Posts Tagged ‘Secondary

11
Jan
11

EAGLES: Packers End Eagles Season

Another Eagles season and another heartbreaking finish. This is really starting to get old in Philadelphia.

Back in training camp when the Eagles were preparing for a season of questions behind Kevin Kolb, many fans never thought the ‘Birds would have been in this position. However, just halfway through week one, Michael Vick brought a new sense of hope to the city of Philadelphia. He brought the Eagles from a rebuilding year to a contending year. Fifteen weeks later, the Eagles faced off against the Green Bay Packers at Lincoln Financial Field.

And that’s all she wrote.

For the third straight week, the Eagles were outplayed and outcoached. You could sense it in Lincoln Financial Field, as fans showed a cautious optimism that quickly turned to cautious pessimism due to the blitzing Packers defense and the relentless Green Bay offense.

Offensively, Marty Mornhinweg’s Eagles seemed utterly shocked by the aggressive blitzing scheme of Don Caper’s Packers. They quickly abandoned the run and put all the pressure on Michael Vick to carry the team on his back. Vick, who was often given less than four seconds to get rid of the football, faced many ups and downs offensive but eventually found himself in a position to win the game.

After a 28-yard pass to DeSean Jackson with less than a minute to play, the Eagles quickly rushed to the line of scrimmage. Facing a 1st and 10 with 27 seconds remaining, many thought Vick would spike the ball and set up a play to the end zone. However, head coach Andy Reid advised No. 7 to go for the end zone and elected for a 4-go route, sending all receivers to the end zone. The play call is going to be debated until training camp next year, considering it cost the Eagles season and a potential come from behind win that echoed the Miracle in the Meadowlands a month before. Vick, who “went out swinging”, went for the end zone to Riley Cooper in single coverage. We all know where it went from there, as Tramon Williams used his positioning to intercept the pass and end the Eagles highly touted playoff run.

While it was the play that ended the season, it was not the sole reason for the Eagles loss. The Packers came to play at the Linc for the second time this season, and the Eagles came out flat for the second meeting. Between missed field goals, third down conversions, and a creative offensive scheme, the Eagles were fortunate enough to even be in a position to win the game.

For the second straight year, the Eagles failed to show up in the NFC Wildcard game. They have lost their last three playoff games, and sorry Eagles fans, there is no more Donovan McNabb to blame. Michael Vick, the replacement Eagles fans were looking for, also failed to do it. Now what changes do the Eagles need to make? I have a long list to come, but for now let’s look at the final report card of the season.

Quarterback: B –

Michael Vick dished out his second consecutive sub-80 passer rating and completed just 20-36 passes. For the seventh straight game, Vick tossed a an interception, and this one to Tramon Williams topped them all. He was criticized during the Vikings game for his lack of preparation and being unable to properly read defensive schemes. Vick was given an extra week off to prepare for the Packers, but still didn’t look 100 percent out there. He clearly seemed bothered by his leg contusion and failed to create any offensive consistency.

Fun fact: for the second time this season, the Eagles offense lost the football game despite winning the turnover battle. The only other loss occurred in the opening week against none other than the Green Bay Packers.

Why Shady did not touch the ball more is beyond me

Running backs: C+

One of the biggest problems I had with the game was that LeSean McCoy was not properly involved in the offense. Coming into the game, the Eagles offense averaged over 140 yards per game on the ground, but were held to just 84 against the Packers. McCoy has proven as much as anyone that he deserves to see more looks. He only had 12 carries on the night and most of them came early in the game. Granted he didn’t have the most productive yards per carry average (3.8), but everyone knows that Shady is always poised to break a big run. The Packers run stopping was the weakest part of their offense, yet Mornhinweg refused to make any changes and spice up the play call.

Wide Receivers: C

It certainly didn’t help that DeSean Jackson spent most of the game on the sidelines. He finished the contest with just two catches and the other Eagles receivers didn’t pull their weight to make up for the missing Pro-Bowler. Even though Jason Avant scored a touchdown, he also dropped a crucial pass on third down late in the game. Is it me or is it that Avant, the guy who was supposed to have some of the best hands in the league, seems to drop passes at the worst times?

Offensive Line: D –

The most crucial part of the Eagles success failed to show up on Sunday. The offensive line has been the Eagles biggest question mark all season and needed to hold their own against the highly aggressive Packers defense. However, they looked terrified on the line. Winston Justice tallied four penalties and miraculously managed to get two penalties on one play. Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji made Michael Vick’s day that much harder and it was quickly apparent on the opening play when Matthews sacked Vick for a loss.

