Detailed Game Review – PHI 34, JAX 17

Posted: September 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 139 Comments »

PHI 34 , JAX 17

A tale of 2 halfs. Or halves. Or whatever you want to call it. The first 30 minutes and final 30 minutes could not have been more different. Jacksonville jumped out to a 17-0 lead. The Eagles looked like they were playing in the preseason opener instead of a real game. For a while, it seemed as if Nick Foles and Cary Williams were having a contest to see who could play worse. (it was a tie)

Things started to change in the 2nd Qtr. The Jags went up 17-0 less than a minute in, but didn’t score the rest of the game. Once the Eagles defense did wake up, it played well. The offense put together a long drive only to see Foles throw a terrible INT in the end zone. The offense had another drive stall just inside the JAX 40. There was hope, but still no points.

I was nervous. The game was still winnable because there was plenty of time left, but any long time Eagles fan knows there are just some days when the team won’t score. There was the infamous 13-13 game vs the Bengals in 2008. There was the 2007 season opener when the Eagles lost 16-13 to Green Bay. Who will ever forget the 13-9 loss to the Raiders in 2009? There was a 13-6 loss to the Jaguars back in 2006. And of course there was the entire 1998 season.

Would this be one of those days?

I thought scoring those first points, especially if a TD, would make all the difference in the world. Seeing Darren Sproles sprint up the middle of the field for a 49-yd TD took the weight of the world off my shoulders. I was able to breathe and felt worlds better about the game. When the Eagles cut the score to 17-14, I felt like winning was inevitable. I was still nervous, but then I’m nervous when the Eagles are up 13 points with 4 minutes left.

The Eagles ended up dominating the 2nd half and winning 34-17.

It was frustrating to see the team play so poorly for parts of the game, especially against a lesser opponent. Gus Bradley has the Jags pointed in the right direction, but they still need a lot of talent on that team. The Eagles mistakes were largely self-inflicted.

But there is plenty of reason to be happy as well. Look at those games I listed earlier. Those were ugly performances that ended as losses (and one tie). The Eagles were able to right the ship on Sunday and win. By 17 points. I think that really says something when the team can snap out of major struggles and then still win big. That tells you the coaching staff is smart. That tells you the team has a lot of firepower. And that tells you that the players are resilient.

Anyone can get down. Good teams don’t stay down. They can shrug off a bad quarter or half and win ugly. That’s exactly what the Eagles did on Sunday.      Read the rest of this entry »


So Much For Stability

Posted: September 10th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 304 Comments »

The Eagles suffered some injuries in the season opener. RT Allen Barbre is out for the year with an ankle injury. ILB Najee Goode is out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. LG Evan Mathis is on short term IR with his MCL injury. That meant the team needed to make some roster changes. Let’s meet the new guys.

Wade Smith was signed to help the OL. He has started 98 games in his career, most of that coming as the LG of the Houston Texans. Smith is the kind of versatile, veteran player the team wanted to add. It should be easier to get him coached up on the scheme and playbook than if they added a young guy. Smith knows LG inside and out. He now has to learn the Eagles version of LG.

Emmanuel Acho was promoted from the practice squad to replace Goode. This is a big chance for Acho. He will get some playing time on defense and plenty on STs. Acho needs to show that he can play in the NFL. It will be especially important for him to stand out on STs.

Kevin Graf was promoted from the PS to the roster to replace Barbre. Graf played RT in college at USC, but played LT and LG for most of the summer. His lack of athleticism would seriously concern me if he ever had to play.

Chip Kelly would not say what the plan on the OL is for now. Smith is an experienced LG, but wasn’t good enough to keep a spot on a shaky Seattle OL. Dennis Kelly is here already and knows the scheme, but has mostly played RG. David Molk had a solid showing, but ideally you want him as your backup G/C.

The best plan is to play Smith at LG. Have Molk and Kelly as the backups. If one of the OTs gets hurt, put Todd Herremans at that spot and insert Kelly at RG.

Scratch that. The best plan is to tell the guys to quit getting hurt.

The stability on the OL was great last year. Right now Jeff Stoutland and Chip Kelly are playing a bizarro version of Tetris with the Eagles O-line. Which piece fits best where?

Oh, and thanks a lot Lane Johnson. Not that we could use you or anything like that.

* * * * *

A couple of spots opened up on the practice squad.

The Eagles signed ILB Brandon Hepburn. PE.com has some info on him.

