Gameday is Here

Posted: September 15th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 126 Comments »

The Eagles are at the Colts tonight on Monday Night Football. This should be a fun game.

The season opener was exciting because it was the first game, but there was nothing compelling about facing the Jaguars. They don’t have star players or a great unit. They’re simply a young team in the building phase.

Andrew Luck and the Colts offer a completely different set of circumstances. Think about some of the storylines.

* Can the Eagles win a road game against an AFC playoff team?

* Who plays better, Luck or Nick Foles, both from the QB class of 2012?

* How does the Eagles defense do against a talented offense?

* How do the Eagles do in primetime? Last year they were 3-1, with the only loss being to KC on a Thursday night?

* Can the Eagles get to 2-0?

* How does the rebuilt O-line look?

Week 2 games aren’t going to make or break a season, but this is a good test for the Eagles. Beyond winning and losing, it is important to see the Eagles play well. Last week the team was sloppy. The offense was sloppy for the whole first half. The defense was sloppy for a quarter. Both groups played well after halftime.

If the Eagles play well and lose, I can live with that. Another sloppy performance by the team would make me very nervous. I’m hoping the combination of rust and opening day jitters is what got the Eagles last week. That stuff should be gone tonight.

It will be interesting to see how Foles vs Luck shakes out. Andrew Luck is the better QB. He has a better arm and is a much better athlete. He’s able to carry his team on his back at times. Foles has a better coach, better O-line and better skill players. Foles needs help for the offense to function. He’s not the kind of QB who can carry a team.

That said…the Colts have a good offense and the Eagles have a great offense. Indy has yet to build a strong OL for Luck. They have yet to give him a strong running game. They thought dealing for Trent Richardson would change that, but to this point that looks like a dreadful deal. We’ll see if he shows any signs of progress this year.

Foles doesn’t have to be great for the offense to be great. He needs to get the ball to the open receiver. Chip Kelly’s scheme generates open receivers and the Eagles have the kind of players who can make plays when you get them the ball. There is a lot more pressure on Luck to make things happen.

Last year the Eagles had 80 passing plays that went for 20 or more yards. The Colts had 45. Last week the Eagles had 5 such plays. The Colts had 4. Maybe the offense is taking another step forward this year.

I wrote a preview for PE.com.

I wonder if the Eagles will be forced to playing a lot of zone to deal with Luck’s ability to scramble. If you play man, he can take off running and DBs will have their back to him. That’s dangerous with an athlete like Luck. The Eagles like to play zone anyway, but it might be dictated this week.

I think the Eagles have a serious advantage at the line of scrimmage. I will be very disappointed if the Eagles don’t win the battle up front.

Foles did not play well last week, but I’m expecting that to change. Kelly seems to know what buttons to push with him.

* * * * *

If you need a bit of light reading, check out this week’s Wulf’s Den. This is the weekly piece done by the great Bo Wulf of PE.com. He covers the QB class of 2012 and has an entertaining interview with Dennis Kelly, who may or may not be Chip’s long lost son. Or cousin. Or nephew. Or brother. Great stuff from Bo.

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Sunday Night Thoughts

Posted: September 14th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 50 Comments »

Week 2 isn’t quite over, but we have a few interesting things to talk about.

Let’s start in DC, where Sunday was a case of Heaven and Hell. The Skins blew out the Jags, 41-10. That win isn’t the headline, though. RG3 suffered a nasty injury and will be out for a while. He dislocated his ankle and it wasn’t pretty to watch. Best guess is that he’ll be out for 6 to 8 weeks. Old friend DeSean Jackson had a rough day as well. He got driven to the ground while trying to make a catch. Jackson suffered a sprained shoulder. No word on how severe it is or what his prognosis is. Jackson looked to be in serious pain.

These injuries are of particular interest since the Eagles play the Skins next Sunday. Kirk Cousins came in and played lights out in place of Griffin. The whole offense functioned well. You can bet the Skins performance will have the Eagles attention when they start studying that tape on Tuesday.

We do have to ask a question about the Jags. Since opening up a 17-0 lead 16 minutes into the season, they have been out-scored 75-10. Yikes. I thought defense was supposed to be Gus Bradley’s specialty. Right now they look like the worst team in the NFL. Some might argue the Raiders, but I’m going with Jacksonville.

* * * * *

Dallas played much better this week and beat the Titans 26-10. When they run the ball, they are tough to beat. It astounds me that Jason Garrett can’t get that. The man has an Ivy League education.

* * * * *

The Giants stink. They got a huge break in not having to play Carson Palmer and still found a way to lose to the Cardinals…who were on the road. Eli threw a pair of INTs (does that sound familiar?) and Ted Ginn burned them for a long PR TD.

There is some good news for the G-men. They lost 35-14 last week. This week it was 25-14. I’m assuming next week will be 15-14. In Week 4 they should prevail, 14-5.

So there’s that.

* * * * *

The Saints are 0-2. Ouch.

Rob Ryan’s defense gave up 568 yards last week. This week they failed to hold a lead against Brian Hoyer and the Cleveland Browns. The whole world blew sunshine up Rob’s skirt last year. He better turn things around quickly if he wants to keep his reputation from last year.

* * * * *

I loved seeing Seattle lose. They have a really good team and a great defense. But let’s pump the brakes on talking about their place in history until we see a bit more of them. History is filled with plenty of teams that won a title. The special ones win multiple titles and dominate for several years.

* * * * *

I was surprised to see the Lions and Falcons lose the way they did today. Not sure what to make of those teams.

