Back to Football

Posted: June 5th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Let’s get back to the reason we all actually care about the Eagles…football.

Baseball is 162 games. Hockey is 84. The NBA season is 82 games. Football is just 16, but teams are working together from mid-April until early January. That should tell you that football is as much about training, practice and preparation as it is the actual games.

The 2017 Eagles won the Super Bowl because of what they did on the field, but also because of how they prepared. They were great in practice and that mattered. I wrote about that for PE.com.

You have to give credit to the players and coaches for the practices. The coaches knew how to teach the scheme and specific skills required for each position. They also did a good job of motivating players. Practice can be boring. You have to get creative at times to keep everyone focused.

The players deserve a lot of credit for realizing how important practice is and truly buying in. Not only did they work hard, they competed. You’ve heard the old saying that “iron sharpens iron”…that happened with last year’s team.

The Eagles and Cowboys both had to deal with key injuries. The Eagles kept right on winning. Dallas fell apart. The Cowboys had some talented backups, but they didn’t play well. Part of that is due to practice. In Philly, players pushed each other. Coaches pushed players.

Duce Staley was tough on Corey Clement. That helped him get ready for the season and he closed it out by having a great game in the Super Bowl. We’ve heard stories about how good OL Josh Andrews, CB De’Vante Bausby and DE Steven Means were in practice.

How did all this happen?

Chip Kelly had some interesting theories on practice. He believed getting as many reps as possible was the way to go. He wanted his coaches to teach in the classroom. He wanted constant motion on the field. That had mixed results. Pederson focuses on the quality of reps rather than the quantity. He does still use music and I’m sure he kept around an idea or two that Kelly brought to Philly.

One of the things that the Eagles do is watch the wear and tear on their players. They use Sports Science to figure out who needs a day off. Pederson gives his veterans plenty of rest, understanding that the key is for them to handle the grind of the season.

This offseason will be extra challenging, since some players played in 19 games and had a month less to rest and prepare for this season. The coaches and Sports Science staff will have to work carefully to balance the need for reps and rest. There is also the challenge of having several key players coming off major injuries.

It will be very interesting to see if this team can prepare as well as last year’s group. They’ll need to do just that if they want to make another Super Bowl run.

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PE.com has a video showing TEs coach Justin Peelle working with his young campers. To put things in perspective, Zach Ertz is the old man in the group. He’s 27 and is entering his sixth season.

Peelle has his work cut out for him, but he’s got plenty of talent to work with. Rookie Dallas Goedert has tremendous potential. Richard Rodgers is a veteran who can be a good role player. I’m still curious to see what Billy Brown, Adam Zaruba and Josh Perkins can do. This is a huge opportunity for that last trio. They can make or break their careers by what they do this summer. It would be huge for one of them to have a strong showing.

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Got Any Plans?

Posted: June 4th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Got Any Plans?

So, about that trip to the White House.

They were uninvited.

Apparently Trump found out this was going to be a fraction of the team. A small fraction.

With Trump’s ego, having only a handful of Eagles on hand wasn’t going to work, even if it included the owner, coach and a QB or two. Rather than go through with the ceremony with only a few Eagles, Trump canceled it and will now have a non-football gathering.

The irony here is that the statement from the White House focuses on standing for the national anthem. The Eagles didn’t have any players who knelt. Malcolm Jenkins raised his arm. A couple of other players also did this at times during the season.

It’s no secret that many Eagles don’t agree with Trump’s politics. Some people have mentioned that the Eagles could have gone with the idea of opening up a dialogue with Trump. The problem with that theory is that Trump has not shown himself to be the most open-minded person. He’s very much a “my way or the highway” kind of guy. Heck, that’s one of the things many of his supporters love about him.

Eagles players didn’t see a chance for a genuine discussion so they weren’t going to go.

I haven’t written about the anthem issue because I prefer to focus on football than side issues. Plenty of other outlets, sports and political, cover the anthem and protests. This so directly involved the Eagles that I couldn’t really avoid it.

Some of you won’t be happy with the Eagles because of this. That’s fine. Not everyone has to agree.

Do keep this in mind. No matter your politics, the Eagles have run a first class organization during the Lurie years. You can go back to Jermane Mayberry and the Eagles Eyemobile. They do the playground project every year. They’ve honored the military at Training Camp for years. Connor Barwin was only with the team a few seasons, but did tremendous things in the community. Chris Long is just in his second season, but has donated a lot of money and support to good causes. Carson Wentz’s charity softball game raised a ton of money for charity just last week.

This organization and these players genuinely try to make their community a better place. That’s something we should all be proud of.

*****

Dwight Clark, the man who made The Catch, died today.

I remember that game vividly. It was the coldest weekend I’ve ever experienced. I got home from a Boy Scout camping trip and thawed out by watching the NFC Championship. What an amazing game. The funny thing is that the guy I hated most back then was Joe Montana. That name seemed so fake. He had the blonde hair and great smile. It seemed like Hollywood designed a QB.

