Not Pretty, But Lots to Like

Posted: August 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 56 Comments »

The Eagles won their preseason opener 17-9. The result is irrelevant, with the key being how the team played. There were some positives, but also plenty of negatives. You can tell the Eagles are a long way from being a finished product. At the same time, you can see some real potential.

Let’s start with Carson Wentz. There was an electric atmosphere when he came in the game, not just with the fans. Wentz’s teammates were anxious to see what he could do and his presence woke up a sleeping offense. He wasn’t able to cure all the blocking and receiving issues, but Wentz’s sheer talent made a difference on a handful of plays. You very quickly could see the difference in him and someone like Chase Daniel. Or recent draftees like Nick Foles, Mike Kafka and Kevin Kolb. You could see why Wentz was the #2 overall pick. He has big time talent and makes those around him better.

A lot of people will be ripping Daniel for how he played. That’s understandable, but you can’t blame him for much of that. With Jason Peters out, backup LT Matt Tobin moved up to the starting unit. That put #3 LT Andrew Gardner on the field early. And Tampa had their starting defense in the game. So there was the starting RDE going against the Eagles third string LT. I don’t have to tell you how that went.

There were other failures up front. It also hurt that receivers weren’t getting open and Daniel wasn’t exactly Mr. Calm and Confident on the field. The problems seemed to make each other worse. Until Wentz came in and brought energy and excitement with him.

Wentz showed a strong arm. He was athletic, moving around in and outside the pocket. He didn’t panic under pressure. I made the joke on Twitter that Wentz tonight took more shots than Rocky did in all the movies. Wentz is tough as nails. He made one huge mistake, throwing a Red Zone INT. You can do a lot of things, but that’s not one of them. Under pressure, he was off target and put too much air under a pass. Simply can’t do that.

I thought the defense played well all game long. There were breakdowns here and there, but the group had 4 takeaways, constantly pressured Bucs QBs and held Tampa to just 9 points. As expected, the DL was the best group on the field. Fletcher Cox had his first strip-sack of the year. I was excited by how well the backup DL played. Guys like Beau Allen and Taylor Hart, who many felt were pure 3-4 players, showed up and played well.

One of the big questions all spring/summer has been about what will happen with backup Safeties. Chris Maragos, Ed Reynolds and Jaylen Watkins all played well tonight. Rookie Blake Countess had some good moments as well. Reynolds was more physical than in the past. He tackled well and aggressively went after runners and receivers. We know he has ball skills. The question with Reynolds has always been whether he can hit/tackle consistently. As for Watkins, he showed up in coverage, which we knew he could do. His versatility and man coverage skills are reasons the coaches want him on the team. Watkins did not tackle well early on. That prompted this.

So on the next play…

I take full credit. Watkins won’t be mistaken for Wes Hopkins anytime soon, but he doesn’t have to be a punishing hitter. Watkins just has to show the coaches he can be trusted to tackle on a consistent basis. Reynolds had 7 tackles, 5 solo. Watkins had 4 solo tackles and a PBU. Both players helped their cause to make the team. One of them could be active on gameday. This battle will continue for another several weeks.

Some guys who disappointed:

Jalen Mills
Eric Rowe
Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Stefen Wisniewski
All the top WRs
Andrew Gardner
Isaac Seumalo

One game is just one game, but these players need to bounce back in a big way next week.

DE Steven Means lived up to the hype, which was nice. He was disruptive and had a sack. And rookie Paul Turner did his part. He led the Eagles with 6 catches and 34 yards, which should tell you how bad the passing game was.

All in all, this was a good night for the Eagles. Doug Pederson did a solid job. His defense was outstanding. And the team’s highly touted (and costly) rookie QB looks like the real deal. The present looks a bit murky, but the future looks very bright.

*****

Lots more to come on this game as I get a chance to study the tape.

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Halftime Update: PS 1 – PHI 14, TB 6

Posted: August 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 128 Comments »

Forget the backup OL struggles. Forget Chase Daniel. Even forget the return of the 4-3. The one drive by Carson Wentz was the key to the first half.

