Posted: August 29th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 626 Comments »
The third preseason game used to be crucial. Starters played into the third quarter. Coaches wanted to see their starters play a lot of reps. They wanted to get the players accustomed to getting back on the field after halftime. There still wasn’t much in the way of gameplanning or preparation, but the game was taken more seriously than others.
This year feels different.
Aaron Rodgers isn’t playing. Only a couple of starting O-linemen are scheduled to play. Other starters will be missing from the lineup. And as for the Eagles?
Last year Chip Kelly had the starters play the first half in the third preseason game so this may not be much of a change for them. It does seem that other teams around the NFL are nervous due to some of the key injuries that we’ve seen this summer.
This is an important game for the Eagles starters. They have played well in the first two weeks, but those were home games. Playing in Lambeau will be more of a challenge. And the Eagles haven’t faced any challenges so far. The Colts and Ravens were very sloppy (penalties, turnovers). You can give the Eagles credit for some of that, but those teams just didn’t play well.
The Packers are 1-1, with a solid win over the Patriots and a tough loss to the Steelers. This should be a more challenging game. I don’t want to make it seem like an Eagles win guarantees a trip to the Super Bowl. I just think it is important to see how the team plays in a tougher situation. How good is this team?
Let’s now talk about some players and positions of interest.
* Kiko Alonso – We finally get to see him play in an Eagles uniform. The Eagles defense has been impressive so far this summer and that’s without the Big 3 at ILB.
* Sam Bradford – He was on the field for a handful of snaps last week. The rust is gone. Bradford should see extended time tonight. It will be good to see how he plays. Does he have good timing with the receivers? Does he stay comfortable in the pocket? I would love to see him hit a WR with a deep ball for a big play. That was missing from the offense for a lot of last year.
* Eric Rowe – The Eagles wanted him to focus on playing outside, but then JaCorey Shepherd got hurt. The team is high enough on Rowe that they are giving him a chance to win the Nickelback job. Rowe is effective when he gets his hands on a receiver. He is less effective when playing off and having to react to the moves a receiver makes.
* Walter Thurmond – So far, so good in his bid to be the Eagles FS. Thurmond will play against a good offense, even without Rodgers and Jordy Nelson. This should be a good test for him. I would love to see Thurmond have to tackle a RB in space. His ability to hit/tackle is my one concern.
* Josh Huff – He has played well this summer, but only has one catch so far in the preseason. It would be nice to see him get the ball in his hands a few more times.
* Kenjon Barner – Is there any way he does it three weeks in a row? Barner leads the NFL with 225 punt return yards and 2 TDs.
* Backup Safety – We know the top four guys as of now (Jenkins, Thurmond, Maragos, Prosinski). Will there be a fifth Safety? Ed Reynolds made plays in the opener. Jerome Couplin flashed physicality and downhill ability last week. One of them needs to step up. It would be good to see Couplin more in coverage. As for Reynolds, I would love to see him play the run aggressively.
* John Moffitt – A good story for a while, but Moffitt must play better to feel better about his hopes of winning a roster spot. He won’t play as much this week, but any time on the field is crucial.
* E.J. Biggers – If Rowe doesn’t win the Nickel spot, Biggers will. He has played well so far and needs to keep that up.
* Third QB – Matt Barkley has played ahead of Tim Tebow so far. Will that continue tonight? Both players were up and down last week. It would be nice if one of them took a step forward and showed they deserve the job.
* G.J. Kinne – Somebody get this guy the ball. Please.
Posted: August 29th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 114 Comments »
Another impressive outing by the Eagles. The starters moved the ball on offense and the defense had a pair of INTs that set up scoring drives. Special Teams again came up big. And no major injuries. All in all, a great outcome for the second preseason game.
More important than the score, I thought there were several players who played better than the previous game. Some guys are going to look rusty in the opener. That’s the first live game setting in quite a while. The second game is a big test. Most of the key players did well. There were some disappointing performances. That’s just the reality of life in the NFL. All 90 guys aren’t going to be impressive.
This was an odd game because of penalties. The Ravens had 17 for 139 yards. The Eagles had 7 for 65 yards. Baltimore was incredibly sloppy for most of the game. I did come away very impressed with their third string QB, Bryn Renner.
LB/DE Terrell Suggs had a very questionable hit on Sam Bradford. That has been discussed ad infinitum so I will skip that. I thought it was dirty, but it isn’t worth going into at length.
* The Eagles tried a pitch play that looked new to me. Unfortunately ran that right into LB blitz so Murray was tackled for a loss.
* 476 yards, including 238 on the ground.
* Pace seemed to bother the Ravens defense.
BRADFORD – Good showing. Bradford had a couple of tests to pass. First, he had to show he could take a hit. It won’t matter how good he looks if he can’t get up from hits. Bradford took a shot from Suggs and then got really pounded by a DT on a pass play. Both hits got his attention, but Bradford kept on trucking. The other test was to show how well he could throw the ball. Bradford went 3-5-35. He didn’t make any great throws. He didn’t have any highlight moments.
But he did look like a good starting QB. He hit Sproles and Matthews on 3rd downs to move the chains and lead the offense to a TD. Hit Huff on a crossing route, but the ball was low on that one. Missed Riley Cooper with a deep ball. Led him and put it outside. Needed to keep that ball more to the inside.
Bradford ran the offense well. It moved quickly and aggressively. He spread the ball around to multiple targets. He threw short and deep, right and left. This wasn’t a case of a guy going out and covering the same three plays he mastered in practice. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: August 27th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 298 Comments »
Things can change.
The Eagles drafted Trent Cole in the 5th round in 2005. He became a terrific player. Not necessarily a huge star, but he played in 2 Pro Bowls and racked up 85.5 sacks as an Eagle.
