Eagles Add to Their NDefense

Posted: November 17th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

Things were going pretty smoothly for the Eagles defense until Jordan Davis got hurt. They had to put him on injured reserve. Marlon Tuipulotu took his place and then he got hurt on Monday night. Down two DTs, the Eagles signed veteran Linval Joseph on Wednesday.

Joseph was the second best DT available. The best was Ndamukong Suh. Teams had shied away from the 35-year old DT because it was reported he was looking for big money.

I guess desperate times call for desperate measures.

Wow.

The beauty of adding both Suh and Joseph is that you can rotate them to keep them fresh. You can also put Joseph at NT and then put Suh in Fletcher Cox’s spot if needed for a few plays. The coaches have a pair of highly experienced, talented big men to mix in to the rotation.

The downside? Some people might get Dream Team vibes. There is a big difference. Back then, the front office signed free agents to build the team. This time around they tried to rely on teir own guys. The free agents are coming in to help repair the team.

Suh is an interesting player. He lists at 6-4, 313. He played for Tampa the previous three years. He had 6 sacks in 2020 and 2021. He scored 2 TDs in 2019. Suh is a big, strong, disruptive player. He is physical with a capital P. He’s also a solid athlete and skilled player. He’s not just a big body.

His durability is freakish.

That is mind-blowing. Playing in the trenches for more than a decade and only missing two games is unbelievably impressive. Jordan Davis will miss four games as a rookie. Tui is going to miss four games in Year 2. Suh battled double-teams for 12 years and only missed two games. Wow.

This will only work if Suh’s heart is in it. I’m guessing it is. Suh has invested his money wisely over the years so I don’t think this is a cash grab. I think he sees a chance to join a Super Bowl contender for half a season. He avoids Training Camp and the grind of a full season.

Suh has a reputation as a…not so nice player. He’s done some questionable things over the years. Opponents call him dirty. Teammates call him aggressive. Since he’s wearing midnight green, we’ll go with aggressive. He can teach the young Eagles DL about playing with a mean streak. You don’t want to be finesse while playing inside. You want to be the biggest, baddest mofo on the field. Suh’s been that guy for a while.

He is the most dominant college football player I’ve ever seen. Suh was a nightmare for college kids to try to block. He went to the NFL and had 10 sacks as a rookie. He is one of those rare dudes who didn’t need time to develop. He just needed asses to kick.

Suh played in the Super Bowl in 2018 with the Rams and then was on the winning side in 2020 with the Bucs. He understand playoff football and what you need to do to win in the postseason.

Jonathan Gannon now has a couple of veteran war daddies to mix in to his defensive front. They should help against the run and can push the pocket on pass plays.

The rest of the regular season schedule is filled with teams that can really run the ball. It is critical for Gannon and his players to make sure they can get the job done against the run. The Eagles have a great secondary. They don’t need to be a great run defense, but they do need to improve.

https://twitter.com/FO_ASchatz/status/1593019842109767680

As you can see by that, it is tough to shut down both phases so the Eagles aren’t alone.

One thing we definitely know, the Eagles are all-in on this season. The league is weaker than expected and the Eagles are stronger than expected. They see  that and are going to do everything they can to win.

*****

What if Howie had to add an ex-Eagle DT?

The obvious choice would be Derek Landri, but Roger Goodell wouldn’t allow that since he wants to keep things fair for the other 31 teams.

Beau Allen helped the team win the SB in 2017. He’s now retired so he can focus on just being awesome.

I guess Destiny Vaeao was too young.

What about Haloti Ngata? How many people remember he played for the Eagles?

Where the heck is Taylor Hart? He could play both DT and OT. That kind of versatility would be awesome.

Cedric Thornton was a good run defender. I’m guessing he’s available.

Who remembers Antonio Dixon? That guy showed so much potential, but only in flashes. Ugh.

I’ll stop there. If I keep going I’ll end up at Bruce Walker and just get depressed.

The Eagles have had a lot of outstanding DTs over the years. From Jerome to Andy Harmon to Corey Simon to Mike Patterson and on and on. It is fun to go down memory lane from time to time.

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Adjusting on the Fly

Posted: November 16th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 3 Comments »

One of the reasons the Eagles got off to an 8-0 start is that they stayed pretty healthy. You can mix in a backup here or there and keep on playing good football. The Eagles now find themselves dealing with bigger challenges.

DT Jordan Davis is on IR and will miss at least two more games. Now he’s got some company.

