Making It Count

Posted: July 8th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

I was watching some NFL Network the other day when they did a special on the 1991 Falcons. You remember them, right? They won 10 games, finished second in their division and celebrated like they were the ’72 Dolphins.

Jerry Glanville was the over the top coach of this wild bunch. Deion Sanders was the best player. Andre Rison was his partner in crime, with the two of them bringing flash and attitude to the NFL in a major way. MC Hammer was a regular on the sidelines and the team adopted his song “2 Legit 2 Quit” as their theme.

Seeing that special was a fun trip down memory lane. But it also provided some good perspective.

The special talked about how important the 1991 team was to Falcons history. They won. They had personality. They brought fun to Atlanta. While this is true, we’re still talking about a 10-win team that got in as a wild card. Take away the celebrations and their isn’t much special about that team.

This got me to thinking about the Eagles (shocker!). Prior to 2017, we would talk about how much we loved some flawed teams in Eagles history. Everyone loved the Super Bowl teams of 1980 and 2004, but I’m talking about other years.

The 1979 team that won 11 games, beat Dallas and won a playoff game.

The 1988 team that won the NFC East and showed BuddyBall could work.

The 1991 team that featured one of the great defenses of all time.

The 1992 team that delivered the first playoff win of the Gang Green era.

The 1995 team that won some memorable games and had one of the most incredible playoff wins in team history.

The 2000 team that rode the back of Donovan McNabb all the way to the playoffs after a 3-year absence.

The 2002 team that saw Koy Detmer and A.J. Feeley replace an injured McNabb and still kept winning.

The 2008 team that finished 9-6-1 (you can tie a game?) and almost made it to the Super Bowl.

The 2010 team that gave us the best Michael Vick there ever was.

The 2013 team that showed us the good side of Chip Kelly in the NFL.

The 1992, 1995 and 2002 teams will always have a special place in my heart. I had huge amounts of fun watching those teams play. They gave me memories that will last a lifetime.

But then came the 2017 team. They gave us a Super Bowl.

 

As much as I love the 1992 team beating the Saints in the wild card game…as much as I love the 1995 team beating Dallas in the 4th & 1 game and then putting 58 points on the Lions in the playoffs…as much as I love the camaraderie of the 2002 team and the way they won games…winning the Super Bowl was better.

Thank god the Eagles are no longer one of the organizations that has to focus on “fun teams”. What is your favorite Vikings team of all time? There were the four teams that lost the Super Bowl. There was the 1998 team that went 15-1, but didn’t even get to the Super Bowl. Maybe you love the 2009 team with Brett Favre at the helm.

The 2017 Eagles made it count.

They went 13-3 in the regular season. They dominated in the NFC title game. Nick Foles and Doug Pederson beat Brady and Belichick in the Super Bowl. No short cuts. No flukes. They were the best team in the league that year. And they made sure to win it all.

The 2007 Patriots went 18-0 before losing in the Super Bowl. The ’98 Vikings choked in the NFC title game. They were 16-1 going into that game. The 2016 Falcons weren’t great by any stretch, but they led the Super Bowl 28-3 and somehow blew that lead and lost.

When you have a special team, you have to make it count. You have to win the key games, most especially the final game.

And the Eagles did all their butt-kicking with big smiles on their faces. They celebrated. They danced. They ate ice cream. They had a blast. Unless you were a rival, I don’t see how you couldn’t enjoy that team.

The current Eagles team is getting a lot of hype. Expectations are going to be sky high. I don’t know if this bunch will be able to deliver another Super Bowl. One thing I do know is that they won’t have the pressure of trying to be the first Eagles team to get the Lombardi. The 2017 bunch took care of that.

Just go play and win. And we’ll see what happens.

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Making Plays

Posted: July 3rd, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Making Plays

I wrote something about the Dallas defense recently and talked about their lack of playmakers at safety. I went back to look at some numbers and was surprised to see that Dallas didn’t make all that many plays overall.

Dallas

Points allowed – 6th
Yards allowed – 7th
Takeaways – 20
Interceptions – 9
FF – 14
Sacks – 39
TFLs – 69
Passes Defensed – 66
Defensive TDs – 1

Philadelphia

Points allowed – 12th
Yards allowed – 23rd
Takeaways – 17
Interceptions – 10
FF – 12
Sacks – 44
TFLs – 86
Passes Defensed – 68
Defensive TDs – 0

Most defensive coaches focus on points allowed. Jim Schwartz is a disciple of the Buddy Ryan coaching tree and those guys wanted their defenses to make plays.

