Posted: August 29th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 4 Comments »
Another impressive outing by the Eagles. The starters moved the ball on offense and the defense had a pair of INTs that set up scoring drives. Special Teams again came up big. And no major injuries. All in all, a great outcome for the second preseason game.
More important than the score, I thought there were several players who played better than the previous game. Some guys are going to look rusty in the opener. That’s the first live game setting in quite a while. The second game is a big test. Most of the key players did well. There were some disappointing performances. That’s just the reality of life in the NFL. All 90 guys aren’t going to be impressive.
This was an odd game because of penalties. The Ravens had 17 for 139 yards. The Eagles had 7 for 65 yards. Baltimore was incredibly sloppy for most of the game. I did come away very impressed with their third string QB, Bryn Renner.
LB/DE Terrell Suggs had a very questionable hit on Sam Bradford. That has been discussed ad infinitum so I will skip that. I thought it was dirty, but it isn’t worth going into at length.
* The Eagles tried a pitch play that looked new to me. Unfortunately ran that right into LB blitz so Murray was tackled for a loss.
* 476 yards, including 238 on the ground.
* Pace seemed to bother the Ravens defense.
BRADFORD – Good showing. Bradford had a couple of tests to pass. First, he had to show he could take a hit. It won’t matter how good he looks if he can’t get up from hits. Bradford took a shot from Suggs and then got really pounded by a DT on a pass play. Both hits got his attention, but Bradford kept on trucking. The other test was to show how well he could throw the ball. Bradford went 3-5-35. He didn’t make any great throws. He didn’t have any highlight moments.
But he did look like a good starting QB. He hit Sproles and Matthews on 3rd downs to move the chains and lead the offense to a TD. Hit Huff on a crossing route, but the ball was low on that one. Missed Riley Cooper with a deep ball. Led him and put it outside. Needed to keep that ball more to the inside.
Bradford ran the offense well. It moved quickly and aggressively. He spread the ball around to multiple targets. He threw short and deep, right and left. This wasn’t a case of a guy going out and covering the same three plays he mastered in practice. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: August 27th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 296 Comments »
Things can change.
The Eagles drafted Trent Cole in the 5th round in 2005. He became a terrific player. Not necessarily a huge star, but he played in 2 Pro Bowls and racked up 85.5 sacks as an Eagle.
Things dried up a bit after that.
Injuries cut short promising careers for Bradley and Abiamiri. But there were also some picks that weren’t close to panning out.
Things have gotten a lot better since then.
Brandon Boykin (now with PIT)
And there are young guys who might become starters or key role players.
That is a lot of homegrown talent on the defense.
Things were very different when the Eagles hosted the Packers in a playoff game in January of 2011. The Eagles had six homegrown starters in that game, but some were more by default than being good players.
We’ll see how good the defense is this year. We do know that they have more homegrown talent than in recent years. And there is reason for optimism.
The great thing about all of this is how much young talent there is. This core could play together for a few years.
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There is one bit of bad news. ILB Emmanuel Acho hurt his thumb last week and was waived/injured. He needs surgery to repair the injured thumb. Acho had an uphill battle to make the team, but was at the very least a valuable preseason player.
The Eagles might have to add someone to help eat up preseason snaps.
Posted: August 26th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 165 Comments »
How do you develop a good Special Teams unit?
There is no magic answer. If it was as simple as getting the right coach, Bobby April would have done a much better job in 2011 and 2012. It isn’t just talent. Jeremy Maclin was a great returner in college and very good receiver in the NFL, but he was lost as a returner in the pros. Lost. It isn’t just about time and energy. Plenty of coaches have tried to emphasize STs, only to see their team struggle in the kicking game.
There is a combination of factors. You do need the right coach. You do need the right players. And the team does have to embrace STs as a key part of the game.
Chip Kelly hired Dave Fipp to be his STs coach. Fipp had a good background and seemed like a good hire. Kelly tried to add the right players in 2013. Unfortunately, the results just weren’t there.
Kelly didn’t get discouraged. He got Darren Sproles, Bryan Braman and Chris Maragos. Kelly drafted Josh Huff. He found a gem in UDFA Trey Burton. Kelly signed Chris Prosinski during the season. And the Eagles had the best STs in the NFL.
The Eagles STs might be even better this year. Kenjon Barner has 2 return TDs already this summer and he’s the backup to Sproles. Raheem Mostert has electric speed, but hasn’t been able to return a kickoff yet. Huff and free agent Ryan Mathews look to be the primary KORs right now. The Eagles do have to replace Brandon Boykin, who was very valuable. But they have Seyi Ajirotutu, Eric Rowe, Walter Thurmond, Jerome Couplin, Jordan Hicks, Nelson Agholor, E.J. Biggers and some others to add to the mix. There should be no shortage of talent.
Kelly preaches the importance of STs play. That paid off last year. It could also be a big help this year with the Eagles having key players back and some new talent in town.
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Josh Paunil wrote a good piece for Birds 24/7 on the Eagles STs and how they are performing so far this preseason.
Make sure to check that out to better understand what goes on when blocking for a returner or trying to cover a kick. There’s a lot more to STs than just effort.
Posted: August 26th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 183 Comments »
Great coaches usually have a vision for a team. Andy Reid wanted a West Coast Offense that could really throw the ball. He wanted a 4-3 defense that was good at zone blitzing. He took STs seriously. Reid preferred big OL and speedy DL.
