Monday Morning Thoughts on the Game

Posted: October 6th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 247 Comments »

Early this season I was frustrated with the Eagles because they would fall behind and then make an impressive comeback to win. Yesterday I was frustrated because the Eagles built a big lead and then let the Rams come storming back to make it a tight game. The Eagles still won, but the fun of the 34-7 lead lasted way too short a time for me.

We know this team can overcome a deficit and win.

We know this team can build a big lead.

I have no idea if this team can play a complete game. If you could combine the Jags and Rams games to form the best 4 quarters, the Eagles would look like the best team in football. But that’s not how life works. The Eagles are a talented team. They are playing well enough to be 4-1. But this team hasn’t come close to playing to their potential.

In some ways, that is a good thing. There is nothing good about peaking in September or October. You want to play your best football when it counts, which is later in the season. I believe this team will get better.

How much and how soon…who knows?

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One of the positives from the game was the pass rush. They notched 4 sacks and just missed a couple of others. There were a few plays when pressure forced Austin Davis to scramble. The Eagles now have 11 sacks on the year. The Rams are stuck on 1.

Sack differential is a key stat to watch. Last year the Eagles were -9. So far this year they are +5.

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Some of you want Darren Sproles to get more carries. You see him fly up the field and wonder why Chip Kelly isn’t feeding him the ball more. I’m fine with giving Sproles more work, but one thing you have to be careful about is understanding context. Defenses get into a rhythm. They know when LeSean McCoy is in the game that they will be chasing him laterally. They get used to that.

Then Sproles comes in and gets a quick hitter up the middle and those guys are caught flat-footed. Chasing Shady around helps to set up Sproles to be more effective with his style. If you start feeding Sproles the ball more, you can’t expect more 20 and 30-yard runs. The defense will adjust to him and there will be some good ones, but also plenty of minimal gains as well.

Any time a player is good in a limited role you have to be careful about projecting the results based on more touches and/or playing time. It is rarely as simple as “just get that guy on the field more”.

I do think Sproles deserves more carries.

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Beau Allen has just missed a sack 2 weeks in a row. He is a solid role player who flashes good ability. Allen has heavy, powerful hands that can stun blockers. Bennie Logan has played well at NT, but Allen is going to push him for time in the years ahead.

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The Eagles played more small ball on Sunday than they normally do. Foles only threw one deep ball that I remember, and that was picked off. The Eagles threw a lot of screens and quick passes. I thought that was smart. Move the chains and get the ball to your playmakers. Let them make some plays for you.

Unfortunately, no one could really get loose and deliver much in the way of RAC yards. Jeremy Maclin had one good WR screen.

It is amazing how teams have shut down the Eagles ability to throw to Sproles and McCoy. They are not effective at all on screen passes and are struggling on other short throws. I’m sure the patchwork O-line is part of that. You need timing to make those throws work. But defenses have also done a good job of diagnosing the plays and not giving them any chance of success at all.

I would guess that Kelly and the staff will spend some time during the bye week trying to see how/why teams are reading the screens so well right now.

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My biggest beef with the 4th quarter defense? The Eagles played their CBs off. Both Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher struggle when playing off. They are much better when pressing. I could see if Bill Davis mixed things up. You never want to do the same thing on every play, but the CBs played off on almost every snap in the 4th quarter.

Why give WRs a free release? Throw off their timing and help the pass rush.

Williams and Fletcher lack the ball skills and athleticism to be really effective at playing off.

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Good LB Play

Posted: October 5th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 118 Comments »

The 3-4 defense needs good LB play for the scheme to work. The LB play last year was all over the place and one of the reasons the defense was so erratic. This year the LBs have played pretty well, which makes it so surprising that the defense has continued to struggle.

Connor Barwin is a natural LB and has played well since signing with the Eagles. He had 2 sacks and a PD today. Trent Cole got off to a slow start last year, not getting a sack until the 9th game. This season he’s got 2.5 sacks and 3 FFs. Cole isn’t a dominant pass rusher anymore, but he has his moments and remains a great effort player. Cole’s strip sack led to a Cedric Thornton TD today.

Brandon Graham has taken a major step forward. I thought the Eagles had to trade him this summer, but they didn’t. And that looks pretty smart. He only has 1 sack, but has played better than that. He’s been an effective pass rusher. He also has 3 TFLs and 2 FFs. Graham is a more well-rounded player than in the past.

The ILBs are also playing well. DeMeco Ryans is playing to his usual level. Mychal Kendricks was having a breakout year before he got hurt. Hopefully he’ll be back for Sunday night. Casey Matthews had the best game of his NFL career today. I know that isn’t saying much, but give the guy credit for having solid game. He was second on the team in total tackles (6) and solo tackles (5). Emmanuel Acho had 3 solo tackles today and has played okay in helping to fill in for Kendricks.

