Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Offense Vs. Bucs’ Defense

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy MaclinHere are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ offense matches up with the Bucs’ defense.

1. The Eagles turned in one of their best offensive performances of the season last week against Dallas, coming up with points on six of 10 possessions. Overall, though, the Birds are 29th in scoring offense, averaging 18.1 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked 25th – 26th in passing and 19th in rushing. The Bucs are 19th in scoring defense, allowing 23.8 points per game. Football Outsiders has Tampa ranked 16th defensively – 23rd against the pass and 2nd against the run.

2. Let’s talk about Nick Foles. The rookie turned in what was easily his best performance of the season last week, completing 22 of 34 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown (All-22 breakdown here). One key for Foles was putting the ball in places where receivers could pick up yards after the catch. Marty Mornhinweg indicated this week that he’s raising the expectation level for Foles.

“Nick and I have talked about that,” Mornhinweg said. “All of this progressing and all of that is over now. We are no longer rookies – that’s done. We expect to play at a high level consistently.”

3. Foles will have shots downfield against the Bucs’ secondary. Tampa has allowed 52 pass plays of 20+ yards, second-most in the league. Foles has only completed two passes that have traveled more than 20 yards from the line of scrimmage all season. Tampa’s starting corners are E.J. Biggers and Leonard Johnson. Johnson is an undrafted free agent, and Biggers has 20 career starts. The Bucs go with veteran Ronde Barber and rookie first-round pick Mark Barron at safety.

4. The Eagles face a huge challenge in running the football. Bryce Brown has piled up 347 yards on 43 carries the past two weeks, averaging a ridiculous 8.1 yards per carry. But he’s fumbled three times. According to Pro Football Focus, Brown is averaging 4.2 yards after contact, the top mark in the league. He’s been decisive and hard to bring down. The Bucs are the only team in the NFL that has held opponents to under 3.5 yards per carry.

5. The Eagles’ offensive line has shown serious signs of improvement the past two weeks. Foles has only been sacked twice, and Brown has had all kinds of room to run. Rookie Dennis Kelly looks more comfortable at right tackle than he did at guard. Jake Scott has stepped in after having not played all season and provided an upgrade over former first-round pick Danny Watkins. Dallas Reynolds has been really good in the run game, despite playing with an ankle injury. Evan Mathis is playing some of the best football of his career, and King Dunlap held his own last week against DeMarcus Ware.

6. The Bucs have just 18 sacks on the season (30th). Left defensive end Michael Bennett has seven and will match up with Kelly. Scott will face a major test going up against 2010 No. 3 overall pick Gerald McCoy. Dunlap will square off with Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. You remember that name, right? Te’o-Nesheim was a third-round pick by the Eagles back in 2010. He only played in six games as a rookie and then was released before the 2011 season. Te’o-Nesheim has two sacks on the season.

7. Speaking of that 2010 draft, the Eagles selected 13 players. Six are still on the roster: Brandon Graham, Nate Allen, Riley Cooper, Clay HarborJamar Chaney and Kurt Coleman. While you can certainly debate the Graham pick, he’s had a good year and looks like he can be productive when healthy. Allen has been a disappointment. Cooper has shown some upside when given the opportunity. Harbor and Chaney are backups. And Coleman probably should be one too.

8. Foles should expect a heavy dose of blitzing. Tampa blitzed Peyton Manning 15 times last week and Matt Ryan 11 times the week before, according to Pro Football Focus. Foles will have to keep an eye on rookie WILL linebacker Lavonte David, who has blitzed a team-high 120 times. He also has a team-high 108 tackles. Barber’s blitzed 96 times and has a sack, forced fumble and four interceptions. Foles was solid last week against extra pressure, completing five of eight passes for 54 yards.

9. It will be interesting to find out what the team thinks of Jeremy Maclin this offseason. In three starts with Nick Foles, he’s got a total of eight catches for 93 yards. He hasn’t done much to warrant arguments that he could be a No. 1 receiver on another team. Maclin is a free agent after the 2013 season, but the Eagles could certainly make a decision on him before then.

10. The Eagles are 27th in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns 44.4 percent of the time. The Bucs are 10th in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 50 percent of the time. …The Eagles are 14th in third-down offense, converting on 39.3 percent of their opportunities. The Bucs are 27th in third-down defense allowing conversions 42.4 percent of the time.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Defense Vs. Bucs’ Offense

Philadelphia Eagles LB DeMeco Ryans.Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ defense matches up with the Bucs’ offense.

1. As always, we start with what’s important: draft positioning. If the season ended today, the Eagles would have the fourth overall pick. The teams ahead of them are the Raiders, Jaguars and Chiefs. Oakland already lost Thursday night and is 3-10 going into the final three. Kansas City is at Cleveland, and Jacksonville hosts the Jets. Those are the two early games to keep an eye on (as you chat with us during Eagles-Bucs, of course). According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles have an 8.6 percent chance at getting the top pick and a 48 percent chance of landing a top-three selection.

2. The Bucs enter Sunday’s game fourth in the NFL, averaging 27.8 points per game. Football Outsiders has them 10th in overall offense – 11th in passing and eighth in rushing. Tampa is coming off back-to-back losses to the Falcons and Broncos. The Eagles, meanwhile, have lost eight in a row and are coming off a 38-33 loss to the Cowboys. They are 26th in scoring defense, allowing 26.7 points per game. Football Outsiders has the Eagles ranked 25th defensively – 31st against the pass and eighth against the run. According to their numbers, only the Raiders have been worse against the pass this season.

