PHI 13, CLE 7 – 2nd Half

Posted: September 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 585 Comments »

Good start for Carson Wentz and the Eagles. Could have been better, but the team played well for the most part.

The offense has shown a lot of promise, but is still too sloppy. Drops. Missed blocks. Errant throws. This is not a well-oiled machine that is clicking on all cylinders. The encouraging thing is that you can see the potential. Wentz looks like the real deal. Jordan Matthews has had an impact in his first game action of 2016. The role players are doing some good things.

The defense has been good vs the run. Pass coverage has been up and down. Nolan Carroll had a rough opening half. You can see that RGIII’s athleticism is still a real problem for defenses. Jordan Hicks tipped a pass that Jordan Hicks picked off. That ended a promising drive.

Caleb Sturgis missed a FG. Eagles should be up 16-7. Can’t afford to make mistakes like that in a winnable game like this.

Need to clean some things up, but plenty of reasons to be encouraged.

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Game Preview – CLE

Posted: September 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 430 Comments »

Kickoff is less than 90 minutes away. We just found out the inactives.

Trey Burton got hurt on Friday and that will in turn hurt the team today. He is a core STer and also was going to be part of the 3-TE packages that Doug Pederson wanted to use. To replace him on STs, the Eagles re-signed Najee Goode over the weekend. The plan was to add him next week so that his salary wouldn’t be guaranteed, but that had to be sacrificed because of the Burton injury.

The Eagles have 4 RBs and 4 WRs to go along with 2 TEs. It will be interesting to see if rookie Wendell Smallwood gets any touches today. My guess is that he will, unless the Eagles are down double-digits and having to play catch-up.

What I’ll be watching:

Eagles WRs – Can they avoid drops and make plays? Get the ball to Agholor early and let’s see if we can get him going. I expect Josh Huff to get the ball on a screen or jet sweep. You want the ball in his hands. And you force the ball to DGB in the Red Zone.

Small Ball – I don’t think the Browns are good enough on offense to have long, methodical drives. Take away big plays and force them to move the chains. The Eagles have veteran Safeties and those guys are tasked with limiting big plays as much as anything. CBs also need to do their part.

DEs – Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham played well this preseason. They need to keep that going. Jim Schwartz’s scheme is built on pressure by the DL, especially the edge guys. Both Marcus Smith and Steven Means are active today. It will be interesting to see how much they play and how they do.

The Kid – The Eagles are the better team today. Carson Wentz shouldn’t have to be spectacular to win this game. He needs to be smart and take care of the ball. And make a play or two with his legs. I do wonder if the Eagles try to go deep on the opening series. There is value in stretching the defense and that would give Wentz a chance to let it fly.

RGIII – He is 3-2 against the Eagles. He has played very well in some of those games. You might remember him giving Mychal Kendricks fits out in space. The Eagles need to contain him as a runner and limit his deep balls, as mentioned above. Make RGIII a pocket passer and if he beats you from there, so be it. Don’t let him get outside and create big plays on the move or by running the ball.

Dougie P – Pederson is still a mystery to me. We’ll start to see today if the Eagles made the right move in hiring him. This isn’t about winning and losing necessarily, but how he manages the game. Does he use timeouts well? Does he know when to challenge? Going for it on 4th down? Etc, etc, etc…

This is going to be an interesting season, possibly a lot of fun.

Go Eagles!

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The Adventure Begins

Posted: September 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 73 Comments »

The 2016 Eagles open their season on Sunday.

Doug Pederson opens his coaching career.

Most importantly, the Carson Wentz era begins.

The Eagles are not going to win the Super Bowl this year. Okay, there is that 2.37 percent chance that this turns out to be that magical season where things come together and you feel like destiny is part of the starting lineup. But realistically, this season is about the future as much as anything else. If you aren’t competing for a Super Bowl in a particular season, you want to do everything you can to put your team in position to be a contender the next year.

For the Eagles, that means playing Carson Wentz.

