Previewing the Preseason Finale

Posted: August 28th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 145 Comments »

The Eagles take on the Jets tonight in the preseason finale. Originally this looked like an interesting game because it would put Mark Sanchez up against Michael Vick…the former Jet against the former Eagle. But Chip Kelly ruined that by sitting Sanchez. Actually, Kelly may have done us a favor. The Sanchez/Vick angle would have been good for some casual fans, but would have annoyed other fans who are more interested in the young players that need tonight’s game to win a job.

Let’s talk about some of the guys who have a lot on the line tonght.

Matt Barkley – He will play most of the game. The Eagles want to see how he plays in an extended showing. Will this bring out the best in Barkley or will it expose him as being a mediocre player? Barkley can help himself if he just runs the offense and doesn’t try to force things. It will be a good sign if he’s willing to check the ball down to underneath receivers. Barkley can also help his reputation with some good intermediate or downfield throws that show some arm strength.

Arrelious Benn – On the bubble. Benn is a good STer. He can be a good blocker. But Benn has yet to show much as a receiver this preseason. He needs the ball to come his way tonight. I’d love to see some WR screens thrown to him so we can see his RAC skills. The Eagles will probably keep Brad Smith as the #5 WR, but things are wide open after that. Benn would make the most sense, but he’s got to play well tonight.

Ifeanyi Momah – I’m not real sure if Momah has much of a chance for the roster. He can catch. He can block. But we haven’t seen Momah do much on STs and that’s critical for a role player. Momah does have a real chance to make the practice squad. If he has a big game on offense and can show up on STs, maybe he does get roster discussion.

Trey Burton – Talented player with good potential, but not sure where he fits in for this year. Isn’t a functional blocker right now so couldn’t play in a real game as a true in-line TE. That said, Burton is an intriguing athlete who has shown serious potential as a pass catcher. If you value Burton’s potential enough, you might carry him on the roster as a project. A strong performance in Jets game could make the Eagles decision complicated.

Chris Polk – Will he play? Can he play well? Polk needs to do something to help his cause. I could write about all of the RBs since any of them could really help themselves. Polk is the biggest name and has the most on the line tonight.

Dennis Kelly – Kelly has played a good amount of reps already so I’m not sure how much he can help himself in one game. That said, with Lane Johnson going away for 4 games, Kelly could get that roster spot. Must play well enough to make the Eagles comfortable with him as an option on Sundays.

Marcus Smith – Get after the QB. Simple as that.

Travis Long – Will play ILB and OLB. A good game from him could be enough to make the Eagles want to keep him on the roster. Biggest thing is to play well on STs and to look comfortable and effective as an ILB.

Emmanuel Acho – After a great summer in 2013, Acho has been somewhat quiet this year. Not bad, but quiet. A big game from him tonight would go a long way to helping his cause. Biggest thing is to play smart and be active. Be in the right spots and make plays when the ball comes his way.

Ed Reynolds – Reynolds will be on the field a lot tonight. I’m curious to see how he looks. The Eagles will carry 4 Safeties for sure (Jenkins, Allen, Wolff, Maragos). They might keep 5, but only if the team feels Reynolds can either contribute this year or is too good to risk losing if cut. I don’t think he’s shown anything to make the Eagles fear losing him so his best bet is to shine tonight.

Jaylen Watkins – There is no question about Watkins making the team. He is trying to win playing time. Watkins has had some impressive moments this summer. Unfortunately he has had some rough moments and missed time due to injuries as well. More than anything, this game will be a measuring stick for where Watkins is. The better he plays, the more the coaches might look past the previous mistakes and see a player who is developing at a good pace.

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The Bottom of the Roster

Posted: August 27th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 95 Comments »

Julian Vandervelde was the player the Eagles let go on Tuesday to get down to 75. He is currently injured so the Eagles simply reached an injury settlement with him. That means David Molk will be the backup Center this year.

