The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Cardinals
1. According to PFF, Connor Barwin has batted six passes down at the line of scrimmage this year. That’s tied for most in the league among outside linebackers and defensive linemen. I asked him this week when he stops his rush and decides to get his hands up.
“You don’t even necessarily stop your rush,” Barwin said. “You continue rushing, but in Houston… there was a focus on seeing the quarterback as you pass-rush. Some guys focus on the guy blocking them. But I try to see through the blocker and see the quarterback. And as soon as I see, no matter where I’m at, in the middle of the rush, stuck at the line, almost about to drop in coverage, if I start to see the quarterback release, I instinctually get my hands up. And this year I’ve been able to get my hands on quite a number of them. Now I’ve just gotta work on catching one of those suckers.”
Barwin added that his basketball background helps too. The Texans’ coaching staff used to preach that a batted ball was almost like a sack. Barwin said Eagles coaches have been emphasizing batted passes as well.
2. Jason Peters doesn’t like talking about injuries. That’s something he has in common with his head coach. The Eagles’ veteran left tackle has started every game this season, but has dealt with a quad injury, a head injury, a pectoral injury, a shoulder injury and a finger injury.
All of this comes after he injured and then re-injured his Achilles’ prior to the 2012 season.
“It’s a great time,” Peters said when asked about the bye coming in Week 12. “Later in the year, you always want to recover. …So it felt good to get away for a couple days.”
After fielding multiple questions about his injuries though, Peters cut the interview short.
“I’m not finnin to sit here and talk to you about some injuries,” Peters said. “I play every Sunday, and I’m gonna play every Sunday until the end of the year and get ready for the playoffs when we make it.”
3. The Eagles have only had one player – Earl Wolff – missing from practice this week due to injury. It’s great news for the team that it’s healthy going into the stretch run.
But before we give full credit to the smoothies, sleep and hydration, let’s remember that teams typically get healthy during the bye week. This nugget comes from friend of the blog and Knower Of All Things Sam Lynch: The Eagles have had two players or fewer listed as out/doubtful/questionable in the game following the bye week every year since 2008.
In other words, the extra rest helps with bumps, bruises and nagging injuries pretty much every year.
Meanwhile, Barwin has played 103 snaps more than any other 3-4 outside linebacker in the league. I asked him if there’s a psychological effect to the sports science emphasis.
“There probably is,” he said. “There could be a little bit of that. And that never hurts for sure. I remember in college [then Cincinnati coach] Brian Kelly was always great for making you think that you were in better shape or always healthy. I don’t know if we necessarily always were, but we always felt like we were. And I think that helps.”
4. The Eagles face a couple big receivers this week in Larry Fitzgerald (6-3, 218) and Michael Floyd (6-2, 220). I asked Billy Davis how he teaches his corners to look back for the ball when they’re face-guarding receivers downfield.
“A lot of that we talk about is the body language of the receiver,” he said. “Two things. The receiver is always going to go exactly where the ball is thrown. You don’t have to look back for the ball. The receiver’s going to go to that ball. When the receiver’s at the ball, he has some non‑verbal tips. His eyes widen, his hands start moving. That’s when you look back and try to locate the ball.
“But you only locate the ball when you’re in a position to actually touch him. Because you know he’s going to be where the ball is. If you can’t touch him, you can’t touch the ball either. If you’re in that position, and you see the body language tips, you turn and play the ball. You have to turn back and try to find it or you get to face guarding [penalty].”
5. During last week’s Patriots-Broncos matchup, the announcers mentioned how Bill Belichick prefers left-footed punters. Based on his actions this year, Kelly might be the same way. The current punter is Donnie Jones, and the Eagles had lefty Brad Wing in camp.
“I couldn’t speak from experience because I never catch ‘em, I just kick ‘em,” Jones said. “But I’ve heard that the spin’s different. And for awhile the majority of guys in the league were right-footed.”
Jones said neither Kelly nor special-teams coach Dave Fipp have mentioned anything to him about the advantage of being left-footed. But he noted that it’s common for teams (like the Redskins) to bring in left-footed punters to practice before facing the Eagles.
“I don’t know if that’s just a personal preference or they really feel the spin’s that much different,” Jones said. “I know over the years certain guys have had trouble fielding balls, but I think it could go the other way too if a guy’s used to maybe catching left-footed, the right foot is gonna look different.”