I wrote my weekend piece for PE.com on the beginning of the Wentz era. Don’t expect Wentz to come out on Sunday and look like a finished product. This is the beginning. There will be ups and downs. Enjoy the ride.

If Wentz pans out as the Eagles expect him to, this will change the fortunes of the franchise.

1995 – Rodney Peete
1996 – Ty Detmer
1997 – Peete/Detmer/Bobby Hoying
1998 – Hoying/Peete/Koy Detmer

Donovan McNabb arrived in 1999 and the world changed. He never won a Super Bowl, but McNabb brought a lot of success. 2000-2009 was about as good as you could want without winning the Lombardi Trophy. McNabb had plenty of help in all that success, but the point is that it makes all the difference in the world if you have a franchise QB. If you don’t, winning on a consistent basis becomes exponentially harder, if not impossible.

We don’t know if Wentz will pan out. We do know he’s very talented and everyone around him praises the young man like you wouldn’t believe. It feels like he should pan out.

This isn’t Bobby Hoying, the 85th pick in the 1996 draft. This isn’t Kevin Kolb, a 2nd round pick. This isn’t A.J. Feeley, a late round pick who didn’t even start in college. This isn’t a mid-round gamble on Mike Kafka. This isn’t a 3rd round pick on Matt Barkley, who you’re shocked is still on the board.

Wentz went second overall. He has a big arm. He is huge and athletic. Wentz won a pair of national titles at North Dakota State. He played well at the Senior Bowl, where more than a few teams fell in love with him. The Eagles were one of those teams. Tom Donahoe initially scouted him prior to the 2015 season and then tried to convince everyone he could that Wentz was the real deal. Pederson and Howie Roseman got their first up-close look at Wentz down in Mobile and clearly they were impressed.

It also helped that the Eagles needed a QB. Think about recent years. Kevin Kolb to Michael Vick to Nick Foles to Mark Sanchez to Sam Bradford. Matt Barkley wasn’t even good enough to compete for a job. Now the Eagles have Wentz. He offers talent, youth and stability at the most important position in sports. There is every reason to be excited.

*****

One added benefit of seeing Wentz in action, PE.com will have some new higlights to show. When Wentz gets interviewed and they mix in some highlights to punch up the video, we see the same 5 plays over and over and over and over. No more, and thank god for that. I am sick of seeing that pass to Ertz and the throw to Turner. Give me some new highlights.

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Know Your Enemy – CLE

Posted: September 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 221 Comments »

It feels kinda weird actually trying to get into game preview mode. Are we really done obsessing on the practice squad and roster cuts? I guess so.

The Eagles open the season against Cleveland on Sunday. There is a lot of mystery with the Eagles due to the new coach, rookie QB and new systems, but there might be even more mystery with the Browns. They have a new coach in Hue Jackson. Cleveland passed on the chance to draft Carson Wentz and instead will take their chances with RGIII, Pt. 2 at QB. The Browns are projected to have 3 rookies starting. The WRs are going to be former QB Terrell Pryor and rookie Corey Coleman. They will have a new P, K and PR. Last year’s top tackler is gone and the top 2 pass rushers are on injured reserve. Lots of changes.

Cleveland is the second youngest team in the NFL. They are truly rebuilding. They are loading up on young players and draft picks, hoping to build a strong nucleus that can turn the Factory of Sadness around.

I watched the Browns play this summer to try to get a feel for them. You really need to see the team play in the regular season to know them well. The preseason offers hints, but no real answers. The Browns were dead last in the preseason in yards and points. But RGIII had a QB rating of 100. Trying to make sense of things like that can drive you a bit nuts.

RGIII remains a very talented QB. He is healthy and is still dynamic as a runner. Eagles defenders will have their hands full with how to deal with him on QB runs. It is much harder to judge Griffin as a passer. He still has a very strong arm. He can make every throw in the book. There are moments when his touch and accuracy are outstanding. There are other times when he looks awkward.

