Game Preview – Titans Come to Town

Posted: November 23rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 20 Comments »

Tennessee is just 2-8. The Eagles are better on paper and in reality. The Eagles are at home, where they haven’t lost in more than a year. This is a game they should absolutely win.

I’m feeling greedy today. I want the Eagles to come out and play well. I want them to execute at a high level and play a fairly clean game. If they do that, this will be a blowout. If the Eagles are sloppy, the Titans will give them a major test. 4 of Tennessee previous 6 games were decided by a FG or less. They don’t know how to win, but the Titans will play hard and fight you.

Here is my preview for PE.com.

Tennessee is 31st in run defense. The Eagles better be able to run the ball today.

I don’t have any strong feelings on this game in terms of individual or team predictions. The Eagles don’t lose back-to-back under Kelly very much so I feel good about them winning today. But like I said…I’m feeling greedy. I want the Eagles to go out and play well. Let’s bury the memory of last week’s game in a deep hole in the back yard.

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Long Term QB Talk

Posted: November 22nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 121 Comments »

Mark Sanchez will start the game for the Eagles on Sunday when the team hosts the Titans, but the question of who is the Eagles long term QB remains somewhat open.

I wrote a piece on the subject for BGN.

One idea I touched on is whether RG3 could be available in the future. His career has been a disaster since the end of the 2012 season. RG3 catches a ton of flak for how he’s handled things on and off the field, but I think he still has the potential to be a very good NFL QB. I don’t know if that will happen in DC. Mike Shanahan had an awkward relationship with RG3 and now that same situation is happening with Jay Gruden. RG3 might need a change of scenery.

What could Chip Kelly do with RG3?

It is also very possible that Dan Snyder, who is close to his QB, will fire Jay Gruden and hire a coach who is willing to kiss RG3’s butt. Coaches who want a job bad enough are sometimes willing to make a deal with the devil. And if Snyder is hellbent on sticking with RG3, something like that might need to happen. It is hard to say how much of a future he and Gruden have together. They could work things out, but it easily could stay an awkward relationship. You must have the coach and QB on the same page and getting along.

There is a notion that Kelly can plug just anyone into his system and get results. That is wrong. His system combined with the Eagles personnel is what allows different QBs to have success. If the Raiders were coached by Kelly with their current players, the results would be ugly. Kelly’s coaching would give them some boost, but the man isn’t a magician. He needs talent.

One of the most interesting aspects to all of this is the question of what Kelly wants in a QB. Kelly has coached Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley, GJ Kinne and Mark Sanchez in the NFL. He’s gotten a look at different levels of talent, athleticism, experience and so on. Kelly might have adjusted his thoughts on what he is looking for in a QB. Does Kelly now see the need for a really strong arm? Does he want someone who has superb deep accuracy? Does he want a veteran pocket passer? And so on and so on.

The other interesting angle is that the Eagles could have a shot at some guys they initially passed on in the draft. Geno Smith could be available after this year. EJ Manuel too. Would Kelly change his mind on them if the cost was a mid-to-late round pick? Clearly they’ve struggled or they wouldn’t be available, but you never know if Kelly could see something in them that made him want to coach them now. There are other backups around the league that Kelly could like.

As I mentioned in the piece, this isn’t a strong QB class in the upcoming draft. One guy the Eagles could get is UCLA’s Brett Hundley. He is incredibly talented, but also flawed. You wonder if he could be a player Kelly might be intrigued by.

For better or worse, it feels like there is a good chance Foles will be the guy next year as well.

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My apologies to the GJ Kinne crowd. I know I’m supposed to talk him up as a deep sleeper ready to shock the world and go all Kurt Warner on the NFL, but I haven’t started drinking yet and I clearly can’t write something like that while sober.

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In the piece I mentioned some veteran QBs the Eagles could target. I’m not pushing for the team to go after Jay Cutler or Christian Ponder, but felt I had to mention them simply for the fact they are veteran starters who Kelly could like for one reason or another. I never expected him to draft Matt Barkley or sign Mark Sanchez so I’m learning to cast a wide net when talking about Kelly and QBs.

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Trusting Chip

Posted: November 20th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 211 Comments »

I use the phrase “I trust Chip Kelly” more than a few times. I think most of you read that and get what I’m saying. I’m sure some of you take that to mean blind obedience and a refusal to question him. That’s not the case at all.

I trust Chip because of his track record and his style of coaching. He was part of the staff that helped build New Hampshire into a I-AA football power. Chip then went to Oregon and had success as an assistant and as the head coach. He took Oregon to a level they’d never been to and the program has stayed there even the past couple of years due to his foundation. Chip headed to the NFL where he is 17-9 and on pace to make the playoffs 2 years in a row.

Beyond winning, his teams have all kinds of statistical accomplishments. Chip isn’t winning based on fiery speeches, luck or grit. He knows how to develop outstanding units that can operate at a record-setting level. That isn’t an accident when you do it for more than a decade.

