First, some follow-up on the Mark Sanchez-Nate Allen piece from earlier today. While I do think both players have turned things around, I’m still very realistic about who these guys are. I’m not rushing them off to the Pro Bowl anytime soon.
Sanchez is playing well as the Eagles backup. That’s it. SalPal asked the silly question to Chip Kelly about what would happen if other teams called about a trade for Sanchez. As I pointed out in the previous column, Sanchez needs the right pieces around him in order to succeed. Some team with poor QB play isn’t likely to have the right pieces. Sanchez wouldn’t solve their problem.
I do think Nate Allen can be a solid starter. He hasn’t played to that level since his rookie year and I think it is totally fair for many of you to doubt him. His track record is not good. I could be wrong and Nate could lose his starting job by midseason. I’ve just been very impressed by how he’s played this preseason. He’s more confident and aggressive than in a long time. I think he and the starting defense will get into a groove once they play together for a while.
Another point about Sanchez and Allen. I focused on the poor circumstances that had a negative affect on their careers. That doesn’t mean they didn’t play a part in their own struggles. I’ve written about Sanchez and why I think he didn’t succeed in NY. Football wasn’t enough of a priority for him. He was living the good life and being the class clown. Sanchez got a huge piece of humble pie in the last 2 years and seems like a different guy. Allen didn’t have any off-field issues. He just didn’t play well. Part of that was on scheme and health, but part was him just not getting the job done.
Let’s enjoy this while we can, but also be careful about making too much of the preseason.
Last summer Philip Rivers had to learn a new offense. In the preseason, he was 20-33-166 with no TDs and 2 INTs. His QB rating was only 48.3. Things looked bad. Then the calendar turned to September and Rivers had a great season, arguably the best of his career. He finished with a rating of 105.5.
I hope Eli has a miserable year, but I’m nervous about getting too excited about his demise.
I watched part of the Dallas-Baltimore game on Saturday. Dallas was down 27-10 at the half. They did dominate the 4th Qtr and were able to make the final score a respectable 37-30. Looks like it could be a long year in Big D.
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I’m in the middle of studying the Pats game and doing the DGR. I am really impressed with Brandon Bair. That guy looks legit (as a backup/role player).
One other odd note…after 2 games…I think Todd Herremans has been the best OL. Who would have predicted that?
A lot of kids dream of being an NFL star. Nobody dreams of being an NFL laughingstock, but that is what happens to some careers. You can be a talented player. You can be a former high draft pick. You can even have good seasons on your resume. But the NFL is all about now. What have you done for me lately?
Mark Sanchez was taken in the Top 10 by the Jets just a few years back. He led the Jets to consecutive AFC title games. Those are distant memories. Most people remember him for something completely different…his “butt fumble play” in 2012.
That seemed like rock bottom. Then Sanchez was sent into the fourth quarter of a 2013 preseason game and he suffered a season-ending injury. The fact the coaches put him into garbage time in a preseason game was the ultimate sign that Rex Ryan is clueless when it comes to handling QBs. Sanchez was projected to be the Jets starter at the time. Instead, the injury paved the way for Geno Smith to play and Sanchez to exit New York.
When the Eagles signed Sanchez, all the talk was about the butt fumble. No one wanted to hear about the AFC title games or the things Sanchez had done well for the Jets. Chip Kelly knew Sanchez from when he had recruited him. Kelly also had faced Sanchez in some Oregon/USC battles. Kelly felt the talent was still there.
With Ryan as head coach, the Jets were a defensive team. Offense was the red-headed stepchild, so to speak. Sanchez had 3 offensive coordinators in his 5 years with the Jets. Even worse, Brian Schottenheimer, Tony Sparano and Marty Mornhinweg could not be more different. Skill players were a mixed bag. When he did have talent, it was high maintenance players like Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress. Or in 2012…the Jets leading WR was Jeremy Kerley. Let’s just say James Thrash would have been a welcome addition to that offense.