If the Eagles want to have any success on offense next year (pending Michael Vick’s status), they are going to need to invest in some offensive linemen. Winston Justice, King Dunlap, and Nick Cole all showed that they can’t contain opposing defenses.

Defensive Line/Linebackers: F

I expected the front seven to have some trouble covering receivers over the middle, but never did I think the Packers would dominate the inside game. Rookie James Starks looked like Barry Sanders against the ‘Birds. He rushed for 123 yards, which was 22 yards more than he had all season for the Green and Gold. It was quite obvious that the Eagles overlooked the running game and focused solely on stopping the Packers passing game that ranked top-5 in the NFL.

Even worse than the run-stopping was the Eagles failure to stop Green Bay on third down. Led by Aaron Rodgers, the Packers were 7-9 on third down conversions in the first half. One their three scoring drives, Green Bay was 7-7 on third downs. This simply cannot happen defensively, especially when most of those conversions came on plays of more than five yards.

Donald Driver killed the Eagles on third down

Finally, the front seven did a terrible job getting to the quarterback. The Eagles only hit Rodgers twice, both resulting in sacks. When you give Aaron Rodgers all day to throw the ball, he is going to make you pay. The Eagles experienced that firsthand on Sunday night. Philadelphia’s “enforcer”, Ernie Sims, ran around the field aimlessly. He only had two tackles on the night, which is quite pathetic considering how many plays went over the middle.

Secondary: C

The Eagles secondary did a great job preventing the long ball, but still struggled when it mattered on big plays. Aaron Rodgers was 5-5 with three touchdown passes in the red zone, which is something the secondary has failed to improve on all season. On third downs, Rodgers completed 6-8 passes, all of which went for first downs.

Special Teams: F

David Akers, the longest tenured Eagle and one of the hardest workers, could not have picked a worse time to collapse. Granted there are reports that there have been some family issues, but that is no excuse when you are a professional football player, especially a kicker. Akers was having a career year, missing just two field goals heading into the game. However, No. 2 missed two gimmes that proved to be the difference maker. Is he the sole reason for the Eagles loss? No. But it certainly would have been nice to have those six points.

Gerard Lawson was absolutely terrible. Not only did he fail as the Eagles kick returner (averaged just 18 yards per return) but he also was called for a holding penalty on DeSean Jackson’s punt return at the end of the game. I have a feeling we won’t be seeing much more from Mr. Lawson.

As difficult as it is to not have a team to truly cheer for in the next month, the Eagles had one heck of an impressive season. Taking into account all of the drama that came with the quarterbacks and the injuries to the defense, it was quite impressive that the Eagles showed such signs of dominance in 2010. Even though most of us aren’t numb to this pain of losing and coming up short in big games, we still have a lot to be thankful for. There’s no need to call for the end of Andy Reid or Michael Vick because if I was a betting man, I would say there’s a bright future for both of them coming soon.

15
Dec
10

EAGLES: ‘Birds Edge Out Cowboys in Must-Win

Everyone knew it was going to be a shootout, but not many expected the Eagles and Cowboys game to go down like it did on Sunday night. It involved a 91-yard game winning touchdown by DeSean Jackson, five turnovers and even a touchdown from Todd Herremans. As far as excitement, the Eagles and Cowboys certainly didn’t disappoint.

At this point every win is crucial for the Eagles. However, the win over Dallas could not have come at a better time. If there is one thing that we learned on Sunday, it’s that you never know what you are going to get from the Eagles offense. Between Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and others, the Eagles can explode in almost every aspect of the offense.

The only downside is that the Eagles lost two of their biggest defensive players. Stewart Bradley left the game with a leg injury and is doubtful for the rest of the season. Rookie defensive end Brandon Graham, who was really starting to come into his own, will miss the remainder of the year after tearing his ACL. With a defense that is already depleted with an ailing Asante Samuel, the Eagles are certainly lacking in the leadership department. Stewart Bradley has played well the last couple of games in the middle, but now finds himself watching on the sidelines once again.

Despite losing Bradley and Graham, the Eagles pulled through in the third quarter after being down 20-14. Led by the power running game of McCoy and a big touchdown late, Philadelphia capped off its ninth win of the season.

Grades:

Quarterback : B+

Once again, Vick came through for the Eagles on Sunday night. He had three touchdowns total, but for the first time since being released from prison he had two interceptions in a game.  Despite the turnovers, his passing was pretty spot on for most of the night. What a beautiful pass on the opening play of the game, when he connected with DeSean Jackson for a  60-yard bomb.

