Nick Foles Under Pressure

Posted: July 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 33 Comments »

Really cool video here. These are a lot of throws where Nick Foles is under pressure and responds well. Some of the pressure is immediate, but on other plays Foles is holding the ball and waiting for someone to come open.

Some really impressive plays and throws.

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Biggest Rival

Posted: July 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 116 Comments »

I hate the Dallas Cowboys more than any other NFL team. To me, they are the biggest rival for the Eagles. Beating them makes the sun a little brighter, the PBR a little colder and the Funyuns a little Funyunier.

But I know some of you feel differently.

If you live near Giants fans, that makes Big Blue all the more fun to hate. Or maybe you’re down near DC and have to deal with Skins fans. You might see them as the biggest rival. I can’t imagine any team outside the division is considered a truly bitter rival at this point. I know some hate the Patriots for beating the Eagles in the Super Bowl. I know some people hate the Steelers since they are in western PA with a handful of Super Bowl rings.

So who do you think of as the Eagles biggest rival?

Who else do you hate?

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Any Interest in Andre Johnson?

Posted: July 10th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 34 Comments »

There is a strange situation going on in Houston. Star WR Andre Johnson wasn’t thrilled when the team made a coaching change. He read this as a rebuilding phase and since he’ll be 33 this season didn’t want any part of that. After meeting with coach Bill O’Brien, Johnson changed his mind. He wanted to mend fences with the team. That’s when things went strange. Per PFT:

If the Texans could have brought receiverAndre Johnson back into the fold by simply giving him a way to earn back the $1 million roster bonus he had forfeited by skipping the early phases of the offseason program, why didn’t they?

Before delving into the question, consider this.  It’s true and accurate, as first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, that Johnson offered to show up for OTAs and minicamp in exchange for a way to earn back the $1 million roster bonus — and that the Texans said thanks and no.  Johnson’s olive branch came after he took some time to get to know the knew coaching staff, and after he concluded that the franchise hasn’t plunged into a full-blown rebuilding process.  Johnson was ready to show up and get to work, with his only request being that the organization give him a way to earn the money that hinged on his full participation in the offseason program.

That was it.  That’s all he wanted.  And the Texans said no.

For now, the fracture has become a full-blown schism.  After the team refused to give him a way to earn back the money, Johnson became committed to the idea of playing elsewhere.

So why didn’t the Texans simply let Johnson save a little face and in turn a lot of money?  If there’s a rational explanation, the explanation has yet to make its way into the eyes and ears of the media.  While it shows the other players on the team that contracts will be honored as written, it undermines, and potentially poisons, the relationship with Johnson.

Sure sounds like things will probably be over between Houston and Johnson. It isn’t like he’s a high-maintenance prima donna. Johnson is a classy veteran and probably the best player in Texans history. Weird.

If the Texans put Johnson on the market, should the Eagles have interest?

No.

If the question was simply about Johnson, the answer would be yes. But he’s not a free agent. Compensation is a factor. Johnson is a band-aid. I would not give up a pick for him. He’s older and expensive. Is he a good player? Yes. But the Eagles don’t need a workhorse WR, which is what Johnson is best at.

Let’s talk about age for a minute. The Eagles gave up a 5th round pick for Darren Sproles. What about that? Sproles is 31. He also impacts STs as well as offense. Sproles cost a cheap pick and has a reasonable salary. Johnson is a starting player. He would cost a higher pick and bigger salary. Do you want to add a 33-year old WR when the current group is young and has potential?

If this were mid-August and someone had gotten hurt, then you make a deal. Right now the Eagles are healthy and WR isn’t a position of “need”. I’m sure several of you will point out that Jeremy Maclin is coming off an ACL tear and that the Eagles have a couple of rookies in key roles. That’s true. But Maclin has looked good so far and the goal is to build up a young corps of WRs. The Eagles need to get Matthews, Huff, Benn and the others on the field.

Johnson is a bit of an awkward fit for Chip Kelly’s offense. He certainly has the size and physicality that Kelly loves. But I’m not so sure that Johnson is what Kelly wants. Johnson is a guy you feed the ball to. In 5 of the last 8 years, Johnson has caught 100 or more passes. I think Kelly prefers to spread the ball and use multiple guys. I’m also curious whether Johnson is all that much of a threat after the catch anymore. He averaged just 3.8 RAC yards per reception. Johnson was 2nd in the NFL in RAC yards in 2012. Did age start to catch up or was he merely struggling due to an overall offensive letdown?

I see Johnson as the kind of player you add if you are desperate for WR help or a veteran team that is looking for that push to get them over the top. The Eagles don’t fit either category so I think they pass on him.

Then again, I didn’t expect them to go for Sproles so never say never. Just seems unlikely to me.

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Red Hot in the Red Zone

Posted: July 10th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 32 Comments »

One of the things that Nick Foles did so well in 2013 was executing in the Red Zone. Any Eagles fan can tell you that was a frustrating place in recent years. Many a drive stalled in scoring territory, leading to short field goals for David Akers and Alex Henery.

That changed last year. Foles played brilliantly in the Red Zone. Check out these stats:

26 – 37 – 197 … with 16 TDs and no INTs … completed 70 percent of his throws…rating of 122.4

That is truly outstanding. Michael Vick wasn’t nearly as good. He was 5 for 19 with 1 TD. Even his magical season of 2010 wasn’t as good in the Red Zone as Foles last year.