Ryans did get banged up and miss some time today. I’m curious to see if the Rams successful drives late in the game came with Ryans missing.

The Eagles really could have used Kendricks in today’s game. St. Louis threw a bunch of short passes and had players running around the middle of the field. Kendricks speed could have helped on some of those plays. While Matthews and Acho were solid, they aren’t athletic or playmakers. You need that speed when playing a lot of Nickel and Dime, which is what happened when the game got to 34-7.

The Eagles still need more speed in the middle and back of the defense. It will take time to fix that.

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Need a good laugh? Enjoy this.

Classic.


Roller Coaster Win

Posted: October 5th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 275 Comments »

The Eagles built up a 34-7 lead. Life was good.

And then the Eagles decided to make things interesting. The defense got sloppy. The offense got worse. Next thing you know it was 34-28 and the Eagles were holding on for dear life. Fortunately, the team was able to get a stop at the end of the game and seal the win.

Even when the Eagles led 34-7, the game wasn’t a barrel of fun. The offense was frustrating. Still, it was good to see the team get out to a big lead. The defense could then pin their ears back and attack. The offense could focus on running the ball.

There wasn’t a lot of cheering at the end. More like a huge sigh of relief. Blowing a game like this would have been pure torture.

While the Eagles made it closer than it ever should have been, they did win. And we can’t lose sight of that fact. Think about all the times that Donovan McNabb or Michael Vick led a comeback that came up just short. Those weren’t moral victories. They were losses. Today, the Eagles won. That doesn’t mean you ignore the frustration of letting St. Louis back in, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

It isn’t very often that the Eagles get to 4-1. This is the first time since 2006.

We’re all frustrated with Nick Foles and some of his mistakes, but let’s keep things in context. He isn’t having some disastrously bad year. He’s highly inconsistent, but that is better than someone who consistently bad. Foles mistakes can be fixed. The offense put up 20 points today. This was nothing like last week’s shutout.

It is absolutely fair to be critical of him. Heck, Nick would agree with a lot of what you say. He watches the tape. He sees the issues. He’s a young QB and those guys can take some time to work through issues. As long as he’s playing reasonably well, you have to stick with your QB. This isn’t a position where you want to go back and forth and ride the hot hand. Foles does not need to be benched.

As long as you believe in the player, you stick with him. And Chip Kelly sure seems to believe in Nick Foles.

Some of you have asked me about Foles future. I have no idea right now. We have to let the season play out. If he gets back into a groove, you’ll see a hot QB and think he’s definitely the QB of the future. If he continues to be up and down, you’ve got a much tougher decision. The key is that you have to set those questions aside for now. Let Foles do his thing and see how the season turns out.

The only way you sit Foles is if he gets hurt or plays terrible. And for those who think he’s played terrible, you’re flat out nuts. Go watch Bobby Hoying from 1998, Doug Pederson from 1999 or Mike McMahon from 2005. That’s terrible QB play. Foles is frustrating and inconsistent, but there is still more good than bad.

There is plenty to fix, with Foles and the rest of the team. The good news is that the Eagles can work on that stuff while sitting at 4-1.

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PHI 20 , STL 7 – 2nd Half

Posted: October 5th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 554 Comments »

LeSean McCoy started slow and had a terrible fumble in the 1st half, but Chip Kelly didn’t give up on him. McCoy got going in the 2nd quarter and finished with 7 carries for 32 yards. He ran with more confidence and finally had some room to work with. He also caught 4 passes.

The Eagles threw the ball a lot in the 1st half. I think this was by design. Build a lead, get the defense running all over and try to tire them out a bit.

I fully expect the Eagles to run a good amount in the 2nd half. They may continue to throw on the opening possession, but after that I think we’ll see a lot of running, with both McCoy and Sproles.

The Eagles defense is having a solid day.

The STs scored another TD. Those guys are playing lights out.

Good 1st half overall, but still lots of sloppy play. The Eagles got to play with a lead for a very short period last week. An early turnover in the 2nd half completely changed that game. If the Eagles can move the ball and possibly score, they’ll get a chance to show what they can do with a lead.

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STL at PHI – 1st Half

Posted: October 5th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 389 Comments »

Gameday is upon us. We know the inactive list and there is a bit of news. Rookie WR Josh Huff will play in his first NFL game. So the answer to the timeless question of what does it take to get Jeff Maehl off the field is…another WR from Oregon. (cue rimshot)

We knew Mychal Kendricks wasn’t going to play this week. Keep your fingers crossed for next week.

Inactives:

QB Matt Barkley
WR Jeff Maehl
OL Dennis Kelly
OL Jason Kelce
DE Taylor Hart
ILB Mychal Kendricks
DB Jaylen Watkins

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Let’s hope Lane Johnson is ready to go. We know he’s healthy and rested. We just don’t want him too rusty. His return can be a big boost to the run game.

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