I was not so impressed with his running game. For the first time all season he struggled to find open holes. He only averaged two yards per carry and was sacked twice trying to scramble. Vick needs to start treating himself like glass because it’s obvious that referees are not giving him the calls (such as when he was pushed to the ground when running out of bounds).

Running back: A+

What more can I say about this guy? In his second year he is already being compared to Brian Westbrook in his prime. Statistically, he has been without question the best Eagles running back through two seasons. To this point he has 2,455 all purpose yards in his first two seasons and the next closest in franchise history is Billy Ray Barnes (1956-57) with 1,715 (and McCoy still has three games to play). He has proven that he can be an every down back that can fight for yards in the trenches and be an effective pass-catcher. Shady averaged over nine yards per carry against the Cowboys and finished with 149 yards on the ground. He sealed the win for the Eagles after gaining three extremely impressive first downs on the final drive.

DeSean broke past the secondary and never looked back in the fourth quarter

Wide Receivers: A

DeSean Jackson just loves to play under the spot light. In the 15 primetime games he has played since being an Eagles, he has 61 catches for 1,252 yards and 7 touchdowns. Are you kidding me? He caught the opening bomb from Michael Vick and added on a 91-yard touchdown reception to give the Eagles a 27-20 lead in the fourth. Jackson averaged 52.5 yards per catch and did most of the work after making those catches. He stole the show from the rest of the receivers, but I don’t see many complaining.

Offensive Line: B+

Jason Peters did an unbelievable job defending DeMarcus Ware. The All-Pro Cowboy lineman only had three tackles all night and rarely got to Vick in the pocket. For one of the first times this season, Todd Herremans did something positive for the offense after catching a touchdown pass. Since the referees aren’t protecting Vick, it’s important that the offensive line step up and protect him. He was only sacked twice but took some brutal hits that need to be avoided if he plans on staying healthy.

Defensive Line/Linebackers: B

The Eagles red zone defense is the worst in the NFL and it was certainly apparent against Dallas. All of their touchdowns (counting Witten’s 22 yard catch) came in the red zone. They did hold Felix Jones to just 3.2 yards per carry and quarterback Jon Kitna to 6.8 yards per completion, but something breaks down when defending that last part of the field.

Where in the world has Trent Cole been? Through the first half of the season, Cole was on pace to break some record books and buy himself a ticket to the Pro-Bowl. However, the last couple of games he has been completely shut down. Cole only got to the quarterback once and finished with a mere two tackles.

The defensive player of the game was Jamar Chaney, who filled in for Stewart Bradley. Chaney led the team with seven tackles after coming in more than halfway through the game. The rookie is expected to be the starter in the middle this weekend against the Giants. Hopefully he and the rest of the linebackers can do a better job covering the opposing tight end though.

With the loss of Brandon Graham, the Eagles welcome back defensive lineman Derrick Burgess. A couple of years ago he was the staple on the D-line for Philadelphia and hopefully he still has some fuel in the tank.

Quintin Mikell captained the defense Sunday

Secondary: A –

Similar to the linebackers, the secondary could have done a better job covering Jason Witten over the top. Other than that, the defensive backs did a great job covering the high-powered Cowboys offense. On top of two interceptions, they held top receiver Miles Austin to two catches for 22 yards and Roy Williams to 23 yards. Even more impressive is that they did it without Asante Samuel, who missed his third straight game with a knee injury.

Special Teams: B+

At the age of 36, David Akers seems to be having his best season yet for the Eagles. He has connected on 23 of his last 24 field goal attempts and has made 11 in a row. He nailed a 50 yarder in the fourth quarter to tie the game up at 20 that proved to be one of the difference makers in the game.

On another note, I much rather prefer to have Chad Hall returning kicks than Jorrick Calvin. Hall is faster and more elusive than Calvin. Also, DeSean Jackson has hit a bit of a slump as a punt returner, which is a bit worrisome for the special teams core.

With the Giants playing a cupcake game against the Vikings, Sunday was a much needed win for the Eagles. It sets up the stage for this weekend’s game, which is without question the biggest game of the season. If Philadelphia wins, they clinch a spot in the playoffs because they will have two wins over New York. With a depleted defense, Philadelphia is going to have to rely on the elusive offense that New York did a solid job defending last time they played. It’s going to be a fun one on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

11
Dec
10

EAGLES: Philadelphia Could Be In Trouble Without Samuel

It was not the news that Eagles fans were hoping to hear just one day before the primetime matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. For the third straight game, cornerback Asante Samuel will not be on the sidelines for Philadelphia. Right tackle Winston Justice will also miss Sunday’s game with a knee injury.