Goedert and Tui will each miss at least the next four games. Tyree Jackson now gives the Eagles three healthy TEs, along with Jack Stoll and Grant Calcaterra. DT is thin with Jordan and Tui out.

So…

I’ve wanted Joseph for the Eagles for years. Adding him as a midseason replacement due to injuries wasn’t what I had in mind, but he might be just what the defense needs. Joseph lists at 6-4, 329 and is at home as a NT. When he was younger, he could rush the passer effectively. Now he’ll be more of a run-stuffer type. Joseph turned 34 last month so we don’t know how much he’s got left in the tank. On the flip side, he hasn’t played at all this year so that means he’s well rested.

Nick Sirianni said Joseph could play this week. He made it sound like that’s what they hope for. Joseph played in Brandon Staley’s defense last year with the Chargers and was with Jonathan Gannon in Minnesota. Staley’s scheme is similar to what the Eagles do so he might be able to fit right in. Gannon will already have a relationship with Joseph so that will help him to feel comfortable more quickly.

It will be interesting to see how effective Joseph is. Last year the Rams signed Eric Weddle during the playoffs and he helped them win the Super Bowl. He hadn’t played a down since the previous season. Back in 1993 the Eagles run defense was really struggling. They gave up 724 yards in three games. The team signed William “The Refrigerator” Perry to add bulk at DT and the run defense improved immediately. He was 31 at the time and looked to be washed up, but turned out to be a good fit for the Eagles.

The run defense wasn’t as bad as many thought on Monday night.

The bigger problem was the lack of third down stops in the first half.

1st half – 9 for 12

2nd half – 3 for 9

Washington scored 20 points in the first half and only 6 in the second. The improved third down defense made a huge difference. We’ll see if the changes carry over to this week.

As to TE, Sirianni pointed out that one person won’t replace Goedert. He’s too talented for that. Some of his receptions will go to be the backups. Others could go to WR or RB. Sirianni is “super bummed” about the injury, but he is excited to see what the backup TEs do with the opportunity. He said that during the game he commented to other coaches that Jalen Hurts does trust Jack Stoll. That will be important going forward.

Tyree Jackson is the most interesting of the backups. He has real potential.

Jackson was the Player of the Game at the 2019 Senior Bowl…as a QB. He moved to TE in the NFL and has shown flashes of real talent. It would be very cool if he was able to take advantage of this opportunity.

Remember that the 2017 team had to fight through adversity. They lost key starters:

LT Jason Peters
LB Jordan Hicks
ST Chris Maragos
RB Darren Sproles
PK Caleb Sturgis
QB Carson Wentz

The backup players stepped up their game. Also, the guys around them stepped up as well. That group really played together as a team.

We’ll see how this team responds. Losing players and losing a game should give the Eagles a nasty wakeup call.

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The Day After – Losing Sucks

Posted: November 15th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

You didn’t just have a bad dream. The Eagles actually did lose to Washington on Monday night. And yes, it was just as awful as you think. The offense, defense and special teams all did their part. This was a group effort.

Not only had the Eagles started 8-0, but they had played good football, mostly avoiding mistakes and then overcoming the ones they did make. All that went out the door on Monday night. That was easily the sloppiest performance of the year. So much bad football.

At the same time, it was just one game. People talked about all the celebrating coming out of the Washington locker room. You’d have thought they won the Super Bowl. They did beat an undefeated rival and got their record back to .500, but that was just one game. It will be interesting to see how both teams handle things going forward.

I’m guessing the loss will get the Eagles re-focused.

Washington? No idea. That team is hard to read, which is probably why they are 5-5. Good teams are consistent. Washington has been streaky all year long.

*****

It really is hard to believe Washington ran 51 plays in the first half and the Eagles ran 47 in the entire game. The offense struggled to stay on the field. The defense struggled to get off it.

I’ve seen people talking about this being the formula for beating the Eagles. Run the ball. Have long sustained drives and keep the Eagles offense on the sideline. That seems logical, but sustaining drives is hard. That is not a formula for winning in the NFL.

Nick Sirianni talks about the importance of explosive plays for a reason. When you get chunks of yards in a single play, it greatly increases your chances of scoring. The more you score, the better your chances of winning. Grinding out long drives is hard in the NFL. I know, I know. Insert your Jonathan Gannon comment here.

