All-22: What To Expect From Sam Bradford

Sam Bradford. Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Sam Bradford. Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Before Sam Bradford had fielded the first question, he smiled, looked around and offered up an observation.

“It’s already more people than in St. Louis,” he said to a roomful of reporters at the NovaCare Complex.

When a quarterback is taken with the No. 1 overall pick, the expectation is that he’ll make it to the second contract with the team that drafted him. But that expectation does not always become reality. Bradford started 49 games in five seasons with the Rams. He’s been on the field for just seven games in the past two seasons, and the last time Bradford took a meaningful snap was 17 months ago.

But two ACL injuries did not dissuade Chip Kelly from making a move for the former Heisman Trophy winner.

“I think we had some inside information because [offensive coordinator] Pat Shurmur had the opportunity to coach the kid for a year [in St. Louis], so he knows what he’s like in the meeting room, and he knows what he is like on a daily basis. He knows the consistency that comes with him, and he understands his work ethic. He’s an unbelievable competitor. Read more »

All-22: What the Eagles Would Get In McCourty

Devin McCourty. Matt Kartozian / USA TODAY

Devin McCourty. Matt Kartozian / USA TODAY

On the fourth play from scrimmage in the divisional round matchup between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, Joe Flacco dropped back and found Torrey Smith downfield for a 22-yard completion.

Smith ran an over route, starting on Flacco’s right side before gradually crossing the middle of the field. Devin McCourty was set up at free safety on the play. He saw the ball was going to Smith, accelerated forward and delivered a big hit, but the wide receiver held on. Read more »

All-22: Why CB Davon House Would Be a Fit

Davon House and Julio Jones. Jeff Hanisch / USA TODAY

Davon House and Julio Jones. Jeff Hanisch / USA TODAY

Davon House has been clear about what he wants from the next phase of his career: a starting gig.

“I know I can play,” he said, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I truly believe the film says I can play in this league. If my film doesn’t show it, I don’t mind playing special teams. But I think my film shows I’m a starter.” Read more »

All-22: Why the Eagles Will Target Byron Maxwell

Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today

Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today

Following the Eagles’ 24-14 loss to the Seahawks in December, Chip Kelly was asked about why his offense converted just two of 11 third-down opportunities on the day.

He pointed to a few different factors, one of which was the inability of the Eagles’ wide receivers to separate from Seattle’s defensive backs.

“Some were runaways where you’re hoping they beat the man‑to‑man coverage and [uncover] a little bit quicker and separated the way we need to separate and run away from them a little bit,” he said.

On four occasions, it came down to a one-on-one matchup against a specific cornerback: Byron Maxwell. Time and again, Eagles receivers ended up on the losing end of that battle.

With free agency rapidly approaching, Maxwell’s name has been discussed quite a bit around these parts, and for good reason. Read more »

All-22: Defensive Decisions Burn Eagles

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The way Billy Davis tells it, the Eagles fully understood going into last week’s game that the Bradley Fletcher-DeSean Jackson matchup was one that favored the opponent.

“The whole game plan was either to pressure and have the post-safety stay over the top of DeSean, unless somebody else was in a more stressful situation, or split the safeties and double,” Davis said. “So we moved in and out of that the whole game.”

Chip Kelly and company were adamant in the offseason that Jackson didn’t affect how defenses played the Eagles. But apparently, as an opponent, he was someone they felt they had to focus on with their game plan.

The speedy receiver got loose for four catches for 126 yards. He had two grabs of 50+ yards and also drew a pass interference penalty that set up a Washington touchdown.

Fletcher had been left on an island against the Packers earlier this season, and Jordy Nelson went off on him. In Week 15 against the Cowboys, it was the same story; only the name changed. It was Dez Bryant this time.

Yet in an absolute must-win spot, there it was again: Fletcher on an island against an opponent he couldn’t handle. It wasn’t every play, but it happened enough to where the mismatch was glaring. It got to the point where Davis finally made a switch, pulling Fletcher for Nolan Carroll II in the fourth quarter.

Too little, too late. Read more »

All-22: Defensive Failures Against Dallas

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In the days leading up to the Eagles’ rematch with the Cowboys, Billy Davis made it clear that he was expecting to see a different Tony Romo.