Wentz didn’t do anything magical, but just his presence brought life to the game. He got the players around him to pick up their level of play. He showed a strong arm and the ability to move around. Wentz was tough in the pocket, standing tall and taking hits when he had to. He was a bit high on 2 throws, but they were still catchable.

The game just felt different with Wentz in there. He can do things Chase Daniel never could or will be able to. Wentz can do things Sam Bradford hasn’t done since his college days. You can see raw talent with Wentz. That doesn’t guarantee that he’ll work out, but man it gets you excited about the future.

I’ll talk about other bright spots and the negative issues after the game.

Looking forward to the second half.

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Football (Kinda) is Back!!!

Posted: August 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 181 Comments »

Are you excited? We’re going to see the debut of Isaac Seumalo tonight!!! And the dude from South Dakota or wherever.

I have a love-hate relationship with preseason football. I love it because I’ve gone so long without football and there are so many new faces to watch. I hate it because deciphering what is real and what isn’t, what matters and what doesn’t is next to impossible. Also, there is going to be some incredibly sloppy football. That can be rough even for the bravest of souls.

Aside from the obvious (Wentz, etc.), who am I watching? Here are a few names.

Matt Tobin – Is he really reborn? Has the crappy RG really turned into a solid LT? He has looked good at LT in the past, but that was with backups. Tonight he will be a starter. We may not see a lot of him, but I’m curious to see how he does.

Trey Burton – The hype on Burton has been huge this summer. I’m excited to see what he can do. I hope the Eagles throw him the ball a time or two.

Stefen Wisniewski – Where’s Wiz? That’s the first question. Will he be the backup RG or LG? Or Center? Once I find him, I have to figure out how he’s doing. I had my doubts when the Eagles signed him, but by all accounts, he has played well this summer.

Myke Tavarres – WLB or SAM? I don’t expect him to look anything like a finished product. I’m watching to see if he flashes big potential or just looks in over his head.

Steven Means – Can he really be the #4 DE for the Eagles? Means has played in preseason games before so he should be ready to roll.

Jalen Mills – I guess the Eagles will play him in the slot and outside. I want to see if Mills will hit and tackle. I’m also curious to see if he’s over-aggressive and gets burned deep.

I don’t think the starters will be on the field much so I don’t expect to learn a lot about Brandon Brooks or Jordan Hicks or Sam Bradford. The next 2 weeks will be far more important for those guys.

The opener is all about backups, third-stringers and even fourth-stringers. These players can open eyes with how they play tonight or cost themselves a job. There is a lot on the line for the bottom half of the Eagles roster.

Here are the inactives from PE.com:

T Jason Peters (quad)

S Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring)

LB Mychal Kendricks (hamstring)

WR Jordan Matthews (knee)

RB Wendell Smallwood (quad)

DE Marcus Smith (concussion)

DT Mike Martin (knee)

CB JaCorey Shepherd (hamstring)

WR Marcus Johnson (quad)

WR Hunter Sharp (Hamstring)

*****

Back to Wentz. I don’t need him to be polished or perfect. I do need to see legit ability. I want him to show me why he was the #2 overall pick. He can make mistakes, but make a big throw or two and then show me the mobility. I’m not greedy. He doesn’t have to look like Aaron Rodgers until next week.

And I will pay a lot of attention to the WRs. We really don’t know what the Eagles have there. Let’s hope the OLs block well so the QBs have time to get the ball out to their guys. It is tough to evaluate receivers if they don’t get good throws coming their way.

*****

And please, please stay healthy.

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Lots of Learning

Posted: August 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 93 Comments »

New schemes. New staff. New players. Rookie head coach. All of this put together means the 2016 Eagles are a mystery. We think we know certain things about the team, but the truth is that we’re constantly learning. I mean, how many people thought Trey Burton would be the star of Training Camp? Who thought 7th round pick Jalen Mills would be outplaying Eric Rowe?

I wrote a piece for PE.com on some of the things we learned in the first 2 weeks of Training Camp.

Obviously what we know now can change quite a bit in the coming weeks. Preseason games bring out the best in some players and will expose others. As noted philosopher Allen Iverson famously pointed out, there is quite a difference in practice and games.

