Preseason Opener – 2nd Half Thread

Posted: August 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 74 Comments »

The Eagles lead the Bears 21 to 14, but the score is pretty meaningless in preseason. The Eagles starters were sloppy. Don’t make too much of that. The opener is the least important preseason game there is.

This game has actually been a success so far. The biggest key…no major injuries. Beyond that, some young players are playing well and showing that they might be able to help the team this year.

* Josh Huff with a long KOR for a TD

* Damion Square with a blocked FG

* Backup DL Brandon Bair has been excellent at RDE

* LB Marcus Smith has shown good athleticism so far

* NT Beau Allen is playing his butt off. He’s all over the place

* LG Matt Tobin has played well

* WR Ifeanyi Momah actually has a couple of catches against NFL starters…didn’t expect that

I was also impressed with Malcolm Jenkins and Nate Allen. Earl Wolff didn’t catch my eye. There are plenty of veterans who looked good or flashed, but I don’t want to get into all of that right now.

There are several things to be concerned about. We’ll be discussing them for the next week.

For now, cheer for no injuries and more young guys to play well.

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Biggest Game Ever

Posted: August 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 142 Comments »

NFL history will change tonight when Chip Kelly unveils the Eagles newest weapon…the Wishbone offense. Kelly has been secretly working on this for weeks. His goal is to have Nick Foles rush for 1,000 yards this year.

Okay, so nothing that dramatic is likely to happen tonight, but it is good to have football back, even if the starters will play very little. We do have to keep a few things in mind. The first preseason game can be a bit of an anomaly. Last year Fletcher Cox looked awful in the game. He went on to have a good season. Clay Harbor had a good game, but didn’t even make the team. Bryce Brown looked very good. He was up and down during the year.

This is the first game of the year. Some guys are going to be rusty because of that. Others will be sloppy because they are still learning the scheme/playbook and just aren’t comfortable. That was Cox last year.

Don’t make too much of this game, good or bad. It is the least meaningful of the preseason games.

Here are some quick thoughts on players.

QB – I want to see how Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley look. Sanchez is a veteran and Barkley is in Year 2 of this offense. They should play well, assuming they get solid protection.

RB – We get to see Darren Sproles in action. Starters will only play 10 to 15 snaps and my guess is that will apply to Sproles as well. I’ll be happy with seeing 1 or 2 touches by him. Matthew Tucker will get a lot of work. He could have a big night. Henry Josey is the backup I’m interested in watching.

WR – Jordan Matthews.

TE – We know Celek and Ertz. James Casey will probably get a lot of snaps. Rookie Trey Burton is the guy I want to watch. He’s only about 230 pounds. I want to see how he blocks. It would be great if we could see a couple of passes go to Blake Annen. He’s been up and down in camp with catching the ball.

OL – I’ll be focused on LT Andrew Gardner and LG Matt Tobin on the backups. We need one of those guys to step up and show they can play. It would be great if both played reasonably well. Kevin Graf is the LT on the #3 team. I’m curious to see how he does. And I’m excited to see C David Molk with the 3rd team. I loved him coming out of Michigan. Can he play?

DL – Everyone is excited to see Beau Allen and Taylor Hart. They have played well this summer. I’m also curious about DE Brandon Bair and NT Damion Square. Bair is a #2 DE on the depth chart, but we haven’t heard a word about him this summer. Has he quietly played well or is he just there because he’s ahead of rookies? And Square should be bigger/stronger this summer. I want to see if he’s able to play with better power. Joe Kruger has not impressed anyone this summer, but I still want to see what he does in a game setting.

OLB – Marcus Smith time. Can’t wait to see him in action. The big thing I”m looking for is athletic ability. Does he look as quick and agile in the NFL as he did in college? I also want to see if Brandon Graham looks better this year. He’s now been a LB for 15 or so months. I’m hoping for progress. Travis Long is another guy I’m curious about. I’m hoping he is quicker than he was last summer.

ILB – Who will be on the #2 unit beside Najee Goode? I’m guessing Emmanuel Acho, but the coaches still like Jake Knott. They might not play him with the backups since he has the 4-game suspension coming up. Jason Phillips makes his Eagles debut tonight.

S – How will the 10 to 15 snaps rule apply to Nate Allen and Earl Wolff? Will they split reps in the 1st half? Neither guy has established himself as the starter so I hope they both play. We need to what kind of progress both players have made. I don’t know what to expect from rookie Ed Reynolds.

CB – With Nolan Carroll out, there is less excitement about the backup CBs. It will be interesting to see if Curtis Marsh has truly gotten better. We do get to see the NFL debut of Jaylen Watkins, which should be interesting.

