This really was a tale of two halves (or is that halfs because it is football?).
The defense was terrible in the 1st half. The Lions had 3 possessions and scored TDs on all 3. The Eagles had not allowed a TD pass all year. The Lions TDs all came via the air. What happened?
Re-watch the game and you see a ton of missed opportunities. It almost looked like the defense was too fired up. They took sloppy angles. They missed tackles. They gave up the edge on run plays. They weren’t in the right gaps. These aren’t talent mistakes. They are execution issues. And most came due to over-aggression, as if maybe the players were trying to do too much for their coach on his return to the old stomping grounds.
The 2nd half was completely different. The Eagles played smart. They were in the right spots. When someone missed a tackle, there was a teammate there to get the runner/receiver down. The Eagles gave up just 45 yards and 3 points after halftime. And the FG came when a turnover put the ball just about in scoring position. The Lions had more yards and points on their opening drive than they did in the whole 2nd half.
The Eagles adjusted well. They executed better. No magic. Just good football.
You do have to tip your hat to Detroit. They were 1-3 and coming off a tough loss. Instead of falling apart, they played their best game of the year. They had a good offensive gameplan and there were some wrinkles that gave the Eagles problems. Screen passes were a big problem. Schwartz said the issue was players not having the right leverage on those plays. You want to get wide and force the ball back to the middle, where your pursuit is. DBs and LBs have to take on blockers rather than focusing on making the tackle. Angles and positioning are huge to stopping screens.
The Eagles lost this game due to their own mistakes, but poor officiating didn’t help matters. The Eagles were called for 14 penalties, the Lions just 2. There were 2 blatant holds on the opening drive, but neither was called. Either one of those could have changed that drive dramatically and who only knows what happens after that. If the Lions get down in that game, they just might have fallen apart. Give them credit. They got some generous calls/non-calls and took advantage of them.
Brandon Graham had another strong game. He was credited with 6 total tackles and 2 TFLs. Didn’t have a sack, but he pressured Matt Stafford multiple times. Graham gave the RT fits. There were several plays where BG used a power rush and got under the RT’s pads, then just drove him straight back. After a couple of those plays, the RT jumped offside. Graham was good against the run, as usual. The Lions had success on outside runs early, but never to his side. They tried to run wide on him in the 2nd half and Graham blew that up and created a big TFL. Read the rest of this entry »
First up, Jim Schwartz had his weekly press conference. Here’s the PE.com video. If you expected him to be all fired up and nasty after the loss, prepare to be disappointed. Schwartz was matter of fact as he explained what went wrong in the 1st half last Sunday. I thought the most interesting thing was when he got asked about missing tackles. Schwartz said something I’ve never heard. He teaches his players to play fast. He will live with missed tackles, as long as the players are flying to the ball. He explained that if the guys really slowed down and squared up before hitting targets, that would take away from their overall aggressive style of play (big hits and things like that). He wants the aggression. Obviously if one player misses too many tackles, that’s an issue. If the players all rally to the ball, there should be someone there to clean up if one player does miss.
Entertaining as always.
The Eagles D-line has been terrific this year. They are punishing QBs and clogging run lanes. If you project their numbers over a full season…
And remember that this defense has played substantially fewer snaps.
Leodis McKelvin has had some hammy issues so the Eagles were wise to add another CB. They like Smith so putting him on the roster makes sense.
As for Denham, he is a 6-4, 235 TE who is a good receiver. He is a taller version of Trey Burton. Denham isn’t fast or athletic enough to be a WR, but he’s effective as a TE. Doug Pederson has talked about liking big targets. Denham isn’t big for a traditional TE, but is for a flex/move TE. He isn’t the smoothest athlete, but catches the ball well and is comfortable playing in space. He was in the slot a lot at Utah.
We found out Today that Halapoulivaati Vaitai will officially be the starting RT this week. Doug Pederson said the decision was based on both wanting to keep Allen Barbre at LG and wanting to get Big V on the field. I think Pederson might be a little generous there. Vaitai showed nothing this spring or summer that made you think “We definitely need that guy on the field.”
But a coach is supposed to pump his guys up. I liked the fact Pederson said the team would help him some, but wasn’t going to overdo it. If you trust the guy enough to put him on the field, you need to give him a chance to show what he can do. You want to give him some help, but you can’t build your whole gameplan around babysitting the RT. Pederson won’t leave him exposed like Big Red did with Winston Justice in 2007. The Eagles will adjust within the game based on how things are going.
My favorite comment came when he was asked about getting help from RBs and TEs. Big V said he’d get some but also noted he’s got to do his job and then said “I’m a big boy and I’m gonna do everything to protect Carson.” That’s what you want to hear.
