Game Preview – NE at PHI

Posted: November 17th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

The Eagles are facing the number one defense in the league. That is a huge challenge when you have a healthy team and life is good. The Eagles will be taking on the Patriots defense without Jordan Howard and Alshon Jeffery. In a word, yikes.

Don’t worry, though. The Eagles added Jordan Matthews and Jay Ajayi this week so they shouldn’t miss a beat.

Okay, I might be exaggerating just a tad on that.

It is easy to go negative and focus on how the Eagles are going to struggle today. And that might happen. But I honestly believe this team can beat the Patriots. Miles Sanders is a playmaker. Zach Ertz is a playmaker. Dallas Goedert is a playmaker. Carson Wentz is one of the best QBs in the league. The O-line is playing well. The offense has the potential to move the ball and score points in this game.

The Eagles cannot play sloppy football, as they’ve done for much of the season, and win today. They need to eliminate mistakes and make plays.

We’ll find out something about the new guys, a mixture of young players and re-treads. I think Matthews can step into this offense and produce immediately. He won’t turn into TO or anything like that, but he can get open and catch the ball when it comes his way. Ajayi is a huge mystery. He hasn’t played in more than a year. He does know the offense, but can he come of the street and contribute in just a few days? RB is one spot where it can happen, but I don’t know if it will. Boston Scott could quietly be an X-factor. He’s played well when given the chance this year.

The coaches were all over the receivers this week in practice. Can that get Mack Hollins out of his two-year coma? He showed such promise in 2017, but has struggled mightily this season. JJ Arcega-Whiteside looked so good this summer, but he’s been invisible during the season. If the Eagles are going to win, those guys must step up. If they combine for no zero catches, I don’t see the Eagles winning. It won’t be easy for them when facing the best secondary in the league, but there will be some opportunities. Seize the moment (and the ball!).

Sanders might be the real key to the offense. Patriots LBs don’t match-up well with him in coverage. The Eagles know that and will use him accordingly. Sanders also needs to be productive as a runner. The Pats have struggled vs the run. Sanders must move the chains today.

Bill Belichick is a defensive genius, but one thing he can’t account for is off-schedule plays. Mobile QBs can drive him nuts because of that. Carson Wentz needs to make plays with his legs in this game. That could be running up the field or buying time for his receivers to get open. Wentz can’t just be a pocket passer today. He must use his mobility.

Doug Pederson and his staff put together a brilliant gameplan for Super Bowl LII. The Pats are much better on D and the Eagles aren’t as good. Still, Pederson knows how to scheme against this team. I think he also knows he might need to have a trick play or two ready. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nelson Agholor run the ball today.

What about the Eagles defense vs Tom Brady?

The Pats offense isn’t nearly as good as it was in the SB. The OL has been up and down and they don’t have a feared group of skill players. They do have Tom Brady and he is the king of the short passing attack.

The Eagles normally focus on taking away the run game. New England has struggled to run the ball this year so you wonder what Jim Schwartz will do.

The key will be the Eagles DL. Brady is a pocket passer. The Eagles must pressure him. They must win the battle up front. If they have to blitz to get pressure, it will be a long day. Brady is smart and has a million years of experience. Blitzing him is tough.

You do wonder how the Eagles will use Genard Avery. He’s had a couple of weeks to learn the scheme and carve out a role. Maybe Schwartz will throw some new looks at Brady.

One thing we do know…if the Eagles have breakdowns in the secondary, Brady will make them pay. I hope a week of self-scouting helped the coaches figure out some coverage solutions.

The Eagles will go into this game with the right mentality. They won’t be scared of Belichick, Brady or the Patriots. The Eagles will be aggressive and confident. That helps when facing New England. It is easy to get intimidated by all the rings and records. That won’t happen to the Eagles.

I do hate the fact the Eagles are facing a Patriots team that is coming off a bad loss and a bye week. Belichick will have that team in a bad mood.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the Eagles play today. This is why you drafted Wentz, Sanders, Goedert and even JJAW. The pressure is on. Let’s see how the young guys handle the big moment.

