Halftime – SEA 16, PHI 7

Posted: November 20th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 443 Comments »

Nelson Agholor is the worst person in the history of mankind.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the game. The Eagles are down 9 points, but they’ve done a lot of good things. The problem is that one mistake on defense resulted in a Seattle TE and one mistake on offense wiped out an Eagles TD. Two plays. Two huge moments that affected the overall game.

Russell Wilson is playing lights out. Even when the Eagles get big time pressure on him, Wilson is finding a way to get away or to get rid of the ball. He is easily the most frustrating player in the league to go against.

The Eagles need to score early in the 3rd to keep this game close. They are not going to mount some great comeback on Seattle so it is imperative to stay within a possession of them. Getting a FG or TD to open the 3rd would put the Eagles where they need to be.

I don’t know what Jim Schwartz and the defense are going to do. Wilson is just red hot the last few weeks. Even when you’re right, you can be wrong. Coming up with a takeaway would be huge.

_


Game Preview – PHI at SEA

Posted: November 20th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 451 Comments »

Carson Wentz and the Eagles played well against the Falcons defense last week. Seattle runs basically the same scheme. That’s good news, right? There is one small difference. Seattle has good players.

I certainly don’t agree with that, but this is going to be a real challenge. The Eagles get one bit of good news, with DL Michael Bennett still out due to injury. Unfortunately Kam Chancellor returned last week and he’s a huge part of that secondary (literally and figuratively).

I wrote my preview for PE.com and talked about the need for another good rushing performance. I doubt the Eagles go for 208 yards again this week, but they need to run the ball a lot. You don’t want to throw the ball against Seattle too much.

  • Rookie QB
  • Poor WRs
  • Let’s their DL tee off and crowd noise helps the pass rush

Even if you run 3 times, get 8 yards and punt, that isn’t necessarily a bad possession. The key is for the Eagles defense to keep Seattle from putting up points. If Russell Wilson starts making plays, you have to open up the offense and take some chances.

As I said in the preview, this is a game where the Eagles need their stars to play like stars. Fletcher Cox has been solid for the past month. Today the Eagles need him to be huge. They need him to be regularly disruptive.

I’m curious to see if Jim Schwartz rushes 4 and focuses on coverage or if he blitzes to force Wilson to stay in the pocket. One of the real keys to this game is for the Eagles to limit big plays. Seattle has enough weapons that they can move the ball on long drives, but they are most deadly when they get the big pass plays. The Eagles DL must win the battle up front and the DBs need to plaster receivers. Wilson extends plays with his legs. DBs must cover until the whistle blows.

The Eagles really put the clamps on PIT and ATL. They will need a similar defensive effort today in order to win this game.

The offense has to limit penalties and avoid turnovers. The Seattle D is too good. You cannot help them out.

Couple of interesting notes. Tobin is normally the #3 OT. Allen Barbre is healthy and would likely move outside if there was an injury. I think the Eagles like having Isaac Seumalo active. He is bigger and more physical than Tobin so he helps the extra OL run sets.

Kamu Grugier-Hill is back and will be a big part of STs. He was very good early this year.

Nolan Carroll, Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz are all playing. All 3 need to play well today if the Eagles are going to pull off the upset.

_


Keepers

Posted: November 20th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 136 Comments »

The Eagles have had a great STs unit for the past 4 years. Chip Kelly hired Dave Fipp to be the architect and the organization went out and collected a really good group of players for Fipp to coach. Three of the main cogs have been P Donnie Jones, LS Jon Dorenbos and Chris Maragos. The Eagles decided to reward all of them with new contracts.

Maragos is the youngest of the trio and he’s 29 years old. Seems weird for the Eagles to lock up older guys, even specialists. But I think this is smart. Sports science has changed things. Players who really take care of themselves can play a long time, especially if they are full-time starters who are on the field for 50 or more snaps a game.

Dorenbos, Jones and Maragos are all outstanding players and they are good off the field as well. The Eagles could try to save a few bucks by looking for young guys at these spots, but there is real value in having proven veterans who are good on the field and also provide some leadership.

