Five Thoughts On the Eagles

NFL: Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

1. A popular sports-talk radio topic this week has been: If the Eagles stumble tonight, should Chip Kelly’s first season still be deemed a success? The answer is yes, but a loss will definitely re-shape some of the offseason conversation.

The Eagles (at a minimum) have shown a five-game improvement from last year. The offense has been one of the best in the league. The defense has exceeded expectations. The quarterback’s played out of his mind. The culture in the building is dramatically different. And Kelly seems to have found the right balance between being a players’ coach and a disciplinarian. For all of those reasons, Year 1 has been a success as Kelly has laid a solid foundation to build on going forward.


But the Eagles have a tremendous opportunity in front of them. They have won six of seven overall and are 7-point favorites against a Kyle Orton-led Cowboys squad. To act like they're just playing with house money is disingenuous. The truth is they're playing in a game where the stakes are high, and they are expected to win. If they lose, the devastation won't reach Ghosts Of NFC Championships Past levels, but it will still be a major disappointment to the coaches, players and the fan base.

2. On Friday, Tim and I explained why we both think the Eagles win this game by double digits. But it's worth considering the scenarios where they either lose or find themselves in a tight game late in the fourth quarter:

  • Orton lights up the secondary - The name that keeps getting brought up is Matt Cassel. If he can go 26-for-35 for 382 yards against the Eagles, then who's to count Orton out? The stakes are different, and maybe the Vikings game served as a wake-up call of sorts, but the Cowboys just need Orton to play well for four quarters, not four weeks.
  • Special teams miscues - According to Football Outsiders, the Cowboys have the sixth-ranked ST unit in the league, while the Eagles are 26th. This is one area that has been a disappointment for the Birds in 2013. One or two big returns by Dwayne Harris could keep Dallas in it.
  • A repeat performance by Nick Foles - The thing about that first Dallas game is we still have no clear explanation about what happened - no injury or other factor. The second-year QB just had a bad day. Foles has been on fire since that game, and I think he'll respond well, but there's at least the possibility of another bad day with the offense stalling.

3. Regardless of what happens today, I don't anticipate much turnover on the Eagles' coaching staff. But given what Kelly's accomplished offensively, some of his assistants could get a look elsewhere:

Kelly has been the architect on offense, but Lazor has been the one running the meetings with Foles and the other QBs all season long. He's a name to keep an eye on as the coaching carousel starts to spin (at both the college and NFL levels) on Monday.

4. A follower asked today who Eagles fans should be rooting for in the other games. I recapped all the scenarios earlier in the week. But the team's best-case scenario (at least as I see it) would be a first-round matchup at the Linc against the Cardinals or Saints with a potential divisional round matchup in Carolina to face the Panthers.

Avoiding the 49ers altogether and a avoiding a trip to New Orleans in the second round would be ideal. There is no scenario where the Eagles could face the Seahawks before the NFC title game (regardless of what happens today).

As for the Saints or Cardinals, I'm really not sure which would present a tougher matchup. Drew Brees is obviously scarier than Carson Palmer, but Arizona's been on fire with one loss (at the hands of the Eagles) in its last eight games.

5. One player to keep an eye on today is Mychal Kendricks. He's become a versatile piece for defensive coordinator Billy Davis. Kendricks has three sacks and an interception in the last two games. He'll sometimes threaten the A-Gap and then drop back into coverage. Other times, he'll attack aggressively as a blitzer. The Cowboys' offensive line has played well this year, but it won't have the benefit of Tony Romo's "escapability" today. Look for the Eagles to attack the interior of the Cowboys' line with Kendricks as an extra pass-rusher.

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  • Will

    Win and in…Cream rises to the top…Execute Eagles,Execute Eagles,Execute Eagles…No Excuses…Go Eagles! Foles be on Fire tonight! McCoy give us your best! O-Line it all begins with you! Go Defense 3 and outs for a blow out in Dallas! Gonna be waiting all Day for Sunday Night!

  • Beastmode

    The gay men’s pick up site blogging the boys is a good read today. Lots of suicidal threads lol.

    • DirtyWaters

      Check out the Washington Post’s in depth article on the demise of the Shanahan regime. Really well done.

      • theycallmerob

        Note for next week’s therapy session: I was grinning and rubbing my hands together while reading that article.

        • DirtyWaters

          As long as that article was, I didn’t want it to end. I love the vision of Shanahanito in the balcony with the stop watch.

      • Johnny Domino

        Chip could be the dean of NFC East coaches by New Year’s.

      • Beastmode

        Wow. Soap opera drama. What a bunch of prima donnas.