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Hepburn was selected by the Detroit Lions in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Florida A&M. Hepburn spent last season on the Lions’ practice squad and was re-signed this offseason by Detroit to a futures contract.

The second player to be drafted out of Florida A&M since 2010, Hepburn finished his college career with 163 tackles (109 solo), including 15 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 11 pass defenses, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Hepburn earned All-MEAC honors and was named to the All-State/AFCA Good Works Team.

The Eagles needed a young ILB with a mixture of experience and potential. Hepburn has an understanding of the NFL, but must learn the Eagles system. He is a good athlete. Gil Brandt has his Pro Day info.

Brandon Hepburn, ILB (6-foot-2 7/8, 241 pounds) — Hepburn ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 and 4.56 seconds. He had a 36-inch vertical jump, a 4.47-second short shuttle and did the three-cone drill in 7.31 seconds. He stood on his numbers from the NFL Scouting Combine in the broad jump (10-foot-4, and good and bench press (21 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press).

Hepburn is a guy you think of as a STer and backup. If anything happens to Acho, Hepburn will have a shot at that roster spot. He needs to shine in practice to impress the coaches. Seems like a good signing.

The team also added OL Tyler Hoover.

The 6-foot-7, 297-pound Hoover was a defensive lineman at Michigan State and with the Indianapolis Colts, but did play tight end in high school as well as defensive end. Hoover originally entered the league this year as a rookie free agent of the Colts. He was re-signed by the Colts to the practice squad following the preseason, but released on September 2.

At Michigan State, Hoover played in 48 career games (23 starts) and recorded 93 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, six passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. As a senior in 2013, Hoover started 11 games and posted career highs in tackles for loss (4.5) and sacks (4.0). He was also named Michigan State’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award recipient.

This is an interesting move. The Eagles need OL help right now. Yet, they signed a project. Hoover must be a player they had long term interest in and just wanted to grab for the future. The Eagles have had interest in him since college. They had someone meet with him at his Pro Day. I don’t know if that was a scout or coach, and if it was as a DL or OL.

The Eagles released OLB Colton Underwood from the PS and now have a spot to fill. My guess is that they find an O-lineman with some experience and who can be promoted to play if needed.

So much for roster stability, huh?

* * * * *

A little adversity can be a good thing. You don’t mind the team getting out of its comfort zone. Sometimes that can bring out the best in players.

Maybe playing behind a makeshift OL will cause Nick Foles to get the ball out quicker. He cannot drop back and look vertically behind this group on a regular basis. Maybe quicker throws will help the offense get into a better rhythm. And so on and so on.

Mathis can come back in 8 weeks. Johnson will hopefully be the RT by that point. If the starting OL can gel quickly, the Eagles could be set to dominate up front down the stretch run.

And that would be cool with me.

__


More on the Game

Posted: September 9th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 172 Comments »

Bennie Logan missed a lot of time this summer. When he did play in the preseason, he hardly stood out. I wasn’t worried about him per se, but I wondered if he was healthy, rusty or something else was up. Logan decided to go ahead and put those worries to rest on Sunday. He played very well. Logan was a key part of the excellent short yardage defense. He drove his blocker into the backfield on the initial 3rd down stop of the game, which disrupted the play. Logan added a couple of solo tackles in the game. He read a TE screen well and helped to disrupt that play.

Logan wasn’t dominant or great, but played well. Some fans were on him due to the Saints loss, but I think Logan can be a good NT for the Eagles. He is strong enough to 2-gap and is athletic enough to move around and be effective when the Eagles want to mix in stunts and things like that.

* * * * *

I loved seeing Darren Sproles as the punt returner. He was a big improvement over recent years.

If you go back to 2008, DeSean Jackson was a major weapon as the PR. Unfortunately, he developed some bad habits that never went away. Far too often, Jackson would catch the ball and go backwards. He wanted the ability to run and needed space to do that. I believe in the Brian Mitchell School of Returning. You catch the ball and go forward. Any time Jackson caught a punt, you had a chance for a home run. But the majority of them ended with bad results.

Sproles is more like Mitchell. He catches the ball and is ready go get going forward. Sproles has very good hands so he catches the ball cleanly. That’s the first key for a good return. Sproles is able to make the initial defender miss. He lacks breakaway speed, but has good burst so that if he has room, he can get upfield and get some initial separation. Sproles uses his size to his advantage. He hides in traffic. You can’t tell where he is.

