Next QB Up

Posted: December 12th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 369 Comments »

The news is official. Carson Wentz has a torn…I don’t even want to say it. The three letters we all dread when reading about Eagles players.

Wentz is done for the year and Nick Foles is now your QB. This is the news everyone feared. Losing your starting QB is never good, but having that happen in mid-December seems awfully cruel. It also hurts because Wentz is such a special player. This isn’t a guy you’re going to replace very easily.

But…the season is not over.

Many people are all gloom and doom right now. Wentz is gone and that’s it. This team can’t win without him, right? I understand the mentality, but that’s only true if you’re an outsider. No one is happy about this, but the players and coaches are looking at this as a challenge, not the end. The season isn’t over.

At a time like this, you look to the great philosophers to offer some words of wisdom.

“What? Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”

Bluto got the boys from Delta House pretty fired up with that and they ended up doing alright.

Let’s talk about Foles and the rest of the season. This is a tricky subject because subtlety is important. Carson Wentz is a franchise QB. He is someone you build your team around. He makes the guys around him better. Foles is a good backup QB. He can be an effective starter under the right circumstances, but Foles needs the guys around him to make him better.

People love to point out the 2013 season, when Foles threw 27 TDs and only had two interceptions. He posted some of the best numbers in NFL history. While Foles posted amazing numbers, he wasn’t doing amazing things. Go watch some highlights.

You will see some impressive throws. You’ll also see some players running wide open. You’ll see players catching a pass and running for a TD. You’ll see DBs falling down. You’ll see WRs winning jump balls.

There aren’t any special throws on that video. When you watch Wentz, he makes some special throws. He is a truly gifted QB. Foles just isn’t on that level.

At the same time, Foles has some critics that are unfairly harsh. He was 14-4 as the starter under Chip Kelly. He threw 37 TDs and 12 INTs in those starts. In those two years, he was 73-289-3 on the ground. That’s more impressive than I remembered.

Go back to the video. While you don’t see bullets into tight spaces, there is plenty of good QB play. You see an accurate passer. Foles is able to keep plays alive with his feet. He’s not going to make highlight runs, but he can move around in the pocket. He made good decisions. He put good touch on his passes.

Foles is a good leader and is loved by his teammates and coaches. This is a guy who can win you some games.

Can he win big games?

That becomes the key question. There are only three regular season games left. If the Eagles needed Foles for most of a season, that would be tougher. You would need him to play at a high level for an extended amount of time. The Eagles need him to finish the regular season and to start one, two or three playoff games. These will be the biggest games of Foles career.

Foles did play in a winner-take-all game with Dallas in the 2013 season finale. He then played against the Saints in the playoffs. He has experienced pressure. Foles led the Eagles to a win in Dallas, but the team lost to the Saints.

This is different. This is a much better team and there is more on the line. This team still has Super Bowl hopes. We’ll have to see how Foles handles this kind of pressure.

I do think Foles can have some postseason success. The playoffs are about the best teams, not the best QBs. Aaron Rodgers lost some games he shouldn’t. Peyton Manning lost some games he shouldn’t. The rest of the team will have to help out in a big way. Foles needs help. The O-line has to stay healthy and play well. The run game must be productive. The defense has to be better than the past two weeks. Dave Fipp’s STs unit need to start making plays and stop giving them up.

The Eagles will win or lose in the postseason based on the way the team plays. Foles has to do his part, but we’re going to find just how good this team is.

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The Morning After

Posted: December 11th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 386 Comments »

Still hurting from the sucker punch we all got on Sunday? The Football Gods can be real jerks sometimes. I’m praying this is just going to be scare of the century, but it just doesn’t feel like that’s the case based on everything we’re hearing from the media.

The shame in all the attention going to the injury is that it overshadows a really impressive win. Perfect? Heck no. There were more than few problems on Sunday, but don’t overlook the fact the Eagles beat a good team in a big game.

Think about the flip side. If you’re the Rams, you just lost a crucial game. You knocked Carson Wentz out of the game. You blocked a punt and returned it for a TD. Todd Gurley played lights out against the #1 run D in the league. Cooper Kupp had 118 receiving yards. Jared Goff finished with a rating of 110.

And you lost!

The Eagles showed a lot of heart on Sunday. They were down 7-0 in the blink of an eye, but didn’t panic. Next thing you know they’re up 21-7.