      • theycallmerob

        …wrong thread…

    • Eagle in VT

      That was good for a laugh! “Come off the ledge”

  • Andrew S.

    Great stuff to kick off Eagles gameday – thanks for the breakdown of playoff scenarios!

  • Richard Colton

    Not sure why Lazor would feel the need to take a head coaching job in college if his ultimate ambition is NFL head coach. We’ve seen the QB coach to head coach leap work pretty successfully before – Andy Reid. I’m thinking Lazor can stay another two to three years and let Foles continue to make him look like Rasputin.

    • Eagle in VT

      I’m hoping you’re right. I’d really like to keep as much of that coaching staff intact as possible.

    • Scott J

      My fear is a team like the Redskins will try to hire Lazor so they can learn Kelly’s offense. Same goes for Shurmer. It would be easier to hire Lazor since it would be a higher position from a QB’s coach. For Shurmer to leave, it would have to be a head coaching position. Otherwise the Eagles could decline interview requests.

      • nicksaenz1

        Good thing Shurmur just failed miserably in Cleveland. Doubt he gets looks anytime in the next year or two. People will want to see sustained success in Chip’s system to hire coaches from it, IMO.

        • Johnny Domino

          Wonder how they feel in Cleveland today, watching Shurmer and Davis reborn, while all they have to play for is knocking the Steelers out of contention?

          • mtn_green

            Eagles west is a dumpster fire, they will draft the best QB they can get.

          • Johnny Domino

            Or trade for Cousins, if the new Washington coach is smart.

          • Richard Colton

            last two time they had two 1st round picks, 2007 and 2012, they went cheap and took their QB with their 2nd pick. Too clever by half. Lets see if they make it three mistakes in a row.

          • BlindChow

            I doubt they miss Shurmur. It would be like the people who said we made a mistake firing Reid when he was lighting it up in KC earlier this year. Shurmur wasn’t a very good HC.

          • theycallmerob

            They’re both products of Kelly’s system. Clearly, a set of more mobile coordinators would elevate this team to the next level.

          • Bdawkbdawk

            Cleveland is actually in a pretty good spot. Simmons was right about them sneakily tanking. They probably will have a top five pick in this years draft and a late-round first as well. They have 3 (maybe 4) legit offensive pro-bowlers and a good defense in place. If they are able to retain Horton, I anticipate that their defense will be even better. All they need is a QB (which the draft can help with), a serviceable RB (which they can grab for cheap), and a compliment for all pro talent, Josh Gordon. I bet if we don’t sign Maclin to that “prove it” contract, the Browns will be interested.
            Not especially sorry to see Banner go, but he’s about to pull off one hell of a turnaround.

        • morgan c

          Personally, I doubt Shurmur has had much of a role as OC (or at least as small a role as possible while technically being in charge of the offense). We all know this is Chip’s offense; does he not call the plays on offense as well? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and all, but Shurmur was spotty at best in all his previous stops and I sincerely doubt he is the reason for our success. I’d say promote Lazor to OC if Shurmur leaves but it looks like most teams know Shurmur is kind of blah.

      • Richard Colton

        Well it didn’t exactly work with Childress. I wouldn’t be as upset with losing Shurmer as I would Lazor. Still, neither of those guys were in the room with George Halas and Amos Alonzo Stag – just Chip Kelly.

        • theycallmerob

          I’d love for Chip to hire an old legend, if for nothing else than “executive assistant”. My personal dream would be Tubby Raymond as running game assistant coach. And just let the guy tell stories on media day.

          • DirtyWaters

            As a Fightin’ Blue Hen, nothing would make me happier than that. Wing T all day!

          • theycallmerob

            fellow Hens always get upvotes!

    • mtn_green

      Would Lazor be a part of Reid’s coaching tree? Or chip’s?

      • Richard Colton

        What’s his connection with Reid?

  • evanphilly

    “Orton lights up the secondary” – Here is where people are taking this out of proportion. I know Cassel torched the D, but he was also in and out of the starting lineup all year, and even came in in relief a few occasions. He was used to the speed of the game. Orton hasn’t seen legit action since 2011. There are a few articles out there saying Orton should be fine and all because of what Cassel did, but people are seriously underestimating this factor.

    Eagles need to start fast to take Murray out of the game (not too worried about him otherwise..strength vs. strength) and also take Bryant out of the game as well (dude will quit on the team if they fall behind early).

    • bentheimmigrant

      I think a lot of people are also forgetting that Cassel played a great game. He really passed the eye test. He avoided pressure really well and made great throws. Our secondary was bad, but Cassel beat it fair and square.

