Wentz Wagon Keeps Rolling

Posted: September 20th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 386 Comments »

Road game. Monday Night Football. Solid defense with veteran coaches. None of that mattered as Carson Wentz and the Eagles went to the Windy City and kicked the Bears butts. The final score was 29-14, but the game wasn’t really that close.

Wentz is the headliner. He went 21-34-190 with a TD and no picks. Those numbers aren’t compelling, but watch the tape and you’ll come away incredibly impressed with how Wentz played. The Bears blitzed him and got some pressure. Wentz moved around in the pocket better than he did last week. He looked more comfortable. He took some big hits, but kept his eyes downfield to find open receivers. He made a great throw to Jordan Matthews that should have been a long TD. That went through Matthews hands. There was another play over the middle for 15 or so yards that got erased by an alignment penalty. Wentz could have had another 50 or so yards and another TD.

The Eagles came out throwing the ball. They went to an empty set and spread the field. Some people wondered about this, but Doug Pederson did it by design. He wanted to give Wentz some simple, easy throws that would move the chains and get him into a good rhythm. The Eagles marched down the field, but had to settle for a FG. Wentz had Brent Celek open for a score, but the DB made a great play to get a finger on the ball.

Wentz’s TD pass came on a quick screen to TE Trey Burton in the 2nd half. Simple play near the goal line, but it was blocked well and Burton didn’t hesitate. He made sure he got into the end zone. Burton was the #2 TE with Zach Ertz out injured. Burton caught 5 passes for 49 yards and played well.

The Eagles O-line had an up and down game. C Jason Kelce really struggled. He was a mess in the 1st half. Kelce seemed to play better in the 2nd half, but I’ll need to watch the tape to know for sure. The OTs did a good job in pass protection. The line struggled to generate holes for runners. Eagles finished 32-100 on the ground, but it wasn’t pretty. Ryan Mathews had a 30-yard run, but his real highlight was a TD where he started up the middle, got stuffed and then went wide to the right. Great effort. The Bears stoned him up the middle, but Mathews wasn’t wrapped up so he went outside and found space. Love that effort at the goal line.

Jim Schwartz didn’t have starting CB Leodis McKelvin, but that didn’t matter too much. The Eagles gave up one TD. That drive was mainly due to a 49-yard pass play to Alshon Jeffrey where rookie Jalen Mills bit on a fake and got burned. Mills seemed to play well for the most part. Jeffrey was 4-49 beyond that one play.

The DL had a good game. Brandon Graham had a sack and TFL. Rookie Destiny Vaeao had a huge impact. He had a strip-sack of Jay Cutler that also knocked the Bears QB out of the game. Fletcher Cox came free up the middle and pressured Cutler into throwing a pass right to Nigel Bradham. That got returned inside the 5-yard line and set up a score. Bennie Logan had a FF of his own. You know it is a good game when the DTs have 2 FFs.

STs was interesting. Caleb Sturgis suffered cramps and missed an extra point. He also nailed a 53-yard FG. Donnie Jones did not have his best night. He had a 33-yard punt early in the game. He kicked the ball to the middle of the field late and Eddie Royal returned it for a TD. Jones might have been told to kick there so it isn’t fair to completely blame him for that. Josh Huff did a good job covering punts earlier in the game.

The Eagles are 2-0. Both wins are by 15 or more points. And yet the team is starting a rookie QB and hasn’t played a great game so far. Mistakes each week kept the games closer than they should have been.

Playing the Steelers next Sunday will be a huge test for the Eagles and will give us an idea just how good this team might be. I’m not surprised they are 2-0. Neither the Browns nor the Bears are good. Still, to win so handily with a young QB, new coach and new schemes is pretty darned impressive. It sure looks like the Eagles are a better team than most anticipated.

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Halftime – PHI 9, CHI 7

Posted: September 19th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 674 Comments »

The Eagles have the lead, but this game is very different from last week. The Eagles are playing sloppy football and the Bears are a tougher opponent than the Browns. The energy from the crowd also seems to be helping Chicago a bit.

Carson Wentz has been good, but not great. He just made a terrific throw before halftime that should have been a TD, but Jordan Matthews dropped the ball. Ugh. The Eagles have virtually no run game right now. The OL isn’t getting any push and Jason Kelce is really struggling. OL coach Jeff Stoutland has to get his group settled down and playing better.

