Confidence

Posted: November 11th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

I don’t know how to feel about the Eagles heading into Sunday night’s showdown with the Cowboys.

Last year the Eagles got off to a hot start. It was easy to buy into that team and believe in them. Things weren’t always perfect, but the team found a way to win. They were good. They were also clutch. When they needed a play, they made a play.

The 2018 Eagles are a different story.

We want to believe in this team. Most of the players and coaches from last year are back so it only makes sense to believe in this group. They earned our trust by bringing the Lombardi Trophy to Broad Street.

Unfortunately, each season is unique. Each team is unique. That’s why repeating is so hard. Just because something worked last year doesn’t mean it will work this year.

This team did hold off the Falcons and the Colts to preserve wins. They blew fourth quarter leads to the Titans and Panthers, losing both games. The offense and defense each made some key fourth quarter plays in the win over the Jaguars.

Doug Pederson says that execution fuels emotion. I think execution also fuels confidence.

No one knows if they can trust the Eagles right now. That’s true of fans, Pederson and even the players themselves. The Eagles have been too sloppy. They’ve made too many mistakes.

That can change in a hurry.

A strong effort from the Eagles on Sunday night would mean a lot. A win would put the Eagles above .500 for the first time since Week 3. That would give the Eagles two straight wins and help them to feel good about themselves.

Can they deliver?

*****

Coaching is an issue. Weapons are an issue. The OL is an issue.

Dak is also an issue.

Michael Kist wrote a thorough piece for BGN on Dak’s struggles and how the Eagles defense should shut him down.

I am curious to see how Dak and the Cowboys respond to the situation. If he struggles and Dallas loses, that could be the beginning of the end for Jason Garrett and his staff. The players have to know this. They have to sense just how important this game is.

That could bring out the best in them. Or it could make them sloppy, taking desperate chances. Dallas has had two turnovers in three of the last four games. If they get sloppy, they could turn the ball over even more.

The Eagles must take advantage of Dallas mistakes. When Dak puts a ball up for grabs, they must catch it. When the ball is on the ground, they must go get it.

Jordan Hicks has made some big plays against Dallas. It would be great for him to come up big in this game.

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Breaking Down the Game – DAL at PHI

Posted: November 10th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

Sunday’s game is huge for both the Cowboys and Eagles, although for slightly different reasons. The Eagles are trying to build momentum, while Dallas is trying to stay alive in the playoff race.

Let’s take a look at some different factors.

The MNF Factor

Teams that play on MNF tend to struggle when forced to go on the road the next week. Dallas lost to the Titans on Monday night and now will be traveling to Philly for the big game.

The Lions lost in the opener, went to SF and lost again. The Bucs lost to PIT on MNF and then were destroyed by the Bears on the road. Denver lost on MNF and then went to the Jets and lost 34-16.

Advantage: Eagles

Desperation

One of the old adages in the NFL is that the more desperate team has an advantage.

Dallas is 3-5 and hanging by a thread. They’ve lost 3 of 4 games. The Eagles are 4-4 and have won 2 of 3.

Advantage: Cowboys

The Philly Factor

Last year Dak Prescott beat Eagles backups. In 2017 Carson Wentz beat Dallas backups. The Cowboys won in Philly in 2012-2015. That was an ugly stretch.

You have to go back to 2011 to find the last time the Eagles starting QB beat the Cowboys starting QB at The Linc.

Advantage: Cowboys

Coach-QB Factor

Why did Dallas do so well from 2012-2015?

2012 … Andy Reid/rookie Nick Foles vs Jason Garrett/Tony Romo
2013 … Chip Kelly / Nick Foles vs Jason Garrett/Tony Romo
2014 … Chip Kelly / Mark Sanchez vs Jason Garrett/Tony Romo
2015 … Chip Kelly / Sam Bradford vs Jason Garrett/Tony Romo

The Eagles didn’t have the better coach/QB combination in those games.

