Giants Preview

Posted: September 24th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 15 Comments »

Here come the G-men.

The 0-2 G-men.

Does that make them bad or desperate? Probably both, but desperate teams make me nervous. I wrote about that angle for PE.com.

Remember the Bengals game last year? Cincy was on a 3-game losing streak and really struggling to move the ball or score points. Next thing you know the Bengals are up 32-0 and we had the low point of the Doug Pederson era.

NFL players are talented. They get tired of criticism and at some point they have a breakthrough moment. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen on Sunday. The Giants have gotten pounded by the media this week. That’s what happens when you lose on MNF. Everyone sees everything.

The Eagles do have an advantage with the Giants being on the road on a short week. The NFL doesn’t do that too often. It isn’t exactly a long journey, but the Eagles will take any advantage they can get.

I started reflecting on the first couple of games. Carson Wentz threw a bad INT that changed the game at WAS. He also threw a game-changing pick at KC. Wentz has to protect the ball on Sunday. I know those picks were both tipped/deflected passes and there were tough circumstances on the plays, but the bottom line is that he wasn’t careful enough with the ball and it hurt.

The Eagles overcame it in the opener, but not last week.

The Giants aren’t a good team right now. You don’t want to help them at all. Make that team drive the field and beat you with long, methodical drives. Big plays are the great equalizer

This is a game the Eagles should win, but I think it will be ugly. The Giants are too good on defense to get blown out. That said, one of these weeks the downfield throws are going to start hitting and those are the types of plays that can break a game wide open. I wouldn’t count on that Sunday, but it is possible.

My guess is that the Eagles will run the ball more. The Giants are stout up front so don’t expect big numbers, but the presence of Chance Warmack at LG tells me the Eagles are going to try to run.

I am very much looking forward to Brandon Graham vs Justin Pugh and Tim Jernigan vs Brett Jones. Pugh will be making his first start of the year at RT. Jones will be making his first start of the year at any spot. Jernigan was really good last week and could be in for a big day.

Will Rodney McLeod play? He did practice late in the week, but will be a game time decision. If he can’t go, Chris Maragos likely starts at S and things get a lot more complicated. All the more reason for Graham, Jernigan and the guys up front to dominate and limit how much time Eli has to throw.

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Game Review – KC 27, PHI 20

Posted: September 22nd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 167 Comments »

Such a frustrating game.

The Eagles took a 10-6 lead in the mid-3rd quarter and life seemed pretty good. The defense was dominating the Chiefs. The offense was making just enough plays to move the ball had just scored a TD.

Things went sideways and KC had a 21-3 spurt to put them up 27-13. When it came to crunch time, the Chiefs made plays and the Eagles made mistakes.

The biggest lesson for the Eagles should be that football is an endurance sport. Games are 60 minutes long. Seasons are 16 games long. It isn’t how you start. It isn’t where you are at the midpoint. You must keep grinding the whole way through. If you do that, you have a chance to be where you want to be at the end.

Kareem Hunt had 7 carries for 8 yards when he broke off his 53-yard TD run in the late 3rd. Alex Smith had okay numbers, but had taken a beating from the Eagles in the 1st half. He continued getting hit in the 3rd quarter. Smith made huge plays in the last 20 minutes of the game, with his legs and his arm. The overall Chiefs team was so-so for so much of the game and then really came alive when it mattered.

The Eagles have talent. They have stretches when they look outstanding. But they must learn to be able to make big plays in big games.

I do give the players and coaches credit for not quitting when down 27-13. They had a shot to tie the game on the final play. Still, having some success at desperation football is different than making crucial plays when the score is close. That’s when most games are won and lost. Desperation football rarely affects the outcome. It generally is more meaningful to those focused on the spread and the over/under number.

COACHING

Doug Pederson threw the ball a lot for 3 quarters. Once the Eagles fell behind late, it was all pass. The lack of running has been discussed ad nauseam.

The defense played well. There were multiple DB injuries and that could have affected some of the things Jim Schwartz wanted to do. He limited the effectiveness of Tyreek Hill (7 touches, 49 yards, no scores). Travis Kelce did have a big day.