It’s pretty obvious how important Samuel is to the secondary. Despite missing three games (and about to be four) this season, he still leads the NFL with seven interceptions. Of those seven interceptions, three came in the fourth quarter (two of which on final drives by opposing teams). He isn’t the best tackler and he tends to give up some big passes, but he is a playmaker. If you don’t believe it, just take a look at the three games that Samuel didn’t play in this season.

Who will finally step up with Asante on the sideline?

On October 10th, Samuel missed the 49ers game with a concussion. Alex Smith passed for 309 yards and three touchdowns. Two receivers, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis both had over 100 receiving yards. Two weeks ago, Jay Cutler had one of the best passing performances of his career. He threw four touchdown passes and 247 yards en route to a Bears win. Finally, last Thursday Matt Schaub passed all over the Eagles, throwing for 337 yards (149 of which to Andre Johnson). In those three games, the opposing team averaged 24.6 points, 297 passing yards, and three touchdown passes. On top of that, the top wide receiver for each of those teams averaged 111 receiving yards per game.

It’s pretty obvious the Eagles pass defense has been struggling without Samuel on the field. He brings a veteran presence to a group of cornerbacks that are very inexperienced. With Ellis Hobbs done for the year, the ‘Birds have had to rely on the young trio of Joselio Hanson, Dmitri Patterson and Trevard Lindley to cover the best receivers on opposing teams.

Heading into a game with the pass-happy Dallas Cowboys, this spells trouble for the Eagles secondary. Even though Dez Bryant will miss the rest of the season, the Cowboys still have one of the strongest receiving cores in the league. Miles Austin and Jason Witter are Eagle killers and Roy Williams has stepped up the last couple of weeks. Led by Jon Kita, Dallas has won three out of the last four games. In those three wins, Kitna has thrown a combined seven touchdowns and is averaging a 118 quarterback rating.

Offensively, the loss of Winston Justice could be a problem against a tough Dallas defensive line. King Dunlap, who has been nothing short of a disaster at many times this season, is going to fill in at tackle. He is going to need to defend the speed linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who has 9.5 sacks and eight tackles for losses this season. We have seen what Michael Vick can do with time in the pocket, so it’s going to be very important that Dunlap holds his own against a Cowboys team that has nothing to lose. They are going to do everything possible to ruin the Eagles season much like they did last year.

This is the beginning of the hardest part of the Eagles schedule. Back to back road games against NFC East teams is going to be the difference in whether or not the Eagles make the postseason. If they can get to 11 wins, then they are most likely a sure bet to take the division. However, if they lay an egg down the stretch, then the explosive Eagles could find themselves left out of the race with the top-heavy NFC.

02
Dec
10

EAGLES: Must Win Tonight vs. Texans

Coming off one of the ugliest losses of the season, it will be important for the Eagles to rebound against the Houston Texans tonight at Lincoln Financial Field. Pretty much all weaknesses were pinpointed this past Sunday, including the Eagles offense that ranks second in the NFL in points per game (28.2).

I expect nothing short of a shootout tonight at Lincoln Financial Field. Behind Michael Vick the Eagles have the ability to score on every defense in the NFL. Taking into account that the Texans have given up at least 24 points in every game this season except for this past Sunday should make for an exciting Eagles offense. One of the most important things to watch tonight is the productivity of the Eagles red zone offense. They rank 19th in the NFL right now in red zone efficiency and their struggles last week against Chicago was one of the main reasons for losing. However, Houston’s pass defense ranks 31st in the league and Michael Vick has proven that he can make big plays with both his arm and legs. Case point: expect a lot of points and a lot of yards from the Eagles offense.

The Eagles need Samuel on the field against Andre Johnson

Another key matchup to watch on offense will be how the line handles defensive end Mario Williams. He has 8.5 sacks on the season and is quickly becoming one of the best in the league at his position. He will most likely be matched up with Jason Peters, aka the penalty machine. It’s going to be crucial for the line to protect Vick and let him stand in the pocket instead of running aimlessly in the backfield.

That being said, the Texans rank in the top 10 in the league in points per game (24). They garner the top-ranked running back in the NFL right now in Arian Foster, who is poised to run all over the Eagles if the front seven doesn’t come to play. Philadelphia’s defense has done a great job against the run this season so it will be important for them to continue down that path. Sean McDermott needs to make sure to stay aggressive and not allow Foster to break for big runs.

