Eagles All-22 Wake-Up Call: Why the Defense Has Declined

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Just last month, Jim Schwartz was still being called a “hot head coaching candidate” for 2017. The Eagles’ defense ranked in the top-3 in points allowed per game, and Schwartz’s unit was good enough to keep Philadelphia in games even as the offense struggled to score.

Flash forward to Week 13, however, and Schwartz may not even get interviews now for head coaching jobs in the offseason. The Eagles are still 10th in points allowed per game, but the defense’s play has been in a sharp decline over the past few weeks.

“We’re in a three-game slump. We had good games and bad games in that nine-game stretch early. Some games we played better than others, but these last three, we’ve been in a slump for a lot of different reasons,” Schwartz said. “We’re in a slump, and it didn’t matter what we were calling. A couple (months) ago when I was up here, we were talking about Minnesota and I said, ‘It didn’t matter what I was calling, they were all working.’ In this [Bengals] game, it didn’t matter. Didn’t matter what we were calling, it wasn’t working. Read more »

Eagles All-22: Is the Fletcher Cox Criticism Warranted?

Fletcher Cox. (Jeff Fusco)

Fletcher Cox. (Jeff Fusco)

Fletcher Cox couldn’t hold in his excitement. Fresh off signing a six-year contract worth a reported $102.6 million, he stood before the media at the NovaCare Complex in June grinning from ear to ear in his gray suit with an Eagles lapel pin.

Howie Roseman made Cox the second highest paid non-quarterback in NFL history, and even though Von Miller’s deal would soon surpass it, Cox still remains as the third-highest paid defensive player in the league. Cox called the money “mind blowing,” while Roseman said the Mississippi native could be a “great player in the history of the franchise.”

Expectations for Cox were sky high, particularly with Jim Schwartz’s new defense — which was hailed as perfect for the 25-year-old — coming to town. Even Cox said Schwartz’s scheme would help him a “whole, whole lot,” before noting increased sack numbers were on the way and how you could expect him “to be in the quarterback’s face a lot.”

Flash forward six months and the headlines have changed drastically. One writer suggested Cox has been a big disappointment, while another opined that Cox hasn’t been a difference maker. So has Cox struggled to live up to his deal, or is he earning every cent of one of the biggest deals in the history of the franchise? Read more »

Eagles All-22 Wake-Up Call: How Jason Peters Defies Age

Jason Peters. (USA Today Sports)

Jason Peters. (USA Today Sports)

When Carson Wentz drops back, he has plenty to worry about. What is the defense doing? Will the receivers get open? How will Halapoulivaati Vaitai hold up at right tackle? But one thing the rookie quarterback doesn’t have to concern himself about is the guy protecting his blind side: Jason Peters.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles’ left tackle didn’t allow a single pressure in 41 pass-blocking snaps against the Falcons. While Wentz doesn’t need to spend much time thinking about Peters, the rest of the offensive line can’t stop marveling at what the 34-year-old is doing in the 13th season of his career.

“He’s the best offensive lineman I’ve seen with my two eyes. Period,” Brandon Brooks said. “To go from an undrafted free agent tight end from Arkansas to pretty much a first-ballot Hall of Fame tackle, it speaks for itself. It’s unbelievable how well he’s playing this late in his career. For an offensive lineman, usually you can say your prime is between Year 5 and Year 9. You know what the league is and what to expect, but for him to do it in Year 13 with all of the accolades and money he’s made, it’s incredible to see.” Read more »

All-22 Wake-Up Call: Inside Carson Wentz’s INT

Nelson Agholor

It took 275 plays, but after four games Carson Wentz finally looked like what everyone expected him to look like: a rookie.

The 23-year-old’s accuracy, arm strength and decision-making helped give him the third-longest streak of passes thrown before an interception to start an NFL career among all quarterbacks. Wentz (134) ranks behind Tom Brady (162) and Dak Prescott (155) and ahead of Warren Moon (131) in that category.

The North Dakota State product completed 25 of his first 32 pass attempts against the Lions for 238 yards, two touchdowns and a 118.5 passer rating. But on the Eagles’ final play of the game, Wentz threw his only interception of the year, sealing Philadelphia’s 24-23 loss in Detroit.

