Ugly But Effective

Posted: August 18th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 241 Comments »

Forget the final score. The big story on Thursday night was the debut of CB Ronald Darby. He was fast and athletic and made multiple plays in coverage. Darby broke up one pass and picked off another. The Bills don’t have a great QB or dynamic receivers, but Darby more than passed the eye test. He looked the part of a stud corner, something the Eagles haven’t had in a long time.

One game does not a trade make, but it is hard not to get excited about a talented defense now having a speedy corner who can cover top flight receivers. Jalen Mills has had a good summer (and he played well vs the Bills), but he still has his athletic limitations. You’ll never want him on Dez Bryant or Odell Beckham for a whole game.

Jim Schwartz turned his guys loose against Buffalo and let them attack over and over. The Eagles finished the game with 6 sacks and 4 takeaways. Mychal Kendricks had a terrific game and came up with an INT. Derek Barnett had a sack and played well. Steven Means had a pair of sacks and was regularly disruptive. There were a lot of positive takeaways for the Eagles defense.

The offense was up and down, and that’s putting it mildly. Jason Peters missed the game so Lane Johnson shifted to LT and Matt Tobin played RT. The results were bad. The OL couldn’t open holes in the run game and LeGarrette Blount had 5 carries for just 8 yards. The Eagles only ran for 66 yards as a team. Once again, the OL had another poor showing.

Is it time to get worried?

Not yet. The Eagles haven’t had their starting five OL on the field yet. The backup line was missing Big V at RT and they didn’t play well as a group. The OL was supposed to be a major strength of this team so you should be concerned with the poor play, but let’s wait until the starting unit is together before we hit the panic button. The Eagles have talented players. Something just hasn’t clicked in the last couple of weeks.

Carson Wentz didn’t start off well, but settled in and was solid overall. The Eagles struggled in the first couple of possessions. They finally got moving and mixed in some no-huddle. That brought everyone to life before a LeGarrette Blount fumble ended the drive.

Alshon Jeffery caught 2 passes for 23 yards and looked good. Nelson Agholor was the primary slot guy and showed his ability. He caught 2 passes for 28 yards. I liked his route-running and the quickness he showed once he had the ball in his hands.

It was hard to judge the backup offense because Matt McGloin was so awful. I knew coming into this he didn’t have a big arm and wasn’t special in any way. What I’m shocked by is what a poor decision-maker he is and his accuracy issues. His throws are all over the place. It is pretty challenging to evaluate young WRs when the ball bounces to them or flies 5 feet over their head. Ugh.

It was exciting to see Dane Evans come into the game. Even if he had sucked, it would have been better than seeing more of McGloin. As it turned out, Evans played pretty well. He has a good arm, he’s athletic and he can create something when there isn’t much there.

Corey Clement had another good game. With Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood out, Clement got plenty of snaps at RB and was the team’s leading rusher with 8 carries for 34 yards. Dave Spadaro said after the game he thinks Clement could be ahead of Donnel Pumphrey for a roster spot. I have serious doubts about that. Pumphrey has been quiet in the first couple of games, but the players are being used in different ways. I’ll write more about this.

A couple of offensive players who did stand out were TE Billy Brown and WR Marcus Johnson. Brown is big, athletic and catches the ball well. He had 4 catches for 34 yards. I think the Eagles could have a hard time cutting him and getting Brown onto the practice squad, which is what I’m sure they would love to do. They may have to start thinking of ways to keep four TEs. Johnson missed last week, but showed good speed and ability in this game. He was 2-45, including one catch and run that covered 38 yards. The Eagles would love to keep him around.

Joe Walker was the backup MLB and he had 5 solo tackles. I thought he looked athletic and confident. He might just be the backup MLB this season. The Eagles were real high on him last summer, but coming off a torn ACL meant the Eagles had to keep a close eye on him. Walker played a lot of snaps against the Bills and looked good.

Caleb Sturgis missed a FG. He was a machine last summer, but has been more erratic this time around. We’ll see if the team brings in any competition for him or just let’s him work his way through things. Sturgis had a really good season in 2016.

The biggest takeaway from this game is the fact the Eagles remain pretty darn healthy. Buffalo had a lot of players going down, hopefully with minor injuries. The Eagles haven’t had many guys get hurt to this point. That’s always an X-factor for regular season success.

The Eagles are not in midseason form. This is a team still trying to find itself. That’s okay for a team with a young coach and young QB and only half the preseason in the books. Think big picture. Healthy. Wentz has looked pretty good. There are receivers this year who can run and catch. The defense is playing well and the Eagles might actually have a #1 CB.

Life could be a lot worse.

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PS #2 – BUF at PHI

Posted: August 17th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 186 Comments »

Please stay healthy.

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Game Review – PS #1 – PHI at GB – Offense

Posted: August 16th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 169 Comments »

There was a lot to like about the way the defense played in Green Bay. The offense, not so much. That was an ugly showing. Dom Capers used a very aggressive gameplan against the Eagles and his blitzing was very effective. The Eagles did not prepare for it because teams do very limited game prep in the preseason. Beyond that, the Eagles did not block well for most of the game. Matt McGloin played almost three quarters and did not have a good game. And then there were the turnovers.