3. Tampa’s offense starts with rookie running back Doug Martin, who is third in the NFL with 1,106 yards. Only Adrian Peterson (17) and C.J. Spiller (11) have more runs of 20+ yards than Martin (9). According to Pro Football Focus, Martin has broken 47 tackles, tied with Peterson for most in the league. Only Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch have carried the ball more than him (236 attempts). Martin’s coming off a pair of sub-par outings against the Falcons and Broncos, where he averaged just 2.7 yards per carry on 39 attempts. Opponents are averaging 4.1 yards per carry (13th) against the Eagles.

4. Most of Martin’s runs (67.4 percent) have come out of two-back sets, according to STATS, Inc. He’s averaged 5.6 yards per carry on those attempts. That means the Eagles will be in their base personnel for much of the game. DeMeco Ryans has shown up every week, but he didn’t play particularly well against the Cowboys. Akeem Jordan played poorly. And Mychal Kendricks was up-and-down. The Eagles will be without Mike Patterson (illness). Asked if the defense will still rotate defensive linemen, coordinator Todd Bowles said, “They’ll rotate. You still have to let Coach [Tommy] Brasher get comfortable with the guys and then we kind of react and go from there as he gets more comfortable with them at the end of the week, seeing what they can and can’t do from his own eyes. I’d like to give him a fresh perspective on that.”

5. Josh Freeman ranks 31st in the NFL, completing just 55.9 percent of his passes. But he’s in luck because opponents are completing 76.3 percent of their passes against the Eagles since Bowles took over. Freeman’s averaging 7.74 yards per attempt (sixth). He’s tossed 23 touchdowns (sixth) and just eight interceptions. In the last six games, the Eagles have given up 16 touchdown passes and come up with no interceptions. On the season, opponents are completing 62.2 percent of their passes against the Eagles (17th) and averaging 7.8 yards per attempt (26th). Only four defenses have allowed more touchdown passes than the Birds (23).

6. Vincent Jackson is one of the league’s premier vertical threats. He’s got 50 catches for 1,014 yards in his first season with Tampa and is averaging 20.3 yards per reception, which is tops in the NFL. Only Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas and Reggie Wayne have more catches of 20+ yards than Jackson (19). While the Bucs like to run the ball, they’ll take plenty of shots downfield. According to Pro Football Focus, 15.9 percent of Freeman’s attempts have traveled 20 yards or more downfield. That is third in the league, behind only Joe Flacco and Andrew Luck. Eagles safeties Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen have played poorly all season. Coleman’s out with a chest injury, and Colt Anderson will get the start. The Eagles will try to avoid complete breakdowns in the secondary for the first time in weeks.

7. Third-year receiver Mike Williams has also been productive with 43 catches for 718 yards (16.7 yards per reception) and six touchdowns. As for the Eagles, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie seems to be getting worse every week.

“As I look at film just from a personal standpoint, in my head I have a whole lot of wows,” he told Tim last week. “Like, ‘Wow, what are you doing?’ At some point, I think as the season keeps going bad, bad, you try to fight so hard and don’t want to do wrong until you end up just doing wrong and you don’t allow yourself to just go out and be [yourself].”

Not only is Rodgers-Cromartie giving up too many big plays, but he continues to consistently shy away from contact. And according to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers-Cromartie leads all cornerbacks with 11 penalties.

8. Up front, left tackle Donald Penn has started every game for Tampa since the start of the 2008 season, and he made the Pro Bowl in 2010. He’ll go up against Trent Cole, who was not a factor last week against the Cowboys and has just two sacks on the season. Vinny Curry played just 19 snaps last week. That number needs to increase. Tampa is without All-Pro guard Carl Nicks. The Eagles’ pass-rush was non-existent in the second half of last week’s loss to the Cowboys. Fletcher Cox, Curry, Phillip Hunt, Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri, Darryl Tapp and Cedric Thornton combined for no sacks and no hurries. Brandon Graham had 1.5 sacks, four hurries and eight tackles – the most by any Eagles defensive end in a single game all season. Freeman has been sacked just 17 times all season.

9. The Eagles have just 10 takeaways through 12 games. That’s the second-fewest total in the league, ahead of only the Colts. The Bucs, meanwhile, have just 12 giveaways. In the NFC, only the Redskins have fewer.  Overall, the Eagles are minus-18 in turnover differential. Only the Chiefs (-21) are worse.

10. Leftovers: According to Football Outsiders, opponents are starting drives at the 30.28 yard line against the Eagles, the second-worst mark in the league. …The Eagles are sixth in red-zone defense, allowing opponents to score touchdowns 45 percent of the time. The Bucs are the second-best red-zone offense in the league, scoring touchdowns 66.7 percent of the time. …Tampa is converting on 34 percent of its third-down chances (26th). The Eagles are 21st in third-down defense, allowing conversions 39.7 percent of the time.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Offense Vs. Cowboys’ Defense

Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ offense matches up with the Cowboys’ defense:

1. There was a time when a Sunday night game in early December against the Cowboys would have generated a playoff-type buzz around these parts. Instead, we’re left with this.

“I think one thing in coaching, and I’ve been in this thing a little while now, is that motivation aspect,” said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. “It’s key and it’s every day with the motivation aspect of it. Now, we certainly are in a spoiler type role here and that can be very rewarding. So, we have discussed that and it’s very rewarding that way.”

We’ll find out just how rewarding the Eagles find that spoiler role in the final five games.

