Posted: August 27th, 2016 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 392 Comments »
This isn’t real. This doesn’t count. But the third preseason game is as close as you get to real football until the season actually starts. Tonight we have the Eagles going against the Colts.
Things I’ll be watching:
Wendell Smallwood – The rookie RB will get his first action of the preseason. It will be interesting to see how he runs, catches and blocks. He has to prove he can do everything if the coaches are going to trust him and use him freely during the regular season.
OL – Tonight we get Stefen Wisniewski at LG with Isaac Seumalo out. How will Wiz play? And what about the backup OL. Will Andrew Gardner move into the backup RG spot? How will the coaches use Barrett Jones?
Stephen Tulloch – How much will he play? How will the Eagles use him?
The WRs – Nelson Agholor took a step forward last week. He needs to build on that. Josh Huff needs to up his game in a big way. The coaches seem to like Chris Givens, but he’s been basically invisible so far. Oh yeah…and we need to see what that DGB guy can do.
Young CBs – Eric Rowe was better last week. He needs to keep that momentum going. Jalen Mills missed the PIT game. Both guys feel like a lock to make the roster at this point. They’re fighting for the confidence of the coaches and playing time.
Young DEs – I’m curious to see if Steven Means and/or Marcus Smith gets mixed in with the starting D at all. We know who the Big 3 are at DE. We don’t know who will be the fourth and how much that person will play. Means has had the better offseason, but Smith might have more upside. Both played well last week so it will be interesting to see how and when the coaches use them. I’d love to see Smith go against starting O-linemen. We’d see very quickly if he’s really gotten better or just looked good against backups last week.
Obviously we all want to see the starting offense throw the ball effectively. The last 2 weeks have been less than overwhelming. The Colts are sitting some key DBs and their best pass rusher so the Eagles have a favorable situation. Sam Bradford needs to get the ball to his playmakers, who have to get open and then catch the ball when it does come their way.
The Eagles won’t be using their best plays and they won’t be gameplanning like normal, but that is no excuse. They need to throw the ball effectively tonight. That doesn’t mean 300 yards or 3 TDs. There are no specific targets. They just need to pass the eye test. We need to see:
- Good protection
- Accurate throws
- Crisp routes
- Smooth catches
This isn’t on one player or unit. The whole offense is part of this.
Most importantly…stay healthy.
Posted: August 26th, 2016 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 159 Comments »
This can be a crazy time of the year for the personnel department of NFL teams. Players are coming and going en masse, and at a furious rate. There are a lot of tough decisions to make that involve some crazy variables, often unknowns. Is Marcus Smith the next Jerome McDougle or Jerry Hughes? The Eagles gave McDougle chance after chance and he never panned out. Hughes had 1 sack after his first 2 years in the league, but then improved in his third season, before really taking off when he went to play in a new scheme.
Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas and the rest of the Eagles personnel department have a lot to figure out. The Eagles have a solid core of players, but hardly a great roster. They need to find the right 53 players for the 2016 season, with an eye to the future. There will be a lot of players going and coming in the next few weeks as the Eagles try to find the right 53.
Remember that any roster should be written in pencil. Injuries and suspensions mean that things can change in a heartbeat. You also never know when a talented player is going to become available, forcing you to cut someone so you can add that player. Rosters are fluid, not definitive. You know the old joke…NFL stands for “not for long”.
He must suck so the team needs to dump him, right? Not the case at all. Hart has proven to be a better fit at DT than anyone would have guessed. But the Eagles suddenly find themselves deep at DT. That statement shocks me, but they have made some very good moves this offseason and they have more than enough bodies right now.
We know the starters are good. There was no depth after them so the team signed veteran Mike Martin. He had a terrific offseason. Injuries have kept him out of the preseason so far, but the way Doug Pederson spoke this week, Martin is a virtual lock to make the team.
Holdover Beau Allen has proven to be a good fit in the new scheme. He also has more bulk than the other DTs, giving him some added value for short yardage situations. There are times when you need someone who can eat up blocks.
The Eagles signed a trio of UDFA DTs in Connor Wujciak, Destiny Vaeao and Aziz Shittu. Wujciak got hurt and is out for the year. Vaeao has played well enough that he will make the roster. Shittu has potential, but will have to hope for a practice squad spot.