      • theycallmerob

        Yes.
        Our performance got a lot of attention, but that was one of the best games a QB has played this year and probably the best of his career. If that’s what it takes for Orton to beat us, I don’t know what else to say.

        For a game that is essentially a playoff game, to be able to say DAL will win only if their backup QB plays the game of his life is a pretty good position to be in.
        CHI is in almost the opposite scenario- facing a do-or-die against a GB team getting a significant upgrade at QB (and probably Cobb at WR). I’m glad we’re not them.

  • cliff henny

    on the unthinkable, losing tonight…guess alot would depend on how they lose. if it’s because orton has all day to throw, corners are playing off too much after safeties not named wolff blow tackles/coverage over and over, then losing would be little easier to swallow. we’ve all know it’s been issue since day1. when we mock ’14 drafts maybe have 1 wr in early rounds, rest is dbs and olbs. when olbs get pressure and safeties dont play like horse’s @ss, Eagles are really tough to beat.

    • bentheimmigrant

      I think Cole’s improvement is real, and we have a legit rushing olb now.

      • DirtyWaters

        True. But he is not getting younger. I’d like to draft now and have time to groom instead having to plug someone in right away.

  • bentheimmigrant

    01:30 can’t come soon enough. #GMTProblems

    • Richard Colton

      Where are you? England?

      • bentheimmigrant

        Yeah. So late games finish around 0430. With Reid it was often after 5.

        • Engwrite

          Really? I’m confused. Time difference between UK and east coast time is 5 hours. Game starts at 8:30 est which should be 3:30 UK time.

          • Engwrite

            Oops. 1:30 AM UK time. Sorry.

        • Richard Colton

          That’s because he ran the ball so much

    • UKEagle99

      Whereabouts are you?

      • bentheimmigrant

        Wilts.

        • UKEagle99

          I’m over in sunny Essex. Great to be playing playoff football again and a nice early 01:00 kickoff :-)

          • bentheimmigrant

            I was really hoping for the earlier Sunday game. Still, nice that its not another 5am monday finish.

          • UKEagle99

            Hopefully we get the extra day to prep for Carolina ;-)

          • bentheimmigrant

            That’s my plan. And then get ready for a home game against the 49ers!

  • Scott J

    I think one big difference between the last Dallas game and this one is, Chip knows his players much better now. If Foles starts making some bad throws, Chip will probably run easier plays that he knows Foles likes. Get him into a rhythm.

    • Beastmode

      Great point, first game was before chip knew how to best use foles.

  • Scott J

    Murray = Forte, Orton = Cutler, Bryant = Marshall, Witten = Bennett. Same shitt different smell.

    • cliff henny

      big difference is o-lines. romo’s athetic ability hides alot of their flaws. orton is a sitting duck back there, and not like he has a cannon either.

      • Richard Colton

        true. but that LT – Smith, is a beast. Long day for Trent Cole. May need to bring pressure from the inside: Boykin, Kendricks, Meco, and that frees up Witten.

        • GEAGLE

          Smith ability will be neutralized by how well we blitz, stunt, and disguise our intentions pre snap…Trent Cole didn’t get 3 sacks last week on a LT…he ran over Forte for a sack! beat the left guard for another sack!!!when you blitz and disguise and confuse lines as well as us, a guy like Cole will get rush opportunities against different opponents..

          Smigh might be able to block Colee, but when Cox Loops around on a stunt, let’s see Smith not get run over by COX!!

          • Richard Colton

            seriously, how hard did you laugh at the Chicago offensive game plan when you saw them try to block Cole one-on-one with a running back?

          • GEAGLE

            Lol…not the best idea :)
            ..,
            We have really turned into a heckuva blitzing team starting wit pre snap….next step, more amoeba fronts causing more confusion…..
            ..
            Expecting Barwin to Jam Dez or Witten before releasing them to a CB or Kendrick. That should really cause trouble for Ortons quick throws..I can’t wait to watch our beloved defense put on a show tonight

            If Jason Garrett keeps Demarco Murry in to block when we are in man,then he should be fired on the spot…by now it’s no secret our ILBs have the green light to blitz when they are matched up on a RB that is staying in to block..neutralizing the extra blocker they think they are getting by keeping a RB in to block

    • theycallmerob

      I’d edit that to be Murray < Forte; Orton << Cutler; Bryant/Beasley <<<<< Marshall/Jeffery. Their defenses are about equal- as you say, smelly sh!t.

  • Adam

    If we all start drinking now we can pass out then wake up in time for the game tonight. Time travel at it’s finest.

    • Richard Colton

      one step ahead of you my Canadian brother

    • theycallmerob

      coffee and whiskey go together like stars and stripes.