He averaged 15.5 yards on 4 returns. That is just what this team needs. Last year Jackson and Damaris Johnson had 26 returns for 171 total yards. Sproles is already 1/3 of the way to surpassing that total after one game.

He was a heck of a 5th round pick.

* * * * *

Zach Ertz isn’t going to be a volume receiver in this offense, but he is one heck of a playmaker. He only caught 3 passes, but gained 77 yards. All 3 of his catches netted at least 25 yards. One of the grabs went for a TD. Ertz is quickly going to become an impact player. The long TD to Maclin came on a play where the S jumped a TE route. You don’t have to catch a ton of passes to impact the defense.

* * * * *

The Eagles defense pitched a shutout for the 2nd half of the game. They only allowed 17 points overall and both TDs came on drives that started in plus territory.

The Jags only crossed midfield twice in the 2nd half. Once they got to the PHI 47 punted. The other time came on the final play of the game when the Eagles were in a prevent defense.

Chad Henne isn’t a star QB (no matter how much they tried to make it look like that in the 1st half) and the Jags offense has major issues, but that is still some impressive defense at the part of the game where things really mattered. Kudos to Bill Davis and his players for making some adjustments and executing better. They stepped up in a big way.

* * * * *

I wrote a review of the game for PE.com. I’ll be posting a full DGR later. Lots of praise for LBs and the STs in there. Feels good to be happy about those units.

* * * * *

With the injuries to Evan Mathis and Allen Barbre, the Eagles need OL help. The team looked at Winston a lot last year, but nothing ever came of it.

Smith almost became an Eagle years ago. When he was in college. Juan Castillo went to work him out. Castillo ate dinner with Smith the night before that and really liked him. Smith got drafted by the Dolphins and Castillo never got to coach him. Now Castillo is gone and Smith could finally be making his way to Philly. Both Winston and Smith played for the Texans so we know the Eagles have legit interest in them.

* * * * *

Is it me or does it feel weird that the Eagles scored 34 points in half of a game and nobody seems to be making a big deal of that? _


Sunday Night Reflections

Posted: September 7th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 380 Comments »

The Eagles beat the Jaguars in a sloppy affair. Chip Kelly won’t be thrilled with a lot of what he saw, but he will be happy with the toughness that his team showed. You don’t always learn a lot about your team when things are going well. You find out a lot when things don’t go well and the team is tested.

Nick Foles played poorly in the 1st half. There was some speculation from fans and the media about pulling him. Chip said the coaches never considered that, which is what I expected. You have to let the young player work his way through the issues. The good news in this case is that Foles got better in the 2nd half. There are times when a young player can struggle for multiple games before getting back on track.

While Foles did improve, he never looked sharp. He’s still got a long way to go.

I think nerves got the best of him. This was the first time Foles started a season opener. That brings a certain kind of pressure. Peyton Manning refers to it as just having butterflies. You haven’t played a full game in 8 months. You want to be perfect. You’ve got new wrinkles in your scheme and are facing a team that will also show you new wrinkles.

Foles looked nervous in the playoff game as well. He started slow before he got going and left the field with the lead.

I think Foles will be much better by next week. He’ll have game film to watch and will be on a normal schedule. He’ll settle into a groove off the field and that will help him on the field. Foles didn’t suddenly become dumb. He didn’t suddenly lose his accuracy. This was a bad game. Actually a bad half, to be exact.

Think of it this way. Chad Henne played lights out in the 1st half, which is the opposite of his track record. He then played poorly in the 2nd half, which matches his track record. Are you going to focus on what he did in the 1st half or the 2nd half/his track record?

* * * * *

I wasn’t thrilled with Kelly’s playcalling. The Eagles seemed to go to the screen game a lot and it felt like the Jags figured that out. Kelly also was running to the outside and it wasn’t working. The Jags have a fast defense. Getting outside of them is hard.

I really hated the pass play inside the 10 when Foles was picked off. The young QB was not playing well. I think you need to run the ball at least once there. I get that you want to show confidence in Foles and you also hope you’ll catch the Jags thinking run, but that was a highly frustrating call.

* * * * *

I don’t know what was going on with the pass coverage in the 1st half. The Eagles CBs were playing off a lot and then getting burned. You play off to keep things in front of you. That wasn’t working.

Bill Davis mixed in more press and that brought out the best in Cary Williams. He was much more effective from that point on.