Give Dave Fipp credit for getting PK Jake Elliott ready in a hurry.

PLAYERS

Carson Wentz had a pretty good game. 25-46-333 with 2 TDs, 1 INT. Had some terrific throws and plays. Threw beautiful pass early to Torrey Smith that should have been a TD, but that was dropped. Later threw another dime to Smith down the left sideline that worked out. Love the good throws, but also the fact Wentz didn’t lose confidence in his guy. Good throw to Alshon Jeffery for TD. Highlight of the game might have been Wentz running for 1st down on 3rd/13. Good speed, great awareness and great effort.

The pick was a bad moment. Screen play where the D was in the way. Wentz said he was trying to get rid of the ball but he didn’t do a good enough job. Went off KC helmet and was picked off. Turning point of the game. Did a good job of marching the Eagles down the field in the late 3rd/early 4th. Got near the Red Zone and struggled. Failed to see wide open receivers on consecutive plays. One would have been TD, the other a first down and possible TD. Forced the ball to covered Jeffery on 3rd down when Smith was wide open and to that same side.

More good than bad to be sure, but didn’t make critical plays.

RB

Darren Sproles had the big day, 10-48 on the ground and 2-30 in the air. Showed good speed on some outside runs. Just missed breaking off huge cutback run when DB got him for short gain. Tons of room past that one defender. Wendell Smallwood was 3-4 on the ground. On two of the plays, he was hit in the backfield. Is that bad luck or his Smallwood somehow tipping plays? Really weird. Lost 3 yards on only catch. Had huge room to run, but LB made great move and got him for a loss. So close to breaking a big play, but lost yards. Blount had really quiet game. Not sure they even had to wash his uniform. Corey Clement got one snap on offense.

Pass protection was up and down. RBs need to do a better job.

WR

Good game. Jeffery was 7-92-1 and made some nice grabs. Smith was 4-66. He had a couple of drops. They weren’t gimmes, but those are passes he needs to catch. One was a TD, the other was a nice gain. Fell down when he did make a good grab over the middle. Had some room to run, but slipped and fell. Not sure he would have scored or added significant yards, but would have been good to see him running in the open field. Failed to block DB chasing Ertz late in the half. Made an effort to get there, but couldn’t take the guy out. Agholor was quiet. He drew a penalty and caught a late TD. Looked like the Chiefs did a good job on him. Mack Hollins played well, going 3-32. Made a tough diving catch and showed good RAC ability on another play. Has excellent body control for such a big guy.  Read the rest of this entry »


Like I Said

Posted: September 20th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 167 Comments »

Remember when I said that Doug Pederson would stick with Isaac Seumalo as his LG?

Oops.

So what made Pederson pull the old switcheroo?

Warmack is bigger, stronger and more physical than Seumalo. Inserting Warmack into the starting lineup could give the run game a boost. I posted some info on him and his run blocking a few weeks back.

Seumalo struggled mightily in pass protection, but he also wasn’t doing much on run plays. Warmack will have his own issues in pass protection, but he will get some movement in the run game and that can be valuable. The Eagles must run the ball better. Having a LG who can move his guy off the ball can make a difference, especially with a runner like LeGarrette Blount.

There are a couple of possible reasons for making the switch now. There are 14 games left in the season. If you put Warmack in now, you give him and the rest of the O-line a chance to get into a rhythm. When an OL really gets it going as a group, they can have a huge impact on a season.

One other possible reason to make the switch is to avoid a snowball effect. Last year Nelson Agholor started to struggle and things snowballed over the course of the season. If you pull Seumalo now, he’s certainly going to be down on himself, but he had an up and down summer and one bad game. There isn’t a half a season of bad tape and tons of bad press hanging over his head.

The Eagles still have high hopes for Seumalo. I think he’s got a good chance to be the starting C in 2018. Some may scoff at that notion after watching his struggles from Sunday, but you can’t dismiss how good he looked as a rookie. Seumalo has shown NFL talent and ability. What he hasn’t shown is consistency.

Getting benched now doesn’t mean the season is over. All it takes is one injury and Seumalo can be called into service. Heck, he could the be the #3 Safety this weekend (slight exaggeration, hopefully).