The defense has mostly played well. The big issue was rookie corner Jalen Mills biting on a double move and letting Alshon Jeffrey go by him for a huge gain that set up a TD. The DL has gotten good pressure and the Bears have even less of a run game than the Eagles.

The skill players need to make some plays to help Wentz out. The OL has to find a way to open some running holes.

The defense needs to come up with a takeaway.

And the offense must execute better in the Red Zone. Simply kicking FGs isn’t likely to win this game.

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Game Preview – PHI at CHI

Posted: September 19th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 338 Comments »

It seems like forever since we saw Carson Wentz win his debut game and set off Wentzmania. Believe it or not, it has only been a week. Now we get to see Wentz handle the challenge of playing on the road on Monday night. It should be fun to see how the rookie responds.

One of the big selling points with Wentz is his character and mentality. He is a football guy. Mike Mayock would label him as a “gym rat”. Some players love everything that comes with playing football. Wentz is a guy that just loves football. Cade McNown and Tim Couch both dated playmates as NFL rookies. Michael Vick had a whole secret life we didn’t know about. Matt Leinart was busy having fun in Arizona. Brett Favre partied in the Buckhead section of Atlanta.

Wentz won his debut. He won the Rookie of the Week award. He celebrated by getting right back in the film room and grinding away. Success is temporary if you stop working. Wentz is very driven and he isn’t going to settle for one good game. Remember that in college the bar was set incredibly high for him. He redshirted for a year and then sat for two others. His team won national titles in each of those seasons. Wentz got the starting job and was expected to win a title himself. He did that in 2014 and 2015. The pressure brought out the best in him.

There are going to be some down days for Wentz. It happens to everyone. Aaron Rodgers is the best or second best QB in the game today and he just played poorly on SNF in a loss to Sam Bradford and the Vikings. Wentz isn’t going to have a bad game because he’s unprepared or unfocused. Those are things he can control and he will be ready when he takes the field in Chicago on Monday night.

I think Wentz will have another good performance. I wrote a preview for PE.com.

*****

What I’ll be watching tonight:

Favorable circumstances – The Eagles had good field position last week. They had the lead all game long. Weather wasn’t an issue. Things like that made Wentz’s job easier, but not all games go that smoothly. We need to see how Wentz responds when things get more difficult. That could happen tonight or next week or after that. But it will happen.

Crowd noise – The Eagles believe in making pre-snap adjustments at the line of scrimmage. That works great in home games. It can be more difficult on the road. Soldier Field isn’t known for overwhelming crowd noise, but this will likely be the toughest road game Wentz has ever played. I don’t think he will have experienced noise like he’ll hear tonight. Will that lead to any confusion, delays or penalties?

Eagles CBs – Cleveland has solid WRs, but Chicago has a very talented trio. The weakest part of the Eagles defense is the CBs. How will they deal with Jeffrey, White and Royal? The Eagles need to cover tightly and then make tackles when they do give up catches.

The blitz – Wentz was terrific against the blitz last week. The Bears studied those plays and have a better idea of how to attack him and the offense. I don’t anticipate Wentz going 11-12 vs the blitz tonight, but he needs to make his share of plays. When they blitz, you need to burn ’em.

Josh Huff – The Bears don’t have a secondary made of great athletes. I think the Eagles will try to focus on getting more RAC yards this week. Huff is the WR who has the best RAC ability. I expect him to get the ball a few times on short, quick throws so the Eagles can see what he does with the ball in his hands.

Jason Kelce – Kelce remains as athletic as any C in the league, but he can struggle when dealing with big NTs. Last week 340-lb Danny Shelton got the best of him too many times. The Bears don’t have anyone that heavy, but Eddie Goldman is 6-4, 320 so he’s no walk in the park. Kelce needs to play better, to help the run game and to keep Wentz clean.

RBs – Speaking of the run game, neither Ryan Mathews nor Darren Sproles could get going last week. There were plenty of good short runs, but nothing that went over 7 yards. Offenses need chunk plays. In the run game, this is anything that goes over 15 yards. You don’t expect a bunch of them, but mixing in one or two can make a big difference when trying to move the ball down the field.

