in a little bit.

Elijah Holyfield is active and will be the #3 RB. He’s not going to get a bunch of touches, but could get a situational touch or two. Watch for #33.

Joe Ostman is #95. He’ll likely play 10 to 15 snaps. I hope he has a good moment or two and earns the right to play again.

More than anything, I’m just curious to see how the Eagles play. Do they have energy and enthusiasm? Are they flat? I have no idea what is going on with this team. I’d love to see a spirited effort, but they really needed that last week and didn’t get it.

We’ll see.

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