STs – Alex Henery will be as scrutinized as any Eagles player. He needs a strong performance to keep fans and the media off his back. I’m excited about seeing Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman in action. There is no live STs play in camp. Tonight will be the first chance for these guys to go hit and really show what they can do. It will be interesting to see how returns kicks and punts and how they do. Sproles might lead for both jobs, but there is room for someone to step up.

The biggest key to the game is staying healthy. Do that and the Eagles will be winners, regardless of what the scoreboard says.

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In case you don’t know a player or number, Chip Kelly will tell you that depth charts can be an invaluable resource. Here is the one that he painstakingly did to get Eagles fans as well-informed as possible. Chip believes that football coaches shouldn’t be measured by wins and losses, but rather by the quality of the depth charts they put together.

Kudos, Chippah.

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Get Your Head Right

Posted: August 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 31 Comments »

Bill Davis has talked about the need for better head placement when it comes to Eagles players improving their tackling. To a lot of people, this makes complete sense. To others, they don’t really understand.

Watch this PE.com piece on Nate Allen. He’s doing a sit-down interview with Dave Spadaro and they mix in a slew of highlights from last year. In almost every clip, Nate puts his head behind the runner or receiver. You can then see that Nate has to reach to make the tackle. He also has to drag down the runner/receiver.

Part of this is technique. Part is simple aim. Defenders need to run to where the ball is going to be, not where it is. You must anticipate. If the defender takes a good angle and gets his head in front of the ball, it is much easier to make the tackle. There is less reaching and the defender can use the momentum of his body to deliver a hit instead of dragging the offensive player to the ground.

It will be interesting to see if Nate shows any improvement vs the Bears. Bill Davis made it sound like that was a priority for the Eagles in practice. If Nate has been paying attention, he should be better at this starting in the Bears game.

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Just a quick post for now. I’ll be writing a full preview for later.

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Huge Opportunity

Posted: August 7th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 62 Comments »

There are 2 groups that will have a big chance to help themselves on Friday night. First is the backup O-line. Those guys are fighting for roster spots and to try and establish some pecking order. But even if Matt Tobin or Andrew Gardner is lights out, they still aren’t guaranteed to see the field in 2014. They’ll only play on STs, due to injuries or in extreme blowouts.

The other group with a lot on the line is the WR corps. Jeremy Maclin will play 10 to 15 snaps, if that many. Riley Cooper is out. That means that Jordan Matthews, Brad Smith, Arrelious Benn, BJ Cunningham, Ifeanyi Momah and rookie Josh Huff will get a lot of playing time. I don’t know where Quron Pratt and Kadron Boone fall on the depth chart, but they could also get more reps.

These players have a chance to not only help their case of making the team, but they can show the coaches they are worthy of playing time. Obviously I don’t mean if you play well in the first preseason game that you suddenly get mixed into the gameplan. But you can get the coaches attention and lay the foundation for something like that.

Take Josh Huff for example. He’s been up and down in camp. One of his best qualities is being a good RAC receiver. That doesn’t show much in Training Camp where there is limited tackling. Huff could open some eyes with good RAC plays in Friday’s game. The coaches then feed him short passes in other preseason games and if Huff continues to impress, he could get mixed into the WR screen game during the regular season.

The WRs are trying to build trust with the coaches and QBs. WRs must show they will run the right routes, get open and catch the ball when it comes their way. They will get extra attention if they can make tough catches or if they can make plays after the catch. That is the kind of stuff that can separate one player from the next.

Coop and Mac are going to be the primary receivers this year. Matthews could be close to them. Smith will be more involved this year. After them, things are wide open. Players like Benn and Cunningham can’t afford bad games. One or two of them and they are potentially looking at the end of their careers. Both guys have been around the league a few years. They must show they are worthy of roster spots.

It sounds like Cunningham has had the better camp, but Benn has a better track record and is the bigger, more physical player. Each player can make a case for why he’s better than the other guy. Starting on Friday night, they’ll be able to put action behind those words. Everything they do well will help their case. That could be something on STs. It could be run blocking. Heck, the difference could be who runs better pass routes. WRs coach Bob Bicknell is going to keep 5 or 6 guys for the season. 4 of those spots are likely filled. That means some serious competition for the other spots and for practice squad spots.

Momah isn’t totally out of this, but I still see him as a major long shot. I’m sure he just wants to erase bad memories from last summer. He’s done that at camp, now is the time to do it in a game. Remember, the last game where he played and looked good was in September of 2011. That is so long ago that Casey Matthews still had a future at that point.

