Catching On

Posted: December 14th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 143 Comments »

I saw this on Twitter and was surprised by the stats.

Jeremy Maclin is having his best season.

Jordan Matthews is playing better than expected for a rookie.

Riley Cooper’s overall numbers are down, but he will have a career high in catches.

For comparison’s sake, the big 3 last year of DeSean, Coop and Avant combined for 167-2614-19. Those totals will all be exceeded this year, barring a major disaster. Explosive plays are down. Eagles pass catchers last year averaged 14.2 yards per catch. This year that is down at 11.9. Deep balls and big plays aren’t happening as much.

Chip Kelly recently explained that the Eagles are getting a lot more zone coverage. That means DBs play off and keep things in front of them. When receivers are getting open deep, the QBs aren’t seeing them or are off target.

If the Eagles can keep Maclin, the WRs could be very productive next year. Jordan Matthews will be a year wiser. Josh Huff will be more a part of the offense. And hopefully Riley Cooper would be playing better than this year. (no, that doesn’t mean only one dropped pass)


The Rematch

Posted: December 12th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 63 Comments »

2009 was the second worst point in my life. Nobody died or anything like that, it was far worse. The Eagles played the Cowboys 3 times that year and lost all 3. One loss was a shutout and another came in the playoffs. I was in grief counseling for months.

The only worse time for me? That was when Katie Holmes married Tom Cruise. You guys think I like Megan Fox, but that’s nothing compared to how I felt about young Katie’s skills as a thespian. To see her marry the wrong guy named Tom, just devastating. Not to mention it sidetracked her career. The horror, the horror.

I hope that one day Katie and I will meet. I can tell her about the miserable 2009 Dallas losses and she can tell me about her marriage. We’ll then fall in love and the next thing you know we’re running out of a church with friends and family showering us with Funyuns.

Until then, I’ll have to focus on beating Dallas on Sunday night. That would give the Eagles a virtual lock on the NFC East title. It would also give the Eagles their first sweep of Dallas since 2011. That sweep didn’t mean much since the team finished at 8-8 and didn’t make the postseason. But sweeping Dallas is always a good thing.

The theory in most circles is that sweeping a team is hard. First, teams aren’t all that different in terms of talent. And the team that loses the first time will be greatly motivated in the rematch. How does this game look?

I think the Eagles have the advantage on Sunday because they are the better team, but I don’t think they are substantially better. There are 2 places where I give the Eagles a definitive advantage – the DL and the coaching staff. Thankfully, those are pretty key areas.

I do think Dallas will come into this game with a chip on their shoulder. They got their noses rubbed in poo on Thanksgiving. And with the whole world watching, which is never fun. Add in the fact that a loss would really hurt their playoff chances and you can bet Dallas is going to come out fired up.

I’m not sure if that will make a significant difference. Emotion is part of football, but it can be greatly overrated by fans and the media. Execution is far more important to winning that emotion.

The Eagles shouldn’t be overconfident since they are coming off a tough loss to Seattle. The Seahawks totally shut down the offense and something tells me that Chip Kelly will have his guys ready to go nuts on Sunday night. He considers 139 yards and 14 points to be a bad half of football. That’s a disastrous game. Kelly will want to get the ball to start the game and get the offense into the end zone ASAP. He will want to make Seattle a distant memory.

Both teams have definite motivation. The motivation for Dallas is more personal since they’re mad at the Eagles, while the Eagles are mad at the Seahawks (and themselves).

Last year the Eagles lost an ugly game to Minnesota, then bounced back with a big win over the Bears on SNF. The following week the Eagles beat Dallas on SNF to clinch the NFC East. The Eagles were a good December team under Andy Reid and were last year for Kelly. Dallas has been miserable in past Decembers, but this is a different team. I don’t know what to expect.

I’ll have a full preview written for Saturday.

For now, focus on the Eagles advantages. Do you trust Chip Kelly and his staff to have the Eagles ready for Dallas? Do you think Fletcher Cox can catch Tony Romo better than he did Russell Wilson?

I fell pretty good about those things.


Detailed Game Review – SEA 24, PHI 14

Posted: December 12th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 131 Comments »

Is it possible to be encouraged and discouraged at the same time? That’s how I feel after studying the tape of Sunday’s loss to Seattle. There were certainly things to feel good about, but there were also moments that made me want to pull my hair out. And my bald spot is already big enough. I don’t need games like this.

The good news is that the Eagles played the red hot defending Super Bowl champs very tough. Fletcher Cox was the best player on the field. Mychal Kendricks had a very good game. There were other parts of the defense that played really well. The performance by the STs was mostly good. As bad as the offense was, they did come up with 2 TDs in the 2 favorable situations. Seattle’s previous 2 opponents had combined for 6 points.

The bad news is that the offense was a mess. Mostly that was Mark Sanchez. He had opportunities to make plays, some small and some big, and just couldn’t do it. Seattle got good pressure and certainly covered well, but Sanchez left yards and points on the field where he just didn’t see open receivers. It was utterly frustrating to see these plays on the All-22 tape.

Speaking of frustrating, the defense had some lapses in coverage that were torturous. Watching the game I thought the CBs were doing a poor job. They actually played pretty well. There were mis-communications between the LBs and DBs that caused problems. There were some plays where there were just too many eyes on Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. One thing to consider about the coverage…think of how many plays Wilson had to run around for 3 to 5 extra seconds before finding someone. The initial coverage was often good. Once the play broke down, the coverage went to pieces. There isn’t one person to blame. They all took turns screwing up.