2. The Eagles’ offense is averaging just 16.7 points per game, which ranks 30th, ahead of only the Cardinals and the Chiefs. Football Outsiders has the offense ranked 27th – 26th in passing and 25th in rushing. The Cowboys are 20th in scoring defense, allowing 23.8 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked 19th – 22nd against the pass and 11th against the run. Dallas is coming off a Thanksgiving performance in which Robert Griffin III completed 19 of 27 passes for 304 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. The Cowboys didn’t get it done against the run either, allowing Alfred Morris to run 24 times for 113 yards (4.7 YPC). The Eagles scored 22 points against Carolina Monday night in their seventh straight loss.

3. In that game, the Birds relied on rookie running back Bryce Brown, who carried 19 times for 178 yards. As I detailed in the All-22 breakdown, Brown impressed with his ability to get around the edge and kick it into a special gear. Most of his success on the season has come out of spread formations. Brown’s run 27 times for 235 yards (8.7 YPC) out of 3-WR and 4-WR sets, according to STATS, Inc. He’s averaging 4.1 yards per carry on 10 attempts out of two-back sets and 6.9 yards per carry on 40 attempts out of single-back sets. The Cowboys will be without some of their key cogs on defense. Linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are out for the season. And nose tackle Jay Ratliff is doubtful with a groin injury. The Cowboys are allowing 4.1 yards per carry on the season (tied for 11th).

4. Nick Foles gets his third straight start in place of an injured Michael Vick. He went 16-for-21 for 119 yards last week against Carolina. Mornhinweg was asked this week about Foles’ progression.

“It certainly will be an evaluation,” Mornhinweg said. “Now, you have to take all different things into account… Young quarterbacks tend to play a little bit better when they are on an excellent team that is fully funded and everyone is on board playing and all of those things.”

Mornhinweg was pointing out that Foles hasn’t been operating with an ideal set of circumstances, considering the offensive line injuries (and the loss of DeSean Jackson). With young players, it’s not always about what they show, but how they project. No one’s expecting consistency at this point in his career, but Foles needs to show flashes of what he could be capable of in the future.

5. Up front, Dallas Reynolds participated in Friday’s practice and is listed as questionable. If he plays, the Eagles offensive line will likely be: King Dunlap (LT), Evan Mathis (LG), Reynolds (center), Jake Scott (RG), Dennis Kelly (RT). If Reynolds can’t go, Mathis is expected to move to center, and Danny Watkins would take his place at left guard. There’s been a lot of talk about whether Scott replacing Watkins has had more to do with the former first-round pick’s injury or his performance.

“Danny is there,” Mornhinweg said this week about Watkins’ ankle. “Danny is really close to being there.”

If Watkins is healthy, you’d think he’d return to the starting lineup one way or another (replacing Scott at RG if Reynolds plays). We’ll keep an eye on how things shake out tonight.

6. For the Cowboys, the player to watch is always DeMarcus Ware. Ware’s tied for fourth in the league with 10 sacks. Dunlap, who had a disastrous stretch in the last game where he failed to go out with the field-goal team and cost the Eagles a timeout, will see plenty of Ware. Anthony Spencer has 6.5 sacks. As a team, the Cowboys have 23 sacks (tied for 20th). The Eagles have allowed 34, tied for fourth-most.

7. When doing your draft research over the next several months, don’t rule out offensive tackle for the Eagles. Jason Peters and Todd Herremans both suffered season-ending injuries. Herremans turned 30 in October, and Peters turns 31 in January. The Eagles could always spend an early pick on a tackle and move Herremans inside. Or they could have the draft pick start inside before eventually moving to tackle. Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel (6-6, 310) and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan (6-8, 302) are names to be aware of. Oh, and one more: Jake Matthews. The cousin of Casey plays right tackle for Texas A&M and is expected to be a first-round pick.

8. The Eagles continue to turn the ball over at a disastrous rate. They are second in the NFL (behind only the Chiefs) with 24 turnovers. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles have turned it over on 20 percent of their offensive drives, which is astounding. Last week, Brown fumbled twice. You can be sure that Cowboys defenders will go after the ball when trying to bring him down. Dallas, however, has just 12 takeaways on the season – second-fewest in the NFC (ahead of only the Eagles, who have 10).

9. At wide receiver, Jason Avant is expected to return from a hamstring injury. Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson will see more action with Jackson out of the lineup. Eagles receivers will match up against cornerbacks Brandon Carr and first-round pick Morris Claiborne. Opponents are completing 62.5 percent of their passes against Dallas (tied for 18th) and averaging 7.7 yards per attempt (26th).

10. The Eagles are 30th in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns just 39.4 percent of the time. The Cowboys are 12th in red-zone defense, allowing TDs 50 percent of the time. …The Eagles are 17th in third-down offense, converting 37.9 percent of the time. Dallas is ninth, allowing conversions 36 percent of the time. …The Eagles continue to boast one of the worst special-teams units in the league. Football Outsiders has Bobby April’s group ranked 25th. Dwayne Harris returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown in the first meeting between the teams. Per FO, the Eagles’ punt/punt coverage unit ranks second-to-last in the NFL.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Defense Vs. Cowboys’ Offense

Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ defense matches up with the Cowboys’ offense.

1. Let’s start with what you really care about – draft positioning. The Eagles currently have the fifth pick in the first round. The teams ahead of them are the Chiefs (1-10), Jaguars (2-9), Raiders (3-8) and Browns (3-8). The Chiefs host the Panthers, the Jags travel to Buffalo, and the Raiders and Browns play each other (so one of them’s got to win). Along with your fantasy teams, now you know who to root for during a Sunday afternoon of football-viewing.