This year Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson will be taking on Dak Prescott and Jason Garrett

Advantage: Eagles

Road Factor

Similar to the Philly Factor, but less specific. Dallas is 3-1 at home this year. They are 0-4 on the road.

Advantage: Eagles

Born To Run Factor

The Cowboys love to run the ball. They are 0-4 when you hold them under 100 yards.

The Eagles have held 6 of 8 opponents to under 80 yards.

In 4 games this year, QBs have been the leading rushers against the Eagles.

The only RB to go for more than 50 yards against the Eagles this year was Saquon Barkley.

Dallas has the #6 running offense in the NFL. The Eagles have the #2 run defense in the league.

Advantage: Eagles

*****

Last year’s team was at its best when loose and having fun.

I have no idea if that is true with this team.

As a general rule, I do think it is better for a team to be loose than uptight. The question is what is the difference between being loose and not being focused or ready to play. Each team has a unique emotional makeup.

The 2004 team was at its best when they played with swagger, thanks to TO. The 2008 team was more business-like. That team was built more on defense.

This season has been strange, partially due to so many injuries. If this team is plays well down the stretch, we will get a better feel for the identity of the team.

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Sproles’d!

Posted: November 9th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

A week of feeling good came to a crashing halt.

Ugh.

This is especially tough since the Eagles already let go of DeAndre Carter, who had been the team’s RS in recent weeks.

The Eagles rolled the dice on Sproles and came up craps.

So what will happen at PR and KOR? This isn’t 2007. The Eagles do have some options. Golden Tate, Nelson Agholor and Corey Clement all have PR experience. Tate, Agholor, Clement and Wendell Smallwood all have KOR experience. They can handle a short absence.

The Eagles ought to strongly consider finding a RS. Can you really trust Sproles hamstring at this point?

I do think we have to be careful about making too much of losing Carter. It was a lot of fun to see him carve out a role in the NFL and do a good job, but he wasn’t special. This wasn’t a player you absolutely wanted on your team for the next five years. There wasn’t much of a role for him on offense. He was a good PR, but didn’t show much as a KOR.

I’ll be pulling for Carter to create an NFL career for himself, but small guys that are quicker than fast are a dime a dozen. He’s got an uphill battle.

It is fair to question whether the Eagles should just put Sproles on IR at this point. Again, can you really trust him? Even if he practices next week and is able to play against the Saints, you’ll always be wondering if the hamstring is going to get re-injured. This will make for a tough discussion between Doug Pederson, Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas. They all love Sproles and have great respect for him, but at some point, you have to move on.

It is fair to question the Eagles medical staff. They made some changes in the offseason and this team has had a lot of injury issues. That might not have a thing to do with the new staff, but it is absolutely worth checking out.

We all wanted Jason Peters and Darren Sproles to go out with a great final season. That hasn’t been the case for either guy. Father Time isn’t sentimental. He let Donnie Jones and Brent Celek go out on top, but they were exceptions, not the rule. As we’re seeing this year, when it comes to football, it rarely ends well.

*****

One move the team could make.

Donnel Pumphrey is also a possibility, but do you really want to experiment with him as you are trying to claw your way into the postseason?

*****

Just how critical is this game?

The Eagles could be in first place in the division if they beat Dallas and the Bucs beat the Skins.

The Eagles could shovel some dirt on the Cowboys’ season as well. A loss would drop them to 3-6 and all but finish them.

*****

This game will tell us a lot about the Dallas defense and the Philly offense.

Dallas played in a critical game on Monday night. They gave up 28 points (more than the Eagles have allowed all year). The Titans were an amazing 11 for 14 on 3rd downs.

The Eagles have scored 24 or more in two of the past three games. It feels like the offense is ready to come alive. Now you add in Golden Tate. The offense better put up more than 17 or 20 or 21 points.

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Midseason

Posted: November 8th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

With the Eagles at midseason, let’s take a look at some of what we’ve seen to this point.