Now you have:
That’s 5 DTs the team likes. They want a 4-man rotation at the spot so they’re covered. That makes Taylor Hart expendable. Shopping him also makes sense because he can play in the 3-4 or 4-3. He’s only 25 years old and is cheap for now. The Eagles could cut Martin, but I think they like the fact he has experience. Allen has only played in the 3-4 in the NFL and not that much overall. Vaeao is a rookie. Martin has 5 career starts and has played in 46 games.
Hart won’t bring much, but the Eagles have a chance to get a late round pick out of him.
Reynolds is a WR who played collegiately at Iowa State. He is 6-2, 205 and runs in the 4.5 range. He can make some tough grabs.
Metz is a DL from Shippensburg. He has a terrific frame at 6-65, 265. Not a gifted athlete, but you can see why the Eagles would want him as an edge rusher to look at up close for a couple of weeks.
Neither player is likely to make the roster, but you never know when they will look like good practice squad material or plant a seed with the team for when next January rolls around and the Eagles need to add some developmental players.
Money is a factor to consider when it comes to this time of the year. Cheaper is always better, all other things being even. I thought this was an interesting move.
With Lane Johnson likely out for 10 weeks, I think Gardner should make the team. I don’t know if Jeff Stoutland will agree, but I think Gardner should make the roster over Barrett Jones or Josh Andrews. Stefen Wisniewski can be your backup C. Gardner can play OG or RT. And with that cut, the price should be right.
Age is another factor at this time of the year. Younger is better. The Eagles don’t have a lot of older players that need to be worried. That will change in the coming years.
Beyond Hart, are they any other players who could be traded?
Eric Rowe would make some sense. The current staff clearly isn’t in love with him. Still, He has enough upside that I don’t think you get rid of him for the heck of it. And there are no character issues with Rowe. This would be a matter of some other team coveting his length/size and being desperate for corner help. You wouldn’t get much in return so this doesn’t seem likely.
The Eagles could move a DE. Think about gamedays. Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham will be active. So will Bryan Braman. It is possible a 5th DE could be active, but there’s no guarantee. The Eagles can put Alex McCallister on the practice squad to develop. Steven Means has outplayed Marcus Smith, but the team could trade either guy, knowing there is a shot the other player would make the Eagles roster but be inactive most Sundays. Again, we’re not talking about getting much in return.
You can bet Roseman will be active when cuts start happening. He will have a top group of 45 to 50 players that are fairly set but things will be wide open after that. I think we can all agree that Roseman isn’t shy when it comes to making moves and taking chances.
Posted: August 26th, 2016 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 135 Comments »
Shutouts are a beautiful thing and it doesn’t matter when, where or how they happen. There is just something magical about seeing a goose egg on the scoreboard sitting right beside your opponent’s name.
Let’s hope Jim Schwartz and the boys can deliver one of those in the regular season.
To be fair, the Steelers were missing a lot of firepower. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell all missed the game. I’m sure if that group had played, the Steelers would have had an extra 1st down and 12 yards. Or is that too generous?
The Eagles defense was very good, but not dominant. They did allow the first team offense to have a pair of long drives. The Steelers were 5 for 8 on 3rd downs in the 1st half and did a good job of moving the chains. They were methodical. Schwartz praised his defense for not getting frustrated and staying focused. They came up with end zone INTs to end both drives. That is clutch football.
Preseason results don’t mean anything, but you love the fact that the defense has that “We’ll find a way to make a play” mentality. You work on that in the spring and summer and then reap the rewards in the fall and winter. So far, so good for this defense.
You don’t take anything from the preseason schematically, but the Eagles did blitz more this week. Some zone blitzes and other plays where they just sent extra rushers. You have to practice that stuff in a game setting, but don’t expect to see a lot of it this year.
BY THE NUMBERS
- Gave up 207 yards
- 4 takeaways
- scored 7 points
- 4 sacks
- Gave up 50 rushing yards on 21 carries
I didn’t focus too much on the Big 3. Vinny Curry got held on one pass play and nothing was called. Brandon Graham played the run very well. He flew off the edge and had a TFL n the 1st Qtr. PIT then ran a reverse his way and he bit too much on that, opening a hole. Graham had a highlight moment when he chased a play out wide and lit up a RB going out of bounds.