I think Seumalo must get stronger. You could see holes in his game this summer. DL would overpower him at times. I thought getting on the field for 60 snaps a game would help him work through the issues, but he still had them in the first two weeks. Seumalo is smart and athletic. Those traits fit best at C, but he showed last year that he could play G and T well.

The key to Seumalo’s future is how he handles this. Nelson Agholor lost his starting job in the offseason, but embraced the situation and looks like he’s turned his career around (still a small sample size, but encouraging). Mychal Kendricks is another player who seems to have figured things out. Patrick Robinson struggled in the spring, but then moved to the slot in the preseason and has played much better.

Seumalo can’t control when he plays, but he can do everything possible to be ready when he does get back on the field.

*****

Apparently Howie Roseman picked up a hobby while away from football. He’s now the leading collector of former Buffalo Bills in the world.

It sounds like Jaylen Watkins and Rodney McLeod are probably out this weekend. The Eagles hope Corey Graham is able to play, but they have to wait and see. Chris Maragos and Malcolm Jenkins could be your starters. Kamu Grugier-Hill could be your key backup. Not ideal, to be sure.

The Eagles DL is going to have to be great this weekend to help out the guys on the back end.

Elston likely won’t play on defense this weekend. The coaches will do their best to get him ready ASAP so he can be ready if needed next week or beyond.

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Lots to Learn

Posted: September 20th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 145 Comments »

We are two games into the 2017 season. What definitive conclusions can we draw?

None, really.

A year ago the team was 2-0. They played a soft schedule, but the Eagles weren’t loaded with stars and had a rookie QB. We saw some real good signs. Fletcher Cox looked like he might be Defensive MVP of the league. Carson Wentz was making plays and protecting the ball. The team had a good vibe. They were confident, but not cocky. Life seemed good.

It turned out we didn’t know that team. They went 3-9 over the next 12 weeks and made us question a lot of things.

Two games is a small sample size. Too small, actually.

We have a lot to learn about this team. We’ll start with the run game since that is the hot topic. I’m not sure why everyone is so panicky about the situation. It seems that people need something to latch onto. Clearly the Eagles aren’t running the ball well enough or enough times. No one disputes that. It just feels like people are trying to make this into a defining issue for the season.

Doug Pederson is trying to figure out his new players. He is throwing the ball a lot and really trying to get it down the field. He is forcing the issue a bit, but that’s what happens early in a season when you have so many new faces. Game situations haven’t helped matters. The Eagles were in a tight game in the opener until late. Against the Chiefs, it was tight until the 4th, when the Eagles fell behind and went to pass-only mode.

There is also something just off about the run game. The blocking, the timing and the running just seem out of sync. I’m not going to dispute the fact that one way to work on that is by, you know, running it more. Pederson wants big plays. He wants points.

I expect the run game to come around. The Eagles have some talented blockers up front. This isn’t the 2012 team with Dallas Reynolds, Jake Scott, Dennis Kelly and Demetress Bell on the field.

While the current RBs aren’t going to make anyone forget the combo of Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook, I do think the Eagles have enough talent there to be productive this season. There is no feature back and that’s not ideal, to put it mildly, but RB by committee has worked for plenty of teams over the years. The one issue is that the players and coaches have to get on the same page and into a good working situation. That doesn’t exist right now.

When you have a stud, you feed him the ball. When you have the RBBC approach, you must figure out the best way to get the most out of each player. That hasn’t come close to happening so far. Pederson knows how to use the RBBC system effectively. He had to do that in KC at times. As a player, he saw that done when he was with the Packers.

I’m not trying to tell you that Pederson will wave his magic wand and the Eagles will suddenly turn into the 1978 Patriots (check out those numbers), but I do think the run game can be “good enough”. This team is going to go as far as Carson Wentz and the passing attack take it.

*****

As for the passing attack, we know it is vastly improved from last year, but we don’t know how good this group is. They haven’t hit on enough big plays. When you focus on speed and size, you expect chunk plays. The Eagles are doing better there than a year ago, but they need the deep shots to pay off in the form of completions or at least penalties.