Clark played his college ball at Clemson. They were a running team, to put it mildly. He caught 12 passes as a senior. 12! The Niners still saw enough to draft him and have him be a key player for multiple Super Bowl teams.

*****

We’ll resume football talk on Tuesday.

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4th Down

Posted: June 3rd, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

There was a lot of 4th down discussion on Twitter on Sunday. This all started from Jimmy Bama answering a reader’s question.

Question from Desert Eagle: How long do you think it will take for the rest of the league to evolve with analytics, and become as aggressive as the Eagles on 4th down, etc.? Giants aside, of course.

To note, I answered this during the chat, but I’d like to organize my thoughts on it a little more clearly.

To begin, teams might become more aggressive on fourth down, but I think it’s going to be a long time before another team is as aggressive as the Eagles were last year.

There were three key factors in the Eagles’ aggressiveness.

  1. Jeffrey Lurie was on board.
  2. Doug Pederson embraced his freedom to make aggressive calls because he had the blessing of the owner, and couldn’t have cared any less about public backlash if the results didn’t go as intended.
  3. The Eagles had an overwhelming amount of success on fourth down, which made it easier to continue to be aggressive.

Jimmy expands on his points so go read the piece for his full thoughts.

I certainly agree with Jimmy that other teams are going to be slow to jump on this bandwagon. You need a good offense, to make you feel confident about going for it. You need a good defense, to feel confident you can handle things if the offense doesn’t get the 1st down. Those two simple requirements will eliminate plenty of teams.

I think other teams will want to see what the Eagles do this year. You can bet plenty of guys around the league will believe last year was an anomaly. I’m not talking about the winning, but the success on 3rd an 4th down. Some will want the Eagles to show they can repeat this, especially now that other teams know the Eagles mindset.

https://twitter.com/evansilva/status/1003318713796481024

For now, the Eagles have a clear advantage. In the past, 4th down was essentially a turnover. The ball goes back to the other team. Now, the Eagles use it as an opportunity and it helps them to extend scoring drives. Think about the pressure it puts on defenses. They can’t breathe a sigh of relief after 3rd down. They have to wait and see what Doug Pederson and the Eagles are going to do. That has to be incredibly frustrating.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out this year.

*****

Bizarre.

My guess is that Kendricks and his agent were using the Browns to try and get a deal from another team. When that didn’t work out, Kendricks did take the Browns deal.

He is in a weird situation. Kendricks has a Super Bowl on his resume. He’s made decent money. CLE is a good scheme fit. They will blitz their LBs and do more creative things than the Eagles. At the same time, they return their MLB and WLB from last year. Both guys started all 16 games and were 1-2 on the team in tackles. The Browns also have Jamie Collins on the roster. You have to wonder how much playing time Kendricks will get.

I wish the guy well. He helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl so I hope he has a great year, gets a huge deal next offseason and has a fantastic life. He had his ups and downs as an Eagle, but ended on a high note.

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Doug Freaking Pederson

Posted: June 2nd, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles did win the Super Bowl, right?

Doug Pederson is the coach, right? This isn’t some episode of the Twilight Zone?

I ask this because there are times when it all seems too good to be true. Pederson proved to be a brilliant X’s and O’s coach last year. He really came out of nowhere to become one of the best gameplanners and play-callers in the league.

The NFL just released a really cool video with Pederson, Brian Baldinger and Ron Jaworski.

This is a terrific special.

Pederson is interesting, insightful and even humble. He gives credit for Philly Special to Press Taylor. Pederson then talks about taking an idea from Chip Kelly that helps the RPOs work smoothly. There is a play from the Vikings game where Pederson came up with a wrinkle on his own and he’s embarrassed to take credit for it.

There are times when he feels too good to be real.

One Vikings DB says “They scheming us” as a complaint about how the Eagles are moving the ball so easily. That ties into something I saw in the All or Nothing special on Dallas. LB Anthony Hitchens notes that Eagles receivers are always wide open. Hearing comments like that from opposing players is about as good a compliment as an offensive coach can get. Amazing.

One of the things I loved in the piece is that Pederson mentioned he told Foles to “just pause” after the snap. There was going to be a lot happening. Foles needed to give Corey Clement and Trey Burton time to get the play going. Foles waited for a second or so. That let the defenders focus on the ball. He then went into the end zone wipe open and the play worked brilliantly.

That reminded me of another great play in a big game.

That wasn’t just a lucky play. Duke practiced that on a regular basis. In the huddle prior to the play, Mike Krzyzewski told Christian Laettner that he didn’t need to rush the shot. Coach K told Laettner he would have time to catch the ball, dribble and then shoot.

Think about how often basketball players panic at the end of games. They shoot the ball early because they have no sense of the situation.

Great coaches understand details and teach them to their players. That worked for both Coach K and Pederson, with both men winning titles.