Even though Matt Schaub is not having the most productive year, he is still a play-making quarterback that has a number of weapons in Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels. The Eagles need to pray that Asante Samuel can play tonight. He is listed as a game-time decision with a knee injury and it was quite apparent how important he is to the secondary. The secondary is very young and Samuel lead’s the NFL in interceptions, so it will be important to have him on the field. If not, then the Eagles will rely on Dmitri Patterson and Joselio Hanson to cover the speedy and athletic Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones. They will have their hands full tonight and could be the reason for keeping the Texans in the game.

This is a game that the Eagles are expected to win, but it is also a game that could really throw the Eagles under the bus in the final couple of weeks. The NFC is very top-heavy and the Eagles need to stay atop the division knowing they still have three more divisional games to play. If the Eagles offense can control the game and keep the ball away from Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, then this could be a fun highlight reel to watch.

Prediction: Eagles- 38, Texans- 17

29
Nov
10

EAGLES: Sloppy Loss to Bears Brings Eagles Down From Cloud Nine

There are two things that Eagles learned at Soldier Field on Sunday. First is that Michael Vick is human and last week was not a fluke. Second, the ‘Birds are still too vulnerable to be considered the best team in the NFC because of their inconsistent defensive play.

The Bears are a good team simply because they grind games out with their defense, but the Eagles have been dominant in the last couple of weeks. That being said, I still pinned this as a potential loss for the Eagles coming into the game. They had just played three tough games, including two divisional games that were on prime time television. However it’s one thing to lose, but it’s another thing to lose when nothing seems to go right.

The Bears were more prepared in every facet of the game. Their defense bombarded Vick and didn’t give him any time in the first half. On offense, Jay Cutler, who is known as one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks and is usually good for at least one turnover a game, threw for 247 yards and four touchdowns. Let’s be honest, Jay Cutler is not a quarterback that should have a 146 passer rating against the Eagles, who coming into the game had forced the most turnovers in the NFL. Despite a late surge from the Eagles in the second half, they fell to 7-4 on the season after a sub-par outing in the Windy City.

To the report card:

Quarterback: B –

On paper, it looked like a solid outing for No. 7. He finished with 333 yards passing, two touchdowns and his first interception since being released from jail two years ago. However, in the first half Vick was clueless on the field. The offensive line didn’t give him a chance to do what he does best (run) and he missed a couple of big passes. He couldn’t get anything going in the red zone all game. The interception he threw at the end of the second half when the Eagles were down by one point was careless. Granted it was tipped, but he also was throwing into triple coverage.

The second half was the Michael Vick that Eagles fans have grown to enjoy watching. His pass to Celek was an unbelievably thrown ball that he somehow fit in between four defenders. At least he ended on a positive note.

Running back: B

Can someone tell me why Eldra Buckley was in at running back on the third play of the game? What happened to that Jerome Harrison guy that rushed for 100 yards in his debut? LeSean McCoy averaged 5.3 yards per carry, but still on gets 10 carries the entire game. Even though the Eagles were playing catch up for most of the game, McCoy needs more touches. I love that he had eight receptions for 67 yards, but he has changed games with his ground game too.

Receivers: B –

Brent Celek jumped back into the receiving mix Sunday

Where in the world was DeSean Jackson on Sunday? He was targeted five times on that afternoon but only hauled in two passes for 27 yards. Slot receiver Jason Avant led all receivers with eight catches for 83 yards and Jeremy Maclin caught his seventh touchdown of the season in the first half. Maclin did a great job getting open against the zone defense and was able to find a seam between the safety and linebacker Brian Urlacher.

I would like to formally welcome Brent Celek back to the 2010 roster. He scored his first touchdown since week five and finished the game with 50 yards. Maybe he read my blog post earlier this week.

Offensive Line: D

I don’t even know what to say anymore about the Eagles offensive line. They were completely dominated by Julius Peppers and the Chicago Bears front seven. The biggest problem for the offensive line all season has been defending the blitz, however Chicago dominated them at the line of scrimmage. Instead of rushing guys from the secondary, they kept their safeties back to defend DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Even the legs of Michael Vick couldn’t make the offensive line look better on Sunday. They were just pathetic.

Defensive Line/Linebackers: C –

At some point in this season, someone not named Trent Cole is going to need to step up in the Eagles front seven. Cole was an absolute animal, compiling two sacks and three tackles for losses. The Eagles as a whole had four sacks (Brandon Graham and Mike Patterson both had one), but still could have done a better job getting to Jay Cutler. Bears running back Matt Forte, who coming into the game only had one other game this season over 100 yards, rushed for 117 yards on 14 carries (8.4 yards per carry). This was the most yards the Eagles have given up to an opposing running back all season.