Howie Roseman also made the point that by keeping these players around it helps the Eagles know what they need to get done in the offseason. That isn’t to imply that finding a new snapper would have conflicted with finding a WR, but by eliminating 3 unknowns, the Eagles won’t waste time looking for players to fill the positions. They can focus on other spots that are going to be open due to free agency or under-performance.

Roseman was asked about an extension for Bennie Logan, the team’s key free agent. Roseman wouldn’t get into specifics, but did make it sound like the Eagles have had some discussions. I’m sure they would love to keep Logan, another guy who is good on and off the field. The challenge is finding him money after paying the other guys on the DL. You would think that the team could strongly consider cutting Connor Barwin and then using that money to pay Logan.

We can worry about all that stuff in the offseason.

*****

This is pretty cool.

3 of the executives picked Wentz. Marcus Mariota got the other 2 votes.

_


Know Your Enemy – SEA

Posted: November 19th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 85 Comments »

The Eagles go to Seattle on Sunday afternoon for what might be the toughest game of the year. The Seahawks are 6-2-1, which is the second best record in the NFC. Seattle remains one of the toughest places to play and the Seahawks are 4-0 at home this year.

At the same time, Seattle isn’t the juggernaut that they’ve been in previous years. They only have one blowout win, a 37-18 victory over Chip Kelly’s 49ers, who are the worst team in the conference. Seven games have been decided by seven points or less. Seattle was a play away from losing 3 of their home games. And they benefited from officiating in close wins over Atlanta and Buffalo.

I do have to point out that Seattle is trending upward. Russell Wilson is healthier than he’s been all year. The young OL is coming together. Kam Chancellor missed 4 games, but he’s back. Seattle has come a long way since the first 2 weeks of the year when they looked like a mess against Miami and the Rams.

When you think Seahawks, you think defense. Even that unit has been inconsistent. From last week during the game:

Before you go thinking their D has lost it, they are still 2nd in points allowed and 9th in yards allowed. Stud DL Michael Bennett is out and Chancellor missed some time. Those are impact players. You can’t lose them and not feel it. Even with Bennet missing time, Seattle is tied for 3rd in sacks. Speed rushers like Cliff Avril and Frank Clark are highly disruptive off the edge.

The LBs are still outstanding, with Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. The secondary remains loaded with Chancellor, some guy named Earl Thomas and arguably the best corner in the league in Richard Sherman.

Right now it is Russell Wilson and the offense you should be scared of. They have put up 31 points in 2 straight games and they did that against Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick, a pair of the best defensive gurus in the league. Wilson is out of his mind right now.

That is kinda decent.

It used to be that stopping Seattle meant good run defense and building a gameplan to force Wilson to throw. Now you’re scared of him as a passer and would prefer they try to run the ball.

Doug Baldwin feels like the NFC version of Antonio Brown, the stud WR who doesn’t look like a stud WR.

(Feel free to insert the joke about Nelson Agholor’s career stats here.)

As good as Wilson and his weapons are (TE Jimmy Graham is great at times), none of that matters if the O-line can’t block well enough to give them time. The line is getting better each week, but still is vulnerable. LT George Fant was a basketball player last year at Western Kentucky. Now he’s protecting the blind side of arguably the most valuable player in the entire league. You can bet the Eagles will test Fant early and often.

RT Garry Gilliam will have his hands full with Brandon Graham all day long. Rookie Germain Ifedi has to try and block Fletcher Cox. Second year OG Mark Glowinski will try to slow down Bennie Logan. The Eagles should have an advantage up front. They need to make it pay off.

No one is sure what to make of Seattle’s run game. Leading rusher Christine Michael was cut on Monday. Clearly the team didn’t think highly of him. That was partly done because Thomas Rawls is on the way back from injury. Seattle is also very excited about a rookie RB.

Great, Wilson now has another weapon. Ugh.

Prosise played RB and WR at Notre Dame. Seattle uses him creatively and he is a matchup nightmare. Jim Schwartz will have to come up with some interesting ways to get Prosise covered when he lines up out wide.

Seattle started slow last year (4-5) before getting red hot and getting back to the playoffs. This team has a better record than that group did, but it does feel like they are coming together and could be getting ready to go on a hot streak.