On Thanksgiving, the Birds’ defense applied consistent pressure on Romo, and the Cowboys’ quarterback struggled to connect with open receivers when he did have opportunities.

Sunday night was a different story, and Davis ended up being right. Despite a mostly ineffective run game, Romo picked the Eagles apart, completing 22 of 31 passes for 265 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

“I think the biggest difference in the two games that we had… was the play of Tony Romo and the throws,” Davis said this week. “The throws on Thanksgiving were under-thrown and bad, and we were coming back and making plays. The throws the other night were on the money, and they were right where they needed to be.”

Romo certainly deserves credit for playing well in a big spot. But Dez Bryant scored three touchdowns one-on-one against Bradley Fletcher. Was the Eagles’ game plan sound? Was it just a matter of the more talented unit winning? We explore those issues with the All-22. Read more »

All-22: Why the Eagles’ Offense Got Shut Down

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A single response from Pat Shurmur Tuesday explained a lot about the Eagles’ ugly offensive performance against the Seahawks.

“They played exactly… they did less on defense than we expected,” Shurmur said. “They played single-safety middle like we expected. They played a combination of man and zone, and on third down it was very similar until we got in third-and-long and you saw split safeties. They did less on defense than what we had planned for.”

In some ways, what Pete Carroll does on defense is similar to what Chip Kelly does on offense. It’s not about volume. It’s about finding an identity, having answers for every situation, getting a lot of reps and allowing players to make plays in a scheme that they know inside and out. Read more »

All-22: The Good And Bad Of the Eagles’ Defense

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Eagles defensive players – well, most of them anyway – know by now not to make excuses.

The offense wants to play fast every week, regardless of opponent, situation or anything else. The defense’s job is always to get off the field and give the offense another chance to score. Since Chip Kelly took over, that formula has worked pretty well. But there are games, like Sunday’s, when the offense is stagnant. And that puts the defensive players in a bind.

For example, to start the game, the defense gave up a 10-play, 43-yard drive that took 6:35 off the clock. The offense went three-and-out in 25 seconds. And Billy Davis’ guys were right back out there.

That is just how it is. It’s why the Eagles train the way they do. And it’s why in a perfect world, they’d like to rotate players on defense even more.

“I think they are fine,” Kelly said Monday. “I don’t think it had anything to do with the fourth quarter. I just think that they are built for it. They are in great condition. They train at a really high level. They practice against us. They understand what it takes. We didn’t come out of it with any injuries or anything like that. I would imagine they will all be ready to go.” Read more »

All-22: The Challenges Against Seattle

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Go around the Eagles locker room and ask players what makes Earl Thomas so good, and you’ll get a variety of answers.

“He’s a freak,” said Jordan Matthews. “You can tell he has a desire to be the greatest in the game. No different than my lockermate, 27 [Malcolm Jenkins]. I feel like both of those guys have that same mentality. The dude is full speed every single play the entire game. You’ve gotta be able to match that intensity and go out there and play your hardest if you’re gonna compete against him.”

“His speed,” answered Mark Sanchez. “He’s just got a nose for the football. He diagnoses plays fast. One of the most intense players. The film doesn’t have any sound, but that guy almost puts a soundtrack to the film. You see him just completely sell out – against the run, against the pass, breaking plays up.” Read more »

All-22: Option Football With Sanchez

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As LeSean McCoy made his way from the locker room to his post-game press conference at AT&T Stadium last week, a defensive assistant congratulated him on his 159-yard effort against the Dallas Cowboys.

“Them boys up front,” McCoy shouted back. “They were blowing [stuff] up.”

McCoy and others noted that the offensive performance reminded them of 2013. Last season, the Eagles relied on a dominant run game, play-action and a downfield passing attack for the most successful offensive season in franchise history. But those second two things don’t work unless the first one gets on track. And that was the story offensively from the Eagles’ 33-10 win.

The offensive line opened up holes, McCoy made guys miss, Mark Sanchez took care of the ball, and the Eagles had themselves a happy Thanksgiving. Read more »

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