2. The numbers just keep getting worse for the Eagles’ defense. They are now allowing 25.6 points per game, which ranks 24th. Football Outsiders has the Eagles’ D at 23rd in the league – 27th against the pass and 10th against the run. The Cowboys are 18th in scoring offense, averaging 22 points per game. Football Outsiders has Dallas’ offense ranked 15th – 12th in passing and 20th in rushing. The Cowboys’ last game was a 38-31 loss to the Redskins on Thanksgiving. The Eagles lost their seventh straight to the Panthers (30-22) on Monday night.

3. Tony Romo is completing 66.2 percent of his passes (seventh). That’s the good news. But he’s been picked off 15 times – second-most in the league behind only Drew Brees (16). He’s been less turnover-prone recently with just two interceptions in the last four games. In the first meeting against the Eagles, Romo completed 19 of 26 passes for 209 yards and a pair of scores. He’ll likely be glad to see Todd Bowles’ defense in Dallas. The Eagles have just seven interceptions on the season (only five teams have fewer). And only the Colts (10) have fewer overall takeaways than the Birds (seven).

4. It’s been truly amazing to see how the Eagles’ pass defense has gone down the tubes since the Juan Castillo/Todd Bowles move. Through the first six games, the Eagles were holding opponents to 52.7 percent completions – the top mark in the league. In the last five, that number is a staggering 75.2 percent, which includes 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. This week, I asked safety Kurt Coleman whether not having Bowles spend as much time with the secondary has hurt the defense.

“He’s still working with the DBs, but obviously he has a more broader range now because he has to take care of all three different groups,” Coleman said. “His job role’s expanded. But he has a great eye, being a DB, and he’s always talking with us and allowing us to see things as he used to. He’s just not always hands-on because we still have Mike Zordich, and now we have Bobby April III to kind of help us out.”

5. The secondary will have to deal with Dez Bryant on Sunday night. The third-year receiver has really come on, averaging 80 yards per game, 10th-best in the league. Bryant has already set a career-high with 65 receptions, and he leads Dallas with six touchdowns. Miles Austin was limited in practice and is questionable with a hip injury. He leads the Cowboys with 12 catches of 20+ yards. Jason Witten has been targeted 114 times, the most of any Dallas receiver. He leads the team with 82 catches (710 yards). The Eagles have not been as good this season at covering opposing tight ends, ranking 17th, according to Football Outsiders.

6. Up front, the Eagles got rid of Jason Babin and will now get a better look at Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry. Bowles was asked this week how much input he had in that decision.

“Not much,” he said. “That’s something handled by management and the head coach. Jason’s a great player for us. He’s been a great player in this league.  I just wish him the best.”

The real question here is: Who is making personnel decisions the rest of the season? Andy Reid is still the head coach, but it’s no secret that he’ll be gone at the end of the season. The Eagles can’t really let him decide who to keep and who to get rid of at this point, can they? If Jeffrey Lurie has decided that Howie Roseman is going to be in his corner, ushering in the new era of Eagles football, my guess is Roseman will be the main decision-maker the rest of the way.

7. Curry had five tackles in his debut last week and was active. If he plays behind Trent Cole at right defensive end, he could match up with former first-round pick Tyron Smith, who is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. Smith got the better of Cole in the first matchup, limiting him to two hurries and no sacks. Graham has gotten to the quarterback with more frequency than any other Eagles defensive lineman this year, although he’s been quiet as of late. He’ll match up with right tackle Doug Free, who owned Babin in the first game, limiting him to one hurry and no sacks. Fletcher Cox had six hurries against Dallas the first time around, but he’s questionable. Cox suffered a tailbone injury last week and also is dealing with a death in the family. He did not participate in any of the team’s practices.

8. DeMarco Murray has been out since Week 6 with a foot injury, but could return Sunday night. He’s averaging 4.4  yards per carry on the season. Felix Jones had one of his better games of the season against the Eagles the first time around, rushing 16 times for 71 yards. He’s averaging 3.6 yards per carry on the season and is questionable with a knee injury. DeMeco Ryans leads the Eagles with 112 tackles (87 solo). He’s got 14 tackles for loss, the most of any Eagle since Reid became head coach. Jeremiah Trotter had 13 in 2005.

9. One rookie who we haven’t written much about lately is Brandon Boykin. The nickel corner has flashed potential, but been up-and-down this season.

“Playing the nickel as a first-time rookie, you’re going to see certain things during the year that you don’t encounter in training camp,” Bowles said. “Different guys play at different speeds and he gets to go against the quick guys, the big guys and the tall guys, and I think he’s handled it well.”

Boykin is probably the only member of the secondary likely to be a part of the next era.

10. Leftovers: The Cowboys are 26th in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns 44.4 percent of the time. The Eagles are sixth in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 43.2 percent of the time. …Dallas is ninth in third-down offense, converting 41.4 percent of the time. The Eagles are 12th in third-down defense, allowing conversions 37.2 percent of the time. …In the first meeting, the Cowboys got touchdowns on defense and special teams.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Offense Vs. Panthers’ Defense

Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ offense matches up with the Panthers’ defense. If you missed the first cheat sheet, click here.

1. C’mon, admit it. You want an update on draft position after the Sunday’s games, don’t you? Going into tonight’s contest, only the Chiefs (1-10), Jaguars (2-9) and Panthers (2-8) have fewer wins than the Eagles. The Raiders and Browns are both 3-8. As we mentioned yesterday, going into this weekend’s games, the Eagles had a 23.4 percent chance of landing a top-three pick, according to Football Outsiders.