38 – 68 – 190…with 13 TDs and 1 INT … completed 55.9 percent of his throws…rating of 94.6

I think Kelly’s offense helped. He ran a lot of crossing routes, which are very difficult to defend because there are so many bodies in such a tight space. The congestion makes it difficult to play tight man coverage. Reid tended to spread things out and try to get the ball to a playmaker quickly. I always thought he made the mistake of using the flats instead of getting the ball into the end zone itself.

But let’s not ignore Foles here. He made a huge difference for a few reasons. First, accuracy. Foles can be a precise passer. He throws the ball with good touch, but also some velocity. Foles is mechanically sound and that means he is able to repeat throws over and over. He’s not improvising in the Red Zone. Foles can put the ball where he wants. We’ve seen him throw fades. We’ve seen him throw an arcing pass over a defender to a receiver. We’ve seen him hit receivers running crossing routes along the back line. And he also gets the ball to his guys when they are wide open on play-action passes where the fakes work.

Foles also doesn’t need players to be open. He is willing to throw the ball to a covered receiver. Too often Donovan McNabb and Vick needed someone to be wide open. That doesn’t happen on a regular basis in the Red Zone. There are a lot of contested passes there because of the congestion. The key here is that Foles isn’t forcing the ball to a covered player. He sees someone that is covered, but where there is an angle to work with. Foles will then put the ball into a safe spot and give his receiver a chance to make the play. This is especially important when throwing to big WRs and TEs. You want to take advantage of their size. Give them a chance to make plays for you.

The final point to make about Foles in the Red Zone is that he anticipates throws. This ties in to the last point about not needing players to be open. Foles watches a play unfold and knows where to put the ball before the receiver comes open. You cannot react in the Red Zone. There isn’t enough space and time to play like that. You must be proactive. You must anticipate which receiver will come open and be ready to pull the trigger instantly.

There were some plays where Foles moved around and bought time for his receivers to get open. Vick and McNabb were very good at this as well. If you don’t have anything initially, move around and keep the play alive. Someone should come open if you can give them a couple of extra seconds to shake free. Foles also proved adept at throwing on the move. He has been good at this since his first Eagles practices under Reid.

I don’t think Foles play in the Red Zone was a fluke. His numbers might not be quite as good this year, but I still think he will be a very good Red Zone QB. That situation fits his skill set well.

* * * * *

Chip Wagon took a look at one particular Red Zone play that they liked and broke it down. Terrific throw by Foles on a play that was ignored for far too long.

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More Reason to Love Matthews

Posted: July 9th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 22 Comments »

Rookie WR Jordan Matthews has yet to catch a pass in the NFL or even play a down of football, but he is already a popular player and someone the fans have high hopes for. Matthews stood out in the OTAs and minicamp. And then you read stories like this.

Pro Bowl is the mandate. We’re not here just to play football. We’re here to dominate.

That’s the motto that floated off the lips of Tom Bender when speaking of his Atlanta-based program, which trains anywhere from 25-35 NFL players at a time during the offseason. It sounds a bit bold until you consider that his clientele includes the likes of Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green and Demaryius Thomas, arguably the top three receivers in the game.

This is the environment Jordan Matthews has nestled into for the past week, and where he’ll remain until the Eagles open training camp. 

“He’s learning a lot, he’s integrating well and we’re cleaning up some of his college issues,” said Bender with a laugh.

Issues? Like?

“That’s for us to discuss. It’s just a matter of getting him to move better, clean up his routes, just clean up all aspects of his game.”

We don’t know if Matthews will be good, let alone great. But we do know that Matthews is willing to do what it takes to maximize his potential. He made himself into a star at Vanderbilt. He then worked hard to stand out at the Senior Bowl. Matthews got drafted in the 2nd round, but isn’t resting on his laurels. He is still pushing to show everyone just how good he can be.

I think too often rookies don’t have the right attitude about the NFL. They work hard in college and the pre-draft process to get drafted as high as possible. That’s when they relax. Instead, they should realize that getting drafted is just the first step in a long journey. It is the beginning of your pro career, not just the culmination of your college career.

Matthews is willing to work. He’s also willing to listen.

Similarly, a connection recommended that Bender work with Matthews, and after a phone call with the Vanderbilt product, Bender agreed.

“He’s a humble kid. He said, ‘Coach, you’ll be happy with me.’”

For Matthews, it’s a chance to learn from some of the best wideouts on the planet during the lead-up to training camp.

“They’re having fun. Jordan’s a humble guy and he’s been in work mode. He approached A.J. probably the second day he was here and started asking key questions. One of the biggest things A.J. translated is that you really have to take care of your body during the season. Your production is going to relate to how you maintain your body. And as far as with Calvin, he is not a man of many words but he’s helping [Matthews] correct some of his route running.

“They’ve enjoyed him, they’ve enjoyed his work ethic. He’s come  out as far as conditioning…Some of the vets are like, ‘Slow down, young buck! Slow the pace down.’”

Chip Kelly is trying to build the Eagles with his kind of guys. Matthews could be a key piece for Kelly, on and off the field.

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