Posted: August 22nd, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 133 Comments »
Another week, another butt-kicking. I could get used to this.
The Eagles out-played the Ravens on offense, defense and STs. Sam Bradford was able to get in and shake off some rust. He took some hits and worked his way through them. Several backups improved from last week. Maybe most importantly, there weren’t any key injuries.
All in all, a terrific night.
Posted: August 22nd, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 782 Comments »
Are you ready to see Sam Bradford finally play? I know that I’m excited.
When is the last time there was this much buzz about an Eagles QB? You might have to go all the way back to Donovan McNabb in 1999. There wasn’t much buzz on Kevin Kolb. Mike Vick was more of a mystery since he was coming to the Eagles from prison.
The initial mystery with Bradford was why the heck Chip Kelly traded for him. That narrative changed during the OTAs and minicamp as we started to hear good things about Bradford. Then came Training Camp, where Bradford really stood out. He threw the ball well. He was accurate. Kelly looked a lot smarter once people actually saw Bradford play in the Eagles offense.
The question with Bradford now is about his health and durability. Is he ready to be on the field against a live defense? Can he take a hit? How will he move around?
It finally looks like we’ll get answers to those questions tonight.
I do wonder if the hype might be a bit much. If Bradford doesn’t throw a TD tonight, that doesn’t mean he’s been overrated and it’s time to panic. Bradford re-tore his ACL last August. He might be a bit rusty in his first game action in a long time.
I’ll be focusing on a few things. I want to see how he moves and how he responds to pressure. Players coming off a major injury can be skittish at times. Bradford needs to show he can deal with the rush and stay focused on his receivers. I’m excited to see how he throws the ball. Bradford can be very accurate and has a good arm. Let’s see that.
OTHERS OF NOTE
* John Moffitt will likely play a lot of RG tonight. He was very rusty last week, but did get better as the game went along. He needs to take a big step forward this week if he’s going to challenge Andrew Gardner for the starting RG spot.
* Josh Huff didn’t have any passes come his way in the opener. Let’s hope the coaches call his number tonight so we can see how much Huff has progressed since last year.
* I thought Matt Tobin and David Molk were the only backup offensive linemen who played well last week. The Eagles need some other players to emerge and push for roster spots. Could be a veteran like Dennis Kelly, a second year guy like Kevin Graf or a rookie like Brett Boyko.
* Raheem Mostert was good last week. He just needs to do more of the same. He wasn’t able to bring back a kickoff last week and I hope that changes.
* Someone please throw a good pass to G.J. Kinne.
* Walter Thurmond didn’t get much of a chance to show what he can do last week. The starters will play more tonight. I hope we get to see him make a tackle or two. Would love to see him make a play in coverage.
* It will be fun to see Vinny Curry play some OLB.
* Please let Bryan Braman play with the 2’s. He was banished to the 4th quarter last week and dominated. We know he’s better than scrubs. Let’s see how he does against better competition. Is there some reason he couldn’t be the #3 OLB?
* Someone needs to step up in the battle for the Nickel spot.
* Ed Reynolds had a good game. He still needs to play better to seriously push for a spot. He must make his presence felt on STs. He needs to be an active run defender. Picking off passes that thrown to you is a good thing, but he still needs to be better.
* We get to see new players Dasman McCullum (#49) and Deontae Skinner (#54). Both players are linebackers. We’ll have to wait and see how they are used.
* * * * *
I have to admit, this is kinda funny.
Posted: August 21st, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 141 Comments »
And so it begins. The Eagles played in a game, even if it was just the preseason opener. I went back and re-watched every snap multiple times to get a feel for what happened and why it happened. Preseason games are very different than regular season games. The focus is on the individual. Winning and losing has its place, but takes a back seat to the performance of young and new players.
The Eagles blew the doors off the Colts. As much as you should feel good about that, I have to say that the Colts looked bad. That doesn’t mean the Colts aren’t going to be a good team. Andrew Luck is a terrific QB and they have some really good skill players. They just don’t have good depth. Also, playing on the road in the preseason can bring out the worst in teams.
