Game Preview – The Boys Are Back in Town

Posted: December 14th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 61 Comments »

Are you ready for the NFC East showdown of the year? The Giants somehow beat the Skins, 24-14, guaranteeing that Washington will have the better draft pick. Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning came through in a big game.

You didn’t think I was talking about the Dallas-Philly game that will take place tonight did ya? All that’s at stake in that game is first place in the division and a more likely path to the playoffs. But if that’s the game you prefer, we can talk about it.

I wrote my preview for PE.com.

I feel pretty good about this game, but admit my nerves are all over the place. I hate Dallas so much that my ability to think logically becomes erratic. As much fun as it is to beat them in situations like this, it is also a huge relief.

I’m curious to see how Chip uses LeSean McCoy. The Eagles ran wide quite a bit in the first game. That worked well. Dallas may emphasize players setting the edge and trying to contain plays. If so, the Eagles may counter by running inside more. I also wonder if McCoy is mixed into the passing game more. We haven’t seen him on the wheel route much this year. That’s a way to isolate him on a LB.

The Eagles have not had a rematch yet this year and now they have 3 in a row. Chip Kelly isn’t big on holding things back, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have some tweaks to try and keep the opponent off balance. The Eagles were 2-1 in rematch games last year. The only loss came to the Giants in a game where Foles was out and Mike Vick was less than 100 percent.

There is a stat being talked about how the last 7 teams to play Seattle all lost the following week. That doesn’t bode well for the Eagles. It also doesn’t mean anything. Most of those teams had losing records. Others were struggling at the time. We’ll see if pans out tonight. Besides, you have nuggets like this that favor the Eagles…

In the end, the team that plays best tonight will win.

The simple keys are controlling the line of scrimmage and getting good play from Mark Sanchez. He struggled in a big way last week. He needs to bounce back tonight. I don’t see the Eagles holding Dallas to just 10 points tonight so the Eagles offense is going to need to do some scoring.

Just a few hours to go…

_


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.

_