It is surprising that the Eagles out-performed the Cowboys in so many categories when you think about how banged up the Philly secondary was. Rookie Avonte Maddox had two INTs for the Eagles in less than a full season. That total would have tied for the team lead in Dallas.

Schwartz and his staff preach the importance of takeaways. They make that a focal point of gameplans.

Rod Marinelli has been on some teams that came up with a ton of takeaways, but you wonder how much of that was scheme and how much just individual talent. Coaching guys like Derrick Brooks and Peanut Tillman can make anyone look good.

The Eagles made a ton of plays in 2017 on their way to winning the Super Bowl. They picked off 19 passes and even scored five TDs.

Stopping offenses is important, but making plays on defense takes things to a whole other level.

The Eagles have playmakers all over the defense heading into the 2019 season. They should once again make their fare share of plays and that will help them to win a lot of games.

More of this please.

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Randall to Fred

Posted: July 2nd, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Randall to Fred

Randall Cunningham was the Ultimate Weapon. Fred Barnett was simply Arkansas Fred. Together, they were a deadly duo and a ton of fun to watch.

This was a magical connection that brought me a lot of joy.

https://twitter.com/AStateFB/status/1083862883002445825

And of course, one of the greatest plays in NFL history.

Another angle.

https://twitter.com/phillybldgreen/status/1033375363202727936

The West Coast Offense was the death of these two.

Jon Gruden arrived in 1995 and he brought the WCO with him. That meant more short, quick throws for Randall and more crossing routes for Fred. That’s like asking Jimmy Bama to quit being obnoxious and me to live on salads only. Ain’t gonna happen.

Randall struggled with Gruden’s concepts and tough coaching. Fred looked lost while trying to run over the middle again and again. 1995 was the last season in Philly for both of them.

Randall bounced around and then had his magical season with the Vikings in 1998.

Fred went to the Dolphins as a free agent. A knee injury ended his career. He had torn an ACL back in 1993 so the second one proved too much. Speed receivers need…speed. And Fred had just turned 30 so that didn’t help matters.

The Eagles have had their share of dynamic QBs and explosive receivers, but my favorite connection is absolutely Randall to Fred.

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Around the League

Posted: July 1st, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Around the League

Bill Belichick is the best coach in the NFL. After him, things are much more up for debate.

Andy Reid has had an amazing career, but his lack of a Super Bowl title and recent postseason struggles don’t help his argument. Pete Carroll can certainly make an interesting case. John Harbaugh only has one postseason win since the Super Bowl.

What about Sean McVay?

He is the hot name in coaching and he’s done great things in two years with the Rams. However, I think last year’s Super Bowl has to hurt him. The Rams needed luck to get past the Saints and then came up woefully short in the big game. They scored three points and only gained 260 yards.

We know Belichick is a defensive genius, but the Pats were allowing 29.5 points per game in the playoffs going into the Super Bowl. This wasn’t the ’85 Bears just shutting everyone down. The Chargers and Chiefs put up plenty of yards and points.

McVay had no answers for Belichick’s gameplan.

The previous year Doug Pederson’s Eagles put up 41 points on the Patriots, and that was while starting a backup QB and backup LT. The Eagles gained 538 yards (374 in the air and 164 on the ground). Pederson and his staff prepared a masterful gameplan for the Pats and the players executed it brilliantly. Pederson was also aggressive, going for it twice on fourth downs. Both attempts were successful and those drives resulted in touchdowns.

Pederson came up with almost as many good fourth down plays as McVay did points.

Now McVay faces some challenges. The Bears and Pats put out some tape of how to shut down his offense. You can bet other teams will study those games thoroughly. QBs coach Zac Taylor is gone to the Bengals to be a head coach. There are questions about Todd Gurley, short and long term. There is also the fact that losing the Super Bowl can affect the following season. You have less recovery time. There are lots of nagging questions. It isn’t easy to move on from a loss like that.

McVay was 11-5 in 2017 and 13-3 last year. It will be interesting to see if he can get the Rams to stay at that level. They still have plenty of talent, but it won’t be easy.

*****

What about Pederson for the second best NFL coach?

Pederson was brilliant in 2017. Last year he had to deal with a short offseason, coaching changes and unbelievable injuries. Pederson still got the Eagles to the playoffs and they came close to getting back to the NFC title game.