*****

The OL is a real tricky subject. They have not played up to expectations. At the same time, if you listen to some people, they’d make you think this group was barely functional.

Did you watch the Giants on Monday night? That’s a bad OL. Their offense isn’t able to move the ball or score points (13 so far this year). The Eagles offense has put up 42 points this year. They are 5th in the league in yards. You don’t have that kind of success with a flat out bad line. The Giants are 30th in points and 28th in yards.

One of the issues for the OL is that the Eagles do want to throw vertically. That means holding the ball longer. Carson Wentz is an aggressive QB. That means holding the ball longer. There is no doubt that Wentz is getting hit too much, but we do need some context there.

*****

In regard to Isaac Seumalo, I wrote a bit about him for PE.com.

*****

The defense has been good this year. Outstanding at times.

But the defense could not make clutch stops on Sunday.

The offense put the Eagles up 10-6 and you could feel some momentum building. Then KC went 83 yards on five plays, scoring on the 53-yard TD run. That put them back on top. The Eagles tied it up with a FG.

The defense then got the ball right back for the offense. That’s when Wentz threw the disastrous INT. The defense got KC to 3rd down and had Alex Smith there for a sack, but Vinny Curry couldn’t finish him off and Smith scrambled for the 1st down. The Chiefs then scored on the next play to re-take the lead.

KC got the ball back with 5:27 left in the game. The defense absolutely had to come up with a 3 & out. Instead, the Chiefs drove for a TD and that all but put the game away.

This defense has tremendous potential. They have talent all over the place and despite some injuries, they have come together and shown immediate chemistry. I know the Chiefs are very talented and they had plenty of advantages on Sunday, but top flight defenses come up with stops in critical situations. The Eagles didn’t do that.

It doesn’t mean they won’t in future situations, but it is a reminder we don’t know how good this defense is right now. They made critical plays in the opener, but that was against a struggling Skins offense. The defense couldn’t make critical stops against Alex Smith and the red hot Chiefs offense.

Jim Schwartz isn’t going to be satisfied until this defense can get the job done against everyone.

*****

The season is young. We still have a lot to learn about this team.

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Monday Morning Notebook

Posted: September 18th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 347 Comments »

Let’s talk some more about the Eagles 27-20 loss to KC and the team in general.

Ertz was 5-97 on Sunday and he’s off to a terrific start for the season. He and Carson Wentz have developed great chemistry, which is crucial for a TE and QB. The next step for them is to get better in the Red Zone. Ertz should be a mis-match down there, but that hasn’t really worked out so far.

*****

I re-watched part of the game and one bit of good news is that Jason Peters played better than he did in the opener. He was up and down against WAS. He had some good run blocks and was solid in pass pro in the plays I watched. If the OL is going to get better, they need Peters to play like the stud LT he is.

*****

I struggle with Pro Football Focus. They do some good things, but then they have moments like this.

Wentz struggled in the 4th quarter. He looked outstanding at times in the game. Did he make mistakes? You bet. He made some poor decisions and some poor throws, but overall played well.

How you could watch that game and say he “struggled mightily” is beyond me. Stuff like that just kills your credibility.

*****

We know PFF loves the Eagles DL, so I’m sure they got good grades. The DL has played well through the first two games.

Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox have combined for 4.5 sacks so far. You want your stars to play…like stars. Those guys have been outstanding so far. And this isn’t just about the pass rush. The Eagles have clogged the running lanes this year. Kareem Hunt got free for the one long run yesterday, but struggled other than that. The Skins had no room at all. They ran all over the Rams on Sunday, making the opener that much more impressive.

Good start for the guys in the trenches.

*****

Dallas was awful in Sunday’s loss at Denver. The score was 35-10 early into the 3rd quarter. I was shocked (and pleased). I actually thought Dallas would win that game. As good as the Broncos defense is, they have been vulnerable to the run at times. That wasn’t the case on Sunday when they held Ezekiel Elliott to less than 10 yards rushing.

At least he hustled on this play.

*****

The Eagles host the Giants on Sunday. The G-men play tonight and it will be interesting to see if their offense is any better than it was in the opener.

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