Mondays With Doug

Posted: November 6th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 183 Comments »

Doug Pederson is proving to be a better coach than anyone anticipated. He’s not just getting the Eagles to win, he’s making a lot of smart moves and creating a culture of success that will last more than a season.

All you have to do is look just up the road to New Jersey to see that winning can be misleading. The Giants went 11-5 last year so we all assumed they would be good (or even very good) this year. They are 1-7 and this is the state of things right now.

Yikes.

The Giants brought in a lot of veteran players last year and patched together a good team. Now that adversity has hit, that team is falling apart. They let Odell Beckham Jr. get away with some odd behavior and that set a bad precedent for the rest of the team. They’ve got some serious problems now.

Pederson took over the Eagles and wanted to build something, just as he saw Andy Reid do with the Eagles back in 1999 and with KC the past few years. If you build it, it can last. If you cobble it together, not so much.

The longer we see the coaching class of 2016 in action, the more we learn about them. McAdoo isn’t looking so good right now (literally or figuratively). Adam Gase, the man I wanted the Eagles to hire, is having a rough year in Miami. There was a lot of preseason hype on Dirk Koetter’s Bucs, but it is starting to look like he’s losing control of his team. Mike Mularkey is quietly plugging along, winning games and avoiding attention. Hue Jackson is 1-23 and will be gone in a few months.

Pederson is 15-10. His team has scored 20 or more points for 13 straight games, the longest streak in the NFL. The Eagles are off to an 8-1 start, despite lots of road games early on, lots of injuries and some short, tough weeks due to prime time games. Pederson and his staff are developing young players and getting the most out of veterans. And he has created a tremendous culture. Everyone has bought into his message and there is great chemistry, on and off the field.

I think sometimes we marvel at Carson Wentz and the other players and don’t give Pederson enough credit. He is proving himself to be quite a coach. Just look at yesterday’s game and some of the things we can take from that.

He can adjust on the fly. The Eagles acquired RB Jay Ajayi on Tuesday. There he was on Sunday, rushing for 77 yards and a TD. Duce Staley spent a lot of time teaching Ajayi a handful of plays this week. Pederson made sure to put him in the gameplan, thinking the Eagles would need every resource to move the ball on a great defense like Denver’s. Ajayi played well and delivered a huge play when he ran for a 47-yard TD. The game was probably over before that moment, but his TD sealed the deal. That was the dagger to Denver’s heart.

Even worse than that was losing Zach Ertz on Sunday. I’m sure the coaches had some ideas on what to do if he couldn’t play, but they were able to adjust plans and keep the offense running at a high level.

One of the big criticisms with Andy Reid is that he adjusted at a glacial pace. Maybe slower. Pederson is showing that’s not the case with him. He can adjust quickly and seems to make good adjustments.

He can gameplan. The Eagles faced 3rd and 9 on the opening drive. Trey Burton was alone to the left. There were three WRs to the right. Burton was being covered by a LB. Carson Wentz dropped back and fired the ball to Burton for 14 yards and a 1st down. The play design gave the Eagles the matchup they wanted. The drive resulted in a TD when Wentz hit Alshon Jeffery on a run-pass option (RPO). Pederson said after the game that they knew Aqib Talib was an aggressive CB and this play was designed to take advantage of that.

Wentz hit Burton for a 27-yard TD on a sluggo route (slant and go). This was the matchup the Eagles wanted (by design) and Burton burned the guys covering him.

The Eagles scored 51 points on the #1 defense in the league. Without Jason Peters, Darren Sproles or Zach Ertz. I would have bet a case of PBR and two Megan Fox autographs that was impossible. But that’s what happened. Pederson drew up a brilliant gameplan and his players executed it brilliantly.

He is aggressive. The Eagles weren’t the least bit afraid of the Broncos defense. They attacked all game long. This wasn’t a bunch of quick passes to avoid the pass rush. The Eagles threw the ball down the field. Alshon Jeffery had his best game of the year. I think the aggressive gameplan helped give the players confidence.

Pederson went for it on 4th and 1 from the 3-yard line. His team was up 31-9. Conventional wisdom says kick the FG and go up four possessions. He wanted another TD. Not only did the Eagles go for it, they threw a pass. The Eagles converted and then did score the TD to go up 38-9.