Josh Gordon is suspended for this game so RGIII will be throwing the ball to explosive rookie Corey Coleman and Pryor. Coleman has the speed to stretch the defense so you can bet the Safeties will know where he is at all times. Pryor has developed into an interesting receiver. I’m genuinely curious to see how he does. He’s huge so DBs will be at a size disadvantage. And Pryor is a good athlete. Remember that as QB of the Raiders in 2013, he lit up the Eagles by throwing for 288 yards and running for 94. His athleticism gave the defense fits. TE Gary Barnidge is a solid receiver.

Hue Jackson will run the ball. He’s got a solid 1-2 punch in Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. The Browns will be creative with running the ball. Their will be extra OL mixed in. There will be unbalanced lines. There will be some read-option. Jackson loves to put in big, physical players and pound the rock, but he will get creative to help boost the run game.

It is too early to judge the Browns OL. Joe Thomas is an outstanding LT and the key player up front. LG Joel Bitonio is also very good. Cam Erving is new at C. He played mostly OG as a rookie so becoming the starting C is a huge challenge for him. Austin Pasztor now takes over at RT. This could be a good OL, but could also be leaky early in the season. RGIII did get sacked 6 times this summer.

Ray Horton will be running the Browns defense for Jackson. Horton played under Dick LeBeau in Cincy and has coached under him as well. Horton is a 3-4 guy that will come up with some exotic blitzes.

The 3-4 is built around the OLBs. Cleveland has rookies Emmanuel Ogbah and Joe Schobert starting in those roles. Ogbah has big time potential. Schobert is the shocker. He is 6-1, 245. That’s tiny for a 3-4 OLB. But Jackson said Schobert outplayed Nate Orchard so he got the job.

Neither of the LBs really jumped out at me. I did like DE Xavier Cooper. He shows good quickness off the ball. He combines good size with good athleticism for a 3-4 DE.

Demario Davis and Christian Kirksey are the ILBs. Davis came over from the Jets. Kirksey is a third year player who has 13 career starts. He has shown some playmaking ability in the past.

CB Joe Haden remains the key player in the secondary. Injuries limited him to 5 starts last year, though. Haden is healthy now. Jamar Taylor will start opposite of him. Taylor has played for Miami and Denver and has 9 career starts. The starting Safeties from last year are gone, but the men replacing them were backups on the 2015 Browns. Former Eagles Jordan Poyer is one of them. Poyer caught my eye last year when I was checking out tape of free agent Tashaun Gipson. Poyer is not a good athlete, but he is tough and instinctive and those are important traits at FS.

With so little continuity in the back of the defense you would think Browns could be vulnerable to a good passing team. Instead, they’ll face the Eagles. (I kid, I kid)

Judging from a distance, the Browns look like one of the worst teams in the league (along with teams like SF, CHI and TEN). There are some good individual pieces, but they really went young. There are going to be lots of growing pains as the organization figures out who can and can’t play. This feels like a game the Eagles should win. On paper, they are better.

We don’t know who will will because both teams are such mysteries. The Eagles could have some young guys step up and the team suddenly is battling for the NFC East title. Or the Eagles could fall apart in a variety of ways and win 5 games. Cleveland plays in a tougher division, but they have the same potential for being good or bad. Just think about what a wild card RGIII is. At his best, he was incredibly good. He’s been on the bench for more than a year, but that gave him time to get healthy. And changing teams and coaches has done him a world of good mentally. Now he has to prove that he can still play at a high level. His confidence was shaken in Washington. If that’s back, he could be a really tough QB to defend.

I’m looking forward to Sunday. Let’s get this thing started so we can quit guessing and start to see these players and teams in action.

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The 180

Posted: September 7th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 540 Comments »

How did we go from “Carson Wentz won’t be playing in 2016” to “Wentz will start the opener”? That’s a pretty dramatic reversal. Obviously the Sam Bradford trade is the big change, but the Eagles don’t make that move if they aren’t comfortable with Wentz and where he’s at right now.

I wrote some of my thoughts for PE.com.