Matt Forte proved to be a bit of a problem for the Eagles defense

Secondary: D +

It was games like this one that makes us realize just how much the Eagles need Asante Samuel in the secondary. Not only does he lead in the NFL in interceptions, but he also brings a veteran presence to the defense that is necessary for such a young team like the Eagles. At one point in a nickel situation, the Eagles had three inexperienced defenders in Nate Allen, Dmitri Patterson and Trevard Lindley all on the field at once. Add that to a pathetic effort by Joselio Hanson and you have a recipe for disaster. As I mentioned earlier, there is no reason that Jay Cutler should throw for four touchdowns against the Eagles. And there’s also no reason that the eagles should be torched by Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Jay Bennett.

Special Teams: B

David Akers was one of the main reasons the Eagles stayed in the game against Chicago. He was 4-4 on the afternoon and made a great 45-yard field goal in the first half. It was great to see some production from DeSean Jackson when he returned a punt for 35-yards that sparked an Eagles drive. Defending wise, the Eagles let up a big return from Devin Hester that eventually led to a Greg Olsen touchdown in the second half.

It wasn’t even a situation where the Eagles beat themselves. In reality, they just were not as prepared as Chicago and it showed when the Eagles were unable to capitalize on their red zone opportunities (5 trips: 1 TD and 4 FG’s). The ‘Birds only had three penalties on Sunday, which is vast improvement from the 11 penalties they had against the Giants a week ago. It’s not going to be a loss that defines the season, but it is still very important for the Eagles to bounce back against the Texans. They only have three days rest before they play on Thursday night at the Linc, so it’s important that they all have short memory spans to forget about the sloppy play in Chicago.

23
Nov
10

EAGLES: Eagles hold off Giants to gain control of division

There’s a reason the Eagles have been tagged the “Cardiac ‘Birds” this season. Outside of last weekend’s beat down over the Redskins, the Eagles were met with a tough test against the New York Giants on Sunday night.

It mimicked a typical Eagles Giants matchup, full of the chippiest of plays, hair pulling and one that goes down to the wire. Both teams showed their vulnerability, but it was the Eagles that prevailed in one of their most important wins of the season.

The Eagles relied heavily on their big-play style of offense and defense. They have always struggled to grind out close games under Andy Reid, but were able to get away with a win against a very good Giants team that is known to make teams beat them. Philadelphia came out firing in the first half, but missed a number of crucial opportunities to put the game out of reach. The offense failed to convert on three-straight red zone opportunities, thanks to two drops in the end zone and a failed third and short.

By halftime, the score should have been about 24-3 in favor of the green and white. However, things felt all too similar to the previous home game against the Indianapolis Colts, where the Eagles had a number of opportunities to put them away and instead let the game go down to the wire. Soon after the half, the Giants scored 14 unanswered points to take a one point lead in the fourth quarter.

A few gray hairs later, the Eagles found themselves in a 4th and 1 situation at midfield. After running a terrible third and one play that ended in an incomplete pass (which should have been a running play), Michael Vick snapped the ball and pitched it back to LeSean McCoy. Fifty yards later the Eagles were back in control of the game after McCoy exploded for his best and most clutch run of the season. From there on out the Eagles looked like the Eagles from the first quarter and the Giants had no answer.

For the grades:

Quarterback: B –

For a majority of the game Michael Vick had no answers for the Giants defense. They had a game plan and did a good job sticking to it by negating Vick from beating them with his feet. He was only held to 34 yards on 11 carries Sunday night. Throwing wise, Vick didn’t seem to click as well with his receivers as he did against the Redskins. Regardless of the fact that Vick couldn’t get help from his wide receivers in the first half (dropped touchdowns by Jackson and Avant) he still struggled to hit his receivers when he was facing pressure.

My other big problem with Vick on Sunday night was his run-first mentality on a number of plays. This was one of my biggest concerns about him as a quarterback because he often fails to let plays develop and tries to scramble for yardage instead. He fumbled the ball twice on Sunday, one of which was recovered by the Giants during their third quarter comeback.

Also, Vick has to realize that he only weighs 210 pounds. With all of this scrambling, he continues to risk himself for injury every time he takes a hit from an opposing defense. He was only hit three times in the pocket, but another ten or so times when he went to rush. He doesn’t slide and he rarely runs out of bounds, which means he is getting hit that many more times each game. His health a big concern if the Eagles are going to make him a franchise quarterback.

Runningback: A –

McCoy is a special runner

For about the fifth time this season, LeSean McCoy has taken the game into his hands and acted as a catalyst to an Eagles win. He struggled at the beginning of the game (8 rushes for 4 yards), but exploded for two runs over 40 yards in the fourth quarter to seal the win for the Eagles. It continues to baffle me that Andy Reid does not look to McCoy more often during the game. He averages less than 16 carries per game, yet has four games over 90 yards rushing and six games over 100 all purpose yards. I would say that merits more touches every game.