_


Age Does Matter

Posted: November 15th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles felt like they had a chance to be a Super Bowl team so back in the offseason they made the decision to add older players. The goal was to add instant impact and to bring in players with a proven track record. The Eagles also brought back older players to give them another shot at winning a title.

This has not gone so well.

DeSean Jackson is on injured reserve.

So is Malik Jackson.

Jason Peters has missed multiple games.

Andrew Sendejo was marginally effective and cut at midseason.

I hope the Eagles learned their lesson. You can mix in an older player here and there, but you don’t want to have too many. It was obvious to anyone and everyone that Sproles should not have been brought back this year. Heck, I didn’t want him in 2018.

Sproles has had an amazing career. He’s done great things for the Eagles and anyone who follows the team will have some fond memories of him. But business is business. Sproles has been hurt the past three years and hasn’t played all that well when healthy.

The Eagles made an emotional decision when they brought him back. That was not a smart decision.

Sproles is done and the Eagles can give his touches to Boston Scott, who has shown real promise this year. I hate that Sproles went out this way, but the writing was on the wall. His body hasn’t held up the past two years. It was time.

Doug Pederson said at his press conference that he wouldn’t change anything in regard to bringing in/keeping older players. I hope that is just Pederson trying to kill a line of questioning and not his true thoughts. Keeping older players that you’re comfortable with isn’t how you build the best roster. That practice has to change.

The Eagles better have learned a hard lesson. It is better to cut ties with a player a year too early than a year too late.

We’ll see what happens in March.

*****

With Jordan Howard still dealing with a stinger and in danger of missing Sunday’s game, the Eagles signed Jay Ajayi on Friday.

Is there any way he can play in just a couple of days? It wouldn’t seem likely, but if there is a spot where you can do that it would be RB. It isn’t like being a receiver where timing is so crucial. It isn’t like defense where tackling needs work each summer.

The Eagles can also bring up De’Angelo Henderson from the practice squad. He has been with the Eagles for almost a month now and should have a good feel for the playbook, even if he’s never played in a game for the team.

The Eagles have done a good job at getting something out of a lot of RBs in the Pederson era.

Ryan Mathews
Darren Sproles
Wendell Smallwood
Kenjon Barner
Byron Marshall
LeGarrette Blount
Corey Clement
Jay Ajayi
Josh Adams
Jordan Howard
Miles Sanders
Boston Scott

Obviously this isn’t ideal when taking on the #1 defense in the league, but the coaches should be able to get figure this out for a game. Sanders will get a chance to be a hero.

*****

Watch Bill Belichick talk about the Eagles and you’ll think the guys in green should be favored by at least 10 points.

_


A Big Test

Posted: November 14th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The 5-4 Eagles face the 8-1 Patriots on Sunday. To a lot of people, this is a complete mismatch. New England has been dominant this year, while the Birds have been frustratingly inconsistent. Can the Eagles really pull off the upset and win this game?

Absolutely.

Let’s not be naive and think this would be easy. The Eagles have been a sloppy team for much of the year. That won’t get it done this week. The Patriots don’t make a lot of mistakes. They make you beat them.

The most interesting matchup in the game will be the Eagles offense against the Patriots defense. Bill Belichick’s group is number one in the league in fewest points and yards allowed. That defense is doing amazing things this year. The Eagles offense has been erratic. This will be a huge challenge.

Doug Pederson mentioned the other day that the Eagles would have a good idea what the Pats wanted to do on defense. Belichick believes in taking away the top player from the opposing team. That will be Zach Ertz on Sunday. There is some good news on this front.

The Eagles have dealt with this before and overcome it.

They’ve also faced this type of defense this season.

That game didn’t go as well because the skill players didn’t make plays. There were too many dropped passes. Miles Sanders was still adjusting to life in the NFL. Jordan Howard only got 11 carries. The Eagles did pile up 373 yards in the game and scored 24 points. The big difference in the game was the Lions KOR for a TD.

There are some injury concerns for Sunday.

Losing Sproles wouldn’t be a big deal. He hasn’t done much this year. Boston Scott has looked better on offense. It will be interesting to see if the Eagles put him on IR and sign Ajayi. That would give them better depth in the backfield.