The Rams came storming out of halftime, scoring a quick TD and then blocking a punt, which was returned for a TD. Suddenly the lead was gone and the Eagles trailed 28-24.

The Eagles led 31-28 after Wentz hit Alshon Jeffrey for a crazy TD late in the 3rd quarter. But Wentz headed into the locker room and the Rams marched right down the field. They scored to re-take the lead at 35-31.

It would have been easy for the Eagles to panic at that point. They were down by four, on the road (sort of) and missing their star QB. Instead, the team marched down the field and kicked a FG to cut the lead to 35-34.

The defense had given up TDs on the previous two drives, and looked somewhat helpless. With Wentz out, there was no way the Eagles could win a shootout. They needed the defense to step up. Someone had to make a play.

Enter Chris Long, former Ram. He got by the RT and was able to hit Jared Goff from behind, knocking the ball loose. Rodney McLeod recovered it and had the Eagles in FG range. The Eagles took the 37-35 lead.

The Rams got the ball back, but went 3 & out, not even gaining a yard. The Eagles were able to almost run out the clock after getting a key 3rd down conversion from Nick Foles to Nelson Agholor. The Eagles sealed the game with Brandon Graham’s defensive TD.

There were a lot of heroes in the game. Doug Pederson went back to being aggressive and that paid off in a big way. Foles made some clutch throws. Torrey Smith had his best game of the year, going 6-100. Agholor made some clutch grabs. Trey Burton and Brent Celek combined for 3 TD catches, more than making up for the absence of Zach Ertz. Jake Elliott hit some clutch FGs. Long’s strip sack might have been the play of the game. Fletcher Cox got pressure on the final Rams offensive series.

Oh yeah…and that Wentz guy was pretty good.

Remember that the Rams were the #1 team in the league according to Football Outsiders DVOA rankings. They are a complete team. They have playmakers all over the place. There is no shame in having that team make some plays on you. The run defense was leaky, but Todd Gurley is a big reason why. He looked great on Sunday. You can see that he’s a special player. Goff is making his case to be a Pro Bowl QB. The Rams have an outstanding front seven.

That really was a big time win.

Now go back to praying. Or make a sacrifice to the Football Gods. Or build a time machine and go back to yesterday and tell Carson to just throw the ball away.

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Heaven and Hell

Posted: December 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 275 Comments »

The Eagles beat the Rams 43-35. Yay.

The Eagles clinched the NFC East title. Yay.

The Eagles are the #1 seed in the NFC, with a game lead. Yay.

But…Carson Wentz got hurt.

There are no amount of accomplishments that will offset that.

Ugh.

We won’t find anything out for sure until Monday. You can pray for a hyperextension or something like that, but it seems like this is probably going to be a ligament injury from the all the stuff we’re hearing. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, as  the saying goes.

Nick Foles came in and played well enough for the Eagles to win. He led a FG drive. He hit Nelson Agholor for a huge completion on 3rd down that basically sealed the game. This team can win games with Foles.

Can they win in the postseason?

That’s a hard question. We need to see how Foles plays as the starter. He’s smart. He’s experienced. Has a solid arm. But Foles isn’t a guy who can put the offense on his back the way Wentz did. Foles will need good OL play. He will need a running game. He will need receivers to make plays.

Foles is the last QB to start a playoff game for the Eagles. He started against the Saints in January of 2014 and threw a TD pass late in the game to give the Eagles a 24-23 lead. Some jerk named Darren Sproles had a big KO return and the Saints then moved down to kick a FG as time expired. Foles wasn’t great, but did leave the field with the lead.

The point of that isn’t to tell you “Don’t worry, Foles will be great!”. Clearly he’s not Wentz. At the same time, this isn’t Koy Detmer. This isn’t Chase Daniel. Foles has started and had success in this league. He has played in some big games. He’s won some big games. He’s got playoff experience.

Doug Pederson would not say anything about the injury after the game. He did say that Wentz celebrated in the locker room with his teammates. Everyone was happy about clinching the division.

Will the Eagles add a veteran to be Foles backup? Pederson said Nate Sudfeld would have that role, but you have to think the team would consider adding someone with experience.

If this is an ACL, what does that mean for next year? Let’s worry about that when we know for sure what’s going on. For now, let’s focus on 2017.

There is plenty more to talk about with this game. This was a huge win for the Eagles. It was going to be tough even with Wentz the whole game, but losing him and still finding a way to win says a lot about this team.

The Eagles are a good football team.