Things dried up a bit after that.
Injuries cut short promising careers for Bradley and Abiamiri. But there were also some picks that weren’t close to panning out.
Things have gotten a lot better since then.
Brandon Boykin (now with PIT)
And there are young guys who might become starters or key role players.
That is a lot of homegrown talent on the defense.
Things were very different when the Eagles hosted the Packers in a playoff game in January of 2011. The Eagles had six homegrown starters in that game, but some were more by default than being good players.
We’ll see how good the defense is this year. We do know that they have more homegrown talent than in recent years. And there is reason for optimism.
The great thing about all of this is how much young talent there is. This core could play together for a few years.
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There is one bit of bad news. ILB Emmanuel Acho hurt his thumb last week and was waived/injured. He needs surgery to repair the injured thumb. Acho had an uphill battle to make the team, but was at the very least a valuable preseason player.
The Eagles might have to add someone to help eat up preseason snaps.
Posted: August 26th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 166 Comments »
How do you develop a good Special Teams unit?
There is no magic answer. If it was as simple as getting the right coach, Bobby April would have done a much better job in 2011 and 2012. It isn’t just talent. Jeremy Maclin was a great returner in college and very good receiver in the NFL, but he was lost as a returner in the pros. Lost. It isn’t just about time and energy. Plenty of coaches have tried to emphasize STs, only to see their team struggle in the kicking game.
There is a combination of factors. You do need the right coach. You do need the right players. And the team does have to embrace STs as a key part of the game.
Chip Kelly hired Dave Fipp to be his STs coach. Fipp had a good background and seemed like a good hire. Kelly tried to add the right players in 2013. Unfortunately, the results just weren’t there.
Kelly didn’t get discouraged. He got Darren Sproles, Bryan Braman and Chris Maragos. Kelly drafted Josh Huff. He found a gem in UDFA Trey Burton. Kelly signed Chris Prosinski during the season. And the Eagles had the best STs in the NFL.
The Eagles STs might be even better this year. Kenjon Barner has 2 return TDs already this summer and he’s the backup to Sproles. Raheem Mostert has electric speed, but hasn’t been able to return a kickoff yet. Huff and free agent Ryan Mathews look to be the primary KORs right now. The Eagles do have to replace Brandon Boykin, who was very valuable. But they have Seyi Ajirotutu, Eric Rowe, Walter Thurmond, Jerome Couplin, Jordan Hicks, Nelson Agholor, E.J. Biggers and some others to add to the mix. There should be no shortage of talent.
Kelly preaches the importance of STs play. That paid off last year. It could also be a big help this year with the Eagles having key players back and some new talent in town.
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Josh Paunil wrote a good piece for Birds 24/7 on the Eagles STs and how they are performing so far this preseason.
Make sure to check that out to better understand what goes on when blocking for a returner or trying to cover a kick. There’s a lot more to STs than just effort.
Posted: August 26th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 183 Comments »
Great coaches usually have a vision for a team. Andy Reid wanted a West Coast Offense that could really throw the ball. He wanted a 4-3 defense that was good at zone blitzing. He took STs seriously. Reid preferred big OL and speedy DL.
Chip Kelly also has a vision. It is more specific than Reid’s.
Kelly wants big defenders. He wants Safeties that have good enough cover skills that they can play the slot. Kelly wants tall DL. He wants tall, athletic OL. He needs a Center that has very good movement skills. Receivers should be big, but must be able to block. He prefers downhill runners. STs is a priority.
In terms of scheme, Kelly is going to run his offense (with NFL passing concepts mixed in). He wants a 3-4 defense that 2-gaps. And Kelly wants a no-huddle, up-tempo team. Not just offense. The whole team is built to work at that pace.
Then there is the culture side of things. Reid took some players in the draft that Kelly likely wouldn’t touch. That’s not to pass judgment. Time will tell if Kelly’s ideas work as well as Reid’s. But Kelly is more specific in his vision and so far has been more dogmatic in bringing that vision to life.
I talked about how the team’s showing against the Ravens let’s us see some of Kelly’s vision.
* Dropback QB threw the ball well
* Wave of RBs was productive
* Skilled DBs came up with INTs
* Another big play by STs
I’ve mentioned this before, but in some ways Chip Kelly is the offensive version of Buddy Ryan. Ryan’s number one goal on defense? It wasn’t to stop the offense from scoring. It wasn’t to stop the offense from moving the ball. It wasn’t to hit the QB. It wasn’t to get the ball. Buddy’s number one goal for his defense…score.
Think about that.
Kelly coaches offense so of course he wants to score points. But Kelly has the same mentality as Ryan. Kelly wants the defense to score. He wants STs to score. Any time the ball is snapped on the field, there is a chance to score points.
Kelly has built the Eagles to be aggressive. He has loaded the roster with playmakers all over. Kenjon Barner has 2 PR scores this preseason. And he’s the backup at that spot. Guys like Bryan Braman and Trey Burton aren’t just good STers in terms of coverage and tackling. They are skilled at penetrating and getting pressure on punters. The Eagles didn’t block kicks by accident last year. It was by design. The coaches taught the players how to do it and the team got the right players to execute those ideas.
Kelly sees every player on his team as some sort of weapon. Just think about his mentality with WRs and run blocking. Kelly would be furious if the OL did a great job and the RB hit the hole to create a potentially huge play, only to see a DB make the tackle because the WR didn’t do his part. Everyone can affect every play. Think that way. Practice that way. Play that way.
I think the 2015 roster is the best of the Kelly era. This group is also best suited to making his vision come to life. I can’t wait to see how things go this year.