Is that beautiful or what?
Steven Means – With Smith playing this week, Means moved to LDE. Good to see him work from a different side. Another good game. Flew off the edge late in the half and hit the QB as he threw. Ball was a wounded duck and got picked off. Got pressure on multiple plays. Did a good job against the run as well.
Marcus Smith – Backup RDE. Played worlds better than I ever would have guessed. Won’t be stealing a starting job any time soon, but is now legitimately fighting for a roster spot. Played the run well. Battled OTs. Had an offside penalty late in the 1st half. Had TFL off the edge early in the 3rd Qtr. Showed an explosive burst late in the 3rd Qtr when he blew by the LT and sacked the QB. Had an impressive play right after that. 3rd/long. Flew off the edge and knocked the LT backward. QB got rid of the ball quickly. Smith turned and hustled downfield in pursuit.
Alex McCalister – Mainly played late in the game. LDE. Not as good as last week. That or faced better blockers.
Bryan Braman – Had some good rushes late in the game. Got a sack on the final drive. Effort play.
Beau Allen – First backup DT on the field. Not as disruptive as last week. Played the run well and was excellent in pursuit. Blew up 3rd Qtr run by driving the LG backward and helping to create TFL. Without the All-22 can be tough to tell what happened on some plays. Didn’t get the penetration, but did get good push multiple times. I’m still shocked at how good he looks in the new scheme.
Taylor Hart – Excellent against the run. Really worked hard to get off blocks. Got some interior pressure on the Grymes INT. Played some early and even into the 4th Qtr. Another solid game.
Destiny Vaeao – Good showing. Played quite a bit. Quick off the ball. Uses his hands well. Doesn’t look like a rookie. Had a sack in the 4th Qtr. Just destroyed the RG with a quick move and fought through some holding to get to the QB. Combines size, physicality and athleticism.
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Posted: August 25th, 2016 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 81 Comments »
The Eagles won preseason game #2 by a score of 17-0. The defense was outstanding. The offense…was better than it was in the opener. Progress is obviously a good thing, but there is still a long way to go for this group.
To be fair, it is hard for an offense to come together quickly with so much change. Andy Reid’s Eagles scored 29 points in their first 3 preseason games and I’m not even sure how the D and STs affected that total. Doug Pederson has more talent to work with, but this isn’t a dynamic bunch. They did improve in just about every area from the first game to the second. The biggest jump was with the blocking. Jason Peters returned to the starting lineup, which pushed Matt Tobin to backup LT. Those moves improved both lines and settled things down in a big way. With functional blocking (or better), QBs had time to drop back and read the defense. Receivers had time to get open (or at least try).
The offense only gained 298 yards, but did go 9 for 17 on 3rd downs. They did go 1 for 1 in the Red Zone. They did come up with a FG drive at the end of the 1st half. The only turnover was a fumble by a 3rd string WR late in the game.
The biggest issue was penalties. The team had 12 for 98, with many of those coming on offense. And some were costly. One penalty wiped out a 12-yard play. Another penalty wiped out a 21-yard play. The Eagles don’t have the firepower to wipe out plays like that and overcome long yardage situations.
Sam Bradford – 14-19-115. Typical Sam. Threw a lot of short stuff. Hit Agholor for 22 yards and Celek for 17. Neither was a great throw. I did like the Agholor play because he gave his receiver a chance to make a play and the young guy did just that.
Chase Daniel – Much better showing than last week, but still up and down. First, I thought the offense had a good feel with him in the game. It looked fluid and played with good tempo. Had a couple of bad throws. There are just times when you can see his physical limitations. Best moment came on a blitz. Defender came free up the middle. Daniel stood right in the pocket and made a terrific throw to the RB for a nice gain. Great read, accurate pass and toughness. Had a 23-yard completion to Paul Turner, but that was due to a great catch. I did like the fact Daniel took a chance and gave his guy a chance to make a play. Did lead the offense on an 87-yard TD drive. One of his bad throws came on that drive when he tried to hit DGB with a fade. I realize it takes time for the timing to work on that play, but the pass was way too low. You have to put the ball up high for a 6-5 WR who can jump. Ran for 7 yards on 3rd/4 to move the chains on one play.
