Gameday – MIN at PHI

Posted: October 7th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Gameday – MIN at PHI

Big game, but not for the reasons we expected. These teams don’t just want a win, they need it.

Both teams will be missing pieces.

We knew Barnett and Sproles were out. Nagata is a surprise.

That means Destiny Vaeao and Treyvon Hester will be the other DTs. They will need to step up. Both guys have some experience and pass rush ability. This is a huge chance for them to impress the coaches and help the team.

Minnesota runs the ball less than anyone in the league so the Eagles could play Michael Bennett inside on some pass plays. The problem with that is Barnett being out. If Josh Sweat can contribute, the team can use him at DE and slide Bennett inside. If Sweat looks lost or ineffective, the coaches have to figure out what they want to do. Huge opportunity for Sweat.

Backups and role players came up big for the Eagles in 2017. We’ll see how these guys do today.

If the Eagles can sustain drives, they can wear down the Vikings DL. That would also rest the Eagles DL and help them out. This is one of the games where Time of Possession could actually matter.

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Game Preview – MIN at PHI

Posted: October 7th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Game Preview – MIN at PHI

Vikings at Eagles. Contenders or pretenders? Today will give us a clue about both teams.

We’d love this game to fit in a storyline.

One of the valid points Chip Kelly made in his tenure came after an OT win over the Cowboys in 2015. Reporters wanted to know if that game could be a launching pad for the Eagles. Kelly explained that football doesn’t work like that. You win or lose each week based on what you do that day. Sure enough, the Eagles lost the next three games.

One of the real strengths of Doug Pederson has been the ability to get his team to truly focus on one week at a time. Win today and that gets you to 3-2. It doesn’t mean anything beyond that. Focus on what is directly in front of you…what you control.

If the Eagles have that kind of focus today, they should win this game. If…

This certainly won’t be an easy game. The Vikings might be 1-2-1, but they have talent. And some inside info.

Players and coaches move around the league every year so we probably make too much of this, but it certainly doesn’t hurt the Vikings to have this information. The Eagles know Flip talked to them so they will plan accordingly.

I wrote my preview for PE.com.

The Eagles need to win the LOS in this game.

That is two spots where the Eagles have a distinct advantage…LDE and DT. Graham and Cox need to win those matchups. They need to make plays.

MIN has a distinct advantage with their WRs against the Eagles secondary. If the guys up front win often enough, the Eagles can negate that advantage. This isn’t just Jalen Mills against Stefon Diggs. It is Mills/Graham/Cox against Diggs. That helps quite a bit, but only if Cox and Graham win their battles.

The rushers need to be disciplined. Cousins ran for 48 yards in two games vs the Eagles last year. He’s not the most elusive or fastest, but he can make plays with his legs.

Isn’t it time for Nigel Bradham to have a big game? He’s been quiet this year.

I don’t know what to expect from Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense. The Vikings defense is vulnerable, but the Eagles have been erratic. This would be a fantastic time to have a breakthrough game. It would be great to see the Eagles score 28 or 30 points.

Go win this game.

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Vikings Talk

Posted: October 6th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 3 Comments »

The Eagles are ready to host the Vikings for the third year in a row. There are some trends from those games.

Minnesota scored first

In 2016, they led 3-0. Last January they jumped out to a 7-0 lead

Eagles Strike Back

The Eagles quickly took control of those games and led for three-plus quarters. They were up 18-3 by the middle of the third quarter in 2016 and led 24-7 at halftime last year.

Big Time Red Zone D

There were Red Zone takeaways by the Eagles in each game. Rodney McLeod and Corey Graham had interceptions. Derek Barnett had a strip-sack. Getting stops is good, but coming up with takeaways is great.

DL Made Big Plays

The Eagles came up with strip-sacks in each game. Getting to the QB is good. Coming up with the ball is even better. The Eagles D-line played well in both games. Jim Schwartz also mixed in the blitz effectively.

Big Targets, Good Results

Big WRs delivered Red Zone TDs in each game for the Eagles. Dorial Green-Beckham (hard to believe, I know) and Alshon Jeffery used their size effectively.

*****

I’m sure the Vikings are sick of playing in Philly. The Eagles are incredibly tough at The Linc under Doug Pederson. I’d love to think playing at home makes Sunday an automatic W for the Eagles, but there are no guarantees in the NFL.