Chip Kelly also has a vision. It is more specific than Reid’s.
Kelly wants big defenders. He wants Safeties that have good enough cover skills that they can play the slot. Kelly wants tall DL. He wants tall, athletic OL. He needs a Center that has very good movement skills. Receivers should be big, but must be able to block. He prefers downhill runners. STs is a priority.
In terms of scheme, Kelly is going to run his offense (with NFL passing concepts mixed in). He wants a 3-4 defense that 2-gaps. And Kelly wants a no-huddle, up-tempo team. Not just offense. The whole team is built to work at that pace.
Then there is the culture side of things. Reid took some players in the draft that Kelly likely wouldn’t touch. That’s not to pass judgment. Time will tell if Kelly’s ideas work as well as Reid’s. But Kelly is more specific in his vision and so far has been more dogmatic in bringing that vision to life.
I talked about how the team’s showing against the Ravens let’s us see some of Kelly’s vision.
* Dropback QB threw the ball well
* Wave of RBs was productive
* Skilled DBs came up with INTs
* Another big play by STs
I’ve mentioned this before, but in some ways Chip Kelly is the offensive version of Buddy Ryan. Ryan’s number one goal on defense? It wasn’t to stop the offense from scoring. It wasn’t to stop the offense from moving the ball. It wasn’t to hit the QB. It wasn’t to get the ball. Buddy’s number one goal for his defense…score.
Think about that.
Kelly coaches offense so of course he wants to score points. But Kelly has the same mentality as Ryan. Kelly wants the defense to score. He wants STs to score. Any time the ball is snapped on the field, there is a chance to score points.
Kelly has built the Eagles to be aggressive. He has loaded the roster with playmakers all over. Kenjon Barner has 2 PR scores this preseason. And he’s the backup at that spot. Guys like Bryan Braman and Trey Burton aren’t just good STers in terms of coverage and tackling. They are skilled at penetrating and getting pressure on punters. The Eagles didn’t block kicks by accident last year. It was by design. The coaches taught the players how to do it and the team got the right players to execute those ideas.
Kelly sees every player on his team as some sort of weapon. Just think about his mentality with WRs and run blocking. Kelly would be furious if the OL did a great job and the RB hit the hole to create a potentially huge play, only to see a DB make the tackle because the WR didn’t do his part. Everyone can affect every play. Think that way. Practice that way. Play that way.
I think the 2015 roster is the best of the Kelly era. This group is also best suited to making his vision come to life. I can’t wait to see how things go this year.
Posted: August 25th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 235 Comments »
One of the reasons that the Eagles offense has played so well in the preseason is that the offensive line has played well. Let’s take an updated look at some players.
* Jason Peters is a man on a mission. He is out to prove that he was the key to the left side of the line and not Evan Mathis. Peters is in the best shape of his life and he’s playing as well as I’ve ever seen. This is very encouraging.
* I like what I’ve seen so far from Allen Barbre. He may not be Evan Mathis Jr., but he’s played well at LG as both a run blocker and pass protector.
* Andrew Gardner is the least effective of the starting linemen, but he’s better than the other options at RG. Gardner has had some good moments.
Gardner looks like he can be an effective starter, especially in this system. He’s certainly not a long term answer, though. His biggest issue is that he plays too upright at times. That limits his power as a run blocker and it gets him off balance in pass protection. When he bends his knees and plays with good pad level, Gardner can get the job done. He is at his best on the move. Despite being a big guy, he is a good athlete with impressive movement skills.
* John Moffitt has been disappointing so far. I knew he would be rusty, but I didn’t expect him to be this rusty. He does have flashes of his old self. The more he plays, the more we should see of that guy. The preseason finale will probably be huge for him. Moffitt should play most of that game. He will need to show he’s worth keeping on the roster.
* I have been pleasantly surprised by Matt Tobin as the backup LT. He played that spot in the past and looked okay, but he’s had a good showing so far. Tobin won’t be mistaken for Jason Peters any time soon, but he’s been solid as a pass blocker. I would like to see him get some reps at LG. Tobin just seems more comfortable on the left side of the line. He was a non-factor in the RG competition, but you can see the guy has talent when watching him play LT in games.
* David Molk was up and down when facing some of the Ravens bigger DL. I still think he should be the backup C. Molk has very good movement skills and he will battle like heck when run blocking a DT or NT.
* I don’t know what to make of Julian Vandervelde. He looks good when allowed to fire off the ball and attack DL. He looks overwhelmed when pass blocking at times. He really struggles to anchor on some plays. Powerful DL will just drive him back to the QB. I don’t think I would keep him on the final roster, but the coaches seem to like him.
* Dennis Kelly is maddening. He has the potential to be a starting OT in the NFL, but he doesn’t play to that potential. He’s big. He has good feet. Kelly is a good enough athlete. He just doesn’t do the little things well. If you could combine him and Tobin, you might have a solid starting OL. There are some plays when Kelly is very impressive. There just aren’t enough of those. It wouldn’t shock me to see him stick around for this season, but I doubt he’s back next summer. If the light hasn’t gone on at this point, it never will.
* I haven’t yet re-watched the third string OL from the Ravens game. Just based on what I saw when watching the game live, they looked better than they did in the Colts game. You saw some holes on run plays. Kevin Monangai didn’t run for 87 yards based purely on his ability.
I just hope one or two of those guys shows enough that they can be good practice squad material.