Kenjon Barner – Another good game. 6-41-1 on the ground. I know stats can be deceiving, but they aren’t in this case. If anything, the numbers don’t tell you how well Barner is playing. Really good vision. He is seeing the field well and running to the right spots. Barner has the speed to get out wide when there is room. He’s tough enough and disciplined enough to run up the middle. He uses a good burst to get through the hole and up the field. He’s running through initial contact. Barner isn’t just lowering his head. His TD came on an inside run and he made a great cut in the hole to get away from a tackler. Really impressive summer for Barner.
Byron Marshall – Getting better. 8-18 on the ground. 2-19 as a receiver. Marshall is the RB who caught the hot read from Daniel on the blitz play. Marshall ran a good route and made a smooth catch. Caught short pass on 3rd/9 and made LB miss, then got upfield for the 1st down. Looks very natural in space. Had to chip block on some plays and you can see that’s something he needs to work on. Makes contact, but doesn’t deliver a blow. More worried about getting out in the route. At his best when he can be elusive as a runner. Lacks the physicality to be an NFL RB right now, but that can be worked on. Numbers weren’t great due to serious penetration on multiple runs. Had nowhere to go. Talented, but needs work.
Zach Ertz – Seems like he has mostly been a check-down target. 3-24 in the game. Bradford tried to hit him once down the middle for a TD, but Ertz was well-covered and the play had no chance. Had a bonehead penalty late in the half. Was running a rub route and did a terrible job of selling that he was trying to get open. Ran into the defender and drew an obvious OPI call, negating a nice gain.
Trey Burton – 2-13 as a receiver. Both were short throws, but they did show some skill. Burton is comfortable in traffic and was tough to tackle on one play. He got by the first tackler and almost got by the second one. It was another guy who finally made the play. You can see how athletic Burton is. Blocking is erratic, but there is no question about effort. Did a good job on Barner’s TD run. Helped to double initially, then released and went for someone else. Didn’t overpower the guy, but stayed in his way and kept that player from getting to Barner. A lot of blocking is effort and Burton is willing to do the dirty work. Big issue for him is technique and size/strength. Needs lots of work to improve his technique. And dealing with bigger LBs and DL is tough on him.
Chris Pantale – Solid game. 1-7 as a receiver. Had another pass thrown his way, but Pantale tripped as he tried to catch it. Had some good blocks in the game. Can be too high at times, but has the size and strength to handle LBs well. Lined up at TE, in the slot, as a wing and in the backfield. Doesn’t stand out in any area, but is versatile and okay at everything. I think you can make a case for him if Pederson really wants a 4th TE, but hasn’t played so well that you feel obligated to keep him.
MJ McFarland – Didn’t play a lot and failed to stand out when he was on the field. Dropped the only pass that came his way. Not an ideal throw, but catchable. Doesn’t get much movement as a blocker.
Nelson Agholor – 2-30. Both catches went for 1st downs. The long play went for 22 yards. Agholor had to fully extend to get the ball. Bradford gave him a chance to make a play and Agholor did just that. Had a third pass thrown his way. Came on a crossing route. Ball was poorly placed, but catchable. Agholor needs to catch everything he can to sell the coaches and his teammates that they can count on him. Blocked well in the game and played with more confidence, aggression. Still needs to take another step forward.
Chris Givens – No passes thrown his way. Without All-22 it is hard to tell if he’s getting open. Looks like he gets off the ball pretty well, but it is hard to tell what’s going on downfield. Needs to block better.
Rueben Randle – I guess Jimmy Bama’s piece on Rubie’s embarrassing effort got to him. Randle looked like he actually cared this week. 2-10. Had a 12-yd catch and run wiped out by penalty. Still isn’t playing with any sense of desperation, but at least he’s no longer embarrassing.
DGB – Mixed in just a bit. Had 2 throws come his way. One was way too low and the other was behind him. Had an effective block on Barner’s TD run. Just got in the way of the CB.