2. Ok, let’s talk about the actual game. The Panthers are 21st in the league in scoring defense, allowing 24.3 points per game. But Football Outsiders has them ranked eighth – ninth against the pass and 17th against the run. The Eagles are 31st in scoring offense, averaging just 16.2 points per game (ahead of only the Chiefs). Football Outsiders has the ranked 28th – 29th in passing and 26th in rushing. The Eagles tied a season-low with six points last week vs. the Redskins and have not scored more than 24 points all season.

3. The Panthers will likely play eight different defensive linemen throughout the course of the game, the best of which is Charles Johnson, who has 8.5 sacks (tied for eighth in the league entering the weekend). He has 29 sacks since the beginning of the 2010 season. King Dunlap will have his hands full with Johnson. A couple weeks ago, Dunlap had the disastrous game against the Cowboys. He wasn’t as bad last week, but still had his share of issues.

4. Greg Hardy, a 2010 sixth-round pick, has seven sacks. He’ll match up with rookie Dennis Kelly. Kelly had some miscues last week, but played relatively well against Ryan Kerrigan. He certainly looked more comfortable at tackle than he did at guard the previous three games. Jake Scott, who was watching football at home a couple weeks ago, will get his second consecutive start at right guard. Aside from the three penalties, Scott was solid vs. the Redskins. If he plays well the rest of the season, Howie Roseman will have to answer the question of why it took so long for the Eagles to sign him.

5. One question that’s going to be tossed around quite a bit in the coming weeks is: How long will the Eagles need to turn this thing around? My initial response is always: That depends on the direction they go at quarterback. But it also depends on the offensive line. If Jason Peters, Todd Herremans and Jason Kelce are all healthy going into next year, they actually could have a good offensive line. Maybe they use an early pick on a tackle and move Herremans back inside. But there will be a couple lingering questions. One is depth. Kelly, for example, has a chance to prove himself in the final six games. The other issue is scheme fit. The Eagles have focused their offensive line moves on Howard Mudd’s system. But what happens when Mudd is gone? What kind of scheme will the Eagles go to? Will someone like Jason Kelce still seem like a promising player? Those are questions that the new coach is going to have to answer.

6. At running back, Bryce Brown makes his first career start. Brown has not run the ball 15 times in a game since high school. Monday night is a great opportunity for Brown to get his name out there as he tries to establish a career in the league after a disappointing college campaign. He’s averaged 4.4 yards per carry on 31 rushes. In the last three games, Brown’s run 12 times for 85 yards. Dion Lewis and Stanley Havili could get in the mix too. The Panthers are allowing 4.2 yards per carry. Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly has been a tackling machine. According to ESPN.com’s stats, Kuechly entered the weekend third in the league with 97 tackles. That’s remarkable when you consider he didn’t become a full-time player until the fifth game of the season. Kuechly mans the middle with James Anderson at the SAM spot and Thomas Davis at the WILL.

7. Nick Foles gets his second straight start after an unimpressive debut last week. Of course, Foles didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates as the defense got torched by Robert Griffin III, and his receivers dropped five balls. And the offensive line, well, you know about the offensive line. Opponents are completing 65.8 percent of their passes against the Panthers (29th) and averaging 7.0 yards per attempt (13th).

8. The Redskins and Jim Haslett blitzed Foles quite a bit last week, and the results were not pretty. He went 9-for-21 for 92 yards against extra pressure. Sean McDermott learned under Jim Johnson and will definitely dial up the blitz, although he hasn’t had to rely on it as much as you might think – presumably because the Panthers have been able to get pressure from the front four. Last week against the Bucs, Carolina blitzed just seven times, but had success as Josh Freeman went 2-for-7 for 23 yards against extra pressure, according to Pro Football Focus.

9. One of Foles’ issues last week was his inability to get the ball downfield to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. The pair combined for two catches for 5 yards. It was just the second time all year Jackson failed to reach at least 50 yards receiving. Maclin, meanwhile, is averaging 49.9 yards per game, his lowest number since entering the league in 2009. Jason Avant is out, meaning more playing time for Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson. The Eagles signed Greg Salas earlier in the week, but he very well could be inactive. Carolina, meanwhile, starts cornerbacks Captain Munnerlyn and Josh  Norman. Munnerlyn, a 2010 seventh-round pick, has been targeted 50 times and allowed 62 percent completions, per PFF. He has two pick-sixes on the season. Norman, a rookie fifth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina, has been targeted 68 times and allowed 66.2 percent completions.

10. Leftovers: The Eagles are 15th in third-down offense, converting 38.6 percent of the time. The Panthers are 18th in third-down defense, allowing conversions 38.2 percent of the time. …The Eagles are 30th in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns 38.7 percent of the time. Carolina is seventh in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 43.8 percent of the time. …The Eagles’ average starting field position on offense is their own 24.02 yard line (29th). …The Eagles have the most giveaways (24) in the NFC. They also have the fewest takeaways (10).

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Defense Vs. Panthers’ Offense

Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ defense matches up with the Panthers’ offense:

1. The Panthers rank 27th in scoring, averaging 18.4 points per game. Football Outsiders has Carolina’s offense ranked 19th – 17th in passing and 20th in rushing. The Eagles rank 22nd in scoring defense, allowing 25.2 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked 17th – 23rd against the pass and seventh against the run. The Panthers have lost seven of their last eight. But six of their eight losses on the season have been by 7 points or fewer. Carolina is coming off a 27-21 overtime loss to the Bucs. The Eagles have lost six in a row. Their last four defeats have been by an average of 17 points. They are last in the NFC with a point-differential of -90.