Molk was added to the roster back in January after sitting out all of 2013. He played for the Chargers in 2012, but got hurt late and that caused him to not make the team last year. Molk has limited experience, but he is a good fit for the Eagles. He’s got the athleticism that Kelly wants in a C.

Molk wasn’t given the job…he earned it. Molk played well this summer. He showed that he could be effective blocking at the point of attack or 20 yards downfield on a screen pass. I don’t know Molk is ever going to be a player that a team wants as a starter, but he looks like he could be an effective player if needed. And that’s okay in a backup.

Teams love competition for spots at the bottom of the roster for a couple of reasons. First, competition can bring out the best in players. Just look at the Eagles RB situation right now. Those guys are all battling for a spot or two. We’ve seen other years when a spot was there for the taking and no player would step up.

The other benefit to competition is that it is okay for someone to fail because someone else is there to win the job. If a team tries to give a job to a rookie or developmental player and that guy fails…uh oh. We all thought Joe Kruger would win a roster spot or at least be part of the practice squad. Instead, he’s gone. Luckily the Eagles had quality players in Brandon Bair and Taylor Hart there to take his place.

Let’s talk about some positions and players who have stepped up or not done so.

WR

The Eagles love Mac, Coop and Matthews. Josh Huff looks like a standard rookie. Beyond that, things are open. Brad Smith had a good camp, but injuries have limited him in the preseason. It sounds like Kelly is still high on him, but it would be nice to have seen more out of him in games. Arrelious Benn shows up on STs and as a blocker, but hasn’t caught many passes. Is the STs play enough for him to win a spot? Ifeanyi Momah stepped up in a big way. I think he’s more practice squad than roster material, but he’s at least made the conversation a possibility.

It would have been nice for some UDFA or unheralded player to really shine this summer. Didn’t happen. The guys will get a lot of reps vs the Jets. That is going to be a huge game for them.

OL

Remember when this was a huge question mark? Andrew Gardner and Matt Tobin stepped up in a big way. Kudos to them. Molk played well and earned his spot. Dennis Kelly could make it. Michael Bamiro regressed. None of the rookies has stood out in a big way. Kevin Graf is the most intriguing player.

ILB

I went back to re-watch the PIT game again, focused only on ILBs. There just aren’t enough plays that jump out at you. The good news is that there aren’t a lot of mistakes. Najee Goode is the best of the bunch. He’s played okay, but is a victim of the way he looked in real games in 2013. I thought he’d eat up backup players. Emmanuel Acho has played well enough to make the roster, but he’s not been good enough to sit back and feel confident that he’s got a job.

The ILB situation is wide open enough that OLB Travis Long played on the inside last week. The Eagles might keep him on the roster as an OLB and emergency ILB player. Long has played well this summer and done whatever the coaches asked of him. We’ve seen him at DE, OLB and ILB, as well as all over on STs. If he were a better athlete, he’d be a lock to make the team. At the very least, Long has done everything in his power. Kudos to him.

S

Nate Allen stepped up and earned his starting spot. Earl Wolff has been solid and will be the #3 guy. Chris Maragos looks terrific on STs. He is always around the ball and looks like the real deal. On defense, he just doesn’t stand out. He can attack what is in front of him, but I don’t see anything special in terms of cover skills or range. Ed Reynolds flashed in the opener, but has been quiet since then. He might get a roster spot, but I bet the Eagles look around at other cuts for possible S help. Reynolds could be practice squad material and might have a good future, but he’s not stood out much this summer. Keelan Johnson has been a major disappointment.

CB

Nolan Carroll has played well enough to challenge for a starting job. He’s been ideal for what you want out of a new guy. Rookie Jaylen Watkins has looked okay, but hasn’t played well enough that you feel the coaches will aggressively push to get him on the field. Watkins has shown enough to absolutely make the team. Roc Carmichael is a player I’m not sure about. I don’t think he’ll ever be good enough to start, but he can play slot or outside and is a solid STer. It wouldn’t shock me to see him make the team.