Beyond results, Kelly gets style points. He hires good assistants. His players love him. Kelly is open to being questioned on why he does things. Andy Reid’s obsession with the passing game made sense to him and a very small minority of coaches that worship the forward pass. The rest of the world was utterly confounded. Chip wants the right results. He doesn’t care if the team runs or throws. He wants to score points. He asks logical questions and then follows the line of thinking to the logical conclusion.

Chip has definitive reasons behind just about everything he does. There is a plan. There is a method. Success isn’t an accident.

So when fans start to grumble about something…Chip can’t beat good teams or Chip doesn’t know how to draft or Chip can’t handle star players…a lot of times I mention that I trust Chip.

The most precious commodity for a coach is time. He needs time to implement his ideas. He needs time to adjust the roster the way he wants it. He needs time to develop young players. He needs time to mold the team how he wants it. And so on. We are only 1.63 years into the Chip Kelly Era. So far, he’s done nothing but win.

Are there concerns with the Eagles? Yes, absolutely. I just think we need some perspective at times. Eagles fans are desperate to win the Super Bowl. But that takes time. Pete Carroll won in  his 4th season in Seattle (8th overall as NFL head coach). John Harbaugh won the SB in his 5th year with the Ravens. Mike McCarthy won in his 5th year with the Packers. Sean Payton won in his 4th year with the Saints. Noticing a trend?

Coaches need time to figure out what is working and what isn’t. The good ones adjust. Chip isn’t married to one single idea. He has made adjustments to his schemes over the years. He will tweak things to get the best results. And there will be some problems along the way.

It is fair to question the past couple of drafts.I don’t think anyone will have issues with Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz or Bennie Logan. After that, things are less impressive. The Eagles tried to trade up into the 3rd round to get Matt Barkley, but had to wait for the 4th to take him. Barkely hasn’t played enough to be called a bust, but he hasn’t played well enough in the offseason or at Training Camp to even push for a job. After him you have Earl Wolff, Joe Kruger, Jordan Poyer and David King. Wolff has NFL ability but injuries have ruined this season for him. The other 3 are gone from the Eagles and never impressed all that much.

A lot of people are questioning the Marcus Smith pick from this past draft. Josh Huff is someone that fans love to rip. Jaylen Watkins, Taylor Hart and Ed Reynolds are total wild cards right now. The best players are 2nd rounder Jordan Matthews and 7th rounder Beau Allen.

Howie Roseman runs the drafts, but he is taking players that Chip wants. Remember that Matthews, Watkins and Reynolds all came to Philly on visits and wowed the coaches in their pre-draft visits. That had some effect on their grade or where they were placed on the board. Matthews has clearly panned out (future star), but the other two are huge question marks. Should Kelly focus as much on how the players did with showing football knowledge on pre-draft visits? This is a fair question.

Chip and Howie will evaluate how they’re doing things. They’ll look for trends, both good and bad. They want to get this right. All teams miss on some picks. The draft is an inexact science. The key is to limit your mistakes and hit on your early picks.

Think about big games. The Eagles lost at Denver last year. They lost at Green Bay this year. They lost in the playoffs last year. There were very close losses at SF and ARZ. Is there something Chip needs to do differently? Does he need to mix in a fiery speech on occasion? Does he need to be more aggressive (onside kicks, fake punts, going for it on 4th downs, etc.)? Those are all fair questions. Chip won big games at Oregon, but this is the NFL. Maybe he does need to mix things up. Maybe more psychology is required.

As for star players, Chip had to deal with Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson in 2013. Both were unhappy in the offseason, but Vick changed his tune very quickly. He didn’t want to have to win the QB job. Once he moved past that as an issue, Vick went and won the job. Problem over. There wasn’t one issue with Jackson, but clearly he didn’t fit with the culture that Chip was trying to establish. I’m sure Chip learned from the experience. He’ll have to deal with a diva WR or CB at some point in the future. Hopefully that situation will go better.

Chip is not a perfect coach. But he is smart and he’s open-minded. Guys like that tend to learn from mistakes and situations that don’t work out as hoped. Most of his decisions have proven to be right the first time around. As for getting the other situations fixed…I trust him.

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Winning

Posted: November 19th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 218 Comments »

The Eagles are 1-3 this season against teams with winning records. Does this mean anything? Pop open a can of cold PBR and let’s talk about it.

In a word…no.

There are 3 factors for judging a game: who did you play, when did you play them, where did you play them. The Eagles beat the 8-6 Chicago Bears by 43 points. The Bears then finished the season 8-8. Chicago needed that game to make the playoffs. It was crucial for them and they were at home. The Eagles dominated the entire game and won 54-11. Nice win, but because the Bears finished 8-8 it wasn’t against a team with a winning record.

Earlier in the year the Eagles won in Green Bay 27-13. Green Bay was 5-3 entering the game, but Aaron Rodgers missed the game due to injury. That win came in the middle of a down stretch for the Packers, but they still finished 8-7-1. That was a win vs a team with a winning record.

Which win was more impressive?