The big takeaways from that are that this shows Wentz proved to be everything the coaches hoped for and that Doug Pederson is also more comfortable with the overall team than he anticipated. Jeffrey Lurie isn’t interested in a 2 or 3-win season while the Eagles build for the future. He is a patient man, but sees enough talent here that he wants the Eagles to re-tool while staying competitive. That’s why the Eagles kept Bradford. By dealing Bradford now, the Eagles are telling you they think they can still be competitive with Wentz as the starter.

Think about the Eagles defense. Did anyone expect them to play at such a high level this summer? They led the NFL in scoring defense, run defense, interceptions and pass breakups. They were simply overwhelming at times. I’m not predicting they will play to that exact level in the regular season, but the defense should be one of the better units in the league and they will keep the Eagles in most games.

Pederson and the offensive coaches can come up with specific gameplans that will take advantage of what Wentz does well and limit complications. The coaches will put Wentz in position to succeed. They won’t be afraid to be aggressive with him, but they won’t put the same expectations on him that they would have had with Bradford.

Compare Wentz to the #1 pick, Jared Goff. Things did not go so well for Goff this summer. He is currently the #3 QB for the Rams. He is behind Case Keenum and Sean Mannion. That’s a little different than being behind Bradford and Chase Daniel. And consider the pieces around them.

The Rams do not have a veteran OL like the Eagles. Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson have started together for 3 straight years. Brandon Brooks is a big time free agent. Allen Barbre is a veteran who started for the Eagles at LG last year. The Rams have a project at LT in Greg Robinson. They have 2 draft picks from 2015 starting. They have a RT that struggles to stay healthy. This preseason the Eagles threw 145 passes and gave up 7 sacks. The Rams threw 133 passes and gave up 13 sacks. Which OL is going to help out a rookie QB better?

We think of the Rams as having a good defense for some reason. That’s not really the case. They finished 23rd in yards allowed last year. They weren’t much better this summer. They gave up 4.9 yards per carry to opposing runners. They picked off just one pass. They gave up twice as many TDs as the Eagles. Which defense is better suited to help a young QB?

The Eagles aren’t asking Wentz to carry the team. They have given him a good D, solid OL, and he should have one of the better STs units in the league. The only area where there is an issue is with skill players. And even that isn’t as bad as some would have you believe. We didn’t see Jordan Matthews this preseason because of injury. He will be ready to go on Sunday. While not an elite playmaker, Matthews is a reliable WR and he will make a play here and there. DGB showed the potential to be a good Red Zone weapon at the very least. The change in scenery seems to be bringing out the best in him. Josh Huff and Nelson Agholor were up and down this summer. They need to step up, but the talent is there.

Ryan Mathews is a good RB. Durability is his concern, not talent. Darren Sproles should be used better this year. He can be a matchup nightmare and playmaker. And the Eagles have a trio of TEs that the coaches are going to use creatively.

Compare those weapons to the guys Donovan McNabb had in 1999. There was Duce Staley and his 3.9 ypc. Torrance Small was the leading WR with 49 grabs and 4 TDs. Luther Broughton led the TEs with 26 catches. With apologies to Duce and his teammates, the 2016 Eagles are worlds better.

It may seem like Pederson made a rash or reckless decision. I don’t think that is the case. He was ready to stick with Bradford as the starter until Teddy Bridgewater got hurt and the trade scenario came from nowhere. Pederson re-evaluated the situation and decided his star pupil was ready to take over this team. You never want a coach to make some broad declaration and then needlessly stand by it even when the circumstances have changed.

I think it is fair to question Pederson’s wisdom with starting Wentz because he got so little work in the preseason. That does concern me. At the same time, Wentz had all spring, half of Training Camp and one game to show what he could do. This isn’t an uninformed decision. Pederson has been impressed with what he’s seen and is willing to take a chance on the young man.

Time will help us to judge whether going with Wentz was the right decision, but I do think Pederson is doing this for the right reasons.

*****

Jeff McLane wrote a great piece on Wentz.

Must read material. Will boost your confidence in Wentz and his ascension to starter.

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