Young players need to be aware of the challenge in front of them, but you don’t want them scared. And you do want them to have a sense of responsibility. Vaitai needs to do his job. Jason Peters has been telling him to focus on playing 4 seconds at a time. Win enough of the 4-second battles and you’ve got a good game.
Some of you have asked about the long term ramifications of the move. Pederson actually got questions about that today. He tried to answer. I wish he’d stolen a Chip Kelly line and said “I don’t deal in hypotheticals.” There are so many moving parts to this discussion that it doesn’t work well for a coach to talk about it midseason.
As for us…that’s different. The first part of the equation is Lane Johnson and his long term future. If he tests positive again, he’s facing a lengthy ban. Johnson says he will avoid supplements in the future, but the Eagles will need to monitor him closely to make sure there is no confusion. His past means you have no room for error. Johnson certainly has the ability to be a stud LT, the kind of guy you want protecting the blindside of your elite QB. Vaitai is a talented rookie and has good potential, but so was Dennis Kelly. Making the transition to long term starter is tougher than it sounds. Vaitai could be the RT of the future, but he’s got a long way to go before we have any idea whether that’s realistic to expect.
For now, I’m just curious to see plays on Sunday. Forget the future, focus on 4 seconds at a time.
Since the Skins are the opponent on Sunday, there is lots of DeSean Jackson talk today.
I’ve got very mixed feelings. He is still arguably the fastest player in the league. He is still very talented. But he also was a headache at times. He skipped out on his exit interview after the 2013 season. There were questions about his effort in 2011. He always seemed just as focused on becoming big in the rap world as he did becoming a great receiver, which he’s not and has never been.
I miss the big plays just like everyone else. I don’t miss the bad stuff, though. Maybe time in WAS has changed him. I’d have to do a lot of homework before committing big money to him.
Probably a wasted discussion anyway. I get the feeling Pederson prefers big WRs. That certainly does seem like a position that will be addressed in the offseason, but we’ll see how things go the final 12 games. Heck, I’m still curious to see if Bryce Treggs can play.
We had some issues with the site being hard to access when new posts went up. I think we found the bug and took care of that. Thank you for your patience with that.
You may notice that I started putting stuff up at EaglesBlog. I don’t always have time to write lengthy posts so that gives me an outlet to put up shorter pieces when I stumble on something I think is interesting.
EB has something built in that helps it with mobile devices. I don’t have that here on IB yet. Let me know if you like how EB looks and we can add the software here.
I also know I need a new header for this site. Feel free to submit your ideas. Something tells me Carson Wentz has a good chance to be on there.
The Eagles O-line has played very well this year. Johnson has been a big part of that. He’s been good in pass pro and very good as a run blocker. Losing him will hurt and there is no way around that.
The plan this summer was to shift Allen Barbre from LG to RT and put either Isaac Seumalo or Stefen Wisniewski at LG. Barbre has played so well at LG that the coaches have decided to scrap that plan. They want to leave Barbre where he is. That leaves RT open. For now, the job will go to rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
There is no easy solution here. In terms of individual play, the smart move would be to move Barbre and insert Wiz. But the OL is really a unit. Moving a couple of pieces around would throw off the continuity of the whole group. By putting Big V over at RT, the Eagles know the weak spot and it is then up to the players and coaches to help him out.
Reports on Vaitai were not good this spring. He really struggled. Things weren’t a whole lot better at Training Camp. Vaitai had a big adjustment to make. He played LT in 2015 at TCU and was almost exclusively in a 2-point stance. The Eagles played him at RT and had Vaitai in up and down stances. They had him firing off the ball on some run plays and then dropping back in pass pro. This wasn’t the simple offense that TCU ran.
While Vaitai was slow to adjust, he did get better. I recently re-watched part of the preseason finale. He looked a lot better in that game than he did just a few weeks before in the preseason. The more snaps he got and the more coaching he got helped Vaitai to make serious strides. He has gone up against the starting DL in practice since then and the coaches say he’s continued to improve.
You could dismiss that as coachspeak, but their actions do speak volumes. They wouldn’t go with him for the heck of it. The coaches have seen enough from Vaitai to make them think he can succeed. Doug Pederson had a rookie starting at C last year for the Chiefs so he’s dealt with young guys up front before. He isn’t afraid to take a chance on a talented rookie.
And Pederson is taking a chance here. Carson Wentz doesn’t play to this level if he’s behind the 2012 Eagles O-line. He’s running for his life and making risky throws. This year the OL has been a big part of Wentz’s success. The good news is that Pederson is the kind of coach who can adjust to a rookie OL. Pederson tries to run a balanced offense. He is willing to mix in different players and formations. He can use TEs and RBs to help Vaitai. Heck, he will line Matt Tobin up as a 3rd TE and have him play over there at times. There won’t be any Winston Justice vs the Giants in 2007 moments.