“It’s a teachable moment for him,” Doug Pederson said. “Next time in that situation, he’ll definitely understand what’s going on, I think, and not make those decisions. The one thing about Carson is it’s a short-term mentality. It happens once, he forgets it, he moves on and that’s what we got to do in this situation and get ready for this week.” Read more »

Eagles All-22: Why Jason Kelce Has Struggled

Jason Kelce. (USA Today Sports)

Jason Kelce. (USA Today Sports)

As Jason Kelce’s disappointing play permeated throughout the season last year, questions circulated about why the former Pro Bowl center was struggling. Was it the poor guard play next to him? Was it Chip Kelly’s increasingly inept offense?

Despite the upgrade next to Kelce in Brandon Brooks and Doug Pederson’s effective play-calling, Kelce has still struggled in the first two games this season. While everyone else on the Eagles’ offensive line has gotten off to a strong start, Kelce’s sub-par showing has prompted one simple question: Is he just not that good?

“You know when you play well and you know when you played bad,” Kelce, who declined some media requests yesterday, told the Inquirer’s Jeff McLane. “And I haven’t played up to the level that I’m capable of this year yet.” Read more »

All-22: Inside Carson Wentz’s Impressive Debut

Carson Wentz. (USA Today Sports)

Carson Wentz. (USA Today Sports)

No matter how much film you watch, how long you spend researching someone’s background or how extensive your interview process is, you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get from a football player until they, you know, actually play some football.

Carson Wentz looked impressive during training camp because of his big arm, and he gave coaches reason to be optimistic when he used his mobility to extend plays in the preseason. But even as he continued to check boxes in the limited action he saw throughout the spring and summer, no one knew for sure how he’d respond to NFL defenses, the speed of the game and complex blitzes he probably didn’t see against South Dakota State.

“You couldn’t tell until he actually got on the field,” Chase Daniel said, “but from the first snap, you just saw how comfortable he was.” Read more »

Eagles All-22 Wake-Up Call: The Texas Concept

Doug Pederson. (Jeff Fusco)

Doug Pederson. (Jeff Fusco)

Sitting at a table full of Eagles beat reporters at the owners meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., Doug Pederson‘s voice heightened more than an hour into the session when he was asked if he’d use Zach Ertz similar to how the Chiefs deployed Travis Kelce.

“Yeah, I do. And I’m glad you brought that up, because I like our tight ends. I like our athleticism there. It’s a good group — great group,” Pederson said three months ago. “The primary tight end, Zach, is athletic [and] young. He’s like Brent [Celek] was when he first came in and a lot like Travis Kelce that way.”

When Pederson called plays for Kansas City last season, he often attempted to get Kelce the ball down the middle of the field on seam-type routes. One West Coast offense staple he liked to use was the Texas concept, which accounted for a few of the Chiefs’ big plays. Read more »

All-22: What Rodney McLeod Brings To the Eagles

Rodney McLeod. (USA Today Sports)

Rodney McLeod. (USA Today Sports)

Hyperbole abounds during free agency, especially after high-priced signings when teams guarantee tens of millions of dollars to their top targets. This is especially true in the honeymoon period shortly after the contract is inked, and the new addition meets with the local press corps for the first time.

The Eagles have learned over and over again in recent years after being burned by such ill-fated moves, but even while speaking in the shadow of the DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell deals, Rodney McLeod wasn’t really exaggerating in March when he said he and Malcolm Jenkins could become the best safety tandem in the NFL.

It remains to be seen what role McLeod will have in Jim Schwartz’s scheme, which will go a long way in determining how good of an investment the Eagles made in the $37 million safety, but his teammates and coaches don’t really seem to care how he’ll be deployed because of his varied skill set. Read more »

All-22: Jim Schwartz’s ‘Achilles’ Heel’

Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh. (USA Today Sports)

Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh. (USA Today Sports)

It was just a 14-yard gain.

Frank Gore lined up in the backfield during Week 2 in 2012 as the 49ers hosted the Lions, and he picked up a first down. But, as Cris Collinsworth pointed out on the NBC broadcast, it was symptomatic of a larger problem Jim Schwartz’s defense was having.

“Almost amazing that the 49ers keep hitting the Lions on this play,” Collinsworth said. “That was the play, more than any other, in the game in Detroit last year that beat the Detroit Lions. You would think that after a year of looking at it, they would’ve had it figured out. A little variation there, but it still worked.” Read more »

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