Gotta Earn It

Posted: November 30th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 191 Comments »

A Dallas loss or an Eagles win and the Eagles will be NFC East champs. The Skins had a chance to give the Eagles a nice gift by beating Dallas on Thursday Night Football, but the Skins proved to be just as gutless as we all feared.

No title tonight.

That’s probably a good thing, as crazy as that sounds. It would  be hard to believe the Eagles would keep their edge for Sunday if they had the title wrapped up tonight. And that’s not a team you want to play without complete focus.

Seattle is already upset that they are underdogs. LB K.J. Wright shared his thoughts.

“Don’t sleep on us, man,” Wright said. “This team is really good. We’re still talented. We can be the best of the best. We are the best of the best, so just because we have injuries don’t mean that things will change. We’re going to be good out there.”

Seattle is at their best when they have a chip on their shoulder and it sounds like that’s the case.

The Eagles will need to have an edge of their own and playing for the NFC East title certainly helps. There won’t be any complacency. That doesn’t guarantee a win, but I think the team will have a better mindset with the Dallas win on TNF.

There’s also the fact that it would feel better to win the title rather than having someone else lose and get eliminated.

Sunday is going to be a tough, interesting game. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Eagles handle that situation.

*****

We all knew Russell Wilson was the key to the Seahawks, but this is insane.

Wilson has 3 of their 4 rushing TDs and all 23 passing TDs.

Jim Schwartz needs to have a great gameplan and the players need to play at a high level.

*****

3 of those 5 teams won the Super Bowl.

Miami and NE are the exceptions. Neither of them run the ball as well as the Eagles.

When you see nuggets like this, it can be tough to keep from immediately dreaming about the Super Bowl. There are six five games left and all the playoffs. Anything can happen. Enjoy this team and every step of the journey.

You can’t count on having a magical season like this next year or in the near future. Make sure you enjoy it. Live in the moment.

And mix in a few thoughts about winning it all. There’s not just hope this year. There is real potential.

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Glad to be Wrong

Posted: November 30th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 257 Comments »

I didn’t think the Eagles should keep Corey Clement. He did some good things this summer, but I just didn’t see him as a player who would contribute much to this team.

I didn’t think Jalen Mills would be more than an adequate CB this year.

I didn’t think Brandon Brooks was as good as his reputation.

These players have proven me wrong this season and I’m happy to admit that.

Clement has proven to be important with the injuries to Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood. Clement is 58-259-4 on the ground and is 5-58-2 as a receiver. In Sproles last 34 games with the Eagles, he has 8 offensive TDs. Clement has 6 through 11 games of his rookie season. TDs can be misleading, but Clement has consistently made impact plays in the Red Zone. His catch on MNF vs the Skins was a play that Sproles would have a hard time matching.

The coaches are smart with how they use Clement. They mix him in here and there, but once the team gets near the Red Zone, he gets snaps. Clement runs hard, so that helps a lot. The worst thing you can do near the goal line is dance. You want guys who get the ball and run toward the goal line. Clement has value because he can pass block and catch passes. Defenses don’t know what to expect when he’s in the lineup.

I don’t think Clement will ever become a starting RB in the NFL, but he’s already proven he can be a good role player. That has a lot of value at RB, where most teams use a group of guys and don’t feed just one star.

Mills is a fun player to watch. If he was a Cowboy, I’d hate his guts, but luckily he’s the Green Goblin and we get to have fun watching him make plays and wag the finger. Mills was up and down as a rookie. I loved his personality and the way he played, but I worried if he had the combination of athleticism and skill to handle good receivers. Mills has proven this year he can be effective against good receivers.

He isn’t great. He’s not a shutdown corner. Mills is smart and a good fit for the system. He’ll give up some catches, but makes plays and tackles well. As Jim Schwartz would say, he competes. Football seems to be personal to him and that’s a great trait for a CB to have.

I don’t know what will happen next year when the Eagles have Sidney Jones and Ronald Darby as your projected starters. Does Mills move inside? Do you re-sign Patrick Robinson? I do know this. Mills has shown that he isn’t giving up his job to anyone. Someone would have to outplay him to get him off the field.

Brooks is a huge OG. He’s not a mauler, though. He’s more of a technician. When I think of 340-pound guards, I think of them driving DTs 10 yards off the ball and planting them on their backside. Brooks isn’t going to do that often. That just doesn’t seem to be his game. He is a really good player, though.