Josh Huff – Another game where he was too quiet. 1-5. Mostly played in the slot. Had a “drop” late in the half. Not an easy catch, but the kind of play Huff needed to make.
Paul Turner – Another strong game. Finds ways to stand out (unlike Huff). 3-44. Had gains of 17 and 23. The long catch was a real highlight play.
I love the fact he fought through contact at the release. I love the focus and concentration to make such a tough catch. I don’t like the fact he can’t get any separation. Shows a feel for getting open based on skill, but not pure athleticism. Tough guy. Got slammed to the ground after a short catch and hopped right up. 17-yd catch and run came late in the half and set up a FG.
Cayleb Jones – Had a couple of catches for 16 yards. Unfortunately fumbled one of them away. Can’t have mistakes like that. Flashes real potential at times, but needs a lot of work.
David Watford – Had one pass thrown his way. Former QB is willing to block. Raw as a receiver.
The Eagles only allowed one sack and that came on a sucker play where the OLB didn’t bite on the fake. He was unblocked and had an easy sack of Bradford. I’m not posting notes on Jason Kelce because I’m focused on those around him. There’s no reason to post notes about Lane Johnson going against backups.
Jason Peters – Started at LT and played okay. Maybe rusty since this was his first action. Got better as the game went on.
Isaac Seumalo – LG. Much better than last week. Still had a handful of bad plays that must be corrected. I was impressed with how he and Peters handled some stunts/loops that came their way. They communicated well and showed good awareness. Seumalo wins when he gets his hands cleanly on defenders. He struggles when he doesn’t see things clearly and is forced to react a half-second late. Can be a physical, powerful blocker when he comes off the ball hard. Has the physical ability to start and play well this year. Needs experience. Made a big jump in one week. Too bad he’ll miss game #3.
Brandon Brooks – RG. Hasn’t exactly blown me away. I was hoping Brooks would maul some guys and give us some highlight blocks. He does get movement when he locks onto a defender. Very athletic for his size. He and Barbre also handled stunts/loops well. I thought that might be an issue with Barbre being so new to RT, but they worked well together. Anchors well and helps to give Bradford a clean pocket. Big improvement at RG from previous years.
Allen Barbre – For some reason, didn’t impress me when I watched the game live. Came away feeling a lot better after studying the game. Had one highlight moment. LB tried to rush and Barbre hit him square in the chest and put the guy on his back. Wow play. Doesn’t have great feet, but does a good job of getting in good position to cut down on rush angles. Needs to use his hands better. Shows some pop when he does make contact. Good run blocker. Looked more natural at RT than I expected. I came away feeling encouraged after studying him.
Matt Tobin – Backup LT. Good game. Gave Daniel a clean pocket this week and that made a world of difference. Doesn’t have great feet, but just looks comfortable playing LT. Plays with good balance and that spot seems to bring out the best in him.
Barrett Jones – Played LG and C. Not my cup of tea. Does not use his hands well. Grabby, reaches and hooks his target too much. Sounds like great description of my dream date with Megan Fox, but not what you want from your LG. Called for at least one holding penalty. Could have been 3 or 4. Pulled on one play and tried to block OLB. #54 hit Jones and put him on the ground. Looks better at C.
Josh Andrews – Did a solid job as the backup C. Hasn’t played well enough where he can be comfortable as having won a roster spot. Doesn’t stand out in terms of physicality or athleticism.
Stefen Wisniewski – Played RG. Better game than the opener. More physical and less sloppy. Got some movement in the run game. Had a good down block on Barner’s TD run.
Dillon Gordon – 3rd team LT. I am simply shocked at how far he’s come. Was a marginal blocking TE at LSU and is now a good developmental LT in the NFL. Has pretty good feet. Looks like a natural pass blocker. Needs to work on run blocking. Lined up at FB in some sets and was a good lead blocker. Really intrigued by the potential he’s shown.
Andrew Gardner – Played some LG with 2nd and 3rd teams. I think he’s clearly better than Barrett Jones, but the Eagles coaches seem to disagree and for some reason their opinion matters more. Gardner played LT in the opener and stunk. More natural at OG. Even better on the right side. Hope he plays there the next couple of weeks.
Bruce Johnson – 3rd string C. Did not stand out.