Tampa is 0-2. Lovie Smith is a terrific coach, but his teams just don’t score points. And that makes life tough.

* * * * *

I love Andy Reid to death, but there are times in every KC game where I am so glad he is not the Eagles coach any more. I hated when he called the flood play inside the 10 and had Alex Smith roll to the right. That play worked maybe once a year,  but failed over and over. Sure enough Smith had to throw the ball away.

I have no idea why Big Red didn’t go for it on 4th and a foot from midfield. He punted. Peyton marched right down the field and scored. Ugh.

Some of the Red Zone playcalling (beyond the flood play) got to me. And KC went 2 for 4 in the RZ. That wasn’t good enough to beat the Broncos. You have to get TDs to beat Peyton.

* * * * *

It was good to see former Eagle Jason Avant catch a TD pass. Hope he has a good year for the Panthers.

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Off Day

Posted: September 14th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 273 Comments »

No Eagles action today, but plenty of football on tap. Next week the Eagles take on the Skins so I will probably watch the JAX-WAS game. I’m curious to see how that group looks after an awful showing in the season opener. DJax could run wild on that secondary, but the Skins have to be able to protect RG3 and he’s got to play well.

The Giants catch a huge break with Carson Palmer out. Drew Stanton will take his place for the Cards. This feels like a must-win situation for the Giants so it will be interesting to see how they respond.

Dallas vs the Titans. Not a compelling game, but I’ll be a huge Titans fan for the day.

* * * * *

Is there any decent pregame show these days? TV coverage is just dreadful.

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Defense Coming Together

Posted: September 13th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 130 Comments »

The Eagles allowed 306 yards to the Jags. That number doesn’t stand out as good or bad. Under 300 is good for sure. Above 300 and you have to check out some other stats for comparison’s sake. So let’s do that.

Last year the Eagles only allowed less than 325 yards twice. One of those games was the snow bowl against the Lions (231). The other game was the blowout of the Bears late in the season (257). The 306 yards from the opener would have been the third best game for last year. That shows some progress.

You might argue that the Eagles were only playing Chad Henne and the Jags. That’s a fair point, but remember last year the Eagles gave up 396 yards to the Packers without Aaron Rodgers. Matt Cassell and the Vikings put 455 yards on the Eagles. Part of being a good defense is shutting down the teams you are supposed to shut down.

For this year, the Eagles are 7th in yards allowed and tied for 10th in points allowed. One game is obviously way too small a sample size to come to any conclusions, but it is good to see the unit showing progress. Going up against Andrew Luck and the Colts will offer a much better test for how good this defense really is.

* * * * *

Set aside stats and just focus on execution. The defense is worlds better in that regard.

Watch the KellyStrator segment from PE.com to see Chip showing the defense in action. Players are executing their assignments better and that makes the scheme all the more effective.

One of the things that Kelly shows in the video is tight coverage on a play where Henne is under some pressure. Bill Davis has talked about this. Juan Castillo used to try and explain it. Coverage and a good rush go hand in hand. If you can’t cover, the pass rush won’t be effective. If you can’t rush, coverage won’t be able to stick with receivers.

We talked a lot in the offseason about the need for Trent Cole and the pass rushers to play a lot better. That was true, but better play by the secondary will help the guys up front quite a bit. The Eagles got that on Sunday (after the 1st Qtr) and the pass rush had a good day. Henne was sacked 3 times. He was hit several others. He was uncomfortable in the pocket on a regular basis.

Luck will be a huge challenge because of his mobility and the fact he’s got better receivers. They’ll be harder to cover and he will be harder to pressure.

The Eagles can win a shootout on Monday night, buut I’m curious to see if the defense can surprise a few people and play better than expected.

* * * * *

One player who helped the D last week is Brandon Graham. Bob Brookover wrote about Graham and how he’s fighting to carve out a role on this team and also get his career going.

“Yeah, I used to think too much [about playing time],” Graham said. “And then I’d get to that day and not play that much. It was kind of like a downer because of how hard I worked during the week. Now I’m just coming in with high spirits. We’ve got a great team, and I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help us get to the championship.”

Davis is pleased with Graham’s progress, but making no promises about future playing time.

“He’s a good option,” Davis said. “It’s having three solid players there, so you just want to make sure now that any of the three that are in there can play and roll and they are going to produce. We are very pleased with Brandon. He had a solid game. He really did.”

While Graham waits for a chance to play more, he can offer some counseling to Smith, who dressed but never set foot on the field Sunday.

“I told him not to be discouraged,” Graham said. “I’ve been there before. You do what you have to do to get on the field and that [for Smith] is special teams right now. Whenever that opportunity comes he has to take advantage of it.”

If Graham continues to play well, the playing time will come. The worst thing he can do is try to do too much. Graham needs to play within the framework of the scheme. He’s talented enough to make plays, like he did last week.

I still don’t think Graham has much of a future in Philly (bad fit to the 3-4), but I would love for him to prove me wrong.

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No Lane Johnson

Posted: September 12th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 59 Comments »

The NFL and the NFLPA are on the verge of an agreement in regard to a new drug policy. The policy will take effect immediately and some players will have suspensions reduced.

But…

Too bad. The OL could use a boost from Johnson right now.

Apparently he used PEDs and they are not affected. Only substance abuse matters.

* * * * *

This would make some sense, if Smith can get up to speed. Dennis Kelly has never started at LG in the NFL. He hasn’t played in a real game since 2012. Smith was a starting LG for all of 2013 and knows the position inside-out.

* * * * *

Fran Duffy’s All-22 preview of the Colts is must read material.

This is a big step up in competition from the opener.

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