Sanchez is now in a completely different situation. He is playing for an offensive guru in Chip Kelly. He has a veteran OC in Pat Shurmur who knows the NFL passing game. The QB coach is another veteran in Bill Musgrave. Both Shurmur and Musgrave are experts in the WCO, which is part of the Eagles passing attack. There is symmetry and cohesion on the offensive staff.
Sanchez has access to explosive playmakers. Even as the Eagles backup, he is working with guys like Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews. Just imagine how Sanchez must feel when he gets Shady, Mac, Coop, Celek, Sproles and the backups. That’s a buffet of playmakers.
Now that Sanchez has the right coaches, the right scheme and some talent to work with, you can see how good he can be. I was not a huge fan of his coming out of USC because I didn’t think he was the kind of player you built a team around. I do think Sanchez can be good in the right situation, which he has found in Philly.
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Nate Allen offered a lot of hope back in 2010. He had 3 INTs, 2 sacks, broke up 8 passes and had a FF. A playmaking Safety…imagine that. And as a rookie, no less. Unfortunately he got hurt late in the year and that was the beginning of trouble.
Allen returned to the field in 2011, but had issues with his knee. It didn’t help that he had a new scheme, DC and position coach. And very different responsibilities. The Wide 9 put a ton of pressure on DBs to be run supporters. Allen had one terrific game (vs BUF), but went downhill quickly. Knee soreness was an issue and his confidence disappeared over night. Put on the Pats game from that year and you’ll see Allen at his worst.
2012 meant a new position coach and some schematic adjustments. Then Juan Castillo got fired at midseason and the scheme changed again. Allen played poorly and was benched late in the year.
2013 brought in a new scheme, new DC and new position coach, but finally there was some real cohesion. The staff put the scheme together and everyone was on the same page with how to run it and how to teach it. The coaches focused on fundamentals. Allen was finally healthy and started to look better on the field. Allen started all 16 games. He was 3rd on the team in tackles. He was still too cautious at times. The tape showed him playing on his heels, something you don’t want to see.
This summer Allen got to experience something new…stability. He has all his coaches back. The scheme is the same. He’s healthy. Life is pretty darn good. The Eagles made things even better by signing FS Malcolm Jenkins. Finally, Allen has someone on the field that can help him. Jenkins is a good player with plenty of experience. He’s a natural leader and is pushing Allen to play better.
The Eagles have played 2 preseason games and Allen looks different. He is more confident. He is more aggressive. Allen will never be Dawk or Wes Hopkins, but he can be a quality starter. Allen was supposed to battle Earl Wolff for the SS job, but right now Allen has a virtual lock on the spot.
Allen isn’t a guy you build a secondary around, but he can be a good complementary player. He needs the right pieces around him and the right scheme. Allen finally seems to be in a good situation.
Both Allen and Sanchez are proof that circumstances do matter.
Fletcher didn’t look very good last week and Carroll could steal his job. Unfortunately, Carroll has been hurt for a couple of weeks. The Eagles need him to get healthy. It is no fun to watch Marsh or Carmichael get torched, but let’s not make too much of guys that aren’t likely to even make the team.
Where the heck is the pass rush? This is a tricky subject. The 3-4 is predicated on fooling offenses and getting rushers into favorable matchups. You do this by being creative. But…in the preseason you don’t want to show too much of your creative ideas. So the Eagles are being vanilla (sorry, I know some of you hate that word). This is not just some convenient coach’s excuse. It is reality.
That said, the Eagles just aren’t getting enough pressure. Even the 3-4 requires players to win some 1-on-1 matchups and get to the QB from base looks. That isn’t happening right now. Part of this may be veterans like Fletcher Cox, Trent Cole and Connor Barwin pacing themselves.
I also think the Eagles need to get the right combination of players on the field together. This means mixing in Vinny Curry with the starters in Nickel and Dime looks. Cole and Barwin as DEs, with Curry and Cox as DTs. Or Cole and Curry as 3-4 DEs with Cox at NT. There are plenty of options.