I was also shocked to see the limited role by Jerome Harrison against the Giants. I guess his 100+ yard performance from last week didn’t justify more time.

Wide receiver: B

One ball. In all of training camp Jason Avant allegedly dropped one ball. However, he dropped one of the easiest touchdown catches of all time against the Giants, and one that would have changed the outlook of the game. He is not the only one to blame. DeSean Jackson, while not as bad as Avant, dropped a touchdown pass from Vick in the first quarter. However, both receivers made up for the drops with great catches throughout the game. Mistakes happen, but it’s how the receivers respond to those mistakes that matters.

Jeremy Maclin continues to impress each week. He finished with 120 yards, which is his second highest total of the season, and made a number of great catches down the stretch. He also tied a career high with nine receptions.

By the way, where in the world is Brent Celek? Let me know if you have an answer.

Offensive Line: C –

Penalties, penalties, penalties. That was the story of the day for the Eagles offensive line. Jason Peters, who is usually good for at least one penalty a game, accounted for multiple flags against the Giants. Todd Herremans, who has really improved over the last few weeks, was called for two penalties that came at inopportune moments. Also, they allowed three sacks all to Justin Tuck, who dominated the outside tackles all game.

Defensive Line/Linebackers: B+

The story of the game was the ability to create turnovers from Eli Manning. If there’s one thing Eagles fans know about Eli, it’s that he is very vulnerable and prone to make mistakes. His three interceptions and the offense’s two fumbles were the story of the night. The Eagles front seven did a phenomenal job stopping the running attack of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Bradshaw only netted 29 yards on 12 carries and Jacobs averaged just two yards per carry. My one concern (and reason for the B+ grade) was the lack of pressure on Eli Manning. For the first time since the 2008 season, the Eagles failed to register a sack. Shawn Andrews, the once crazed Eagles lineman, completely shut down Trent Cole on the right side of the line. Brandon Graham forced a fumble but struggled to get to Manning all night. It was also great to see Stewart Bradley get an interception, but I’m still waiting for his breakout game.

Secondary: A–

Samuel may have finally learned how to hit too

I don’t know if it’s his speed or his impressive anticipation, but Asante Samuel was everywhere on the field against the Giants. He intercepted Manning twice, recovered a fumble and even recovered a fumble that was eventually overruled by the referees. He has seven interceptions in the last seven games and it probably having the best season of his career. Not to mention that he finally showed he can hit people instead of his usual push-tackle technique. The only ironic thing is that his first big hit ended in a penalty and most likely a fine from the league.

Dmitri Patterson also showed up to play for the second consecutive week. He did a great job shutting down Mario Manningham.

Special Teams: B+

After missing three field goals in one game against the Falcons, David Akers has been on a tear this year. He is practically automatic on field goals, making four of five against New York (one was blocked to end the half). It was a scary period of ten minutes watching Ellis Hobbs being carted off the field, but thankfully he is in stable condition. He will miss the rest of the season with a neck injury. With Hobbs out, the Eagles are in search of another consistent kick returner. Eldra Buckley filled in for a return and ran hard but only gained 20 yards. Jorrick Calvin has struggled recently so that part of the roster is going to need to be figured out soon.

 

There is certainly an optimistic buzz coming from Eagles fans in Philadelphia. I urge them to sit back and let the season play out before booking tickets to Dallas in late January/early February. It has been fun to watch this team come together under Michael Vick, but there are still six weeks left in the season that can change the entire outlook of the year. Philadelphia has proved that they are the team to beat in the NFC East, but can they continue this winning streak for the rest of the season? If they keep playing like this, they are going to be one tough team to beat in the NFL.

 

17
Nov
10

EAGLES: A Franchise-Changing Win Over the Redskins

There was a day when I, Stephen Watson, wrote an in depth article about why Kevin Kolb should be the starting quarterback for the Eagles over Michael Vick. I argued that Kolb is a better fit for the offense and would run the west coast offense more effectively than Vick. Just like Kevin Kolb feels right now, I admit my defeat.

What Michael Vick did on Monday night was the most impressive performance I have ever seen from a quarterback during the regular season. He was not human. He was faster than ever. He was throwing the ball better than ever. And most importantly, the rest of the team responded very well to No. 7 as the captain of the offense.