If you get a chance to watch the Pederson special, do it. Great stuff from him, Baldy and Jaws.

*****

We’re past June 1st and that’s important for salary cap reasons.

According to Over The Cap, the Eagles now have about $5.9M in cap space.

The Eagles could go sign S Corey Graham to give the secondary better depth. They could go sign a cheap DT or possibly a LB.

They could also see about using some of the cap space for an extension. Brandon Graham would love to get a new deal.

We’ll have to see what Howie and the gang can pull off.

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Great Defense?

Posted: May 31st, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

Watching Carson Wentz, Nick Foles and the explosive offense last year was a lot of fun. The Eagles moved the ball up and down the field. They were great in the Red Zone and scored a lot of points. They went for it on 4th down and kept us entertained with some fun plays.

It was also great to see the Eagles play outstanding defense. They finished 4th in yards and points allowed. They limited the Falcons and Vikings to 17 combined points in the playoffs.

Then came the Super Bowl.

Tom Brady threw for about 5,000 yards and the Pats scored 33 points (and missed a FG). That was a scary performance.

If you look back at the 2017 season, you can see some issues. In the first seven games, the Eagles gave up 17, 27, 24, 24, 7, 23 and 24 points. They faced talented/veteran QBs in that stretch. Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Cam Newton and Cousins again. There was also the issue of health.

Fletcher Cox missed 2.5 games in there. Rodney McLeod missed a start and part of another game. Ronald Darby only played part of the opener.

The Eagles got healthy and the schedule got easier. That’s when the defense came alive and started really putting the clamps on people. Playing young QBs doesn’t guarantee success. Remember Jameis Winston throwing for 5 TDs as a rookie in 2015? That was a torturous loss. Remember some guy named John Skelton throwing for 3 TDs and beating the Eagles in 2011? Go back to 2006 and Bruce Gradkowski led the Bucs to a shocking win over the Eagles.

The 2017 defense dominated rookies and other young QBs, like you’re supposed to do.

The defense then struggled against the Seahawks, Rams and Giants. That was followed by allowing 33 points over a 4-week period to close out the year and go through the NFC playoffs.

Overall, the defense had an outstanding season. Even when they did give up points and yards, the defense made key plays to help the Eagles win. They were clutch.

I wrote a piece for PE.com talking about how the defense can be even better this year.

One of the big keys is that the secondary will be deeper, more talented and more experienced this season. That matters. The back end of the defense requires that players know the subtleties of the scheme. They need to read plays the same way and they must communicate well. Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod have a lot of experience playing together. That’s a huge foundation for the secondary.

Then you mix in Sidney Jones and Corey Graham, if they re-sign him. Jones wasn’t on the field much last year, but spent the season bonding with the players and studying with them in the classroom.

Young guys like Rasul Douglas, De’Vante Bausby, Avonte Maddox, Tre Sullivan and Jeremy Reaves can provide depth. We haven’t seen a secondary like this in Philly in a while. Big time potential.

Of course, the secondary is only as good as the pass rush. The Eagles are pretty stacked up front so that should be a good thing.

With Tim Jernigan out until September or even October, it is easy to worry. Haloti Ngata will take his place in the base defense, but the key point here is that the Eagles play mostly sub-packages. The Nickel and Dime units play most of the snaps. You will see Michael Bennett at DT in a lot of those looks. That eases the loss of Jernigan, for however long he’s out.

Jim Schwartz can even rest Fletcher Cox on 3rd-and-long and go with Chris Long-Brandon Graham-Michael Bennett-Derek Barnett as his rushers if he wants to. That might be fun to watch.

Obviously it will help if Jernigan is back sooner rather than later. It would also help quite a bit if one of the young DTs took a big step forward.

With the return of Nigel Bradham, the LBs should be outstanding. He and Jordan Hicks give the Eagles a pair of talented playmakers in the middle of the defense. Corey Nelson is the favorite to get the WLB job. He is athletic and can cover, making him a perfect fit for that role.

Depth is a mystery. Nate Gerry could turn out to be a key backup, but he’s inexperienced. Kamu Grugier-Hill could finally push for playing time on defense. Joe Walker could be the backup MLB. We have to see if his athleticism is back to the 2016 level. LaRoy Reynolds is a role player and STer. He’ll fight for a job.

MLB could be a spot to watch. Losing Paul Worrilow hurts. The Eagles might look around the league and see if a veteran is available in the next couple of months. Or maybe Walker will get on the field and show he can handle the job. This is a fluid situation.

The 2018 defense has the potential to be a great unit. They can rush the passer. They can cover. There are playmakers at every level.

The big questions for the defense are whether they can withstand whatever injuries come up and how this unit will fare vs good, veteran QBs. If the defense can stay healthy and the pass defense is improved, then yeah…this can be a legitimately great defense.

I can’t wait to see them in action.

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