I don’t know what to say about Brandon Graham. He was relegated to the 3rd team last night. He did have a sack, but was unblocked on the play. I would like to see him mixed into the Nickel and Dime sets if he’s going to be here this year. I have no idea if he is, though.
Competition. The Eagles struggled against the Bears and Pats. Those teams finished 2nd and 3rd in scoring last year. They have good coaches, QBs and skill players. If the Eagles were getting lit up by the Jets, Jaguars or Browns, I’d be a lot more worried.
Bill Davis. Should he be getting more criticism? I don’t think so. This is the preseason. The goals are different here. You’d love the Eagles to go play well and look great, but he’s trying to evaluate individual players and find good combinations of players. That isn’t always conducive to getting top results.
For the sake of perspective, let’s remember that Davis and the D faced Chicago last year in a critical late season game. The Eagles held the Bears to just 11 points and won in a major blowout. Friday night sucked, but let’s keep it in perspective.
Hidden issue. The biggest complaint for me is all the mental mistakes. You see blown coverages. You see players failing to contain run plays. You see players taking poor pursuit angles. I’m referring to starters and backups here. No one group is to blame. Brandon Bokin let a runner get wide of him yesterday on a play that should have just gained a couple of yards. That is a rookie mistake. Being made by a 3rd year player.
I can live with players who get beat by players that are better than them. I can even live with missed tackles. I cannot stand mental mistakes like this. Covering a gifted WR is hard. Tackling a powerful or elusive RB is hard. It isn’t that hard to be in the right spot or to take the right angle.
Davis and his staff really need to get this stuff cleaned up.
Ugly game. There were some positives to be sure, but penalties, turnovers and sloppy play ruled the day.
The biggest positive was the play of Nick Foles and the offense. Foles didn’t throw any picks and the starting offense was able to move the football. Things were far from perfect, but the offense at least started to look like the group we watched move the ball and score points last year. The O-line played much better and that helped a lot. The chief problem for the starting offense was receivers getting open. That’s what happens when you don’t have Riley Cooper or Jeremy Maclin playing.
Mark Sanchez had a terrific showing. He did throw one INT, but generally looked very good. He finished 11-12-117 with 2 TDs. Once again, I thought he looked good at running the attack.
WR Jordan Matthews bounced back from a bad showing last week. He was 9-104. Matthews caught a variety of passes and was able to keep the chains moving. He added RAC yards. Matthews looked good. Zach Ertz had another strong showing. He was 2-26, including a TD catch.
The defense did not have a good game. The pass rush was an issue. Tackling was an issue. Penalties were an issue. Missed assignments were an issue. And so on. It was discouraging to see the group struggle the way they did. I need to study the tape to know who is at fault. We can talk about a few individuals.
Curtis Marsh had a bad game. He gave up a couple of TDs and was beaten on several other plays. I give him credit for hanging in there. The Eagles were short some CBs due to injury so Marsh had to play a lot. Some guys fall completely apart when they struggle. Marsh kept battling even though not much was going right.
3rd downs were a major issue. The Pats were 10 of 15. They started off 7 for 7. Coverage has got to tighten up. Tackling has got to get better. Penalties were also a factor. As Chip Kelly said after the game, the Eagles must learn to not put their hands into players faces and the Eagles must quit making contact with receivers down the field. We can argue about the penalties, but the bottom line is that the NFL is set on making changes. You have to deal with the rules.
Aside from a missed FG by Alex Henery, the STs had another good showing. The highlight…Arrelious Benn blocked a punt.
Friday’s game didn’t get me too concerned with the team, but the defense’s struggles certainly have my attention. The Eagles have a lot of work to do before next week’s game with Pittsburgh.
What a bizarre 1st half. Tons of penalties. The Eagles only running a handful of plays in the 1st Qtr. And now a tie game. Nick Foles posted good numbers, but his play still isn’t as crisp as I’d like. Mark Sanchez looked terrific. Zach Ertz looks great. Jordan Matthews woke up and looks good.
As for the defense…awful early, but getting better.
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