* * * * *

The Jets game will be crucial to many of these players. One game doesn’t define a player or a career, but it can be just enough to get a player on the roster.

Priest Holmes was on the roster bubble in his rookie season with the Ravens. He was great in the preseason finale and secured a roster spot. The rest is NFL history.

That’s the exception, obviously, but Thursday is going to be a huge moment in the lives of many of these players.

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PS DGR – PHI 31, PIT 21

Posted: August 26th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 184 Comments »

The battle for the Keystone State is complete. The heroic Eagles defeated the evil Steelers. Men, women, children, puppies and baby unicorns can now all rest easy and go about living their lives. There is no reason to worry, for at least the next 360 or so days.

That final score is deceptive. If not for a tough holding call on a WR, the game would have been 38-7 at one point. The Eagles dominated the game. Part of that is on them for playing well, but we can’t ignore the fact that the Steelers were dreadful. I mean truly awful. It was shocking to see them play so poorly, August or not.

OFFENSE

* Is it me or does there seem to be more outside running this summer? The Eagles have used a toss play several times with McCoy.

* One read-option play worked very well in the late 2nd Qtr. Polamalu and OLB both focused on Foles. Sproles took the handoff and went up the field for 14 easy yards.

* The offense moved at a rapid pace. There was a good flow and the starters played their best football of the preseason.

Players

QB 

FOLES - Up and down early on. Failed to connect with Matthews on opening drive. Looked like a poor throw. Made a good throw to Coop over the middle on 3rd/long, but the ball was dropped. Had some pressure, but stayed focused downfield and handled the situation very well. Handled pressure well on another play. Got hit by 2 guys, but made a good throw to Maclin on a skinny post. Incomplete, but good throw in tight coverage. Tried to hit Celek on corner route, but the throw was a bit off. Was a tough one because Celek was close to the sideline. Sold fake well, then hit Shady with screen pass that went for 27-yd TD. Made a very good throw to Coop in the end zone in the late 1st. OPI was called, but still impressive to see Coop and Foles almost connect on that play. Hit Ertz for gain of 12 on 3rd/8 to open the 2nd Qtr. Just missed hitting Sproles for a TD late in the half. The ball was too far out in front by a foot or so. A bit more air and that’s a score. 19-29-179. TD. INT. Looked his best of the preseason. Still isn’t in midseason form, but I thought he handled pressure better than the last 2 weeks and he seemed to play faster as well.

SANCHEZ - Another strong showing. 7-9-85. Led 2 TD drives, both against PIT starters in the 3rd Qtr. Had one goofy moment in the early 3rd. Team was in the RZ. Sanchez dropped back. Couldn’t find anyone open. While trying to move around, tripped himself and gave the Steelers a sack. PIT was called for holding on the play so it wiped out the sack. Also helps to explain why no one was open. Threw the ball well. Made good decisions. Wasn’t just feeding Ertz and Matthews. Hit Damaris Johnson for a couple of nice plays. Has that same look that AJ Feeley did later in his career. Might be a backup, but carries himself with the confidence and presence of a starter.

BARKLEY - Didn’t play much. I think Kelly was saving Matt for the preseason finale, when he’ll play most of the game. Barkley went 4-4-37. Didn’t make any impressive throws. Had a TD pass wiped out by penalty. Also had a near interception wiped out by penalty. Tried to hit WR on an out route and the ball took too long to get there. CB undercut it and made the pick. That is the one throw Barkley will really struggle to make in the NFL. Can’t drive the ball.

KINNE - WRs and RBs must hate when he comes in. There will be lots of running plays and Kinne will keep the ball half the time. Hasn’t shown any real progress from last year. Disappointing. I was hoping Kinne would look more like an NFL QB.   Read the rest of this entry »


To Deal Or Not To Deal?

Posted: August 26th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 123 Comments »

Arguably the hottest topic in the NFL for the past 24 hours has been what the Rams will do at QB. They lost Sam Bradford for the year to an ACL injury. The Rams have a potential playoff team, but Shaun Hill is the best QB on the roster for now. What will they do?