After re-watching the tape, I would like another shot at Seattle. I’m not saying the Eagles will suddenly score 30 points and look like a juggernaut, but I saw a lot of issues that can be fixed.    Read the rest of this entry »

Missing DeMeco?

Posted: December 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 164 Comments »

The Eagles just faced Marshawn Lynch and held him to 23-86. One of those was a draw play on 3rd/long that went for 21 yards. The rest of the game he was 22-65. The week before the defense held DeMarco Murray to his worst game of the year, 20-73. I never thought this would happen with Casey Matthews playing in place of DeMeco Ryans.

The key in theses 2 games was the play of the DL, specifically Fletcher Cox. I thought he had a great game watching live, but when you study the tape you are truly blown away. He was easily the best player on the field Sunday…for either team. Amazing performance.

Still, this does make you wonder about the future at ILB. DeMeco is a good player and I’m not trying to diminish that. But he’s older, expensive and coming off an injury. You have to wonder if the organization will look at this situation and feel they could move on to another option that is cheaper/younger.

Obviously another factor here is Mychal Kendricks. He started playing great down the stretch in 2013 and hasn’t stopped. The only thing that slows him down is injuries. When he’s on the field, he’s a Pro Bowl caliber player. MK gives the Eagles one star at ILB and a player they can build around.

Matthews has been solid since taking over. He doesn’t do anything flashy and isn’t a tackle machine. He’s generally in the right gap and tackles the ball if it comes his way. That’s the minimum you’re looking for in an ILB. The coaches say he does a good job of getting the defense set. None of us outsiders can really comment on that.

I’d love to see the Eagles find another speedy, athletic guy. That would help with coverage. Maybe Najee Goode can be that guy. I don’t know if the coaches will seriously think of keeping Marcus Smith inside. He has the potential to be good in there. He can rush, cover and play the run. He’s got good size at 6-3, 251. His future will be somewhat determined by what the team does with Trent Cole and Brandon Graham. If the Eagles keep Barwin/Cole/Graham together, they need to move Smith to get him on the field. That’s no insult to Smith but rather a compliment to how well the OLBs are playing.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. Any number of things can happen. I am shocked that the defense hasn’t missed DeMeco more. Hes’ a terrific leader on and off the field. He’s also a good all-around LB. There is no question that he would have out-played Matthews had he been on the field. I guess the question is how much of a difference that would have made. Maybe less than any of us anticipated.


Safety Dance

Posted: December 10th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 141 Comments »

The Eagles made their move, but it wasn’t a WR. They signed S Jerome Couplin III from the Lions practice squad. This is an interesting guy.

Couplin is 6-1, 213. That’s pretty good size. He has an 81-inch wingspan. That’s freaky. We know the Eagles love players with long arms so they must have really been excited by that. Couplin, from William & Mary, had a great showing at his Pro Day.

40 – 4.55
VJ – 41.5
BJ – 11’02
3C – 6.94

He also did 18 reps, which is very impressive for a guy with such long arms. You can see that he’s got straight line speed, agility and lower body explosion. That’s NFL size and athleticism.

Couplin was a big hitter at W&M. You’ll see strength, power and explosive ability in his highlight video.

Watch a game video and you get more of the whole picture.

You see his physical potential there, but also some issues. There is some hesitation on certain plays which makes you wonder how quickly he’s able to process what he sees. I didn’t see anything that would make him look instinctive, which is a huge trait at Safety.

I’m glad the Eagles took a chance on him. Couplin has NFL size and athleticism. Some of those highlights are really impressive. It is worth bringing this guy in to look at him. He’ll be on the roster heading into the offseason so the Eagles will have time to teach and develop him.

More than a few people saw this move as a sign that the Eagles aren’t happy with Ed Reynolds. That isn’t necessarily true. As Chip Kelly pointed out in his PC today, the only way to add a player from someone else’s PS is to put them on your active roster. If the Eagles wanted to add Couplin for the offseason and future development, they had to put him on the roster. That was the only choice. Kelly’s explanation does make sense.

The flip side is that if Reynolds had been more impressive to this point, maybe the Eagles wouldn’t be looking for a Safety.

I see Couplin as being similar to Earl Wolff. I think this move is more about him. They have similar builds and skill-sets. We have no idea if Wolff is going to be part of this team in 2015. Couplin offers some insurance. He spent time with Buffalo and Detroit this year, playing in 8 games for the Lions. That gives him a bit of experience.

The bottom line is that the Eagles need help at Safety. I’m glad they’re looking all over. I don’t know if Couplin will ever be anything more than a STer, but he does at least have some special traits. Take a chance on that guy.

As for Reynolds, I don’t know what the Eagles think about him. They say all the right things, but that’s the Kelly way. I do think there is some wisdom in keeping him on the PS for now. He’s not going to be as good a STer as Chris Maragos or Chris Prosinski. He’s not going to be a starting DB. Keep him off the field and let him develop. I’ve paid attention to some young Safeties in recent games and many of these guys are just awful. They were thrown into the fire and you can see them developing bad habits.

Let Reynolds spend the year learning the scheme inside-out. Let him practice and get a feel for NFL speed. Let him have a full offseason to get ready. Put him in the best position to succeed.  If he’s not showing us anything by next summer, then he might one and done. I can’t say I’m a big believer in Reynolds, but the coaches loved him. I hope I’m wrong and they’re right.

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Couplin does seem like he’ll fit the culture here.

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The other benefit to this move is that it should allow Jaylen Watkins to focus more on CB, where I think his future is.