The problem with sustaining drives is that you have to keep converting third downs. Converting 50 percent of them is considered good. Washington started off 12 for 14. That’s beyond insane. You can give them credit and also blame the Eagles. There is also randomness. No key penalties. No dropped passes. No errant throws. Jim Johnson always believed offenses would screw up drives if you made them drive the long field. Washington executed brilliantly for most of the game. That helped them win last night, but it isn’t sustainable as an offensive strategy.

Opponents will try to run the ball on the Eagles. They will try to play small ball as best they can. We’ll see how they do and how the Eagles adjust as well.

*****

How much did the Eagles miss Avonte Maddox?

I think he would have helped last night to be sure, but it is hard to say how much. In the first WAS game, Maddox had 5 tackles and a PD. Last night Josiah Scott had 2 tackles and a PD.

I haven’t had a chance to study the game yet. Maybe it will be more evident one way or the other when I watch that.

*****

Ugh.

Goedert is a crucial part of the offense because he can block, catch and run at a high level.

Jack Stoll and Grant Calcaterra will now have to step up for a few weeks while DG is out. Stoll is an effective blocker, but isn’t as good as Goedert. Stoll has shown progress as a receiver. He’s got 4 catches for 49 yards this season. Calcaterra is still developing as a blocker. He is a talented receiver, but only has one catch so far. This will be a huge opportunity for them.

There is also Tyree Jackson, who could come off IR this week. Jackson has started 3 games and has 3 career catches. He has some experience, but is hardly a proven commodity. He’s also coming back from an injury so he would probably be rusty.

It will be interesting to see how the offense changes with Goedert out.

*****

CJ Gardner-Johnson grabbed his 6th INT of the season on Monday night. He still leads the league in that category.

Look back at some of the great safeties in Eagles history. Malcolm Jenkins never had more than 3 in a year. Brian Dawkins never had more than 4. Guys like Rodney McLeod, Quintin Mikell, Mike Zordich and Michael Lewis never came close to 6 in a season. Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen each had 4 in a season for the Eagles. I was surprised to see that.

Unless I’m missing someone, you have to go back to 1994 when Greg Jackson had 6 picks while playing FS for the Eagles. I always thought Jackson was an overlooked player. He came after Wes Hopkins/Andre Waters and before Dawk so you can understand how he gets lost in the shuffle.

CGJ has proven to be an outstanding ballhawk. This is no accident. If you watched him at Florida, you could see he had this type of skill set.

*****

After the loss, the Eagles slipped down to #2 in DVOA.

The offense is 4th and the defense is 5th. STs remains down at 24th.

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Undefeated No More

Posted: November 15th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

I wrote earlier tonight about how weird things happen when Washington and Philly play on MNF. I knew a weird game would favor Washington so I hoped we’d get something normal.

Oops.

All kinds of crazy stuff happened in Washington’s 32-21 win over the Eagles. If you want one example to sum up the game, Quez Watkins got wide open behind the defense and caught a deep ball. He stumbled with no one around him. Quez got up and started running again, but a CB caught up and knocked the ball loose. The defense recovered. A 50-yard pass play turned into a turnover.

Ugh.

Washington’s offense was torturous. They took small ball to a whole new level. In the first half, they ran 51 plays for 235 yards. Last week they had 61 plays for 263 yards in the entire game. The Commanders were almost perfect on third down conversions at one point. They began the game 12 for 14. That would be hard to do in a 7-on-7 drill.

The key was how they embraced small ball. They ran the ball 29 times for 100 yards in the first half. They weren’t interested in big plays. Washington wanted to set up third and short situations and then convert them. Death by 1,000 cuts, so to speak.

And brother they were killing the Eagles.

Jonathan Gannon is normally fine with having teams play small ball and slowly drive down the field. The problem is that his defense couldn’t get stops. In most games, the offense can do that for a drive or two, but not three quarters. Washington had some insane drive numbers.

13 plays, 75 yards, TD
12 plays, 49 yards, FG
16 plays, 86 yards, TD
8 plays, 30 yards, FG
14 plays, 71 yards, FG

Those were consecutive drives, the first four coming in the first half. Washington didn’t punt until the fourth quarter. I’ve been watching football for more than 40 years and I can’t remember a team having that much success with small ball. Crazy.

Gannon did make some adjustments at halftime. The Eagles only gave up 95 yards and 6 points in the second half. Still, you can’t have a half of football like the Eagles did in the first half. That was brutal. Gannon has to change his personnel or call things more aggressively. He’s always going to be conservative because that’s his nature. I’m fine with that. But when you can’t get the other team off the field, something has to change.