Sunday is going to be a major challenge, with the Vikings feeling really desperate. The Eagles aren’t exactly in the catbird’s seat themselves, sitting at 2-2.

Both teams will need new guys to help out on Sunday.

The Vikings have four DEs. Two of them are out on Sunday. Danielle Hunter and Stephen Weatherly will have to play a lot of snaps. I’m sure Mike Zimmer will have some other players help out at DE. LB Anthony Barr was a good pass rusher in college. Rookie DT Jalyn Holmes played some DE in college. Sunday will be his first NFL game.

CB Trae Waynes is out so rookie CB Mike Hughes will need to come up big.

Eagles rookie DE Josh Sweat will be active for his second game, but should actually play on Sunday with Derek Barnett out. Dave Spadaro wrote a piece on Sweat being ready to help out. I certainly hope he is, but I wasn’t overly impressed this summer.

Sweat is saying all the right things.

Now he’s got to take what he’s done on the practice field to gameday.

“Even when I’m on scout team, I’m supposed to be giving a look as (a member of) the other team, but within the framework, I’m working my technique that I’m taught and a lot of times I have the freedom to do it. I get to go against Pro Bowlers every day. Some people don’t look at it that way. I’m looking at it as the game, honestly.”

Sweat says he is a totally different player than the one the Eagles drafted, citing his technique, his explosiveness, and his knowledge of the game. All of that will come in handy on Sunday against a veteran Minnesota offensive line and a powerful offense.

“It’s what I’m here for,” Sweat said. “I’m ready if they call my number.”

Last week Avonte Maddox made his NFL debut at safety. He could see even more work there this week. That’s tough against anyone, but especially against one of the best WR duos in the league. The Eagles love Maddox so that’s the reason they’re willing to get him on the field in a new position. He’s got the skill set to play there. He’s also got the right mindset. Maddox is tough and ultra-competitive. Challenge him and it will bring out the best in him.

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So Let It Be Written

Posted: October 6th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

Many thought the Eagles had a legit chance to repeat as Super Bowl champs. They would have to great teams like the Rams, Saints and Falcons. And oh yeah, the Vikings.

Minnesota had a great year in 2017 and then added QB Kirk Cousins, DT Sheldon Richardson, CB Mike Hughes and was getting RB Dalvin Cook back from injury. Talk about stacked. That was going to be one scary team. Some had them winning the Super Bowl. Just about everyone had them as a contender. So. Much. Talent.

Just because it gets written in the spring and summer doesn’t mean it will happen. The Vikings looked great on paper, but here they sit at 1-2-1.

The biggest shocker is that their defense is struggling. The Vikings were #1 in points and yards allowed last year. They had one of the best 3rd down defenses in the last 50 years. That was a legitimately great defense. Not this year. The Vikings are 21st in points allowed and 20th in yards. The hapless Buffalo Bills scored 27 points on them. Last year the Vikings gave up 27 or more points just twice in the regular season. This year? They have done that three straight weeks.

Ouch.

Kirk Cousins has posted good numbers, but the offense still doesn’t look completely right. The offensive line is struggling. The run game is non-existent. The Vikings are dead last in yards, attempts and touchdowns. They are 30th in yards per attempt. Not good when that’s the selling point for the run game.

Cook has been struggling with a hamstring injury this year. Rather than being a dynamic threat out of the backfield, he’s run 36 times for 98 yards. To put that in perspective, Wendell Smallwood is 22-123 for the year.

I’m not here to tell you the Vikings are going to lay down and be an easy win for the Eagles. This team is desperate. A win gets them back to .500 and gives them hope. A loss puts them in a tough position.

The results haven’t been good this year, but the roster is still very talented. Like we’re seeing with the Eagles, something just isn’t working. Injuries have been a factor. The Everson Griffen situation goes beyond football. No one could have seen that coming. The schedule didn’t help. The Vikings two losses are at Green Bay and at the Rams. Those are tough teams to beat, especially on the road.

Don’t sleep on the Vikings. This team can still get going and win plenty of games. Mike Zimmer would point out that they were just 2-2 last year before winning eight games in a row. Still, this just feels different.

We might simply be seeing the difference in projections and reality. The Vikings look nothing like the team we expected. The roster looked great on paper in July, but every football team is a chemistry experiment for that particular season. The Eagles and Vikings flourished last year despite some projected weaknesses. Both rosters looked great this time around and neither is delivering the right kind of results.