*****

INACTIVES

WR Bryce Treggs
TE Zach Ertz
OL Josh Andrews
OL H. Vaitai
OL Dillon Gordon
OL Isaac Seumalo
CB Leodis McKelvin

We were hoping to get a look at Treggs tonight, but his Eagles debut will have to wait.

*****

This is awesome. Make sure to watch it.

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Know Your Enemy – Da Bears

Posted: September 18th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 196 Comments »

Chicago is 0-1, having lost their opener to the Texans 23-14. The Bears got out to a 14-10 lead at the half, but then got shutout in the 2nd half and Houston was able to win the game. There was nothing compelling about the game, good or bad. To put it simply, the Bears were okay, but not good enough.

Expectations were not sky high coming into the year. Chicago lost highly-regarded offensive coordinator Adam Gase and workhorse RB Matt Forte. The defense added some solid pieces, but no one you would call an impact player. Most people had the Bears pegged as the worst team in the NFC North. That said, people have enough respect for coach John Fox that they think the Bears could still be a .500 team.

Jay Cutler is the ultimate wild card, obviously. At his best, he is an outstanding QB. The problem is that he’s highly inconsistent. Gase got Cutler to play well last year, especially cutting down on INTs. How will Cutler perform without Gase? Cutler is also missing his security blanket. Forte was the team’s leading rusher, caught 44 passes and was a good pass protector. TE Martellus Bennett is also gone. QBs love TEs that have good size and good hands.

We won’t know the Bears identity on offense until we’ve seen this group play a while. They have Jeremy Langford taking over at RB. He is talented, but I don’t see him in the same class as Forte. Chicago does have a pair of big, talented wideouts in Alshon Jeffrey and Kevin White. They combined to go 7-139-1 last week. Eddie Royal is a good slot receiver.

The OL is a work in progress. RT Bobby Massie struggled in pass pro last week. The interior trio of LG Josh Sitton, C Cody Whitehair and RG Kyle Long will be outstanding in time. Sitton just came over from GB and he’s getting used to the new offense. He was up and down in the opener. Whitehair is talented, but must get stronger. He got destroyed multiple times last week. Long is a stud. He’s just adjusting to RG after spending last year at RT.

The Bears don’t have an explosive offense, but they also don’t look like a good ball control group. That requires good blocking and consistent QB play. Last week they had 2 plays of more than 20 yards, both passes to Jeffrey. The Bears only gained 71 yards of offense in the 2nd half last week. They really struggled.

Their defense kept them in the game as long as they could. A 4th quarter FG finally put the game out of reach. Chicago runs a 3-4 with Vic Fangio calling the plays. He was in SF with Jim Harbaugh and is a quality DC. I’m sure Fox shares his thoughts as well.

Chicago has the makings of a good front 7. The OLBs are Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, 1st round pick Leonard Floyd and Sam Acho. Those guys can rotate to stay fresh. The ILBs are Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, active players who make a lot of tackles. The DL doesn’t feature any big names, but I was impressed when watching them against Houston.

The secondary is a bit of a mystery. They have 3 DBs questionable for the game. The secondary is mostly young guys and veteran CB Tracy Porter. Like the Eagles, the Bears are trying to develop some young DBs.

Chicago let go of long time PK Robbie Gould and replaced him with veteran Connor Barth. Deonte Thompson is the KOR. He had a long return of 26 yards. Royal is the PR and has always been dangerous there. He had a 31-yard return last week. Here’s your entertaining sidenote. Back in 2008 I was upset when the Eagles missed out on Royal and had to settle for DeSean Jackson in the draft. Oops.

The Eagles are the better team in this game. That sounds great, but Week 2 is proof that each game is its own little world. The Rams were dreadful last week, but found a way to upset Seattle today. The Browns were terrible last week. They lost to Baltimore today, but played much better. The Lions and Saints looked like offensive juggernauts last week and both lost defensive struggles today.

This is the home opener for Chicago. It is also MNF. That used to mean close, kind of crazy games.

2008 – CHI 24, PHI 20

2009 – PHI 24, CHI 20

2011 – CHI 30, PHI 24

And then the Eagles played Chicago in 2013 and beat then 54-11 on SNF. Does that mean the Bears are due to win? This has no meaning in reality, but for those demented people like me who give validity to jinxes and streaks…beware.