Who would have thought that after two years in prison, after the Eagles shockingly signed him, and after Kevin Kolb was deemed the future of the franchise that Michael Vick would change the future of a single franchise? It was this Michael Vick that critics have been waiting to see after he was the top overall pick coming out of Virginia Tech. It was this Michael Vick that Atlanta fans were planning their future around before he went to prison, but are instead now crying that he is in green and white. Now it all is becoming quite clear why Andy Reid decided to give Vick a second chance. To be honest, it might go down as his biggest off-season acquisition since being the head coach of the Eagles.

Honestly, who is this guy? Vick, the same quarterback that couldn’t hit his targets and could only run, has not thrown an interception this season. He finished the game 20 of 28 for 333 yards and four touchdown passes. O yeah, don’t forget that he also rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns. He made passes that very few to no quarterbacks can make in the National Football League.

The first quarter was unlike anything I have ever seen before as a sports fan. Considering it was against a divisional opponent and on the road, the Eagles looked as if they were playing the Washington Pee-Wee’s. Outside of Michael Vick, everyone seemed to be clicking on all cylinders. Donovan McNabb, who had just earned a hefty paycheck coming into the game, looked like a deer in headlights trying to comprehend the beat down taking place at Fed-Ex field.

The second quarter was where I had a few problems with the Eagles, primarily on defense. McNabb, who we can all agree is a very talented quarterback, set the record for most passing yards in a single quarter. He completed three passes over fifty yards and to watch the secondary crumble after such a strong start to the game was a bit of a concern. Like most of his career in Philadelphia, McNabb does not have many special receivers to throw to, so to see the defense get beat by Anthony Armstrong and Fred Davis is something that cannot happen in the future.

Nevertheless, the Eagles led at the half by a score of 45-14. The second half was not so much different, as Philadelphia improved to 6-3 with a 59-28 record.

Grades:

Welcome the future of the Eagles franchise

Quarterback: A++++++++++++++++++++++

I think I have added my two cents about this. I’m just praying he doesn’t ask for too much money for next season, but whatever it is, the Eagles need to pay him. Secondly, I’m sorry to all of you that bought Kevin Kolb jerseys…they will be $5 dollars before you know it.

Running backs: A –

That run by Jerome Harrison was the most impressive Eagles run of the season. The fact that the Eagles were able to swap Mike Bell for Harrison is a joke, and I think that single rush proved why. Isn’t it nice to have someone who can pick up the slack if McCoy has a bad outing?

Wide Receivers: A+

You would think that the Redskins would not let DeSean Jackson catch a ball over the top of the secondary. Jackson hesitated in the middle of the route and still managed to outrun the secondary and open the game on an 80-yard touchdown (his longest as an Eagle). Jeremy Maclin also posted one of his best games of the season. His 48 yard touchdown catch was arguably the most impressive catch by any Eagle this season. It was also great to see Jason Avant get in the mix on Monday night (5 receptions for 76 yards and a TD).

Offensive Line: A –

Only one sack and three quarterback hits allowed by the Eagles offensive line. Michael Vick truly makes every other player on offense look better. This is especially the case with the offensive line considering how many tackles Vick avoided while scrambling around the pocket.

Kurt Coleman celebrates after his first career interception

Defensive Line/Linebackers: B+

The defensive line did a great job in the beginning of the game getting pressure on McNabb and stopping the run. However, they did make third string running back Keiland Williams look like a prime-time tailback in the second half. Williams finished with three touchdowns and 140 all purpose yards against the ‘Birds.

Secondary: A-/ B+

Aside from the second quarter hiccup, the secondary played very well against the Redskins. Dmitri Patterson is quickly becoming a fan favorite and is playing like the best cornerback on the team. He had two interceptions, including a pick six in the second half. Rookie Kurt Coleman did a great job filling in for Nate Allen, as he recorded his first interception of the season.

Special Teams: B

I’m really starting to get concerned with Jorrick Calvin as the Eagles kick and punt returner. He started off great for the Eagles and made a couple of nice returns, but since then has made more mistakes than plays. He recovered his own fumble after a punt return before quarterback Michael Vick got on his case. Calvin also only averaged 16.5 yards per return, which certainly needs to improve. Also, it was another good effort by Akers and Rocca.

Coming off a win against the Colts, Monday night’s beat down makes the Eagles the team to beat in the NFC East and potentially in the NFC. Michael Vick has changed this season from a “rebuilding year” to a Superbowl-contending season. Next up, another divisional date with the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football. Maybe they will come more prepared to take on Michael Vick’s Eagles.

For some laughs, you need to check out one of the longest and most intense rants about a sports team I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Enjoy Redskins sports talk host Chad Dukes’ rant after the game.




The Philly Phour

June 2017
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