Another factor is whether players can sustain their level of play. Having a good week or couple of weeks is impressive, but players have to show they can stay at the same level for all of August. That builds trust with their teammates and the coaches. That’s how you carve out a role on offense, defense or STs.

With all of the new faces and all of the changes, we’ll be learning about this team all year long.

*****

We learned about WR Deon Long in the first episode of Hard Knocks.

Jeff Fisher made it very clear that players were not to have guests (females) in their rooms. Long was caught with a female guest. Fisher talked to him for a minute about the situation and then told Long he was being released. Guys at the bottom of the roster can’t make dumb mistakes like that. Fisher also wanted to send a message to his team that BS won’t be tolerated. He’s tired of constant mediocrity and is going to push the Rams to quit settling for mediocrity.

Long does have some potential.

He’s not so good that he can do knucklehead things and get away with them.

Long has some RAC ability. He catches the ball away from his body. Shows some toughness and aggressively goes after the ball. He doesn’t have an ideal size/speed combination and isn’t a polished WR. The Eagles aren’t loaded at WR (to put it mildly) so Long has a chance to get the coaches attention if he plays well.

*****

I really enjoyed this interview with QBs coach John DeFilippo. Sometimes Dave Spadaro gets a guest to relax and share some good information. That’s exactly what happened here.

Flip has interesting thoughts on the players and offers good insight what the coaches are looking for from them.

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Lane Johnson Suspended?

Posted: August 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 88 Comments »

Today we got one of those stories you don’t know what to make of.

This created a media frenzy, with everyone trying to get to the bottom of the story. Then Johnson told reporters that nothing was going on, making this seem like a false report.

And then.

Then we got this news.

How’s that for a crazy afternoon?

First, let’s hope Johnson isn’t suspended. He is an important player and the Eagles need him up front. Also, you want to believe that he and his people were thorough enough with checking out supplements that they weren’t taking any chances with suspension. Then again, we’ve seen other players have odd issues over the years. Some got suspended, while others fought successfully against the league.

One thing worth nothing…

That makes me feel better about the situation. This isn’t Johnson trying to get by with something he already got busted for. This is a different issue. Similar problem, but different circumstances.

If Johnson is suspended, it will hurt the Eagles. I would think Dennis Kelly would take over at RT. He’s started there before and has been the backup there this spring and summer. I think Kelly could be a functional RT. He showed some promise last year when he practiced all week and then got on the field. When he entered a game in the middle of the contest, he struggled. Kelly started several games at RT in 2012, when some guy named Doug Pederson was a young coach on the Eagles staff.

The Eagles could move Allen Barbre or Matt Tobin out to RT. Barbre was slated to be the starting RT in 2014, but he got hurt in the season opener. Tobin appears to be the #3 OT for now, but I think he’s substantially better on the left side. Moving Kelly makes the most sense to me. That also limits the shifting you have to do. Stability up front is huge. Keep guys where they are used to playing for best results.

This offense doesn’t feature great skill players. One of the keys to the Eagles moving the ball and scoring points was going to be improved O-line play. If Johnson is suspended, that is going to make life that much harder on Sam Bradford and his supporting cast.

If Johnson is suspended, there are two “positive” angles. First, this isn’t happening in a year where the Eagles are likely to be contenders. If there is a time for this to happen, 2016 is it. Also, this would force the Eagles to play a young OL somewhere (depending on what lineup they chose). This is the time to find out who can play and who can’t. You wouldn’t see a finished product, but you would get an idea of who could be part of the future.

Injuries put rookie Todd Herremans on the field in 2005. He was very up and down. He was playing mostly LT. He then moved to LG in 2006 and became part of an outstanding OL. That first season may have been painful for those wanting an immediate payoff, but it helped the Eagles to know Herremans had NFL talent and belonged on the field. He then started the next 9 seasons.

Let’s hope this proves to be much ado about nothing, but based on how strict the NFL tends to be on matters like this and how stubborn the league is in general, it doesn’t feel like there will be a happy ending.

*****

Interesting. They need someone behind Jordan Hicks. We thought Stephen Tulloch would make sense. I just wonder if he was prepared to come here and possibly sit.

Make sure to check out other MLBs/ILBs this weekend when you watch preseason games. Might be seeing a future Eagle.

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