With all that in mind, let’s get to the game. I didn’t cover every player. There was no use in writing about Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Fletcher Cox, etc. Guys like that are established starters. I wanted to focus on new and/or young guys. Or returning players that really stood out.
* * * * *
BRADFORD – Great game. Didn’t get hurt. To be fair, I should also point out that he didn’t play.
SANCHEZ– Not his best showing. Had Burton wide open for a long play and possible TD on the first play of the game. Held the ball a fraction of a second too long and that allowed the DB to recover and make the play. A quicker throw or a better throw leads to a huge play. Tried to hit Sproles on crossing route on 3rd/1. Ball was out in front of him. Not a good throw, but it did look catchable. Forced the ball to Matthews over the middle to start the 2nd drive and the ball fell incomplete. Made a smart decision to scramble on 3rd/5 and was able to get 10 yards. High throw to Matthews over the middle, but Jordan went up and got this one for gain of 18. Had Matthews wide open for a TD, but put the ball too far out in front and it was incomplete. Next play was a pass to Agholor. The ball was high, but he got it and then raced into the end zone for a TD. Poor pass, great result.
BARKLEY – Good showing. Came in late in the 1st Qtr. First pass hit Matthews on a crosser. Great throw. Accurate and showed touch. Coverage was good but the throw was better. Underthrew Austin on the next play, but Austin made a terrific adjustment and caught the ball for a gain of 39. Barkley lofted the ball. Had he driven it in there better, could have been a TD. Hit Burton down the seam for a gain of 21. Ball was a bit high, but had good touch and pace on it. Had a pass picked off in the early 2nd Qtr. Chip said the TE didn’t line up correctly, causing him to miss a block. The DE was in Barkley’s face and tipped the pass, which was picked off. Made a good throw on 3rd/12, but it went right through Agholor’s hands and fell incomplete. Tried to hit Agholor down the field on the next series. Drew a PI call because the ball was underthrown. A good throw might have led to a TD. Off-target on throw to Burton over the middle. Hit Maehl on a crossing route on 3rd down. Not quite a 1st down. Threw behind Maehl in traffic over the middle. Incomplete and lucky it wasn’t picked off. One of his best throws of the day went to Agholor on the right side. Short throw with good velocity. Agholor got 15 yds on that play. Tried to hit Ajirotutu for a TD late in the half. Ball was too far out front by about 6 inches. Promising start to the 2015 preseason, but Barkley still has arm limitations.
TEBOW – Was at his best when he first came into the game. Made quick reads and got the ball out. Best throw was to TE Tomlinson over the middle on 3rd/12. Good velocity on the pass and it moved the chains. Botched zone read play between he and Mostert led to fumble, but the Eagles got on the ball. Hard to tell who was at fault. Made another good throw when he hit Tomlinson over the middle for 12 yards on 2nd/long. Nice zip. Accurate. Executed a delay TE screen to Tomlinson perfectly. That gained 12 yds, and there was a roughing penalty added on as well. Forced a pass to Bailey, who was covered. Bailey went up high and made a great catch. Safe risk because there was space and Tebow put the ball in the right spot. Martino dropped a good throw from Tebow in the mid-4th. Would have moved the chains and kept a drive alive. Didn’t have great blocking and looked a bit rusty at times. Still, threw the ball better than in past years. Needs to build off this game.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: August 20th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 295 Comments »
The Eagles and Ravens hooked up for another joint practice on Thursday. Sadly, this is the last full practice we’ll get to read about. Friday is going to be a walkthrough for Saturday’s game. And when the Eagles return to practice on Monday, it will considered a normal football practice and there will be limited access for the media.
Let’s start with some notes from Jimmy Bama.
Vinny Curry got reps at OLB, like he has over the last week. As noted when we reported almost a week ago that he would see reps at OLB, the Eagles don’t want him dropping into coverage, but when he does, his drops will be very simple. He dropped a few times today, and honestly, it didn’t look awful.