It is going to be really interesting to see who wins on Sunday and how the other team reacts. A loss would send Eagles fans over the edge. A loss might send the Vikings team over the edge. They were 13-3 last year. To match that loss total in early October might be something that would really affect them. Hopefully we’ll get to see that.

The Eagles could also lose their third game, the same amount as last year. Because Carson Wentz missed the first couple of weeks, it feels different for Philly.

One of the teams will win on Sunday (a tie would be torturous to both sides). Beyond that, I’m guessing one of the teams will get their act together and go on a run. This game could be a springboard for saving someone’s season.

*****

Derek Barnett will miss the game. Michael Bennett will probably start in his place.

Josh Sweat will be active and will make his NFL debut. I’m curious to see where he is. I’ll say this…my expectations are very grounded.

*****

Good nugget from Zack.

Wiz didn’t play very well on Sunday. I have no problem with giving Seumalo a chance.

This is ironic because last year Seumalo was benched after a tough road loss at KC. There was no doubt that he had to be benched. Seumalo was bad.

He had a good summer and bounced back in a big way. It will be interesting to see if he’s ready to start or the same issues pop up. Seumalo has been good off the bench. He hasn’t fared nearly as well as a starter so this would be a huge opportunity for him.

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The Means Effect

Posted: October 5th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

We can talk about the talent and potential of the Eagles, but there is no denying the fact the team isn’t playing up to the level they should be at. But why is that?

Tough, tough question. One thing occurred to me recently. I was thinking about Lane Johnson and why he’s been so inconsistent this year. Last season he was the best RT in football and arguably the best OL period.

Means is gone and rookie Josh Sweat now has that spot. Anyone who watched Sweat this summer could see his potential, but also that he’s very raw and needs a lot of work. It is fair to wonder if someone like Sweat is a strong practice player. Means had a limited ceiling, but was a relentless player who treated practice like the Super Bowl. That helped Johnson and the other O-linemen to play at a high level.

Joe Ostman is on the practice squad, but he’s an undersized rookie. I doubt he’s having the impact that Means did.

The interior OL were practicing against Beau Allen at times. He combined effort and talent. Allen is gone to Tampa now and Destiny Vaeao might be the best practice DT on the roster. He’s a solid role player, but isn’t as good as Allen.

Bryce Treggs was on the practice squad last year. He had NFL experience and talent. He was also an overachiever type who shined in the preseason. I’m sure facing him in practice helped the DBs. Now they have new guys like Braxton Miller and Dorren Miller. Are they the kind of practice players who can really push starting DBs?

Last year Wendell Smallwood was the RB who probably got the most reps in practice against the starting defense. He had talent and experience. Now that guy might be rookie Josh Adams. Sure, he’s got upside, but he’s still learning pro football. Is he going bring out the best in the guys facing him each day?

The Eagles are still loaded with top notch talent. Unfortunately, they are simply not playing to that level on a consistent basis.

Think back to last January. At the conclusion of the regular season, the players pushed the coaching staff to have tough, physical practices. That set the tone for the playoffs and the Eagles played some of their best football over the next month. Practice does matter.

I certainly don’t know for a fact that practice is part of the problem right now, but I think it is a real possibility.

*****

This is a game where you definitely want Barnett to play. Kirk “Don’t call me Kurt” Cousins has been sacked 13 times. The Eagles have gotten good pressure on Vikings QBs in each of the past two years. It is critical that the DL win the battle up front this week.

Griffen won’t be playing. Cook is battling a hamstring issue and I’m sure they’d love to sit him so he can get healthy for the long haul. At the same time, this is a desperate team so don’t rule anything out. We’ll have to wait and see with Waynes. Doesn’t feel like he will play, but again…this is a desperate team.

It is going to be interesting to see which team responds better on Sunday. The Eagles are disappointed to be 2-2. The Vikings are shocked that they’re 1-2-1. Both squads have injury issues and some tough challenges to deal with. Both squads also have lots of talent.

The team that can eliminate mistakes and make plays is going to win this game.

For all the Eagles issues on defense, the Vikings have given up 29 more points this year. On the flip side, they are scoring more as well, but not nearly as much of a difference.

I would feel really good about the Eagles, but playing a desperate team that also has a significant revenge motive does make me nervous.

*****

If you prefer hearing my sultry voice to reading my words, here you go.

https://twitter.com/PhiladelphiaPST/status/1047947356342300679

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