Darrell Greene – RG. Better than the opener. Was more physical. More effective as run blocker. Did a better job of using his size and strength. Still needs a lot of work.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai – RT. Another player who took a step forward. Looks good when he bends his knees and gets his hands on rushers. Shows good power in the run game. Still a long way from being ready to play.
Posted: August 23rd, 2016 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 179 Comments »
Jim Schwartz is a very good defensive coordinator. We’re finding out he can also be very entertaining and informative with his press conferences.
PE.com has today’s session with the media.
Some of the highlights:
He praised DE Marcus Smith. And this was legit praise, not just a coach trying to pump up a player for the heck of it. Schwartz talked about Smith being a good athlete and pass rusher, but said what really stuck out was his run defense. Setting the edge is something that gets overlooked a lot of the time. There isn’t a way to see that in the box score. Smith had a good showing last week. It will be interesting to see if he can build on that against the Colts.
Schwartz was asked about Jaylen Watkins. He was honest in pointing out that Watkins had issues as a tackler and run defender last year. Schwartz then praised Watkins for the way he has worked on those issues to become an overall good DB. He always had the cover skills, but this is the first summer that Watkins has shown he can be counted on as a hitter and tackler.
What about the addition of Tulloch?
Schwartz also went on a tangent about veteran players in regard to Tulloch. This was really great to hear. Schwartz talked about how he had great respect and admiration for players who lasted in the league for 10 years. That doesn’t happen by accident. You don’t play for a decade just based on talent or even effort. You don’t last that long due to scheme fit. You have to have a combination of things that keeps your career going that long.
That seems like a fairly obvious, simple point. But I think too often we underestimate just how impressive longevity is in the NFL (and all professional sports). Stephen Tulloch isn’t going to the Hall of Fame. Nor is Brent Celek. Or Jon Dorenbos. That shouldn’t diminish the accomplishment of staying in the league for a decade (or more) and playing at a high level for most, if not all, of that time.
I remember Dr. J at his retirement talking about his desire for someone like Steve Mix to also be recognized by the Sixers. Dr. J is one of the great athletes of all time. Mix played 668 games for the Sixers and helped the team to go from awful to being a winner. How many fans remember who Steve Mix is? You shouldn’t have to be a HOF’er to have an impressive, memorable career.
Schwartz covered a lot more ground than just this. Do yourself a favor and watch the PC.
Frank Reich also had a PC. The most interesting thing from him was when he was asked about Darren Sproles. Jimmy Bama wrote a good piece on that.
“Sproles is the original. He’s the prototype,” said Reich. “Right from the start, I remember first coming in when (Doug Pederson) hired me, some of the immediate talk was how we get to use a guy like Darren Sproles.”
In San Diego, it didn’t end with Woodhead. The trio of Melvin Gordon, Brandon Oliver, and Donald Brown chipped in an additional 54 catches in 2015.
“All the backs have shown a good aptitude to pick things up in the pass game, and be good route runners,” Reich added, “so we think we can mix it up, but certainly Darren, he’s the starting point.”
In Kansas City under Pederson, a healthy Jamaal Charles caught 70 passes (fifth in the NFL) in 2013, and 40 passes (14th in the NFL) in 2014. In 2015, rookie RB Duke Johnson was fourth in the NFL with 61 catches under then Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, who is now the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach.
“There’s a lot of ways to utilize that,” said Reich. “In Kansas City, in Doug’s offense they’ve done that in the past, and we’ll continue to mix in some other things that we’ve all done, that our staff has done to kind of isolate backs and get good matchups. But when you have a guy like 43 out there, every week in game planning, it’s like, ‘How can we get this guy the football?’ He’s that kind of a player.”
In case you haven’t noticed, aside from Jordan Matthews, the Eagles’ receivers aren’t very good. Expect to see a healthy dose of Darren Sproles and the Eagles’ tight ends in the passing game this season under coaches who will know how to use them.
Sproles has been huge on STs for the past 2 seasons, but has been erratic on offense. That’s not on him, but the way Chip Kelly used him. When you focus on basic plays and pushing tempo, specialists are not going to be used for maximum effect. That will change this year. It will be interesting to see how Sproles responds.