The Wentz news is depressing and there is no escaping that. Pray for good news on the injury front. But be ready to pull those Foles jerseys out of the closet and let’s see if he has any of that 2013 magic left in his right arm.

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Game Preview – Eagles at Rams

Posted: December 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1,332 Comments »

This is the Game of the Year.

To this point, anyway. A win gives the Eagles the division title and really helps their case for a playoff bye. A loss delays the division title another week and makes the playoff bye a lot more difficult.

After a rough outing in Seattle, I think you are going to see a much better showing from the Eagles today. Carson Wentz is ultra-competitive. It has to drive him crazy that the offense put up just 10 points last week. Jim Schwartz let his defense know about all the missed tackles, penalties and sloppy play from last week. The Eagles should be a team on a mission.

The Rams aren’t going to be easy to beat, but this matchup fits the Eagles so much better than Seattle did. I wrote my preview for PE.com.

Zach Ertz is going to miss today’s game. That’s not ideal, but the Eagles can win without him. They had a good day against Denver with Ertz on the sideline. The run game has to be good. The WRs have to step up. Brent Celek and Trey Burton need contribute. All of those things can happen.

I think running the ball will be crucial today. You want to wear down the Rams DL. You also want to keep Jared Goff and the offense on the sideline watching the game. The Eagles will throw the ball plenty, but I do expect the run game to be the focal point of the offense. Jay Ajayi gets his first 100-yard day as an Eagle.

It won’t shock me for the Eagles to win this game by 10 points. The Eagles can run. They can stop the run. They can rush the passer. And I think Wentz will be playing with an edge today.

No matter what, it does feel great to play in such a big game. Haven’t had that feeling much in recent years.

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The Duel

Posted: December 9th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 166 Comments »

Goff vs Wentz.

1 vs 2.

After their rookie seasons, it looked like the Eagles had clearly gotten the better player. Now you can see that this is one of the rare cases where both teams landed outstanding QBs. This isn’t going to be Manning vs Leaf, Pt. 2.

It will be interesting to see if this develops into a rivalry. The Eagles and Rams haven’t faced each other a lot recently. They played once in the previous five seasons. If both teams win their division, they could start playing on a regular basis.

Goff and Wentz will be compared to each other no matter what, but facing each other is what makes a rivalry special. Manning vs Brady was great because they seemed to play every year, including multiple playoff games. Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper were taken nine picks apart in 1999, but only played against each other three times. That wasn’t much of a rivalry.

With Goff playing at Cal and Wentz at North Dakota State, there is no college history between the two. They began competing in the pre-draft process, where they actually worked out together. Tim McManus wrote an outstanding piece on their friendly competition and the process that led to them being picked first and second last year. The story in there about Hue Jackson and throwing wet footballs is crazy.

You can argue about who is better, but it really feels like things worked out for the best for everyone involved. Goff is a Cali guy and I think is a natural fit for the Rams. He is ideal for Sean McVay’s offense. Wentz could thrive in that scheme as well, but I’m not sure how happy he would be living in SoCal. Wentz fits in well in Philly and seems like Doug Pederson’s ideal QB.

It will be a lot of fun to see how the two do in their first meeting on Sunday. Both are having great seasons and they play on good teams.

If there is one thing we have learned to this point, don’t rush to judgment. Some thought the Pac-12 star was definitely better than the I-AA kid coming out. Just about everyone thought Wentz was clearly better after last year. We need to wait four or five years to get a feel for who really has the upper hand.

Someone will come out on top on Sunday and have the upper hand for this season.

*****

Both teams have outstanding defensive lines. Which team will get more pressure? Which QB will handle pressure better?

Based on that list, Goff becomes much more of an average QB when pressured. Wentz is still able to make plays.

Both DLs will have some success. You aren’t going to shut down Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham all game long. If one of those DLs can get regular pressure, that will make a big difference.

And if one of the QBs is able to elude pressure and/or make a couple of key plays, that will make a huge difference. Wentz should have the advantage in that area.

*****

One area that could be key is the slot. Nelson Agholor is coming off the best game of his career (7-141-1). The Rams have been vulnerable to slot receivers.

On the flip side, the Rams top receiver is Cooper Kupp, who works primarily from the slot. He will go up against Patrick Robinson, who has been very good in coverage this season.

The middle of the field will be important for both passing games.

For those of you who love Fantasy Football, check out Evan Silva’s look at the game.

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