The most talked about solution to the Rams QB problem is for them to trade for Mark Sanchez. He is playing great football right now. Sanchez is a proven starter who has won playoff games. While Sanchez is no longer seen as a franchise QB, he’s definitely desirable in this situation.

There are some issues to consider, for both teams.

Let’s start with the Rams. Just how bad do they want to compete this season? They’re in a division with the Niners and Seahawks. That means they would need a miracle to even have a shot at the division crown. More than likely, they would be competing for a wildcard spot. In my mind, this should limit how aggressive the Rams are in seeking a QB. Don’t mortgage the future for a temporary solution to a problem where you still might not get maximum results.

The Eagles like Mark Sanchez a lot. Chip Kelly is a believer that you must have 2 good QBs ready to play. That is especially true when you have the best team in your division and enough talent to be among the best teams in the league. The only way the Eagles can consider dealing a valuable backup QB is if there is an offer that is too good to pass up.

What would that be? Would the Rams pay that price?

I don’t think I would make the deal for anything less than a 3rd round pick. You start by asking for a 2nd, but I just can’t see the Rams as likely to pay that price. You could settle for a 4th, but that player would be out of the Top 100 picks and I’m not sure that’s good value considering the situation.

The other consideration to factor in is what the Eagles do at backup QB if they do deal Sanchez. Is Matt Barkley ready for that role? I’m not sure we’ll have a strong feel for that until the Jets game, when Barkley will play most of the game. The Eagles could try to sign Kyle Orton to be in the mix. They could see if the Raiders cut Trent Edwards. Dennis Dixon was just cut by the Bills. He looks shot to me but Kelly might disagree. Maybe there is another player the Eagles have interest in.

I do not think GJ Kinne is ready to be the #3 QB. I just haven’t seen much progress from him this year.

The Eagles could go with Foles and Barkley and just use Brad Smith as the emergency QB. That would free up a roster spot for some other position. I doubt Kelly would do that. He seems like the kind of coach who wants 3 QBs on his roster.

All in all, I don’t see a deal as likely to happen. The Eagles won’t want to give up Sanchez cheap. I doubt the Rams will overpay for a QB.

* * * * *

Right now Jeff Fisher is saying the Rams are going to take it slow.

“You know what I like is, ‘According to sources close to the situation, we’re da da da da da,’” Fisher said.  “I love that, okay.  So no, we have not had any conversations with anybody.  It’s the old source deal, you can just throw that out there.  There’s a lot of players out there that are under contract and so you can’t discuss those things.  But we’ve not had any discussions with anybody.  Again, we’re going to be patient with this.   There’s probably a couple quarterbacks let go at 75.  There will probably be some let go at the 53 and, like I said, there may be somebody, a club, we may have a trade partner out there.  We don’t know.  But we’re not initiating anything right now.”

Stay tuned.

We’ll see if the Rams decide to make an aggressive move. If so, do they call the Eagles?

We’ll see how Barkley plays on Thursday night. That could affect the Eagles willingness to deal or not to deal.

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Something About Alex

Posted: August 24th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 195 Comments »

Alex Henery is a hot topic, but for all the wrong reasons. In a summer where a lot of questions are getting positive answers, the Eagles kicking situation isn’t one of them. Henery missed a FG against the Pats. This week he missed a chip shot. What’s next?

The problem is that there isn’t an easy solution to this problem.

Some of you wonder why Chip Kelly didn’t address this in March. Why did a very smart coach keep Henery around? I don’t know the answer. It is obvious that Kelly and STs coach Dave Fipp must feel that Henery can be a good kicker. If they didn’t see the potential, they’d have made a move. Maybe Alex talked to them about making technique changes and everyone felt that would help him. Or maybe Henery has nude photos of Kelly and Fipp in a hot tub with the Kardashians.

My assumption, based on Kelly’s love of logic, is that they felt Henery was worth keeping because his flaws could be worked on. His kickoffs do seem better to me this summer. But now we’ve got the missed FGs. Ugh.