2. So, what exactly is the significance of this game? According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles have a 0.2 percent chance of making the playoffs. Raise your hand if you’re still holding out hope for a turnaround. Didn’t think so. The 2-8 Panthers, meanwhile, have a less than 0.1 percent chance. OK, so no playoffs. What else is there? Well, draft positioning. Carolina has a 3.8 percent chance of landing the top pick and a 24.2 percent chance of getting in the top three. The Eagles have a 2.4 percent chance of landing the top pick and a 23.4 percent chance of finishing in the top three.

3. Cam Newton’s numbers are down from his rookie campaign. He’s completing 57 percent of his passes (29th), but averaging 7.98 yards per attempt (third). The Eagles’ pass defense has been horrible the past four weeks. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 78.4 percent of their passes for 910 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s truly remarkable when you consider they led the NFL in opponents’ completion percentage (52.3) through the first six games. And the Eagles have suffered no injuries in the secondary, aside from Nate Allen missing one game. The Juan Castillo/Todd Bowles move seemed like a good one at the time. Instead, it’s turned out to be a complete disaster.

4. Despite his struggles, Newton can still get the ball downfield. He’s tied for sixth with 23 completions of 25+ yards. And according to Pro Football Focus, 51.4 percent of Newton’s attempts of 20+ yards have been on-target (either completed, or dropped by a receiver). That’s the second-highest-number in the league, behind only Peyton Manning. Allen and Kurt Coleman have struggled for much of the year. Coleman failed to make a play on the ball on a 61-yard touchdown to Santana Moss last week. Allen cheated up, leaving Aldrick Robinson wide-open for a 49-yard score. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has played poorly after getting off to a good start. And Nnamdi Asomugha admitted on Friday that he’s been disappointed with his own play.

5. We know this team has huge decisions to make at coach and quarterback in the offseason. After those, the priority has to be on fixing the secondary. As recently as last summer (2011), it looked like the Eagles were in great shape with Rodgers-Cromartie, Asomugha and Asante Samuel. Now? They may have to start from scratch. Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent at the end of the year. Asomugha’s deal could be restructured if the new coach finds him valuable, or he could be let go. Coleman and Allen have not proven to be good enough as starters. Aside from Brandon Boykin, who’s had ups and downs but shown potential as the nickel corner, we could be looking at quite a few new faces. Getting Curtis Marsh some playing time before the year’s up might not be a bad idea.

6. The Panthers’ biggest receiving threat is veteran Steve Smith, who’s got 44 catches for 710 yards, including nine grabs of 20+ yards. He’s averaging 16.1 yards per catch, 10th in the NFL. Tight end Greg Olsen leads the Panthers with 45 catches (539 yards). And Brandon LaFell leads Carolina with 12 catches of 20+ yards. He’s averaging 16.9 yards per catch (seventh). Newton leads the NFL in average yards-after-the-catch for quarterbacks (6.5). The Eagles are 29th in the league against opposing teams’ No. 1 receivers, per Football Outsiders. And they have one of the worst-tackling secondaries in the NFL.

7. Newton is the team’s leading rusher with 394 yards on 74 carries (5.3 YPC). Last year, Newton ran for 14 touchdowns. This year, that number is four. The Panthers gave Jonathan Stewart a six-year, $37.8M deal in the offseason ($22.5M guaranteed). He’s averaging 38.6 yards per game and 3.6 yards per carry. Meanwhile, DeAngelo Williams got a five-year, $43M deal ($21M guaranteed) last offseason. He’s averaging 27.1 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry. Now that’s what I call value. One of the major reasons Carolina fired GM Marty Hurney during the season.

8. The Eagles are allowing 4.3 yards per carry (20th). DeMeco Ryans has been outstanding against the run with 77 solo tackles (13 for loss). Fletcher Cox is coming off a 10-tackle performance against the Redskins and leads all Eagles defensive linemen with 50 tackles on the season (per team stats). The Eagles limited Alfred Morris to 3.8 yards per carry last week, but Robert Griffin III had 12 runs for 84 yards. They’ll face a less-imposing option attack against the Panthers.

9. Up front, the Panthers go with Jordan Gross (LT), Amini Silatolu (LG), Geoff Hangartner (center), Garry Williams (RG) and Byron Bell (RT). Gross has started 145 games for the Panthers since 2003. He’ll go up against Trent Cole, who has 1.5 sacks on the season and none since Week 3. Vinny Curry will see his first action of the season, likely spelling Cole at RDE. Silatolu is a rookie second-round pick out of Midwestern State. He leads the team with eight penalties. Williams has started 14 games in four seasons. He could have a rough time with Cox. Bell, an undrafted free agent in 2011, has started 21 games the past two seasons. He’ll get matched up with Jason Babin and Brandon Graham. Babin had one sack and one hurry against Washington, but was more active than he had been in previous weeks. Newton’s been sacked 26 times this season (tied for fifth-most).

10. Leftovers: Special teams continue to be a disaster for the Eagles. Bobby April may want to start with just getting 11 players on the field at the right times. According to Football Outsiders, the Panthers’ average starting field position has been their 23.48 yard line, second-worst in the league. The Eagles, meanwhile, are allowing opponents to start drives at the 30.87 yard line, third-worst. …The Panthers are sixth in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns 62.5 percent of the time. The Eagles are fifth in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 42.4 percent of the time. …Carolina is 19th in third-down offense, converting on 36.1 percent of its opportunities. The Eagles are 10th, allowing conversions 36 percent of the time.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Offense Vs. Redskins’ Defense

Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ offense matches up with the Redskins’ defense. If you missed the first cheat sheet, click here.