The defense could have used some help from the offense, but they didn’t get it in the second quarter. The Eagles normally own that period, but only had 7 plays for 25 yards. They kept putting the defense right back on the field.

This was a team loss.

And you know they say when it rains, it pours. Not only did the Eagles play poorly, they had some tough breaks with the officials. The refs missed a blatant facemask penalty on a play where Dallas Goedert fumbled to end a promising drive. Instead of the Eagles having the ball at midfield, Washington had it in FG range.

There was a play at the end of the game where Taylor Heinicke was under pressure and took a knee. Haason Reddick touched him. Then Brandon Graham came sliding in and drew a flag. BG tried to hold up. He didn’t hit him hard. But he did hit Heinicke and he shouldn’t have. That was dumb on BG’s part. He’s got to see Heinicke there and avoid him entirely. A lot of fans are mad at the refs for calling a soft penalty, but it was obvious to me. We know they protect QBs. You cannot take that chance. BG did and it cost the Eagles any shot at a game-winning drive.

Too many turnovers. Too many penalties. Dropped passes. Missed blocks. Soft run defense. Soft third down coverage. This game had everything an Eagles fan didn’t want to see. It was brutal.

There were lots of minor injuries. Josh Sweat, AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith, Jason Kelce and Dallas Goedert all missed time or went to the injury tent. Brown only caught one pass and clearly wasn’t right.

Jalen Hurts looked a bit off. I don’t know if the Commanders confused him with coverages or guys just weren’t getting open, but the passing game had no flow. Everything was short or long. There was no intermediate game. And his passes weren’t as accurate as they normally are.

All of this said, the Eagles were down 20-14 at halftime and 26-21 late. If Quez doesn’t fall down in the open field, maybe the Eagles win that game. Instead they lost. The final margin looks bigger because of a garbage TD on a botched lateral at the end of the game.

We knew the Eagles weren’t going undefeated. That whole discussion is over. The team got a big piece of humble pie. They can learn a lot from this game and it can help them if they embrace the mistakes and work on them. If they focus on excuses, there will be more issues in the near future.

I’m certainly not happy they lost the game, but it will be good to have the team humbled and pissed off. You need an edge to win games late in the season and in the postseason. The Eagles should certainly get motivated after tonight’s embarrassing performance.

Everything that went right in the first eight games went wrong tonight. The players need to embrace the misery of this loss and feed off it. Use that fuel to go beat the Colts and get back to winning and having fun.

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Gameday – WAS at PHI

Posted: November 14th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Crazy things can happen when Washington and Philly meet on a Monday night. The Body Bag Game was on MNF. There was the 59-28 beatdown back in 2010. The Eagles won big in 2002, 37-7, but the craziness happened off the field. Police used pepper spray to break up a fight in the stands and the spray drifted onto the sidelines, affecting some Eagles players.

I hope nothing crazy happens tonight. The Eagles are favored by 11 points so you want them to just go out there and take care of business.

We knew the Eagles would be without Avonte Maddox tonight, but he’ll be gone for longer.

Maddox injured his hamstring late in the win over the Texans. Losing him for a month won’t be easy. Josiah Scott will take his place and Andre Chachere will add depth and play on STs.

As for tonight, you can see DT Marvin Wilson wasn’t added to the roster. The Eagles could only bring him up three times so they had to decide if he was needed tonight. With games coming up against Indy, GB and Tennessee, the Eagles decided to hold him for those matchups. All three of those teams can really run the ball. Washington is solid on the ground, but not as good.

It is possible the coaches didn’t like Wilson’s play, but I thought he was solid last week. I’m guessing this has more to do with upcoming games.

So the Eagles will have Javon Hargrave and Marlon Tuipulotu playing NT. Hargrave played there during his time with the Steelers so he knows what he’s doing. He played NT for part of the second half last week. Tui is fine as a backup, but isn’t ideally someone you want starting at NT.

No real surprises with the actives.

Washington is near the bottom of the league in third down conversions, fourth down conversions and red zone percentage. They struggle to sustain drives and score TDs. The Eagles know that and will make them drive the long field as much as possible. Don’t expect a lot of loaded boxes and blitzing tonight, unless Jonathan Gannon wants to throw a curve ball at Taylor Heinicke.

The Eagles offense has had different answers each week. Who will be the star tonight? It would be cool to see DeVonta Smith have a big game since it is his birthday. Maybe Quez Watkins will come alive. You know AJ and Dallas are ready to do their part.

Last year the Eagles went 9-8. They have a chance to match that win total if they beat Washington tonight.

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