As a pass rusher, Curry looks really big standing out there on the edge. Curry is about 280 pounds, and he was able to jolt the Ravens’ RT back into the pocket with a running start from his OLB spot. He didn’t even bother trying a pass rush move; he just ran/crashed into the RT and moved him against his will. Curry said he talks to Trent Cole every day. Obviously, Cole moved from 4-3 DE to 3-4 OLB. Curry has moved from 4-3 DE to two-gap 3-4 DE to 3-4 OLB. That’s very impressive from an athleticism standpoint.
I’m all for doing anything that means more reps for Curry. And to his credit, he has embraced whatever the coaching staff has asked of him for the past 2.5 years. When Chip Kelly first got here, Curry struggled to let go of his attacking, 1-gap ways. But he did. He embraced the 2-gap system and worked hard to become functional at that, all the while remaining a terrific pass rusher.
Josh Huff made a Ravens defender look silly on a kick return. Huff faked like he was going to run to the outside, but he stuck his foot in the dirt and had a nasty cut inside. The Ravens defender was frozen, and Huff ran right by him. I think Darren Sproles will once again be the Eagles’ punt returner, and I’d lean toward Huff as the primary kick returner.
Huff returned a kickoff for a TD last year in the preseason and then in the regular season. He has the speed, toughness and skill to be very good in that role. Whether Huff is a starting receiver this year or not, he could be an important role player. He has big play ability.
* * * * *
Next up is Brandon Lee Gowton.
Jordan Matthews has looked awesome this summer. He’s looked so good that I unintentionally ignore his greatness sometimes because it’s already to be expected at this point. But today was an especially good day for him. It started off when he made some tough catches going up one-on-one against Ravens defensive backs. No matter how difficult the catch, he would pull it off. His best one was on a diving grab to catch a Bradford throw. More on Matthews later.
Bradford targeted Matthews deep. The wide receiver only got one hand on the ball before it fell incomplete. Matthews wanted a flag on the play and he got it. A little later on, Bradford targeted Matthews deep again. And guess what? Matthews couldn’t catch it because a Ravens defensive back was hanging on him like ornaments on a Christmas tree. Another flag. Baltimore just couldn’t handle Jordan Matthews.
Great point by BLG that sometimes we take players for granted. It is easy to forget Matthews and focus on other receivers who we have questions about. Those guys are more interesting because we don’t know what to make of them. But it is good to recognize how good of a player Matthews has become in only his second season.
Denzel Rice forced a fumble on the Ravens’ kick returner during a special teams drill. He ripped it out and then recovered it right away. This is at least the second time he’s done that this summer. The first time I can remember was against Tim Tebow. The undrafted rookie free agent is really doing his best to push for a roster spot.
Rice continues to make things happen in practice. That’s what you have to do to move up from the bottom of the depth chart. I don’t know if Rice will be able to make the final roster, but he has a great chance to make the practice squad.
I don’t miss the days of Curtis Marsh, Roc Carmichael and Brandon Hughes being the backup CBs.
* * * * *
* * * * *
Next up is Tim McManus.
E.J. Biggers flashes again, intercepting Matt Schaub along the left sideline.
“Bigs has done a really nice job,” said Chip Kelly. “He’s competing. He’s got versatility because he’s played safety before, he’s played nickel before, he’s played outside corner. But he’s a guy that I think has shown up really on a consistent basis for us and someone that’s got some experience. Another guy that doesn’t get rattled back there…I’ve been really happy with what Bigs has done so far.”
Bigs. Good sign for Bigs.
One of the reasons a young player like Rice isn’t likely to make the roster is that Biggers has played better this summer and seems more likely to make the team. Biggers didn’t play well in 2014, but he has made the most of his opportunity this year and has impressed everyone. He offers depth on the outside and as the Nickelback.