1. The Redskins rank 27th in scoring defense, allowing 27.6 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked 23rd – 24th against the pass and 17th against the run. The Eagles continue to perform like one of the worst offensive teams in the league. They’re averaging 17.3 points per game (29th) and have failed to score more than 24 in any single game. Football Outsiders has the Eagles’ offense ranked 24th – 25th in passing and 24th in rushing. The Eagles have turned it over 21 times – second-most in the league. They are 29th in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns 40 percent of the time.

2. The spotlight will be on rookie Nick Foles, who is making his first start. Against the Cowboys, he completed 22 of 32 passes, but 16 of those completions were within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. Foles did a good job of keeping his eyes downfield and showed good athleticism, but he made a few questionable decisions (All-22 breakdown here), which were expected. He will face a shaky Redskins defense on Sunday. Opponents are completing 63.8 percent of their passes against Washington (22nd), and the Redskins are allowing 7.9 yards per attempt (27th).

3. Without Brian Orakpo (out for the season with a pectoral injury), the Redskins have not been able to generate much of a pass-rush. Ryan Kerrigan, a first-round pick in 2011, has 4.5 sacks. As a team, the Redskins have 14 sacks (tied for 28th). The Eagles have allowed 29 sacks, tied for second-most. Danny Watkins is questionable. If he can’t go, newcomer Jake Scott or rookie Dennis Kelly would get the nod at right guard. If Watkins plays, Kelly is expected to line up at right tackle, and King Dunlap will play left tackle. If Kelly plays guard, Demetress Bell, who has struggled all season, would be forced into action. Dunlap had a disastrous game last week against the Cowboys. And Kelly has struggled at guard.

4. I write this every week, but DeSean Jackson is quietly having a really good year. He’s 12th in the league, averaging 76.2 yards per game. Only five receivers are averaging at least 75 yards per game and 16 yards per reception: Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Vincent Jackson, Julio Jones and DeSean Jackson. The Eagles need to continue to find ways to get Jackson the ball. Jeremy Maclin was a favorite target of Foles’ last week, finishing with eight catches for 93 yards. Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson figure to see extended action with Jason Avant out of the lineup. Cooper made a great play on the fade in the end zone vs. Dallas.

5. Brent Celek could be a factor vs. the Redskins. Football Outsiders has Washington ranked 24th in covering tight ends. Celek has had 50 yards or fewer in five straight games. The Redskins’ inside linebackers are Perry Riley, a 2010 fourth-round pick, and 37-year-old London FletcherClay Harbor played just 18 snaps last week. You’d think that with Avant out and the Redskins having a weakness against tight ends that this would be a good opportunity for him to get on the field.

6. Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is in a tough spot. He doesn’t have the pass-rushers to rely on pressure without blitzing. And he doesn’t have the secondary to cover when he does dial up extra pressure. You’ll definitely see Foles get blitzed in this one, but that means there will be opportunities for (relatively) easy completions.

For example, here, the Redskins come with a seven-man pressure against Carolina. That means one defender is going to be unblocked. It’s on the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly.

Cam Newton finds tight end Greg Olsen open for an 8-yard completion. He’s also got a receiver wide-open in the middle of the field.

7. Another example on a 19-yard touchdown to Steve Smith. This time, the Redskins rush six. The key is Jonathan Stewart coming across the formation to pick up the blitzer.

As you can see below, he does an outstanding job. And check out the pocket for Newton. Even though the Redskins sent six, no one is near him.

He has his option of three different receivers. Newton goes to Smith (bottom of the screen), who is actually covered. But Smith does what he’s done all his career and fights for the ball, coming down with the 19-yard touchdown.

8. On the ground, LeSean McCoy has been really good the last two weeks, averaging 5.7 yards per carry on 35 attempts. Washington is allowing 4.2 yards per carry. McCoy is averaging 5.5 yards per carry out of two tight-end sets. But he’s had nowhere to go in the red zone. McCoy has 20 carries for 24 yards inside the opponents’ 20. Inside the opponents’ 10, he has 13 carries for 2 yards and two touchdowns.

9. We’ve talked about the punt return the Eagles allowed last week, but their return units continue to be a complete disaster as well. On average, the Eagles’ offense is beginning drives at its own 24-yard-line, per Football Outsiders. That’s the third-worst mark in the league. The Eagles are one of three teams without a kickoff return of at least 35 yards this season. They are the only team without a kickoff return of at least 35 yards in the past two seasons.

10. Leftovers: The Redskins are 22nd in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 57.6 percent of the time. The Eagles are 29th in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns 40 percent of the time. …The Eagles are 15th in third-down offense, converting 38.9 percent of the time. The Redskins are 29th in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 43.8 percent of the time.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Defense Vs. Redskins’ Offense

Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ defense matches up with the Redskins’ offense:

1. The Redskins are averaging 25.1 points per game (11th). Football Outsiders ranks them 14th overall – 18th passing and second rushing. The Eagles are giving up 24.6 points per game (22nd). They are 13th in Football Outsiders’ rankings – 13th against the pass and 14th against the run. Washington has managed just 25 points in the past two games (both losses) against the Panthers and Steelers. The Redskins have lost three in a row and four of their last five. They are coming off a bye. The Eagles have lost five straight. Both teams enter the game with a 3-6 record.