*****

Looking around the NFC East…

The Skins are 0-2. Both losses came at home. And they got PIT without Le’Veon Bell. And they got Dallas without a pair of DEs or MLB Rolando McClain. And Tony Romo. 0-2 is just two game, but this is a pretty disastrous start for the Skins.

Their run D stinks and they haven’t been able to slow down a star WR in either game, despite giving mega-bucks to CB Josh Norman. Oh yeah…QB Kirk Cousins is struggling. Has be been distracted by the success he had in 2015? Is he trying to do too much, to prove he is worth a huge QB deal? We don’t know the answer, but he’s not playing well right now. PFT reported some in the locker room are mad at him. That seems incredibly premature if it is true. Cousins just led the team to a division title. He earned some trust.

Then again…he’s never beaten a team with a winning record. You can’t pick on crappy teams forever.

Dallas is 1-1. Their defense is a mess. Their rookie skill players are learning on the job. You can see a lot of talent, but they’re mixing in some tough mistakes as well. Dak Prescott looks better than the castoffs they put on the field last year.

It is too early to read this Cowboys team. They still have some serious talent. They also have some major holes.

The Giants are 2-0, but both are ugly wins. They beat a rookie QB last week and then needed a blocked FG returned for a TD to win today. They have won a pair of close games and that was an issue last year so they are better in that regard. The defense is infinitely better than 2015. The Giants have only allowed 32 total points so far. Last year they were 0-2 and had allowed 51 points in the two losses.

The NFC East is not a great division right now, which bodes well for the Eagles. This team looks to have as good a shot as anyone right now. Winning the NFC East isn’t anyone’s ultimate goal, but it is a good starting point for a team that is…retooling.

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Mills to Start?

Posted: September 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 435 Comments »

It sure sounds like CB Leodis McKelvin is going to miss Monday night’s game. That would leave the Eagles with 3 healthy CBs in Nolan Carroll, Ron Brooks and rookie Jalen Mills. Carroll will start on one side. And the other?

There is a real possibility that Mills will get the nod. I think he absolutely should. Mills played well last Sunday. Brooks was up and down. Obviously Brooks has more experience, but he only had 3 career starts coming into this season so it isn’t as if he’s someone you can plug in at CB and count on. Mills is more naturally gifted and is more instinctive. There is the added benefit that starting Mills allows Brooks to focus on playing the slot. It can be tricky to shuffle between the slot and playing outside.

Check out Mills in action.

The thing you love about that is Mills playing smart football. He’s off the receiver and focused on the sticks since it is 3rd/7. Mills keeps his eyes on the QB while also knowing where the WR is. Mills knows he has Safety help over the top so he focuses on the underneath coverage. If RG3 doesn’t make a bad throw, Mills is right there to pick it off.

This wasn’t the only play where Mills looked good while doing his job. He really impressed me. I was worried when McKelvin went out of the game, but Mills and Brooks did a good job of filling his shoes.

Les Bowen wrote a good piece on the situation. He got the DBs to share their thoughts.

Carroll said he isn’t too worried about having to nurse Mills through the game, if the rookie starts.

“He’s one of the more ready corners I’ve been around, as a young guy . . . I don’t think he’s scared. He embraces the challenge. I don’t have to tell him anything,” Carroll said.

“He’s confident. You can see that in his play, you can see that from his demeanor. There’s not too much we have to tell him when he’s out there.”

Jim Schwartz has also praised Mills quite a bit. Schwartz loves the attitude Mills plays with, especially his competitive spirit. CB is one spot where confidence and attitude really do matter. Corners are out on an island. They need to be cocky, almost delusional. Mills was up and down in the preseason, but now seems to be fully healthy and fully confident.

CB is uncertain down the road. McKelvin is 31. Carroll is a UFA next year. Brooks is more of a role player than anything else. It would be nice to see if Mills is a player the Eagles can count on to be part of the future. Monday night will be a huge opportunity for him.

*****

The Eagles added QB Aaron Murray to the practice squad earlier this week.

The team needed depth at QB and Pederson knew Murray from their time together in KC.

Solid arm. Some mobility. Knows the offense. Solid choice for a young #3 QB. We’ll see if he has a future with the team. Pederson learned from Andy Reid, who learned from Ron Wolf. You add QBs on a regular basis and always look for more.

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