While this can work, it also might fail. If Vaitai really struggles, the team can consider trying Matt Tobin at RT or they can just make the double switch with Barbre going to RT and Wiz taking over at LG.
Experimenting with the RT spot while your prized rookie QB adjusts to the NFL is not ideal, to say the least. Wentz might help the situation. He does a lot of pre-snap reads and adjustments. That could help ease the pressure on Vaitai. Wentz also has excellent mobility. Just because Vaitai gets beat doesn’t mean the rusher will get a sack or even a hit on the QB.
What about Johnson?
Lane Johnson will lose 10 games worth of $675K salary and $10M signing bonus. Remaining $25M no longer guar, but 2017 ($10M) virtually guar.
Pederson has made the right call at just about every critical moment in his short tenure as Eagles coach. This is arguably his biggest test yet. If he can make this work, that will be huge for the team’s outlook on the rest of the season. The Eagles lack elite playmakers so all the parts of the offense have to work together for the group to have success. Vaitai doesn’t have to be as good as Johnson, but he does need to do his part.
Keep your fingers crossed that Jeff Stoutland and Pederson made the right call on this.
Now for some good OL news. Watch Jason Peters do his thing…
There are 2 big reasons – Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz.
Things did not end well for Chip Kelly, but I still think he’s a better coach than many people give him credit for. That said, I think Kelly’s biggest fault is that he didn’t get the importance of the human element. Football players are people (even Matt Schobel). They need to be motivated. They need leadership. You have to push some buttons.
Pederson doesn’t have Kelly’s creative ideas on how to run a team, but Pederson very much understands the human element. He’s a former player. He knows what players want to hear, but also what they need to hear.
Wentz is doing special things on the field, but go beyond the numbers. He seems to get his role on this team. He’s a rookie and that means he has to be somewhat deferential to veteran players. At the same time, he’s the starting QB and that means he is the big dog. He has to be a leader, on and off the field. That requires a combination of butt-kissing and butt-kicking.
Sam Bradford tried to be a team leader. He gave some good pregame speeches. He worked hard on and off the field. The players respected him. The coaches liked him. Things are different with Wentz. He is a leader in the traditional sense, but he’s also a leader because of his special talent. That TD pass to Jordan Matthews in the season opener only went 19 yards, but it might as well have gone 200 yards, over a mountain and through a hurricane.
That TD gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead on the first possession of the season. They didn’t have a 7-0 1st quarter lead in 2015 until almost Thanksgiving. The 2015 Eagles always seemed to be playing from behind. That’s just not how the Wentz Wagon rolls.
Wentz won a pair of national titles at North Dakota State as the starter. He was on 3 other teams that won as the backup. He knows how to win and how to be part of a winner. He’s not going to accept mediocrity from himself or his team. As odd as this sounds, Wentz isn’t afraid to succeed. Some young players play not to lose. They avoid taking chances for fear of making mistakes. Wentz is willing to take chances, because he believes in himself and his teammates.
Winning can be infections.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this story before, but it bears repeating. Duke went 37-2 in 1999 and had one of the great college teams ever. They lost the national title game in a close thriller with UConn. A bunch of guys from that team went to the NBA. The next winter Duke added some talented recruits, but they got off to an 0-2 start by losing both games in a holiday tournament. Star freshman Jason Williams got on the team bus and was laughing about something. Shane Battier, the key holdover from the great ’99 team, went nuts. He let Williams know he needed to get that F’ing smile off his face. This was Duke. Going 0-2 was unacceptable. There was nothing. to be happy about. Nothing. That team ended up with a good year. The next season they won the national title.
Chris McPherson brought up a great point on the postgame show on PE.com on Sunday. Wentz is now the key player and leader on the Eagles. Other players will look at him to see how he responds to the loss.
In his PC, you could tell Wentz was not a happy camper. He gave terse answers and wasn’t doing much smiling. He hates to lose. His background at NDSU can really serve him well this week. He was in an atmosphere where winning was expected, not a luxury. Part of knowing how to win is knowing how to deal with losses. You learn from them. You use them as motivation.
I’ll be excited to see how Wentz and the Eagles respond to the loss when they hit the field on Sunday. I know he’ll do everything he can this week to get himself and his teammates ready to get back on the winning track.
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Rookie RB Wendell Smallwood has the only KOR TD in the NFL so far this season. The @Eagles needed something big, so Wendell Smallwood took a kickoff 86 yards to the house. Wow.#PHIvsWAShttps://t.co/912Fnz8qyY — NFL Network (@nflnetwork) October 16, 2016 … Continue reading →
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