Playing without Jeffery on Sunday would be tough. He struggled the last time out, but if you remove him you have Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews, Mack Hollins and JJ Arcega-Whiteside going against the best secondary in the league. Yikes.

It is easy to talk about this being a big game for the RBs and TEs, but the receivers who do play on Sunday are going to have to step up. They will need to make plays when the ball comes their way.

That’s not an accident. Clearly Pederson and Mike Groh have let Walch know that the receivers aren’t getting the job done. They were very hands-on back on Wednesday. Today it was Walch being more assertive. There are no guarantees this will work, but you have to try something. Go coach the heck out of those guys. Push them. See if that makes a difference.

You can look at this game as a huge challenge. It is also an opportunity. If the offense can play well and the Eagles can win, that would give their confidence a huge boost for the stretch run.

New England had not allowed more than 14 points in a game until their last time out. The Ravens put up 37 points in that game. That’s important because the Patriots played a soft schedule up to that point. They faced bad QBs and weak offenses. Baltimore was their first real challenge and the Ravens shredded that defense, running for 210 yards.

Heck, over the past two games, New England has given up more than 180 yards per game on the ground. Over the past six games, the Pats have given up more than 130 rushing yards per game. They are vulnerable. The Eagles are a good running team. This will be a huge part of the game. If the Eagles can run the ball well, they have a legit chance to win this game.

It really will be interesting to see how things play out on Sunday.

_


The Search for Solutions

Posted: November 13th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The bye week is important to players because it allows them to get some rest and spend time with their families. They can recharge the batteries, so to speak. The bye week is important to coaches because it gives them time to self-scout.

This is when coaches study their own game tape and write detailed notes about what has gone right and what has gone wrong.

If something is working, figure out why. Then figure out if you can do more of that. Or maybe study if there is a way to improve it.

Obviously a lot more time is spent on what has gone wrong. Identifying problems is the easy part. Coming up with mid-season solutions is far more challenging. This is where a good coaching staff becomes really valuable. I do think the Eagles have a good staff, but this has not been a great year for them. If we’re being honest, the coaches are part of the problem.

It is easy to wonder how honest and critical Doug Pederson and his staff can be. Pederson is positive by nature and never rips his guys publicly. Do not mistake that for him being delusional. Pederson, like every other NFL coach, can be hard on his guys in the locker room and in meeting rooms. He sees the tape. He knows who isn’t getting the job done. Pederson just believes you keep that in-house and that you don’t air dirty laundry.

I would love to find out what the coaches were thinking after studying the tape. We know WR play is going to be a huge issue. With no DeSean, how can they fix that?

That is great to hear.

Mike Groh did a great job with the WRs in 2017. He knows the position and how to coach those guys. Having him be more hands-on is an excellent idea. He’s not going to suddenly turn Alshon Jeffery into a speedster. Nelson Agholor isn’t going to become Stefon Diggs. But Groh can help, especially with the young guys. The Eagles need Mack Hollins and JJAW to do something. Just make a play when the ball comes your way. One catch can be a difference-maker. And you don’t know if that will happen on the first drive or the final play of the game.

We all agree the Eagles are lacking talent at WR. That said, the guys they do have can do more. They need to do more if this team is going to make a run. I really do think this is a smart move. We’ll see on Sunday if it makes any difference.

There are other situations for the coaches to address. The deep passing game has not worked well. Part of that is on the receivers, but part is also on Carson Wentz and part on the coaches. Red Zone defense hasn’t been good recently. That’s something Jim Schwartz and his staff need to clean up. Blitzes haven’t been as effective as they should. We’ll see if that is something the coaches were able to figure out.

Solutions can involve X’s and O’s, personnel or some other specific detail. This isn’t as simple as calling more runs to the right or more blitzes on third and long. There is a lot of nuance involved in trying to get a team to play better. I remember one year when the Titans were struggling. Jeff Fished decided his guys needed physical practices. He did that starting in late November and his team responded. Sometimes pushing the right button can make all the difference.