2. With Washington, we must of course start with Robert Griffin III. The second overall pick in last year’s draft is completing 65.6 percent of his passes (eighth) and averaging 7.61 yards per attempt (seventh). He’s thrown eight touchdowns and been intercepted just three times in 262 attempts. Among NFL starters, only Tom Brady is being picked off at a lower rate. The Eagles have just seven interceptions all season (tied for 19th). We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the giveaways. But the Eagles have produced just 10 takeaways. Only three teams in the NFL have fewer.

3. While Griffin has a healthy yards-per-attempt number, that doesn’t mean he’s chucking it downfield a lot. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. According to Pro Football Focus, only 6.9 percent of his attempts have traveled 20 yards or more from the line of scrimmage. That’s the second-lowest percentage in the NFL, ahead of only Christian Ponder. And 189 of Griffin’s 262 attempts, or 72.1 percent, have been within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. The Eagles’ passing defense has been picked apart the last three games, allowing opponents to complete 75.6 percent of their passes. Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Tony Romo averaged 8.7 yards per attempt and tossed seven touchdowns without an interception.

4. Eagles players and coaches talked this week about needing to be disciplined. One reason is the Redskins’ use of play-action. Griffin’s run play-action on 36.3 percent of his throws, the highest percentage in the league, per PFF. It’s been incredibly effective too. Griffin’s completing 66.7 percent of his play-action passes and averaging 11.3 yards per attempt (third-highest). The Eagles have been susceptible to play-action all season long. Teams have not had much success blitzing Griffin. According to STATS, Inc., he’s completing 59.6 percent of his passes and averaging 9.1 yards per attempt (5 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) against extra pressure. The Eagles had some success blitzing Romo last week. One look had Nnamdi Asomugha rushing the passer.

5. Griffin could have an even higher completion percentage, but the Redskins have dropped 24 of his passes on the season, per PFF. Josh Morgan leads the Redskins with 29 catches and 42 targets. Leonard Hankerson leads the team with 342 receiving yards (41 targets). Griffin spreads the ball around. Washington has four different receivers with 20+ catches and five receivers with at least 200 yards. Eight different receivers have at least two catches of 20+ yards; Hankerson and Santana Moss lead the team with five apiece. Moss leads the team with five touchdown catches; no other receiver has more than one. The Redskins lost tight end Fred Davis (24 catches, 325 yards) to an Achilles injury. Pierre Garcon, who has only played in three games, could return from a foot injury. For the Eagles, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has struggled as of late. He leads all cornerbacks with nine penalties, per PFF.

6. The Redskins are one of the top rushing teams in the league. They average 31.3 runs per game, second-most in the NFC. Their 5.3 yards-per-carry average is second to only the 49ers. And the Redskins have run for 12 touchdowns (second-most). Griffin leads all quarterbacks with 529 rushing yards and is averaging 9.0 yards per attempt. Griffin has three runs of 20+ yards, but has fumbled eight times. Alfred Morris, a rookie sixth-round pick, is seventh in the league with 793 rushing yards. He’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry. The Eagles are allowing 4.2 yards per carry. The last two weeks, the Saints and Cowboys came out and ran all over them early in the game. This week poses a much bigger challenge.

7. The Redskins’ offensive line features Trent Williams (LT), Kory Lichtensteiger (LG), Will Montgomery (center), Chris Chester (RG) and Tyler Polumbus (RT). Williams, the fourth overall pick in 2010, will match up with Trent Cole, who has not produced at his usual level this season. The Redskins have allowed 21 sacks. Jason Babin has one hurry and no sacks in his last three games. Fletcher Cox had his best game as a pass-rusher last week with a sack and six hurries. Rookie Vinny Curry continues to wait for a chance to play. He’s one of two second-round picks yet to see the field this year (the other is 49ers RB LaMichael James).

8. Let’s get back to the theme of staying disciplined against this offense, using an example from the Redskins-Panthers game. Look at how Washington is set up pre-snap.


Eight blockers at the line of scrimmage with Griffin and the running back directly behind him. The Panthers have to respect the run. But Griffin executes a nice play-fake.


You can see Griffin’s back is to the defense as Panthers players react to a possible run. Meanwhile, tight end Logan Paulsen leaks out into his route.


The outside receiver runs a deep out, attracting the only two defenders on that side of the field. Griffin rolls to his left and hits Paulsen for a 12-yard gain.


9. The Eagles will see a lot of Washington’s triple-option attack. That means pressure particularly on the defensive ends. Take a look at this play from the Panthers game.


Griffin fakes the handoff to the tailback and gets pretty much the entire defense going that way.


Again, the key is the defensive end. You can see he’s still attacking the tailback even after Griffin has gotten outside. The Redskins now have a major numbers advantage. There’s one linebacker in the picture. Griffin can either keep it or toss it to the right. The linebacker looks to funnel the play inside where he has help.


Meanwhile, Chris Cooley is out there to block him when he finally does try to attack the ball. The result is a 9-yard gain, as Griffin slides feet-first and avoids contact.

Really good breakdown of the Redskins’ triple option attack right here on HogsHaven.com.

10. The Redskins are 14th in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns 53.6 percent of the time. The Eagles are seventh in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 41.4 percent of the time. …The Redskins have been terrible on third down, converting just 28.6 percent of the time (31st). …The Eagles’ third-down defense is eighth, allowing conversions 35.1 percent of the time. …Good job here by Chris Brown of Grantland, explaining how the Redskins have adapted their offense to fit Griffin’s strengths.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

  |  Newer Posts »