Compare that to Vance Joseph kicking a FG from the 6-yard line when down 24-6. Yes, he did make it a two-possession game by doing that, but his team clearly needed TDs and he wasn’t willing to take a chance. No confidence. Last week SF was kicking FGs when they should have been more aggressive.

We regularly see teams punting from inside the 45-yard line, sometimes even inside the 40. Pederson takes chances and his players love that. It helps to make them more confident and aggressive.

He knows how to push this team. I was ready for Pederson to stop throwing passes and work the clock in the 2nd quarter. He didn’t listen to me. He kept pushing his players and they kept making plays. Sometimes you will see a blowout like this devolve into some ugly football. That didn’t really happen on Sunday. Pederson kept his foot on the gas.

There was going to be no let up in this game. Denver wasn’t going to make some amazing comeback. Even when Pederson put backups into the game, he let them play. It wasn’t just a bunch on inside runs and punts.

1-53 matter. Continuing with a theme we’ve seen all season, Pederson got contributions from everyone. Jaylen Watkins had a TFL. Isaac Seumalo played RT when Lane Johnson got hurt. Corey Clement scored 3 TDs. Kamu Grugier-Hill had a pair of STs tackles. Brent Celek had his best game of the year. So did Brandon Brooks. It doesn’t matter if you are a starter or backup. It doesn’t matter if you play offense, defense or STs. Pederson makes everyone feel like they are a part of this and that helps them embrace the team concept.

This isn’t Carson Wentz and his 52 buddies. This is the Philadelphia Eagles, a complete football team. An 8-1 team.

The best team in the NFL.

_


The Beatdown

Posted: November 5th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 240 Comments »

I did not see this coming.

The Eagles completely dominated the Broncos, beating them 51-23. This wasn’t fluke plays (long kick returns or pick-sixes type stuff), this was complete and total dominance. The Eagles completely controlled the line of scrimmage. Carson Wentz was barely touched. Brock Osweiler took a beating. The Eagles ran for 197 yards. Denver ran for 35.

Dominance.

I thought this was going to be a tough game and then got worried this morning when I saw Zach Ertz was inactive. Didn’t matter. The coaches had a brilliant gameplan and fed the ball to Brent Celek and Trey Burton. They combined to have 5 catches for 80 yards and a TD. Alshon Jeffery had his best game of the year, going 6-84-2.

I give Doug Pederson and the coaches a ton of credit for this game. They were aggressive all game long and that brought out the best in the players. The Eagles were the more physical team and they pushed Denver around for three hours. The skill players made big plays again and again.

Welcome to Philly, Jay Ajayi. He was the team’s leading rusher, 8-77-1. That included a 47-yard TD run late in the half. He had great blocking on that play, but showed his speed and turned that into a long TD. None of the other RBs turn that into a TD. This offense just got better.

The #1 defense was on the field today, but anyone watching this game would have thought it was the guys in the green helmets and not the visitors. The Eagles attacked Denver’s offense and shut down the run (19-35). Once Denver was in a passing situation, it was all over. Brock Osweiler didn’t have a lot of help from his teammates, but there were times when he made things worse. The pick he threw to Rodney McLeod was just awful. McLeod could have fair caught that ball.

The Eagles are now 8-1. That is the best record in the league and they look like the best team in the league.

This looks more and more like a special season.

_


Gameday – DEN at PHI

Posted: November 5th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 980 Comments »

A tough game just got tougher.

No Zach Ertz. Ugh.

The Broncos have the best defense in the league. The one thing they struggle with is stopping TEs. This is not a good week for Ertz to be out. There is no question that this will hurt.

This will mean more snaps for Brent Celek and Trey Burton. Those guys will have a chance to be heroes. Celek was a good receiver in the past, but he was never as good as Ertz is now. Celek can still be effective as a pass catcher, but he’s not going to be the guy you feed the ball to in key situations.

Burton is a gifted athlete and can make some plays in the passing game. He is not on the same level as Ertz, obviously. Burton is also smaller, which makes him more of a role player than a weapon. Still, this is a huge opportunity for him to show what he can do with an expanded role. I’m curious to see if Burton can deliver.