Still, the Eagles need a good CB next year in the draft or FA.

* * * * *

I didn’t think Gus Bradley had a great day. I’m just not sure about going for it on 4th/short when you’re only down 7. The design of the play did work, but the execution didn’t. Connor Barwin had deflected 2 passes prior to that and I wonder if his presence over there affected Henne’s pass. Henne put the ball too far out for the TE to make a clean catch.

It also seemed like the Jags abandoned the run for a long time. I know Toby Gerhart was hurting, but that’s why you need a backup RB.

* * * * *

Mychal Kendricks sure looked like he had a terrific game. He led the team with 6 solo tackles. He had a sack and deflected a pass. If he can become a consistent playmaker in the middle of the defense, that will make a world of difference.

* * * * *

Fletcher Cox also had 6 solo tackles. He should have had a TFL of Gerhart, but that was wiped out by a bogus horse collar penalty. That might have been balanced out when Cox got away with a big hit on Henne where their helmets appeared to touch. Cox sealed the game when he scooped up a fumble and ran it in for a TD. That’s a pretty good day for a 3-4 DE.

* * * * *

I need to see the tape to see how David Molk did at LG and Andrew Gardner at RT. The OL played much better in the 2nd half, with those 2 in for the whole time. Foles getting the ball out quicker definitely helped, but it also seemed like the line just played better.

The Eagles are going to have some interesting decisions this week. The first key is to figure out who is able to play. Then the coaches have to figure out the best combination. The LG could be Molk or Tobin. Maybe you move Barbre in there and leave Gardner at RT.

Jeff Stoutland is going to earn his paycheck this year.

* * * * *

It was good to see Trent Cole get his strip sack late in the game. Last year he didn’t have a sack until the 9th game. He got pressure in the first 8 games, but pass rushers want some sacks. They need tangible proof of their work.

It was also encouraging to see Brandon Graham used on a regular basis. He had a couple of TFLs.

* * * * *

_


Just Like We Thought

Posted: September 7th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 217 Comments »

What a game. The 1st half was a nightmare. Nick Foles looked like the guy from the first Dallas game of 2013. He held the ball forever and then was off-target when he did throw it. The defense and STs did everything they could and the game was “only” 17-0 at the half.

The 2nd half was about as good as life gets. The Eagles outscored the Jags 34-0 and totally dominated the game. Foles still wasn’t sharp, but played well enough and got help from everyone, including the Jags.

This was an ugly win. And it could prove costly in the form of injuries.

Allen Barbre also went out for the game. He had an ankle injury. We’ll have to see how that situation pans out. The Eagles OL was very stable last year. Clearly that won’t be the case this season.

The Eagles did show us something today. Last year they tended to build up big leads and then had to hold on for a tight win. Today they dug a major hole and were able to climb out of it. That shows a mental and emotional toughness that not all teams have. I’d prefer smooth sailing in most games, but you do learn a lot about your team when they are tested like this.

* * * * *

How bad do the Jags and Jags fans feel right now? Wow.

* * * * *

The STs were pretty special.

* 51-yd FG

* 5 touchbacks

* A couple of long PRs that set up scoring drives. 15.5 yds per PR for the game.

* A blocked FG by Brandon Bair. Very convenient of the Jags STs to show Oregon bias by letting Bair block that kick and none of the other Eagles.

* Boykin downed a punt at the 1.

More of this please.

* * * * *

Overall, today was a good day.

* The Skins lost to the Texans 17-6. The Eagles defense outscored the Skins offense 7 to 6. Nice.

* DeSean Jackson lost 9 yards on an end around. He was 8-62 as a receiver, with a long of 17 yards.

* Dallas is down 21-3 and Tony Romo already has 2 INTs.

* The Saints lost to the Falcons in OT. Conference losses for the Saints are a good thing.

* * * * *

KC lost and bad. I’m actually not anti-KC or Andy, but I know some of you are. It is interesting that both the Eagles and Chiefs fell behind early. The Chiefs couldn’t do anything about it and lost 26-10. The Eagles were able to right the ship and then dominate. The Chiefs had a terrific season in 2013, but I’m still not sold that they are a good team.

To make matters worse, the Chiefs lost DL Mike DeVito and ILB Derrick Johnson for the season. Not a good start for Big Red and his new team. Good luck to them.

* * * * *

I’ll have some insight on the game tonight. I need to watch Dallas play for now. My kind of game.

_