Huff is another player with a lot to gain. He will make the roster, but Huff needs to show if he can be a contributor in 2014 or if he’s a developmental prospect. Huff is ultra-competitive so I think games should bring out the best in him.

I’m also excited to see how Pratt plays. He has quietly had a good camp and could prove to be a better player than I anticipated.

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There was a ton of talk on Wednesday about the kelly green uniforms. Les Bowen explains that the situation is more complex than you would imagine.

Go read the piece to get the insane details of why this is so complicated.  Ugh.

I’m not a big uniform guy. I don’t mind the current look of the Eagles. If I could choose a look, I’d go for the uniforms from the early 1990′s. I love that kind of kelly green with silver pants.

 

I just think that is a great look. The black shoes are also very cool.

It doesn’t seem like Jeffrey Lurie has any interest in those uniforms. I think that’s a shame, but I’m not going to get too fired up about it. Go win games and wear some shade of green and I’ll be a happy camper.

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Depth Discussion

Posted: August 6th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 133 Comments »

One of the things we always do when talking about players close to the bottom of the roster is mention how they might be playing well, but have little hope of making the roster. While this is somewhat true, you never know when that will change due to injuries.

It sounds like the light has finally gone on for CB Curtis Marsh and he’s playing the best football of his career. The problem is that he’s buried on the depth chart. Marsh is behind Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Nolan Carroll and rookie Jaylen Watkins. Being the 6th CB on a football team isn’t good. Teams normally only keep 5 corners. And Roc Carmichael is still in the mix. It is possible that Marsh is the #7 CB

But Marsh still has a chance to make the roster. If any of the top 5 guys goes down in practice or a preseason game, that could open the door for Marsh.One of the real challenges in sports is for guys who aren’t projected to start or even to make the team to play aggressively and confidently. The #7 CB on the team needs to play with the same attitude and mentality as the #1 CB. You can’t focus on the numbers. You have to play your best and put the pressure on the coaches, scouts and personnel staff to find a way to keep you. Or you want to put out good preseason tape to attract the other 31 teams.

Marsh could have seen the Eagles signing of Carroll and drafting of Watkins as signs that his career is over. Instead, it sure sounds like he is doing everything he can to impress the Eagles. I hope none of the top guys does go down, but if they do, Marsh needs to be ready to stand up. He wasn’t in the past but maybe that has finally changed.

Marsh isn’t the only Eagle backup who is having a good summer. Let’s look over some practice notes. First up is Jeff McLane.

Curtis Marsh may finally be on the outside looking in when it comes to making the roster, but he’s had a nice camp, albeit against third team competition. He scored an interception in front of Huff and had a pass breakup during one on ones. Later during team drills, he broke up a pass to Huff and knocked down a jump ball to Cunningham.

1. Andrew Gardner seems like he’s ahead of the other reserve tackles. There isn’t much depth there with Allen Barbre called up to replace the four-game-suspension-facing Lane Johnson. Gardner had a standoff with Cedric Thornton during a one on one. Kevin Graf seems to be getting better with every practice. He must be coachable. He was dusted by defensive end Joe Kruger early on, but stoned Travis Long and held off Trent Cole. The rest of the offensive line went nuts and the high point of Graf’s day must have been when Jason Peters came over and gave him a low five.

2. At guard, Matt Tobin looks to be the man to beat. He has been solid. Dennis Kelly has had his ups and downs. He suffered a setback last season with a back injury, but doesn’t look as if he’s progressed much since his rookie season. Michael Bamiro was moved to guard in the offseason, but he remains a project.

I didn’t think much of the Gardner signing when it happened, but he could turn out to be an important addition. The Eagles need some OT to stand up and take the key backup role while Lane Johnson is suspended and Allen Barbre is starting. Gardner could be that guy. He’s not played much in the league, but has been around long enough to know what he’s doing. He is a good athlete. The Eagles don’t need him to be Jason Peters. If he can just be Allen Barbre 2.0, that’ll do for now.

I wonder if Graf will turn out to be this year’s Tobin. I wasn’t overly impressed by Tobin at Iowa, but he was smart, tough and coachable. He took well to the NFL and had a good summer in 2013. Graf could be another guy who looks better in the NFL than he did in college. The interesting thing is that he played RT at USC, but the depth chart has him playing LT for the Eagles.

It sure doesn’t sound like Bamiro is making the kind of progress we hoped for. He needs to come alive in a big way on Friday night.

* * * * *

Jimmy Bama is up next.

