The Other QB

Posted: July 21st, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 3 Comments »

Carson is the second best young QB on the Eagles.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a piece on the untapped greatness of Matt McGloin. I haven’t completely lost my mind. No, this is about Jordan Hicks. In the 4-3, the MLB is the QB of the defense.

Hicks has only played two years, but he has shown that he is an outstanding LB. He has the potential to be one of the best LBs in the league.

There is no question about him as a pass defender. Hicks can cover well and make plays. He already has 7 INTs and 14 passes defensed. Jeremiah Trotter picked off 9 passes in his career. Patrick Willis only had 8. That should give you an idea just how freaky Hicks has been as a pass defender.

This is a terrific video piece on Hicks with him mic’d up vs the Skins.

Part of running the defense is being a leader and being a good communicator. Hicks is a natural in both roles.

There are times when he is an outstanding run defender.

That’s not always the case. There are other times when he gets stuck on blocks. While a natural in pass coverage, sometimes he doesn’t look very instinctive against the run.

Hicks is at his best when he can attack downhill.

We do have to remember that Hicks is still learning how to play MLB. He mostly played WLB in college and then was a 3-4 ILB in his rookie season. It will be interesting to see Hicks develop in the next year or two. As good a player as he already is, Hicks can still get better.

*****

As Jimmy Bama reported recently, Hicks did break his hand while on vacation in Greece. We’ll have to wait and see if that keeps him out of Training Camp at all or if he will be ready next week.

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More Wentz Analysis

Posted: July 20th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 55 Comments »

It can be good to see what national writers and analysts think of Eagles players. The worst thing you can do is live in a bubble and think every player is headed for stardom.

Evan Silva is an excellent fantasy football writer. I’m not a FF guy myself, but he does a lot of research and I respect his opinions, even if I don’t always agree. He recently wrote his preview of the Eagles. Let’s focus on what he had to say about Wentz.

Carson Wentz generated Ben RoethlisbergerAndrew LuckCarson Palmer comparisons during a hot Weeks 1-6 start against the Browns, Bears, Steelers, Lions, and Redskins, four of whom finished in the bottom half of DVOA-rated pass defenses and all of whom ranked 12th or worse. Armed with wideouts who created no separation and a treacherous right tackle situation due to Lane Johnson’s ten-game ban, Wentz bottomed out thereafter on a 9:13 TD-to-INT ratio and abysmal 4.87 adjusted yards per attempt in Weeks 7-17. Reduced to a negative-EV checkdown passer while experiencing Bortlesian mechanical flaws, Wentz simply had too much put on his plate as a rookie from the FCS. The Eagles allowed the NFL’s ninth-most quarterback hits (98) and finished sixth in pass attempts. Still, from a forward-thinking fantasy standpoint Wentz’s heavy volume can be viewed as a plus, and he brings sneaky rushing upside to the table as an 81st-percentile SPARQ athlete who finished 12th among NFL quarterbacks in rushing attempts (46) last season and scored on both of his scrambles inside the five-yard line. For Wentz’s second-year breakout candidacy, the hope is that he will now stack efficiency onto his volume with Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith upgrading Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor, and that RT Johnson’s return will solidify what has the potential to be a top-five NFL offensive line. July drafters are making Wentz the QB19 off the board, ahead of Carson PalmerBlake Bortles, and Ryan Tannehill.

Wentz’s rookie year was more positive than negative, of course, and so was his willingness to test tight coverage, albeit no doubt furthered by wideouts who didn’t get open. Wentz showed aggressiveness by throwing the NFL’s seventh-highest rate of passes to receivers with less than one yard of separation (Next Gen Stats), with a league-high eight of his interceptions occurring on such plays. Hence the Eagles signing of Alshon Jeffery, the NFL’s premier contested-catch winner.

That’s a fair assessment. Wentz was at his best against mediocre defenses. I think the obsession with his mechanics is a bit much, but they are a legitimate issue.

The stats about Wentz’s willingness to throw to covered receivers are interesting. You want that in a QB. The worst thing is for a QB to be too safe. You won’t lose games, but you won’t ever win tough games. You must take chances in the NFL.

I stumbled across this video of Wentz highlights from last year and found it interesting.

A lot of his best plays came on play-action passes or deep drops. Wentz had space to set up and then had time to survey the defense. That is somewhat standard for a rookie. Good QBs need to make faster reads and get the ball out quicker. You want plays to be made with rhythm and timing. Hit a WR on the move and let him create a big play. You keep pressure off the O-line by getting the ball out on time.

The Eagles did use short, quick throws a lot, but often they were quick screens or dump-offs. That’s different from getting the ball out in rhythm on 3- and 5-step drops.

Very deceiving stat. Wentz made a lot of short throws so of course he’s going to have a higher completion percentage. That says more about how the passing game has changed than it does anything Wentz did. I’m sure Roob knows that and the stat certainly sounds impressive, but as always…you need context.

Making better reads will help Wentz to also be more effective as an intermediate passer. He has the arm strength to be good on those plays. He needs to work on decision-making, timing and accuracy. Those are all things that come with experience, both in games and in practice.

*****

This is a fun clip to watch.

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Some OL Fun

Posted: July 18th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 54 Comments »

Jason Peters is pretty good. And fun to watch.

I don’t remember Danny Watkins ever doing that.