Brooks has had a really good year. I can’t vouch for the stats below, but even if they were off a little, you can see that he’s playing at a high level.

Brooks deserves to go to the Pro Bowl. I don’t know if that will happen with other big name guys at the position, but he’s played outstanding football for the Eagles. The more I’ve watched him, the more he’s grown on me.

*****

I also didn’t think the Eagles were going to be Super Bowl contenders this year.

I can’t tell you how glad I am to be wrong about that.

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Big Challenge

Posted: November 29th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 83 Comments »

Calling Russell Wilson a good QB would be accurate, but that would also be like calling Jimi Hendrix a good guitar player. It wouldn’t come close to telling the story of what either of them can do. Wilson is an artist when he’s outside the pocket. He can create some mind-blowing plays. Just when you think you’ve got him for a sack, he unleashes a rainbow way down the field that is caught for a huge gain and critical first down.

As you can see, the Seahawks are among the league leaders in big plays.

On the flip side…

The Eagles are great at stopping big plays.

The pass defense is especially good down the field.

Those are throws that travel 20 or more yards in the air.

The Eagles let their CBs play off a lot, so they can bail and run with WRs who try to get behind them. The Eagles prefer to keep things in front of them. It also helps that Rodney McLeod is a pretty good centerfielder. He tends to play 15 to 20 yards deep so he can patrol the whole field.

Obviously the pass rush is also a big part of this. QBs need time to get the ball out. Teams tend to get the ball out quicker against the Eagles than any other defense in the league. They see what Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham do when QBs hold the ball. Bad things happen.

All of this makes Sunday a really interesting showdown. Seattle has a terrible O-line so Wilson understands he has to run around and create something from nothing multiple times per game. As Jim Schwartz pointed out, the thing that makes Wilson unique among scramblers is that he will go backward. He’s not afraid to give ground. Wilson has such a strong arm that he can be 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage and still make a good throw into traffic for a first down.

The Eagles haven’t been challenged vertically very much recently. Jalen Mills broke up an underthrown deep ball on Sunday. Wilson will attack down the field, from the pocket and on the move.

The DL has to be disciplined as they rush. DBs must “plaster” receivers until the whistle blows. That’s a term coaches use to help their DBs understand they must stay right on top of receivers all over the field and for as long as the play goes. Plays normally last 3 to 4 seconds. Wilson can double that with his scrambling. Players have a tendency to let up at a certain point. You just can’t do that against Seattle.

Wilson scares the heck out of me because of his talent and his weapons, but I’m also looking forward to seeing the defense challenged. We know that will happen in January so the guys need to face an offense like this now.

*****

Speaking of January…

https://twitter.com/FO_ASchatz/status/935562554453188608

I saw this yesterday and wasn’t sure how to react. I take it for a given the Eagles will be in the playoffs. Don’t tempt fate, right? But this team is different. They aren’t 10-1 with fluke wins or luck or some recycled vet at QB who we’re waiting to see fall apart. This team is legit.

It feels funny to see the playoff scenarios the networks put up during games and to not look to the far right side. So often in recent years the Eagles were right around .500 and struggling to get a spot. You had to work out all the scenarios in your head about who to cheer against.

This year…they’re on the far let and at the top. The other 15 NFC teams can worry about scenarios.

Life is good.

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Take a Seat, Eli

Posted: November 28th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 93 Comments »

Wow.

This is not a joke.

There’s a lot to think about here. This is the end of an incredible streak, with Eli having started 210 straight games. That’s an amazing accomplishment. This also is the beginning of the end of an era. Eli has been the starting QB for the Giants since the middle of 2004 and led them to a pair of Super Bowls. Some call him a Hall of Famer. I disagree. Still, he provided stability and ability for a long time and helped that team win a lot of games. Eli might be overrated by some, but he’s been a good QB for a long time.

The problem is that Eli has been declining in recent years. They haven’t scored more than 28 points in a game since the 2015 season finale. Even Dak Prescott thinks that’s bad. Eli looks lost at times. He’s great when he’s got the right supporting cast, but he’s not able to take average players and make them better. He needs the right situation and the Giants haven’t had that much recently.

He needs to move on…Jacksonville, perhaps? The Giants need to move on. They want to take a look at Geno Smith and/or Davis Webb. They want to see if those players show something or if they need to make a drastic move in the offseason. Should they go throw money at Kirk Cousins or Case Keenum? Should they spend a high pick on Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold?