QB

Carson Wentz is putting up amazing numbers. He has a passer rating of 109.6. He is completing 70.7 percent of his passes. Wentz is doing all this while coming back from last December’s ACL injury. Young QBs recovering from an injury are not supposed to play like this.

His accuracy is improved. His arm strength is better than ever. Wentz is making incredible throws in each game. He and Alshon Jeffery have developed great chemistry.

Things haven’t been perfect. Wentz came up short at the end of the loss to the Panthers. The Eagles had a chance to steal that game back. Fumbles have been an issue. To be fair, he’s getting hit hard on those plays, but ball security needs to improve. Wentz hasn’t been as good in the Red Zone this year as he was in 2017.

Some people wondered if 2017 was an anomaly. We’ve seen young QBs have a great season and then fail to live up to that standard, for a variety of reasons. Wentz is playing at a very high level and showing that he is going to be a star for years to come.

Nick Foles was disappointing. He didn’t have ideal circumstances to be sure, but you could definitely see his limitations.

RB

Jay Ajayi was off to a solid start before tearing his ACL. Darren Sproles seems to have the worst hamstrings on Earth.

Wendell Smallwood is playing the best football of his career. He’s making plays in the passing game as well as running hard. Rookie Josh Adams is coming off his best game (9-61) and has shown promise.

The problem with Smallwood is that he’s got a limited ceiling. Adams is an unknown commodity, but he hasn’t shown anything special. It would be good to see him get 15 to 20 touches in a game at some point.

Corey Clement is the mystery man. He’s dealt with nagging injuries and hasn’t played well. He’s averaging just 3.3 yards per carry.

WR

Alshon Jeffery has been tremendous. He doesn’t have huge numbers, but his impact is felt in every game. He makes key plays to keep the chains moving. He’s been outstanding in the Red Zone. Jeffery is proving to be worth every penny he gets paid.

Nelson Agholor has been somewhat disappointing. He’s averaging 9.1 yards per reception and only has 1 TD this year. He was much more of a playmaker last season. Agholor looked good in the Jags game so maybe he’ll heat up down the stretch.

Mack Hollins and Mike Wallace got hurt early and haven’t done anything. Kamar Aiken, Shelton Gibson and DeAndre Carter did very little. Jordan Matthews was signed during the season and has proven to be a good addition (10-200-1). He and Wentz still have good chemistry.

TE

Zach Ertz is posting freaky numbers, 61-644-3. I doubt he sustains that, but Ertz has been absolutely outstanding, as a playmaker and chain-mover. He has great hands and has become deadly as a route-runner. Teams try to shut him down every week, but Ertz keeps producing.

Dallas Goedert does not look like a rookie. He has good numbers, 18-188-3. The tape is just as good. Goedert can make tough catches. He can make plays after the catch. His blocking has been a very pleasant surprise. Goedert is already a better blocker than Ertz will ever be.

Josh Perkins has been effective as the #3 TE.

OL

The offensive line has been up and down. The QBs have been sacked 26 times this year. Eagles QBs were sacked 36 times for all of last season. That’s not a good trend.

Jason Peters has been in and out of the lineup. That has hurt continuity. Even when he’s on the field, Peters has been up and down. Injuries and age have taken him down a notch. Lane Johnson has dealt with injuries. He gave up strip-sacks in consecutive games. That didn’t happen last year. Brandon Brooks and Jason Kelce are playing well.

Isaac Seumalo took over for Stefan Wisniewski at LG and Seumalo has settled in nicely. He’s been effective as a run blocker and in pass protection. Seumalo has moved around when needed at RT and done a good job. His athleticism and versatility are key assets.

Big V has played LT and RT. He’s been up and down, but that is due to being thrown into games when needed. OL are at their best when they can practice and prepare. Coming off the bench and being the swing tackle is hard.