• Curtis Marsh had a great day. He had four pass breakups that I counted, which is excellent. With Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Boykin, Nolan Carroll, and Jaylen Watkins are locks to make the team, Marsh likely isn’t going to find his way onto the 53-man roster, but he has had a really good camp.

• Mark Sanchez was up and down today, but he did have a highlight throw. During a session in practice in which the defense is supposed to be in somewhat of a ‘prevent’ mode in which they’re willing to give up short passes underneath, but keeping everything in front of them, Sanchez connected with Damaris Johnson on a gorgeous deep ball for a TD. Credit Sanchez for making a big time throw against a defense specifically designed to stop deep passes. You can also probably give the second team defense a healthy amount of blame on that one.

It is good to read positive stuff about Marsh. Every bit of progress is important. Whether he makes the Eagles or not, I would love to see him play well and earn a spot somewhere.

* * * * *

Brandon Lee Gowton.

Quron Pratt continues to have an impressive training camp. Pratt made a diving catch on a comeback route with Bradley Fletcher in coverage. It was a Sanchez throw. Later on, Pratt caught a Hail Mary catch deep in the back of the endzone but didn’t “complete the process” and dropped it after stepping out of bounds. Still kind of impressive that he even got his hands on it.

Really impressive back shoulder touchdown catch for Brad Smith against Bradley Fletcher from a Nick Foles throw. Foles seems to be really getting the hang of that throw. As far as Fletcher goes, he hasn’t had a bad camp, but today wasn’t his best day.

BLG has the kicking update as well.

• Eagles kicker competition: Alex Henery (5-5) was perfect from 37, 45, 42, 45, and 52. Undrafted free agent rookie kicker Carey Spear only made 2 out of 5 with misses from 42, 43, 45. … I was impressed with Henery’s kickoffs. None of them went through the back of the endzone for a touchback but they all went at least halfway through the endzone. … the Eagles practiced some extra point attempts from the 15-yard line because the NFL is experimenting with a longer distance in preseason.

It doesn’t sound like Henery has had a great summer, but he has shown some progress. This will be a make or break year for him.

I’m really intrigued to see Pratt in action. He’s quietly had a very good camp so far.

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The big storyline for the day was the play of Brandon Boykin.

McLane on Boykin – “Boykin has been excellent for most of camp, but he brought it today. His coverage was typically tight, but he’s added a karate chop to his repertoire. He has been consistently slapping the ball out of receiver’s hands like he did against B.J. Cunningham at one point. Later, Boykin, who had six interceptions last season, picked off Mark Sanchez when he went to Josh Huff in the end zone. Boykin lost his helmet on the play, but got up and chucked the ball away. Boykin may be best suited for the slot, but the Eagles have to find ways to get him on the field more than last season’s 50 percent.”

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Kapadia on Boykin vs Matthews – “12:41 - Brandon Boykin vs. Matthews in one-on-ones. Who’s got popcorn?

Matthews runs down the seam and turns for the ball, but Boykin breaks it up. After practice, Matthews explained that he specifically requested to go up against Boykin today.

“It’s just seeing different looks,” Matthews said. “The first couple days I was going againstMalcolm [Jenkins]. I said, ‘Malcolm, let’s get together. I want to work against you. You’re a safety. I want to see how it is to go against somebody a little bit more physical in there, somebody that’s gonna try to get their hands on me.’

“And then yesterday and this morning, I said, ‘Yo Boykin, let’s go together. I need to make sure I work against you a little bit.’ So that’s why we took a lot more one-on-one reps together today. And then I also got to work against him some in team too. So it’s just about seeing different looks, being able to work against different type guys and then try to put that all together in my game.”

The next time they get matched up, Matthews uses his size advantage to create space within the 5-yard window, gets open and makes the grab on a shallow crosser.”

And then…”Boykin bats another ball down against B.J. Cunningham. At this point, he might as well start using the Dikembe Mutombo finger-wag.”

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Jimmy Bama on Boykin – “There aren’t many players who compete harder than Brandon Boykin. During 11-on-11′s, Boykin won a contested battle with Josh Huff in the back corner of the end zone for an interception. Boykin’s helmet was ripped off on the play, and he emphatically chucked the ball in a fired-up celebration.

Boykin has consistently made plays throughout camp, but one thing that’s been very noticeable recently with is the violent way he attacks receivers’ arms when he’s trying to break up passes. Most corners will try to get a hand on the ball and that’s it. Boykin swings his arms down like hammers, so that even if he misses the ball, he can still punish the receivers’ arms, making it more difficult for them to make the catch.”

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