I do think Kelly, Fipp and Howie Roseman erred in not bringing in better competition. Carey Spear made for a good story for about a week, but he wasn’t a great kicker in college. He’s been bad in the NFL. He hasn’t challenged Henery at all.

But that is spilled milk. We need to focus on the problem and how to solve it or deal with it.

Cody Parkey is a total mystery. He will have a week to show what he can do. Then he’ll get some chances in the Jets game, but who knows how many that will be. A couple of kickoffs? You wonder if Kelly would be willing to intentionally stall drives at the 25-yard line so he could get live reps for Henery and Parkey. Am I insane for even thinking that?

Are there outside options?

First…let’s get one thing clear. We don’t want to cut Alex Henery as some kind of punishment. You have to let go of emotions and frustration. Anyone who says “Cut him. Anybody else would be an improvement” is speaking from the heart, but not the brain. We’re all frustrated, but the worst thing the Eagles could do would be to just cut Henery for the heck of it. There are worse kickers out there.

The whole point here is to see if there is a way to improve the situation.

Jimmy Bama wrote about a possible solution the other day. That would be Dustin Hopkins of the Bills.

That would leave second year kicker Dustin Hopkins on the outside looking in. Hopkins was drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 draft, and he beat out Rian Lindell for the starting job after a perfect (six for six) preseason. Unfortunately, Hopkins injured his groin, the Bills signed Carpenter, Hopkins was placed on IR, and has still yet to kick in the regular season.

In terms of leg strength, Hopkins is everything Henery is not. In his final season at Florida State, Hopkins hit five of six field goal attempts from outside 50 yards. For his college career, he was nine of 15.

Hopkins is also considered a weapon on kickoffs. In the Bills’ first preseason game against the Giants, Hopkins produced touchbacks on all four of his kickoffs.

Will Hopkins be available?  Per a Buffalo reporter, here is his roster situation.

Dustin Hopkins: Do the Bills really need a kickoff specialist? Hopkins’ job depends on it. He had touchbacks on four of his six kickoffs in the first two preseason games before a groin injury sidelined him last weekend. If Hopkins is healthy enough to kick Saturday, it might be his last chance to make his case as the kickoff man. Most teams only carry one kicker, andDan Carpenter has proven capable enough on kickoffs.

Hopkins did play against Tampa. He had 3 kickoffs. One went for a touchback.

Can he be trusted to make field goals?

Elliot Shorr-Parks wrote about other candidates. As he put it, it’s not pretty.

Rob Bironas:
Even though he is 36-years old, Bironas would certainly qualify as a “win-now” kicker. Bironas went 25 of 29 last season with the Tennessee Titans, including two of three from beyond 50 yards. Bironas does have some playoff experience, but he has gone three of five in two playoff appearances — including one miss in a 13-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens when he was with Tennessee.

David Akers:
Akers is not the same kicker he used to be during his long stint in Philadelphia from 1999-2010, but he did knock in all three of his attempts from 50-plus yards last season with Detroit. Akers’ accuracy from that deep is impressive, but he forced less touchbacks than Henery did last season, which is one of the Eagles’ main problem with their current kicker. A reunion would be a nice story, however.

Rian Lindell:
Lindell has the strongest leg among these free agent options. The 37-year old hit four of his six attempts from 50-plus yards last season. Lindell did have his accuracy issues, however, missing four kicks between 30 to 49 yards.

Forget about Akers. He is done as a kicker. I love the guy, but Henery is the better PK right now.

I’m fine with bringing in Bironas. Have him, Henery and anyone else have a kicking competition at The Linc. Go with the guy who wins it.

I am fine with the Eagles taking a chance on a young guy like Hopkins or a vet like Bironas if they feel those guys will legitimately be better than Henery. If not, we may have to wait for the offseason.

You don’t just get rid of Henery. You need someone that can do a better job to replace him.

Any other names out there that you guys have dug up?

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