_


Identity

Posted: November 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 182 Comments »

The Eagles defense loves to attack. They use the Wide-9 front and then attack gaps with LBs. Jim Schwartz wants aggressive DBs who will take some chances. He has developed this system over years and has definitive ideas on what he is looking for.

There isn’t necessarily a style that the STs units follow, but Dave Fipp has shown the ability to find the kind of players he wants and then use them successfully.

Those are two veteran coaches who know what they want and how to get the best out of their players.

Doug Pederson is a rookie coach. He was the offensive coordinator in KC the past two years, but he was running Andy Reid’s system. Pederson got to call some plays and had a hand in gameplans. He helped to evaluate draft prospects and offered his opinion on free agents. Still, at the end of the day, it was Big Red who ran the offense and made the key decisions.

Any time a new coach takes over a team he has to figure out the players. This goes beyond simple evaluations. Tape shows you part of the equation, but you need to be around players every day to get the whole picture. You need to see which guys practice well. Who is great in the classroom? Who can play through pain/injury? Which guys are selfish and which ones are great teammates? Coaches need to know all of this (and more) as they try to figure out their new players.

Pederson is dealing with the double whammy of learning his new players and trying to figure out what he wants to do. You can really see that at times.

In the first 6 games of the year, Pederson kept Carson Wentz to 34 passes or fewer in all but one game. The Eagles ran the ball well (112 yards per game) and that kept the pressure off the OL and Wentz. Then Pederson had Wentz throw 43 and 47 passes in road games against NFC East opponents. The Eagles only had 44 carries by RBs in those games and lost both.

On Sunday Pederson got back to the run game and the Eagles ran for 208 yards. Wentz threw 36 passes, but the emphasis in the game was running the ball. That helped the Eagles to keep the Falcons offense off the field and they had their worst game of the year by far. Pederson had a terrific gameplan and it worked very well. Why he ever got away from that formula is crazy to me. I understand Ryan Mathews wasn’t 100 percent in Dallas, but the beauty of the Eagles RBBC situation is that no one player is so good that he can’t be replaced. Wendell Smallwood was great against the Steelers and Falcons. I have no idea why he was used so little in the 2 losses.

I’m not trying to get into the old “Andy Reid hates the run game” argument. This is different. Pederson has shown that he will run the ball. I think he generally does a good job of having balanced gameplans. The overall situation points to more running. The Eagles had a backup LG and RT on the field. They have a rookie QB. They have a group of WRs that is really struggling. The best pass catchers are the TEs, and they benefit as receivers when there are lots of running plays so that play-action passes get them really open. So why throw the ball so much in the 2 losses?

Pederson is trying to figure out what he wants to do. He’s also trying to figure out his team. As much as we’d like Pederson to stick to simple logic, he does have to take some chances and try some things to find out what works and what doesn’t.

Back in 2002 the Eagles passing attack really took off, despite Donovan McNabb’s injury and absence. James Thrash and Todd Pinkston combined to go 112-1433-13. Slot receiver Antonio Freeman was terrific as well. Veteran TE Chad Lewis started to show his age, but still was effective. Reid was very excited for 2003. He had his key WRs back and both were seen as players on the rise. Freddie Mitchell was finally ready to take over in the slot. Rookie TE L.J. Smith would add athletic ability to the middle of the field. The RBs were less impressive. Duce Staley was slowing down. Correll Buckhalter was coming off injury. Brian Westbrook was completely unproven after a nearly silent rookie season.

So how did 2003 go? Thrash and Pinkston regressed, for no apparent reason. They combined for 85 catches and 3 TDs. Lewis was effective, but older. Smith was athletic, but highly inconsistent. Mitchell actually did a good job in the slot, but wasn’t anything special. The RBs were great. They scored 26 TDs, with more than 1600 yards on the ground and more than 800 yards through the air. Reid was able to change on the fly and turn the Eagles into a RB team. And he was a proven coach with a veteran team. Things didn’t go as planned, but he found a way to still get the best out of his team.