DL

Fletcher Cox is having the best season of his career. He is disruptive every single week. He’s also productive, which can be a challenge for DTs. Cox leads the team with 4 sacks and he’s tied for the team lead with 5 TFLs. His ability to collapse the pocket on a regular basis has been very impressive.

Destiny Vaeao, Haloti Ngata, Treyvon Hester and Bruce Hector have been the other DTs. They haven’t done a whole lot. It is imperative that Tim Jernigan comes back for the stretch run.

Brandon Graham only has 1.5 sacks, but he’s been more disruptive than that. Michael Bennett has played very well the last month. He’s got 3.5 sacks for the year and has really started to make his presence felt. Chris Long has been up and down. He does have 3 sacks, but he is too quiet in some games.

Derek Barnett is out for the year. He showed real signs of growth from his rookie season. If you expected Barnett to be dominant, you were disappointed. He did have 2.5 sacks and 5 TFLs. He was a good run defender. He showed growth as a pass rusher, using more than just speed off the edge.

Rookie Josh Sweat has only played a handful of snaps. You can see his physical gifts, but also that he’s still raw. He will play more down the stretch.

Overall, the DL has been dominant for stretches. They have been too quiet at other times, most notably the fourth quarter of losses to TEN and CAR.

LB

Disappointing. With Nigel Bradham re-signed and Jordan Hicks coming back from injury, expectations were high. Bradham played at a Pro Bowl level last year. Hicks has been a turnover machine in his career. The middle of the Eagles defense was going to be outstanding.

But it hasn’t. Bradham and Hicks have been okay, but there sure won’t be any Pro Bowl talk for these two. They have been good on blitzes, totaling 5 sacks between them.

Kamu Grugier-Hill has shown good promise as the WLB. Great athlete. He’s showed playmaking potential. Nate Gerry has been a good role player, when healthy. He’s missed the last three games.

S

Weird year. Rodney McLeod got hurt in Game 3 and that created real problems. Corey Graham replaced him initially, but that wasn’t going to work. Rookie Avonte Maddox took over and has done a solid job. He’s learning on the fly and that’s led to some mistakes, but he is also showing playmaking ability. He had a huge FF and key 3rd down stop in the win over the Jags. Maddox is a good tackler. He takes good angles to the ball. Maddox was drafted to play the slot, but might have found a long term home at FS.

Malcolm Jenkins has been up and down. He bit on an underneath move vs Tampa and that left the deep middle wide open for a 75-yard DeSean Jackson TD. Jenkins broke up a pass in the end zone vs Jacksonville and that turned out to be a big play. He’s doesn’t have any picks, but has been part of 2 takeaways. At his best, Jenkins is a physical player who sets the tone for the defense. It doesn’t feel that’s been the case as much this year.

Corey Graham had the mistake of the year when he blew coverage on 4th & 15 vs Tennessee and left a receiver wide open for an easy 1st down. Ugh. Tre Sullivan hasn’t played much. Deiondre’ Hall has played even less. The Eagles traded for him back in September and Hall is struggling to get on the field, despite plenty of opportunities. Not a good sign for him.

CB

There was a lot of hype about Ronald Darby coming into the season. He has been outstanding at times, but has given up some plays as well. He bit on a double-move that led to an easy TD in the 4th quarter meltdown to the Panthers. There was a horrible tackle attempt in the Tampa loss that led to a long TD pass. Darby does lead the team with 12 PBUs.

Jalen Mills has had his struggles. He’s given up big plays on a regular basis. There have been some PI calls against him. Teams are attacking him on a regular basis. Mills has tackled well and done a good job in coverage in the Red Zone, but he has been disappointing. He played well against the Jags, but also got hurt.

Sidney Jones played well in the slot before getting hurt. He’s got some things to work on, but you can certainly see his talent and potential.

Rasul Douglas has played sparingly, but is coming off his best game. He took over for Mills last week and looked pretty good. He picked off a pass against Atlanta.