This puts more pressure on the WRs to win. They will need to make plays against Denver’s elite trio of corners.

The Eagles have overcome just about every obstacle this year. Going against this D without Ertz just made Sunday a lot more challenging.

Jay Ajayi will play. We’ll see if he can make a difference in this game. In a fantasy world, the Eagles would be able to run the ball and take pressure off the passing game. That’s a lot easier said than done when you go against a great run defense.

The thing I’m really looking forward to today is watching the Eagles defense. They need to shut down the Broncos offense. Don’t let those guys do anything on the ground and dare Brock Osweiler to beat you. If he has the game of his life, so be it. I don’t see him playing like that.

This is going to be an interesting game.

The Eagles are hot. The Broncos are desperate. That’s a huge difference. Desperate teams make me nervous  because they are unpredictable. But then I think about the fact the Eagles have Carson Wentz and Denver has Osweiler.

That makes me feel a lot better about the Eagles.

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Denver Talk

Posted: November 4th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 54 Comments »

I don’t know what to make of the Broncos.

They have the #1 defense in the league. They haven’t allowed more than 276 yards in any game this year. They are also riding a 3-game losing streak and turning to Brock Osweiler to save their season. Can you see my reason for confusion?

They had to do something on offense. The team scored 29 points over the last 3 weeks combined. The Eagles scored 28, 34 and 33 in that same stretch. Seeing a stat like that starts to make you feel pretty confident about Sunday.

And then you think about the struggles the Eagles have had against blitzes, stunts and loops in recent weeks. The Broncos D is far better than what the Eagles saw the last two weeks. If the Eagles haven’t come up with some protection solutions, Carson Wentz will be in for a tough day.

The good news is that there aren’t any short weeks, long layoffs or bad weather to deal with. This is normal football, 168 hours after the last kickoff.

One of the things that makes me feel good about this game is that the Eagles have been pretty even-keeled this year. They did get a bit crazy after the Giants win, but other than that they have done a good job of staying focused and going one week at a time. The Eagles won’t be trying to win the Super Bowl on Sunday. They’ll just be trying to beat the Broncos.

It will be fun to see Wentz go up against the league’s best defense. He faced Top 10 units last year (MIN, SEA, BAL, NYG) so this isn’t a first for him. The challenge for Wentz is to play well and lead his team to points. He was 2-3 in those games last year, but the offense wasn’t exactly impressive. He’s a lot better now and has a much improved supporting cast.

Will we see the debut of RB Jay Ajayi? I think he will play. The Eagles want a RB with his big play potential on the field. They’ll figure out a way to have him active. They’ll get him the ball a few times to see what he can do. It would be great if the Eagles could get a lead and mix him in as much or little as they want. If they trail and have to throw a lot, that makes it tougher to get Ajayi on the field. He can pass block, but would need to know more of the playbook.

If Ajayi can play, it just gives Wentz another weapon to use. Wentz has been masterful this year at getting the most out of the players around him. One week it is a big play to rookie Mack Hollins. The next week it is a big play to Nelson Agholor. After that comes Alshon Jeffery. The formula for Wentz has been to find the open man and get him the ball. That’s worked very well so far.

The problem with facing the Broncos is that they don’t leave many guys open. And they play stifling run defense. This is an opportunity for the Eagles offense to show what they can do.

This will also be a chance for the defense to show what it can do. Jim Schwartz’s unit has been getting better as it gets healthier. They are now up to 10th in points allowed and 14th in yards. The coaches are getting a better feel for the players and the players are getting a better feel for the scheme.

You see stars like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham making plays. You see Mychal Kendricks flying around and reminding us why he was so highly thought of in the 2012 draft. You see Malcolm Jenkins lining up all over the field and making a difference wherever he is. You see role players like Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins contributing. This is really good team defense.

It would be a lot of fun to see the Eagles defense outplay the Broncos D.

Sunday should be pretty interesting.

*****

Doug Pederson was mic’d up against SF and it was fun to watch.

Doug isn’t just the nice, rah-rah guy that he seems to be when talking to the media. You could really see his competitive streak in that video.

Les Bowen wrote a good piece on Pederson and the video.