I have no problem with checking a team’s record vs teams with winning records and using that as a simple tool, but it doesn’t come close to telling the whole story. Houston is now 5-5. If they win next week, the Eagles will suddenly be 2-3 against teams with winning records. The Rams are 4-6. They could get hot and finish with a winning record.

SF is 6-4 and has a win against the winning Eagles. Good for them. But the Eagles OL in that game was a huge mess. And it took Riley Cooper dropping a TD for the Niners to secure the win. Just how impressive is that? SF went to the Saints and won. New Orleans now has a losing record, but that was an impressive win because of where the game was played. It is brutally hard to win in the dome.

Seattle went 4-3 against teams with winning records during the regular season. That’s good, but not special. They went 3-0 in the postseason. That’s all that matters.

The Eagles were 2-3 in 2013. They lost so SD, KC and DEN in a row, all early in the season. After that the Eagles won vs GB and ARZ. The Eagles did go 2-1 vs .500 teams. It wasn’t as if they only beat last place opponents.

I think something more important would be to play more games against winning teams. Back in 2008 the Eagles almost made it to the Super Bowl. The team was just 9-6-1 in the regular season. They were 5-4 against teams with winning records. Those tough games got them ready for the postseason and helped them understand what the playoffs would be like.

I have written before about how the down nature of the NFC East is bad for the Eagles. You need good teams to challenge you, to push you. As much fun as it is to watch the Skins turn into a dumpster fire and Eli into an INT machine, that actually hurts the Eagles. Seattle won the SB last year and came out of the toughest division in football. The Ravens won the year before and the AFC North is always tough. That year two teams went 10-6. The Steelers were 8-8. Cleveland was just 5-11, but were very competitive after an 0-5 start.

The AFC East has been a weak division for years. I think that has hurt the Patriots and has played a part in them not winning another Super Bowl. New England knows how to beat good teams, but they aren’t getting pushed, week-in and week-out. That’s what a good division can do for you.

The regular season gets you ready for the playoffs. The more tough teams you play, the better off you are. You need to be challenged. The intensity level goes up a nothing in the postseason. You can’t just adjust to that unless the team has experienced moments or even games like that during the year.

The Eagles are 1-3 against teams with winning records. They still have Dallas (2) and Seattle left to play. That could be 3 more games, but there are no guarantees both teams finish as winners. Seattle is 6-4 and doesn’t have an easy game left on the schedule. Dallas is 7-3, but has been addicted to 8-8 finishes in recent years. If the Eagles sweep them, who knows where Dallas ends up.

Of course you can always cheer for Houston, Carolina and St. Louis to get above .500 so those wins, which aren’t impressive now, can be used in a future argument about how impressive the Eagles ended up against teams with winning records.

Simple.

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Active Day for the Eagles

Posted: November 18th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 67 Comments »

The Eagles made some moves on Tuesday.

* Earl Wolff went to IR. He’s struggled with injuries all year long. I get the feeling the team thinks Wolff might be healthier than he thinks he is. Chip Kelly has said the team will never force a player to play, but he also says the #1 ability is durability. I think the team is highly frustrated with Wolff and how he has handled this season. The Eagles thought he would challenge for a starting role. Wolff was a non-factor on defense and even STs when he did play.

My guess is that Wolff comes back in 2015, but he’ll be on a short leash. Nagging injuries won’t be tolerated for a second season.

This really is a shame. Wolff showed good potential last year.

* The Eagles signed CB Roc Carmichael to take Wolff’s spot on the roster. Carmichael isn’t anything special as a player, but he fits. He can play in the slot or outside. He is a good STs player. Carmichael was added for depth purposes and he makes sense because of that.

* The Eagles made a couple of lineup shuffles. With Carmichael being added to the CB rotation, rookie Jaylen Watkins was moved to Safety. He has taken reps at both spots so he can help the team wherever he’s needed. I still like him more as a CB than a S. I don’t think he tackles well enough to be a primary run defender. The Eagles obviously feel differently.

* RG Matt Tobin did not practice today. Per Jeff McLane, he missed time due to a concussion. Andrew Gardner was in his place as the RG. McLane also mentions that Gardner might have gotten some reps even without the injury concerns. Tobin has shown that he can be a good run blocker, but he is inconsistent with pass protection. He was beaten by a DT on the opening drive and that led to Mark Sanchez taking a big hit and being sacked.

Gardner played RG for part of the 3rd and all of the 4th quarters in the win over Houston a couple of weeks back. He was very good as a run blocker. Tobin has spent most of his time in college and the NFL blocking on the left side. Some guys handle changing sides better than others.

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I thought Bill Davis did a good job at his press conference.

He answered questions about Bradley Fletcher in a pretty honest way. He talked about some strategic moves that didn’t work so well and why that was. He talked about Marcus Smith.

I think Davis does a good job of offering honest answers to tough questions. He’s not in la-la land acting as if his unit is just fine, but he also doesn’t sit there and just needlessly rip his guys.

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Would love to see Avant go to KC or some other team that is winning games, but still needs some WR help. Really needs to be with a pocket passer in a WCO type system to thrive.

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Happy Birthday to the best Eagles LB I ever saw play…

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