Jerome Dexter McDougle played in the slot the last two games. He struggled, especially against the Jaguars. He’s been cut and replaced by Cre’Von LeBlanc.

Beyond individuals, the secondary has had too many blown coverages. It is hard to pinpoint a single reason for the problems. Poor communication? Players trying to do too much? Players just making mental mistakes? Coverage has to improve for the team to play better down the stretch.

STs

Cameron Johnston leads the NFL in gross and net punting. He still needs to work on ball control, but overall he’s been terrific.

Jake Elliott has been mostly good, but has had some issues. He hasn’t missed an extra point, but has missed some important FGs, notably one against Carolina.

Kick coverage units have been solid.

DeAndre Carter did a good job replacing Sproles as the PR. No one has stood out as the KOR.

Coaching

This is a complicated subject and really deserves a post of its own.

The coaching staff was great in 2017 and the results showed that. The results aren’t as good this year so it is fair to question the coaches.

I still feel a great deal of confidence in Doug Pederson and the Eagles coaching staff.

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Depth Chart Guesses

Posted: November 7th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Lots of things to talk about today.

So what does this mean?

It would certainly seem to indicate that Darren Sproles is not dead or in witness protection. Carter has been the primary returner for a while now. If you cut him, you’re expecting someone else to take that role. That’s gotta be Sproles.

Golden Tate also has return ability and can help out if needed. Nelson Agholor, Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood can also contribute, but this move really does make it feel like Sproles will return.

I hate to see Carter go, but he’s expendable at this point. He didn’t contribute a lot on offense and Tate now is in the mix now so Carter was going to play even less on offense. Carter did show he belongs on an NFL team. I’d love to see him back on the practice squad, but it would also be cool to see another team give him a shot to keep playing on an active roster.

As for McGill, adding him makes you think it isn’t likely that Tim Jernigan plays this week.

DT Fletcher Cox
DT Haloti Ngata
DT Treyvon Hester
DT T.Y. McGill

That’s the most depth and experience the Eagles have had at DT in a while. I think they know they need to balance out reps better. There won’t be any more bye weeks. They have eight games left and if things go well, there could be another couple of games after that. You need depth to get through a run of games like that.

McGill is 6-0, 299. He’s played in 28 career games (no starts). He does have five career sacks.

In a fantasy world, the Eagles would have a good lead and the coaches would let the backups play a lot.

Jernigan should be back soon enough. The Eagles could go heavy at DT and keep five guys. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

*****

Corey Undlin talked to the media, but wouldn’t offer any updates on who will play Sunday. He made one comment that made it sound like Rasul Douglas would be starting instead of Jalen Mills.

Undlin was asked about newly signed Cre’Von LeBlanc. Undlin said he hasn’t even met him, but the Eagles will work hard to get him ready. Undlin was asked who would play the slot if Sidney Jones can’t go and said the Eagles would have someone ready for the role. As crazy as it sounds, they could go with LeBlanc. He’s new to the scheme, but knows the slot.

If Jones and Mills are down, you don’t have a lot of options.

*****

No word on if the Eagles have any interest. Irvin is a good pass rusher and you always have to be somewhat interested in those guys.

At the same time, his lack of effort in recent weeks was…not good. I know Oakland is a mess, but going through the motions (or even less) is unacceptable for a professional player. He likely turned off a few teams with that tape.

Someone will go hard after Irvin. We just haven’t heard who.

*****

Should the Eagles have interest in Abdullah? I don’t think so right now. Abdullah has three touches for 19 yards this year. He’s only played in three games. He’s had fumbling issues in the past.

Sproles is getting healthy. So is Clement. Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood are playing their best football of the season. Let’s see what this group can do.

I loved Abdullah coming out of college and he would be an interesting project in the offseason. I’m just not sure he makes a lot of sense right now.

*****

Fletcher Cox needs to have a big game this week.

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