Some doubters think the loss of Frank Reich will still be felt this year and that his loss has greatly affected Pederson. I think looking back on 2018 you can see there were a lot of issues to deal with and Pederson did a better job than many people understood.

There is no question that he’s a good coach. I think 2019 will give us a better idea of just how good he is.

*****

It is easy to forget about the Jags. They had an awful year, going 5-11, but the defense still finished in the Top 5 in both fewest points and yards allowed. That defense should be outstanding once again.

I’m curious about Dallas. They have arguably the best trio of LBs in the league. They have an elite pass rusher in Demarcus Lawrence. They have good corners.

The Cowboys don’t have a difference-maker at safety. Most Top 5 defense have someone in the deep middle that offenses have to account for. Jeff Heath isn’t that guy. Could Xavier Woods develop into a stud? He’s an ascending player, but that might be a bit much.

I’m fascinated by the DL. David Irving is gone. Randy Gregory is suspended (shocking!). I like the addition of Robert Quinn more than most people. I think he can be a solid DE. Taco Charlton needs to take a big step forward this year to help the DL.

The DTs could be a lot better than people think. Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods and Tyronne Crawford are solid players and good scheme fits. Christian Covington was an under the radar free agent signing. Rookie Trysten Hill has huge potential. He could thrive in that system. I also like UDFA Daniel Wise. Dallas has really good DT depth all of a sudden.

Dallas was sixth in points allowed and seventh in yards allowed last year. I don’t know if they’ll be Top 5 this year, but they should be good.

*****

Watching the Raiders on Hard Knocks is going to be fun.

It will drive me a bit crazy. Part of me wants that team to be a disaster, but another part of me loves Mike Mayock and wants to see him do great as the GM.

One thing we know. They won’t be boring.

*****

My favorite NFL QB?

https://twitter.com/nflthrowback/status/1144629565576359938

I loved Elway. Killed me that he lost SBs to the Giants and Skins. I just knew he was going to beat them and make me feel good about hating those teams.

Elway carried Denver on his back for years. That wasn’t enough to win it all, but he gave us some amazing memories.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1073971508286869506

When Mike Shanahan took over as head coach in 1995, things changed. Elway suddenly played in a creative offense. Things opened up for him in a big way. He no longer had to carry the offense, but could just run it.

Elway eventually got his two Super Bowls.

That wasn’t as much fun as watching him in the 80’s, but he was still a special player and a joy to watch.

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A Dynamic Duo

Posted: June 29th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Zach Ertz is star. Dallas Goedert looks like a star in the making. Together they form the best TE tandem in the NFL.

Rob Gronkowski was the best TE in the league. Some argue that he’s the best TE to ever play. Gronk was a dominant blocker and overwhelming receiver. Remember him in the second half of Super Bowl LII? He was 8-107-2. The Eagles really had no answer for him.

With Gronk done, you can make an argument for Zach Ertz as the best TE in the league. In terms of route-running and hands, I don’t know of anyone better. Ertz has made great strides with his ability to make plays after the catch. He’s still an inconsistent blocker, but has gotten better in the past couple of years.

Doug Farrar did his rankings of NFL TEs and had Ertz at number three, behind Travis Kelce and George Kittle. Kelce is the most physically dominant of the trio. Kittle is coming off a great rookie season. He blocked well and averaged 15.6 yards per catch, a crazy number for a TE.

I think you can make an argument for any of the trio. Ertz just set the NFL record for catches in a season by a TE (116) and there are times when he looks like a WR out there.

It will be interesting to see how Ertz does this year. He won’t have 156 passes thrown his way. The Eagles are much deeper at receiver this time around so Ertz won’t be the primary option nearly as much.

One of the options will be Goedert, who was the talk of Eagles OTAs. He caught 33 passes as a rookie. Look for that number to go up this year.

There is an argument in the fantasy football community about how highly Goedert should be taken. Because of his talent and the Eagles offense, some rate him like a starting TE. Others see too many weapons on the Eagles and fear Goedert just won’t get the ball enough. It really does make for an interesting debate.

Sigmund makes a great point here. If you have Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Ertz and Goedert on the field, there is a really good chance Goedert is going to have a favorable matchup.

We can debate a lot of things, but talent isn’t one of them.

Goedert has tremendous potential. It will be fun to see how he develops over the next few years, both as a player and as part of the Eagles offense.

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