Other than that…

There were good individual performances. Most importantly, there weren’t any significant injuries. A sloppy performance in the preseason opener is a lot easier to stomach than someone tearing an ACL.

QB

Carson Wentz – Good showing. Only in the game for one drive, but delivered a TD. First play was play-action pass with quick throw to Matthews. Hit hot receiver on 3rd/2 and moved the chains. Packers were blitzing and Wentz got the ball out quickly. Took a sack on 1st/10. You would rather he throw the ball away, but was swarmed by defenders and eating the ball was the right decision. Last year he might have tried to make a play. Did a great job on 4th/7. Kept his eyes downfield and shrugged off low hit from DL. Moved right and hit JM with a good throw. Showed poise, but also incredible strength. Didn’t go down. Wasn’t really even thrown off balance. You’ve all seen the TD play. Showed great poise and strength on that. Didn’t panic. Shrugged off Matthews and then found his receiver over the middle. Threw high to Agholor on the 2-pt try.

Matt McGloin – He’s had a rough summer. McGloin is the kind of guy I think of as a gamer. I thought playing in a game would bring out the best in him. It didn’t. He stunk up the joint. Poor blocking and lots of blitzing didn’t help matters, but that was still an ugly performance. Wasn’t compelling in any way. Must get a lot better to have any shot of making the roster.

Dane Evans – Showed a live arm. Good athlete. Finished 3-8-22. Pressed a bit. This was his first NFL game action and he wanted to impress.

RB

LeGarrette Blount – Only a couple of things to really note. He runs hard. And man, is he hard to tackle. Wow. Took real effort by multiple defenders to get him down on every run. Very good block of blitzer on 4th/7. Had no room to run on 2-pt try and still almost got in. It is going to be a lot of fun to watch him in action this year.

Corey Clement – Played starting on 2nd drive. Ran hard. Did a great job on 4th/1 of getting past initial defender in the backfield to almost getting the first. Great effort. Tough. Was only 7-13 for the game, but had no room. 2-31 as a receiver. Neither was tough, but still made the catches and turned them into nice gains. Did have one drop in the RZ. Good effort as a pass blocker, but needs work.

Donnel Pumphrey – First offensive play was run up the middle. Fumbled, but Eagles recovered. Got 5 yards and it was a good run, but must hold onto the ball. Caught quick pass on 3rd/4. Good route and smooth catch, but only got 3 yds. Give DB credit for flying up and making the play. Only complaint with Pumphrey is that he could have extended the ball forward and tried to get the 1st that way. Looked smooth catching the ball and finished with 5 catches. Only gained 12 yards because defenders were on top of him almost instantly. Took some big hits, but got right up each time. Tough. Showed a willingness to block.

WR

Nelson Agholor – With Jeffery sitting, Agholor started on the outside. Got ball on end around, but had to get by Green Bay’s best LB (Matthews) and DB (Ha-Ha Clinton Dix) and couldn’t do it. Lost 1 yard. Wasn’t able to haul in 2-pt try. Ball was high, but catchable. Kind of play you wanted to see him make. Moved to the slot with the #2 offense. Didn’t see any passes go his way.

Mack Hollins – Great game. Highlight play came on opening drive. Lined up outside to the right. Good release at the line and ran a good route. Came free over the middle and plucked the pass from Wentz on the move. Used the stiff arm to get free of a chaser and then to bury a would-be tackler. Did a balancing act down the sideline for the score. You can see why Howie Roseman was gushing over this kid right after the draft. Size. Skill. Athleticism. Physicality. 4-64 for the game. Showed the ability to deal with press coverage. Good hands. Looked comfortable and natural out there. Lots of potential.  Read the rest of this entry »


Slot Mania

Posted: August 14th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 146 Comments »

How will the Eagles ever replace Jordan Matthews, the greatest slot receiver of all time?

I’m being over the top of course, but there seems to be a bit of an obsession on just how the Eagles will replace Matthews. Let’s start by talking about what they have to replace. If you go by the numbers, it seems pretty daunting. Matthews averaged 75-891-6 per season as an Eagle. That’s pretty good.

You do have to understand that he played for Chip Kelly for two of those years. The up tempo style meant a lot of plays. The more you’re on the field, the better your numbers will look. And you have to look at who he played with. Jeremy Maclin was the key to the passing game in 2014. The last two years, Matthews as the key. No other WR caught even 45 passes the last two years.

Matthews was good, but his numbers were inflated by who he played with. That was going to change this year with the addition of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. Matthews just wasn’t going to catch 75 passes. Maybe 60. Maybe 50. Trying to predict numbers with so many new factors is nearly impossible, but Matthews wasn’t going to be the primary option.

The Eagles made it clear through the offseason that they were interested in mixing other guys into the slot. They drafted Donnel Pumphrey in the 4th round and have lined him up in the slot since spring. The Eagles signed Greg Ward to try to develop as a slot receiver. The Eagles drafted Mack Hollins, who can give them a big body on the inside. They started playing Nelson Agholor in the slot a lot back in the spring. These guys are faster, quicker or simply more dynamic than Matthews.