One thing we do know, the Eagles will get some quick answers. Facing the Patriots and Seahawks is a major challenge. If the Eagles win one or both of these games, it will probably have a lot to do with adjustments made by the coaching staff. The Eagles were sloppy in the win over the Jets, but it was still a blowout. The next two games are big tests. We will see if the coaches were able to find effective solutions and the players could make them work.

_


The Stretch Run

Posted: November 13th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

There are seven games left in the 2019 season. The Eagles are 5-4, which is disappointing. The Eagles are also tied for the division lead, which is important. They still control their fate. If the Eagles play well down the stretch, they’ll make the postseason. They don’t need luck to get in.

Any talk of the playoffs raises a couple of key questions. First, why should anyone have faith in this team? Second, even if this team does get in, can they really do anything?

The Eagles are flawed, but still talented.

Carson Wentz
Jason Kelce
Brandon Brooks
Lane Johnson
Zach Ertz
Fletcher Cox

Those players are among the best in the league at their respective positions. That isn’t hype, it’s reality. Those are blue chip players.

Then you have guys like Jordan Howard, Brandon Graham and Dallas Goedert. They aren’t necessarily stars, but are very good.

This team has talent.

The slow start is due to a variety of factors. Some players have underachieved (Alshon Jeffery for instance). Injuries have been a factor, at times causing players to miss games and other times limiting their performance when they did play.

Losses to ATL and DET featured key mistakes. In Atlanta, Nelson Agholor failed to catch the winning TD pass. Isaac Seumalo played his worst game of the year by far and that really held the offense back. The loss to the Lions was filled with dropped passes, including two on the final drive that would have put the Eagles in FG range. If the Eagles had won both or even just one of those games, you would feel very differently about this team.

The butt-kickings by the Vikings and Cowboys were bad. Injuries played a huge part in those games, but the Eagles still had enough talent to play better and be more competitive than they were. Those losses certainly make it hard to buy into this team.

But I think the team is legitimately improving. Jalen Mills has been a big help since returning from injury. LB T.J. Edwards has done a good job since getting onto the field. Fletcher Cox seems to get better each week. Avonte Maddox has helped since taking over in the slot. The coaches have figured out how to get the most out of Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders. The screen game, whether to TEs or RBs, has been very effective in recent weeks.

The addition of Jordan Matthews should help the offense. If he can just catch 2 or 3 balls a game, that will give a boost to the passing game. Tim Jernigan should be healthier and more effective this week. Nigel Bradham could be back from his injury. Cre’Von LeBlanc will start practicing soon. DE/LB Genard Avery should become a valuable role player down the stretch.

The team hasn’t maxed out. There is still a lot of room for improvement. Under Doug Pederson, the Eagles have played some of their best football in the final month or so. This team has the potential to get a lot better as more players return and as the other guys get better.

The defense has played very well the past two weeks. Getting healthier has made a real difference. Those were week opponents, but the Eagles did what they were supposed to. They controlled both games. Neither team scored more than 14 points and both struggled to move the ball.

The offense is among the best in the league on third downs and in the Red Zone. They have scored 30 or more points four times in nine games. Last year the Eagles scored 30 or more three times in the entire season. This offense produced good numbers against top defenses the past two weeks. The run game has really come alive.

It sure feels like the offense and the defense are both trending in the right direction.

Let’s say the Eagles are able to go 5-2 down the stretch and they do win the NFC East. Can they really make some noise in the postseason?

Absolutely.

We saw last year that the regular season doesn’t have to define you. The 9-7 Eagles went on the road and upset the 12-4 Bears. The Eagles then went down to play the 13-3 Saints. The Eagles led at halftime, but ended up losing 20-14. The team was in position to steal that game at the end, but AJ had a pass go through his hands and right to a DB.

Go back to 2008. The Eagles went 9-6-1 and were a couple of plays from going to the Super Bowl. Get in and you have a chance.

You know Carson Wentz is desperate to play in the postseason. If the Eagles can get there, he will do everything in his power to win the game. The Eagles went 4-1 in the postseason over the past two years. This team isn’t afraid of January.

They just have to show they can get there.

*****

Good. I hate night games.

_