Let’s dive right into the action. One-on-ones are underway. The Eagles’ defensive backs are going up against the Ravens receivers on the far right field. Walter Thurmond gets things off to a positive note for the hosts with an interception on a ball intended for Michael Campanaro.
Every day it seems like Thurmond comes up with a pick or makes some kind of standout play. That’s important for him. If you have a Safety who is a converted corner and isn’t going to be a great hitter/tackler, he needs to make plays in the passing game. So far Thurmond is doing exactly that.
Nobody got real fired up when the Eagles signed Biggers or Thurmond, but those guys could prove to be good players for the Eagles this year.
* * * * *
Last, but certainly not least, Jeff McLane.
Cody Parkey bounced back after a shaky Wednesday. The Eagles kicker was 7 of 7 on his kicks. He converted two PAT-length (32 yards) boots, and then was good from approximately 40, 44, 33, 37 and 45 yards. Parkey didn’t attempt any kicks from beyond that distance. The Eagles are clearly trying to bolster his confidence. He may have lost a little of that juice after watching Ravens kicker Justin Tucker nail a field goal attempt (without a rush) from around 70 (!) yards. Showoff.
Good. Parkey had been struggling a bit of late. He was terrific last year so you don’t want to make too much of a couple of up and down days in the summer. At the same time, history has shown that kickers can go up and down from year to year. Everyone will feel better if Parkey has a good game on Saturday.
Back to team two-minute offense drills, and Bradford marched the Eagles down the field for a “touchdown” on nine plays. The sequence: Bradford hit Sproles on a wheel route, Huff on a screen, Sproles over the middle for a big gainer when he beat the linebacker, and then he spiked the ball to stop the clock. Bradford then connected with Cooper, who made a diving grab, he handed off to Ryan Mathews for a short gain, and airmailed a pass to Huff out of the end zone. Then on third down, Bradford threw a fade into the corner of the end zone to Jordan Matthews, who drew a pass interference penalty. Kenjon Barner ran from a yard out on the next play for the score. Parkey’s PAT was good.
It sounds like Sam will play on Saturday. I can’t wait to see him. He had a solid showing in the spring and then took things up a notch this summer. He hasn’t been perfect. And his knee will keep us on edge. But Bradford feels like he could be a monster QB in this offense.
Is it Saturday night yet?
* * * * *
* Andrew Gardner was the RG again.
* OLB Marcus Smith got hurt. He will have an MRI to check on his hamstring. The Eagles are losing backup OLBs left and right.
* The ILBs were back on the field. It will be interesting to see if Ryans, Alonso and/or Kendricks play this week. That is a trio of quality veteran players so there is no need to rush them back. Still, it would be nice to see them in action, especially Alonso. He could prove to be a terrific addition to the defense.
Posted: August 19th, 2015 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 397 Comments »
No fights. No injuries. Just football. That’s the way you want to begin a write-up of a joint practice between the Eagles and the Ravens.
Going up against a possible Hall of Fame player in Steve Smith seemed to bring out the best in Byron Maxwell. Let’s start with Jimmy Bama.
Byron Maxwell also showed today why the Eagles paid him. In 1-on-1’s he did a great job jamming Steve Smith at the line. Smith was able to get free and make a short catch, but he was dominated in the first second or two of the play, which is all you need.
Maxwell can’t press on every single snap because defenses have to mix up coverages, but it is good to know that when he does jam receivers he can win. And Smith might be short, but he’s strong, tough and very physical.
Andrew Kulp from CSN was also impressed.
In perhaps the most anticipated battle on the other side of the ball, Byron Maxwell went up against five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith for the Ravens. Smith definitely got his on a few occasions, but overall Maxwell held his own against a player with 915 catches, 13,262 yards and 73 touchdowns through the air for his NFL career. Generally speaking, the fifth-year cornerback blanketed all Baltimore wideouts, especially down the field. Maxwell is exceptional at running stride for stride with receivers, watching their eyes, then turning around to locate the ball himself.