Matthews was 31st in the NFL in catches last year. He was 72nd in yards after the catch. Matthews is going to move the chains, but he’s limited as a playmaker. Jason Avant did a great job of that for the Eagles, but he was reasonably priced. Matthews isn’t the Eagles ideal slot guy so they weren’t going to pay him big money.

There won’t be one replacement for Matthews. Agholor will get most of the snaps inside, but several other guys will share that role this year.

There is risk in dealing a sure-thing like Matthews, but he’s not what Doug Pederson wants for this offense. Pederson wants players outside who can stretch the defense and get down the field. On the inside, Pederson wants players who can catch the ball and make something happen.

This was a risk worth taking.

*****

So far, so good for Ronald Darby.

https://twitter.com/BenFennell_NFL/status/897101772233347073

*****

Gotta see him do this in a game, but still very encouraging that he’s continuing to practice well. The pressure hasn’t affected him so far.

Thursday night will be huge for him.

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Game Review – PS #1 – PHI at GB – Defense

Posted: August 13th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 133 Comments »

After reading about the struggles of the Eagles CBs for a couple of weeks, I wondered how the defense would perform in the preseason opener. The Eagles have a good front seven and the Packers were without Aaron Rodgers, but they still have some talented weapons on offense.

The Eagles first and second units were outstanding.

At the end of the 3rd quarter, Green Bay had run 31 plays and gained just 96 yards. The Packers had a big showing in the 4th quarter, but the defense was mostly guys who won’t make the final cut by that point. That’s hardly a major concern.

The Eagles had 5 sacks. They came up with 3 takeaways. And this wasn’t offensive incompetence by the Packers, the defense looked good. Jim Schwartz mixed in some blitzes here and there, but mostly called basic stuff so the Eagles could evaluate players based on their performance and not the effectiveness of the scheme.

I’m not going to cover every starter at length. The preseason is mostly about player evaluation. We know what most of the key starters can do.

DL

Fletcher Cox looked good. Had a FF when he stripped RB. Brandon Graham played LDE and was explosive off the ball. Got pressure vs QB and had TFL of RB.

Tim Jernigan – Got doubled a couple of times. Quick off the ball. Used his hands well. Was in the backfield to blow up a 4th down play, but there was a penalty that blew it dead.

Vinny Curry – Played RDE. Used a good power rush to drive the LT back to the QB on the 2nd play of the game. Used hard inside move to beat the LT on run play and was in position to get TFL, but Graham got to the RB first. Solid showing.

Derek Barnett – Terrific game. Backup at RDE. Had 2 sacks. First came when he got into the LT and then cut inside. That was against the starting LT. Loved the way he used his hands to get free. Showed good closing speed on the play and then got the QB down. The ability to finish is underrated skill for pass rushers. 2nd sack wasn’t as impressive. GB tried to run screen. Barnett got back there too fast and tripped the QB.  Used good get-off to push TE back and blow up 3rd Qtr run, creating TFL for Brooks. Beat LT with speed/dip to hit QB on screen in mid-3rd. Dropped into coverage on 3rd down zone blitz play when Grymes got his sack. Barnett covered WR on crossing route.

Barnett showed physical ability and positional ability. He is going to contribute this season. He will push Curry for the starting role if he continues to play like this.

Chris Long – Backup LDE. I was curious to see if he had much burst left. He did. Long had a strong showing. He was quick off the ball and got pressure on multiple plays. Would have had a sack, but got held by the RT just as he was about to get his hands on the QB. Sometimes got down in 4-point track stance. Other times he stood up and rushed. Loved his burst off the ball and energy. Won’t be playing 60 snaps a game so he can go all out every second on the field. That should bring out the best in him.

Destiny Vaeao – Backup DT. Most effective when using a rip move and going with hard outside rush. Pushed the pocket a couple of times. Hustled to the ball when a pass was completed to the outside. Love to see that kind of pursuit from a DT. Shows awareness and effort. I was hoping to see more disruption from him. Vaeao played last year and showed some ability. Needs to build on that.

Justin Hamilton – Backup DT. Drove the LG back into QB’s face on Kendricks’ pick. Very good pressure up the middle on that play. Stuffed inside run play in early 3rd. Good leverage, strength on that play. Hamilton hasn’t generated much buzz in camp, but had a couple of good moments in the game. That’s how you get the coaches attention.

Gabe Wright – Backup DT. He has gotten mentions in practice notes and I thought he might look good against backup OL. Wright didn’t stand out. Had an offsides penalty. Showed good quickness off the ball, but wasn’t disruptive. Had a strip sack of QB. DE flushed QB and Wright hustled over to hit him. Didn’t get QB down, but knocked the ball loose. That’s an effort play, which is good, but you need more than that to really impress the coaches.

Elijah Qualls – Backup DT. Plays with good leverage, but at 6-1 with short arms, you almost can’t help but do that. Had some good moments. Credited with TFL. Showed the ability to penetrate and be disruptive. Other plays he got handled and was ineffective. Good motor. Headed in the right direction, but must continue to improve.  Read the rest of this entry »