The Giants found fool’s gold in 2016, going 11-5. The defense played at a high level and the offense did enough to help them win. The Giants thought they could build on that, when in reality they had a lot of little things go their way. This season the breaks went against them and the team has completely fallen apart. We can clearly see the emperor’s new clothes.

The Giants have had three GMs over the last 39 years. George Young built a Super Bowl team in the 1980s. Ernie Accorsi took over from him and helped build the team that would win in the 2000s. Then Jerry Reese took over and helped them continue to have success. But things haven’t been good since the crazy 2011 title.

9-7
7-9
6-10
6-10
11-5
2-9

It will be interesting to see if the Giants completely clean house, firing the GM and coach, and moving on from Eli. They clearly are behind the other three franchises in the NFC East so it would make a lot of sense to take the long view and start building something around young talent.

The Giants are usually a conservative organization that tries to do things the right way, but this may be a case where a complete overhaul is the only right answer. We might be thinking of them as the New York Browns or the Cleveland Giants.

There is a saying in football that “it never ends well”. Donovan McNabb is awkwardly traded on Easter. Andy Reid is fired. Reggie White leaves via free agency. Derek Landri is let go, tearing at the very fabric of our society.

Eli has been the face of the Giants for a long time, but it is possible that we’ll never see him start for them again. Heck, he might never throw another pass for them if the young guys prove to be functional. That would mean Eli’s last pass would be an ugly interception in an ugly loss in an ugly season.

Eagles fans could probably live with that.

*****

Speaking of your beloved Eagles…I wrote a piece for PE.com the Bears game, focusing on the dominant defense.

This defense has a chance to be special.

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The Messenger

Posted: November 28th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 67 Comments »

The Eagles have a 10-1 record and they are blowing teams out at a record pace. Life is good and everyone can be happy. Doug Pederson should have nothing but good things to say about his players.

That’s not what we heard from Pederson on Monday.

“Unacceptable” is the way Pederson described his team’s four fumbles and 11 penalties from the win over the Bears. He talked about how winning can cover up mistakes. My favorite way of putting that is that winning is the great deodorant, making all the unpleasant stuff go away.

I was happy to hear Pederson be critical of his team. This is exactly the message they need. Every person in Philly or on social media will be singing the praises of the players. They need some humble pie. That’s not to say this team is cocky or complacent, but they are human.

These players need someone to remind them that blowing out the Bears won’t mean squat in January. You play good, clean football or you go home.

Pederson worried me in 2016, seemingly always praising his players. He used the word great way more than  you should when talking about a team that finished 7-9. I worried if Pederson had it in him to be hard on players and to understand what they needed to hear.

I’m not worried any more.

Pederson had an excellent press conference. He explained some of the things his team needed to clean up. He still praised them for their ability to play sloppy and win big, but he was more focused on their execution than just the result. That’s exactly what you want your team’s leader to think and say. That’s the perfect message.

Pederson talked about the value of the next two weeks, with games against the Seahawks and Rams having a playoff atmosphere. He knows this team is having a great year, but the goal is to win games in January and February. Blowing out mediocre opponents won’t be as valuable as being tested by good teams. Win or lose, those games can help you get ready for playoff football.

And you aren’t going to beat good teams with D-linemen constantly jumping offside or RBs putting the ball on the ground after getting loose for a 20 or 30-yard gain. You have to clean up mistakes and play better football.

This has been a breakout year for the Eagles and Carson Wentz. This has also been a breakout year for Pederson. The only thing keeping him from winning Coach of the Year is the phenomenal job done by Sean McVay in turning the Rams into contenders overnight.

Pederson has been great in a variety of ways. He’s gotten young players to develop and become key contributors. He has designed outstanding gameplans and has proven to be an excellent play-caller. Pederson has pushed all the right buttons from an emotional standpoint. He’s known when to praise his guys and when to push them.

Pederson has been good from a strategic and analytics standpoint. He has been aggressive all year, going for it on 4th down and embracing 2-point conversions. Pederson has consistently deferred getting the ball to the 2nd half and that strategy has worked very well. Multiple times this year the Eagles scored late in the 1st half and then on the opening possession of the 3rd quarter. That can have a big impact on the opposing team.

The Eagles are heading into the most challenging portion of the season, playing three straight road games and two of them on the west coast against playoff caliber teams. Pederson will need to do his best coaching of the year to keep the Eagles focused and playing good football.

*****

There was a great moment at the press conference today.

So funny.

*****

The Eagles are favored this Sunday. In Seattle.

Wow.

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