      • Johnny Domino

        Peaches and Herb

        • theycallmerob

          how about…..

          • evanphilly

            “Butch and Sundance: The Early Years” – Death

          • Andy124

            beer and more beer

        • OregonDucker

          Herb and whisky baby!

          • GEAGLE

            Herb and whiskey for me too

      • DirtyWaters

        Cocaine and waffles.

      • nicksaenz1

        I love scotch

        • Johnny Domino

          Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch

          • John J. King

            single malt, cask strength.

          • Johnny Domino

            Laphroaig 18 years old is the best I can do

      • hawaiieaglesfan

        Crown and coke

  • JW

    Seahawks have not won their division yet, if SF win and the hawks loose they become the 5th seed.

    • theycallmerob

      True. Entering today, all 4 AFC division are clinched but 0 from the NFC. Crazy.
      However, even if SEA is 5th, still no way Eagles would see them until the championship game. I hope SEA and SF end up 1 and 5, so if the 5 wins they’ll battle it out in the divisional round. NFC south <<< NFC west

  • OregonDucker

    My prediction – The Eagles start out flat due to nerves and over excitement. Then a few Dallas players start picking on the youngest Eagles. Fights break out. Eagles get really pissed off. That’s when the Eagles scoring flood begins and never stops. 60+ – 10 Eagles. With a clinic by Vick at the end, where he scores 21.

    Brace yourself for greatness on both sides of the ball. The Eagles team will become Godzilla, destroying everything in its path.

    • Johnny Domino

      With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound.

    • Johnny Domino

      If they hang a 3 TD quarter on Dallas like they did they Bears, they got no answer for that.

      Clint Longley isn’t coming out that tunnel.

    • Johnny Domino

      If they can hang a 3 TD quarter on Dallas like they did the Bears, they got no answer for that.

      Clint Longley isn’t coming out that tunnel.

    • GEAGLE

      My prediction, defense takes OVER!!! Stunts, Twists, Green dog blitzes, Line slants, blitzing while we twist stunt….Front 7 is bringing the pain!!!
      ….
      I really like our Green Dog blitz while we are twist stunting…our front 7 and our blitz packages are already a handful for most Olines we face,,when we are getting pressure, opponents natural reaction is to keep a TE or a RB in,,love that Billy has given the green light to the ILB matched up on the running back to green dog blitz every time he stays in to block…so basically an offensive coordinator thinks he is getting a RB to help his Oline block, but when that happens,we just blitz the ILB who has man coverage on the RB, so their plan to have an extra blocker is a failure when we are in man, because our guys have the green light to send an extra guy…

      Our defense has also grown exponentially in terms of pre snap disguise. They hold their disguise longer, and aren’t tipping their hand pre snap which is what led to them getting dissected by Phillip Rivers…now QBs don’t know when we are coming or dropping, and it’s making a huge difference..

      Unless we are facing Peyton, I believe this defense can hang with anyone

  • GEAGLE

    Billy davis talked about how he has a lot of NFL and,he has never seen a coach that made his line hit the sled every day like Azzinaro is doing. At first it was like pulling teeth but then our guys saw the success and now they love hitting it everyday because they see the success they had because of strong fundamentals like hand placement….
    .
    We have instilled a culture that believes in hard work and allowing and trusting coaches to coach them up..this is HUGE for year one, now whatever talent we aquire will be brought into a strong locker room, a family type team atmosphere…this years players seen the type of success they can have by doing things the right way,so they will police future acquisitions and push them to embrace the ” Eagles way”and that will be HUGE for Howie going forward…look at the talent, find out who is the smartest, most high. Charecter of the bunch and let our coaches coach them….this locker room and our coaches will make howie look like a genius…

  • GEAGLE

    I almost don’t want to see a 30pt blowout…if this game looks like the bears game, all the national dopes will hop on our jock tomorrow morning talking about how we are a Super Bowl,contender…

    Prefer them continuing to snub us, keep us out of probowls, don’t give us the respect we earned…

    Snubbing Demeco who our young players adore, is the extra fuel behind today’s dominant defensive statement game!!, Need Wolff to get healthy…just get in the playoffs and ANYTHING can happen!!

    A team that doesn’t turn the ball over, runs the ball well, is healthy, has chemistry/unity, well coached and fundamentally sound…teams like that are the ones who have playoff success….

    If we get magically hot and win playoffs games, we will be so jacked up that no one will fear going to Seattle….just take care of business today and anything can happen

  • Explorer51

    Just want this game to start, we will know pretty quickly how it will go. Thanks to reading all you folks, I’m feeling better tonight; comment section on 24/7 is good Birds’ therapy.