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Game Review – PHI 33, SF 10

Posted: November 4th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 54 Comments »

The Eagles were up 3-0 at the 2-minute warning.

They won the game 33-10.

The team started slow, but once things broke open late in the half, it was all over. They were clearly the better team, even though the Eagles did not play great football. I think it says something that they can be a bit sloppy and still win by 23. Also take into account that this was a short week. Plus, there was no Jason Peters. There was no Jordan Hicks. The Eagles still won convincingly. That’s a good sign.

SF came into the week with a banged up OL. They lost both OTs during the game and had no chance at that point. There was one play in the 3rd quarter that showed how overwhelmed they were. CJ Beathard faked a hand-off and the RB had a pair of Eagles all over him. Beathard ran a bootleg and had a pair of Eagles on him. He got rid of the ball just before being planted. The guy who caught the ball had a pair of defenders on him as he caught the ball. There was no gain on the play.

The defense had their best game of the year, limiting SF to just 238 yards. The lone TD was scored after an INT gave the Niners the ball deep in Eagles territory. The Eagles sacked Beathard 4 times and pounded him all game long. They came up with 2 INTs.

Another play that can give you an idea of the futility of the SF offense came on a QB sneak. The Eagles came up with one of the best stuffs of a sneak I’ve ever seen. Beau Allen went low and pushed up the A-gap, getting Beathard low. Vinny Curry came over the LG and got Beathard up high. Mychal Kendricks flew off the edge and slung Beathard down. With forward progress, no gain. Beathard ended up several yards back with multiple Eagles on him. Zero chance of success.

The Eagles offense was hardly a smooth machine, but made enough big plays for the team to stay out in front and win the game. The Eagles got the ball with 5:20 left in the game and, just like in the Chargers game, never gave it back. This wasn’t as dramatic because the game wasn’t on the line, but you still love seeing the offense be able to just methodically seal the game. You know you’ve had a good day when Nick Foles is the one kneeling the ball at the end.

COACHING

Doug Pederson had a lot of things to deal with to get the team ready. Short week. Bad weather. Key injuries. Inferior opponent. The Eagles didn’t come out and play clean, crisp football, but there was no letdown. Sloppy play kept the game close for most of the first half, but that changed in a hurry. Once the Eagles created some separation, they didn’t let up. Pederson really is pushing the right buttons with this team.

There was only one management decision of any real significance. The Eagles missed the extra point after going up 9-0. When they scored a few minutes later, Pederson had the team go for two. That made the lead 17-0, three possessions. There is a huge difference in being up two vs three possessions. Smart gamble by Pederson.

The offensive gameplan made sense. Come out and play power football, trying to run on the Niners. It worked initially, but then their D got real aggressive for a while and shut down the run game. SF also caused problems with blitzing and stunting on pass plays. It took a bit, but the Eagles countered and got a quick passing game going late in the half and that woke up the offense.

The defense did what they seem to every week…stuff the run and dare the QB to win. With that OL and a rookie QB, the Niners had no chance.

PLAYERS

Carson Wentz did not have his A-game. He finished 18-32-211 with 2 TDs and an INT.

The weather wasn’t ideal, but Wentz said that didn’t have much of an effect on the offense. SF did some new and creative things that threw off the protection early and Wentz was under a lot of pressure for a while. He didn’t always handle that well. There were some sloppy throws. Some due to pressure and some when he did have time.

Wentz missed Jeffery for TD in the 1st Qtr. Just overthrew him. There was a DL closing in on him, but Wentz needs to make a better throw there. Jeffery didn’t have a chance to even play the ball. Wentz missed a wide open Ertz in the 4th. Wentz had rolled to his left and had time to throw. He just rushed and the ball was behind Ertz. Wentz overthrew Celek in the 4th. That would have put the Eagles near the goal line. Just a bad throw.

There were some highlights. Wentz found Ertz for a short TD late in the half. Ertz was wide open, but sometimes those can be the hardest throws. They made it look like pitch and catch. Wentz hit Jeffery down the right sideline for a big play in the 3rd Qtr. Jeffery turned that into a 53-yard TD. Wentz made impressive throws to Burton, Agholor and Hollins over the middle on various plays.  Read the rest of this entry »