We don’t know what Pederson’s vision is for the Eagles. He talks about big, nasty OL. He talks about throwing the ball downfield. He seems to prefer size to speed when it comes to skill players. We just don’t have enough of a track record to know what he ideally wants this offense to look like.

For the most part, I like how he’s handled the players. I know some people get frustrated with his patience, but I think that’s a good thing in the NFL. Pederson took a chance on starting Halapoulivaati Vaitai at RT. The first game did not go well, to put it mildly. Pederson saw enough ability that he left the rookie in the lineup and that move has worked well. Vaitai isn’t headed to Canton anytime soon, but he’s been effective. Wendell Smallwood fumbled in the 4th quarter of the Dallas loss. Pederson gave him 13 carries on Sunday, including some with the game on the line in the 4th quarter. Smallwood was terrific, running for 70 yards and helping the run game to control the clock.

Let’s talk about Nelson Agholor, a far more complicated subject. He didn’t impress in the spring or summer. He’s been more down than up this year. It would be easy to make him inactive and just close the book on a bad pick. But that’s not real possible. Jimmy Bama explained that due to the cap, Agholor will be here this year and almost certainly next year as well.

If Agholor has to be on the roster, then you need to get something out of him. Pederson seems to be of the thought that Agholor can still be saved. I say that because Agholor continues to play a lot and the Eagles throw him the ball in some key situations. Late in the Falcons game, the Eagles faced 3rd and 1. They lined up with Agholor out to the right. Darren Sproles left the backfield and went outside of Agholor. The CB widened to cover Sproles and a LB came out over Agholor. This is exactly the pre-snap look the Eagles wanted. Agholor ran a slant and was wide open. Wentz put the ball behind him, but still catchable. The ball was dropped. This happened with the Eagles up 21-15 and the game in doubt.

Dumb.

I have no problem with Pederson playing Agholor. You keep hoping the light will go on and he’ll make some plays. If he’s got to be on the roster, you need to try and build his confidence. But you don’t do that with the game on the line. Why on earth would you design a play to go to Agholor on the most critical 3rd down of the game? That’s very Andy Reid. Do something the opponent will never expect (because it defies logic).

I think Pederson is smart to still try to get the ball to Agholor, but I wouldn’t have him there on critical plays. Throw the ball to him in the 1st half. Heck, hand him the ball on an end around. Get him opportunities, but not with the game on the line. That’s just asking for trouble.

One of my favorite football sayings is “think players not plays”. Pederson needs to do a better job of this. The Eagles had 3rd and 4 at the 2-minute warning in Dallas with the game tied at 23. If you go kick a FG, you likely win the game. Pederson has the break to decide what he wants to do on that critical 3rd down. He has Trey Burton line up out left and Wentz tries to hit him with a slant. Say what???? Burton had 13 career catches at that point. He had caught a pass in the 1st quarter, but hadn’t been targeted since then. So you decide to feed him the ball at the most critical moment in the game? Dumb.

Burton is a good young role player. I’d like to see him get more touches on offense because he is athletic and has an interesting skill set. The Eagles did have a favorable size matchup on that play, but you have to seriously question the wisdom of having the rookie QB throwing the ball to the young TE with the game on the line while Darren Sproles, Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz were available. We’ve seen those guys make big plays. We’ve also seen them make mistakes, this is about the odds. I trust them more than Burton.

No one is saying Pederson has to play it safe on every 3rd down or Red Zone play. You have to take some chances in the NFL. At the same time, when the game is on the line, you need to get the ball to your reliable playmakers. If they fail, so be it. You want to get your best guys the ball in key moments. If the other players start to make more plays during the rest of the game, they earn a chance to get the ball. Or if a guy is just red hot some day, feed him the ball.

Pederson is doing a good job with this team. The Eagles have put up 20 or more points in every game. The Eagles did that 13 times in 1999 and 2000 combined. The Eagles are scoring more than teams led by Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, Big Ben and the great Kirk Cousins. Doug Pederson is doing this with a rookie QB, poor WRs, rookie RT and no elite RB. Pederson can coach.

We just need him to find an identity for his offense and to develop a better sense of how and when to use his players.

_