And now for some Brandon Brooks talk. This surprised me.  Read the rest of this entry »


The Peaglers

Posted: July 17th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 34 Comments »

Doug Pederson knew this was a boring time of the year so he stirred the pot.

“You’re capable. … I look back at my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs and those Super Bowl runs there, and do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?” Pederson said.

Huh?

Uh, Douglas, the Packers had Brett Favre at QB and the #1 defense in the league when they won the Super Bowl in 1996. That was a very good team. The current Eagles are promising, but calling them as talented as those Packers seems pretty stupid.

Pederson did make a follow-up point that provides some important context.

“But we also had a lot of talent in [2011] here and where did that get us? So there’s got to be a combination of blending all this talent with the coaching staff, with my ideas and philosophy, to bring that all together, put the egos aside, put pride aside, and just go focus on winning this game that we have in front of us. I’m a big believer [that] if you do that, then you look back at the end of the season and you’re probably going to be where you want to be, and that’s playing in the postseason.”

One of Pederson’s bad habits in interviews/press conferences is over-praising players. It is important for a coach to support his players and show confidence in them, but overdoing it can lead to problems. Pederson is more honest behind closed doors so I doubt he is telling his players this directly. He’s going to be positive with his players, but I don’t think he’ll have them recording an updated version of The Super Bowl Shuffle anytime soon.

The comments about 2011 are important. Pederson was making the point that a team must turn potential into actual performance for it to mean something. That is the message he needs to hammering home with his team.

*****

Just for fun, let’s try build a starting lineup of the 2017 Eagles and 1996 Packers.

QB Brett Favre
RB LeGarrette Blount
WR Robert Brooks
WR Antonio Freeman
WR Alshon Jeffery
TE Mark Chmura
LT Jason Peters
LG Aaron Taylor
C  Frank Winters
RG Adam Timmerman
RT Lane Johnson

DE Reggie White
DT Fletcher Cox
DT Gilbert Brown
DE Brandon Graham
LB Wayne Simmons
MB Jordan Hicks
LB Brian Williams
S LeRoy Butler
S Malcolm Jenkins
CB Craig Newsome
CB Doug Evans

By my count, that is 8 of 22 starters who would be Eagles.

It is possible that by the end of the year a few more Eagles could win jobs.

Zach Ertz could be the best TE on either team. Chmura was a complete player, but limited playmaker. Keith Jackson was a terrific receiver, but marginal blocker and lacked ideal size.

Isaac Seumalo could end up as the best LG. Taylor was a solid pro, but nothing spectacular. Seumalo has a high ceiling and could be a breakout player this year.

Maybe Doug meant that the current Eagles have a better #3 QB, Matt McGloin to some guy named Pederson.

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Appreciating Jim Johnson

Posted: July 17th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 49 Comments »

Marion Campbell to Buddy Ryan to Wade Phillips to Jeff Fisher to Bud Carson to Ray Rhodes to Emmitt Thomas to Jim Johnson. Those men coached the Eagles defense from 1977-2008. What an amazing group of coaches.

I think Jim Johnson is the one who fans really cling to. Buddy certainly has his supporters, but the unit peaked the year after he was fired and the lack of postseason success does hurt his legacy in Philly. JJ wasn’t the flamboyant personality, but he put together outstanding defenses for 10 seasons in Philly. He helped the Eagles get to the Super Bowl. He was a great coach.

I wrote about Jim for PE.com.

Here are a few things that didn’t go into that piece.

Maybe the most impressive thing happened from the end of 2000 through late in 2001. If you include the playoffs, the Eagles held opponents to 21 or fewer points in 21 straight games. That is an incredible streak that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. The streak would be even longer if not for some meaningless points in a blowout win over the Browns.

Nine of the teams in that streak scored 10 or fewer points. It wasn’t like the Eagles gave up 17 or 20 each week. They really shut people down. The Eagles finished 2nd in the league in scoring defense in 2001. Only the Bears were ahead of them, by 5 points.

*****

Johnson ran the defense for 17 playoff games. The Eagles gave up 17.4 points a game in those contests. In eight of the games, the Eagles held opponents to 14 or fewer points. JJ’s defense usually gave the Eagles a good chance to win.

*****

I previously wrote a piece on the best games he coached.

It really is mind-blowing that the 2005 team held LaDainian Tomlinson to 7 yards rushing on 17 carries. The Eagles had a brilliant gameplan of playing LT outside-in and they executed it really well. DEs set the edge on some runs. LBs and DBs sold out to come up field quickly on other plays. That funneled LT to the middle. Jeremiah Trotter played a great game. He picked off a pass, had a sack and was terrific against the run.

*****

It drove me crazy that JJ never got a shutout. The Eagles came close a few times, but it wasn’t until Bill Davis in 2014 that the Eagles got a shutout in the 21st century. That’s just crazy.

*****

JJ’s influence is still all over the NFL. Ron Rivera is the head coach in Carolina. Sean McDermott is the new coach in Buffalo. John Harbaugh spent a year under JJ and has won a Super Bowl with the Ravens. Steve Spagnuolo got to be a head coach, but is now back running the Giants D. Leslie Frazier was a head coach in Minnesota and is now working with McDermott in Buffalo.

That’s a pretty impressive group of coaches.

We talk about the Andy Reid coaching tree, but JJ has to get some of the credit for that group as well.

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