Maxwell isn’t just a big, physical corner. He is smart and skilled as well. I think that overall combination is why the Eagles were willing to pay him so much without him being a guy with a long track record.
And finally Tim McManus.
It’s one-on-one time, and Smith decides to take out his aggravations on Byron Maxwell. The two get physical before Smith separates and steps in for a short completion. He wins another battle with Maxwell moments later.
Maxwell’s spirits are still high, though. He’s talking it up on the sideline as the drills play out, encouraging each defensive back after they make a play.
Maxwell is looking good in team drills. Twice Kamar Aiken tries to beat him on a fly route down the right sideline, and twice he is denied.
Having deep speed and being able to cover downfield is just another key part of Mawell’s arsenal.
* * * * *
The performance of Eric Rowe seemed to get the attention of those covering the practice. From Jimmy Bama.
Eric Rowe had a rough day. In 1-on-1’s he was roasted a few times by the short and shifty Michael Campanaro. That’s a bad matchup for Rowe. While I think Rowe will eventually be effective jamming receivers at the line on the outside, he’s going to struggle against shiftier guys who get free releases in the slot, and that showed on the field today. He was also beaten on a deep back shoulder throw to Steve Smith, as well as a fade pattern to Jeremy Butler. The one redeeming play Rowe made today was when he was beaten by Steve Smith in the end zone, but Rowe didn’t quit on the play and jarred it loose before Smith clearly had full control of the catch.
Rowe got quite an education. Campanaro is a quick, shifty slot receiver. Smith is short, but strong, physical and very experienced. Butler is a young receiver with good size (6-2, 213). Going up against different players at different spots is challenging for anyone, let alone a rookie corner.
Andrew Kulp on Rowe.
Eric Rowe got a firsthand glimpse of Smith as well. On one play inside the red area, Rowe trailed his man to the back of the end zone and wound up breaking up the pass. However, the second-round rookie never got his head around to locate the ball in the air, so while the result was positive, that kind of coverage can often lead to a completion or pass interference penalty. Later, the Utah product was sitting in a deep zone when the ball was thrown to Smith down the sideline. Rowe spun around awkwardly and Smith was able to make the catch uncontested. The rookie was also tagged for a pass interference on a deep attempt to wideout Kamar Aiken. It wasn’t all bad for Rowe, but certainly not his best day, either.
The key to having a day like this is how you bounce-back from it. Curtis Marsh got lit up by Tom Brady a couple of years back and it just seemed to destroy his confidence. It will be interesting to see how Rowe does on Thursday.
Back to Tim McManus.
Back to the Smith-Rowe thing. The veteran receiver catches a pass in the back of the end zone, but Rowe gets his arm in there at the last second and pops the ball loose.
“The light’s coming on for him,” said Maxwell. “He punched three balls out [today]. I don’t know if y’all realized that. He had three turnovers. He’s a playmaker, man. He’s got a knack for the ball.”
Smith apparently told Rowe, “I saw it in your eyes, you about to [expletive] yourself,” but obviously Rowe did just fine.
“He made a play, I think,” said a disgruntled Smith afterwards when asked about the rookie. “You can write whatever you want. You’re going to find out on Saturday.”
Rowe is flagged for pass interference while defending Aiken. It was a questionable call, and Rowe raises his arms in the air and starts barking at the official. Cory Undlin quickly puts and end to that, shouting at Rowe to knock it off. Another learning moment for the rookie.
Lots of good lessons here. Rowe always kept competing, even when things weren’t going great. And I love that Undlin doesn’t want his DBs going overboard about penalties. Right or wrong, you have to move on and get ready for the next play.
Make sure to go read the reports. Lots of good details I didn’t get into.
* * * * *
* Andrew Gardner continues to play RG with the starters.
* Walter Thurmond had an INT today. It would be so great if he turned out to be a solid starting FS.
* Cody Parkey had an off day. There is no need to panic, but this isn’t a good trend.