Zone Read: Eagles-Panthers, the Day After

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher - USA Today

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher – USA Today

After Marcus Smith was drafted by the Eagles in the first round, but before he had ever participated in a practice at the NovaCare Complex, he received a message from Connor Barwin that gave him a good feeling about his new home.

“He texted me,” Smith recalled. “He texted me and was like, ‘We want to welcome you to the team. We can’t wait for you to be a part of what we’ve got going on.’ Ever since I came in, he took me under his wing and has been teaching me the ropes.”

Barwin has been one of the most valuable signings of the Chip Kelly era. When he first arrived, he helped organize team dinners for the defensive linemen and linebackers. Those are still going strong as the guys get together every Thursday night after practice.

For Fletcher Cox’s birthday, Barwin wheeled over a bike to surprise his teammate at his locker. He knew Travis Long would be sticking around Philadelphia during the offseason, so Barwin got him a bike too.

The 28-year-old’s value can be measured in a variety of ways. By all accounts, he’s the ultimate teammate. And in Billy Davis’ scheme, he’s asked to fulfill a variety of roles – some of which don’t produce numbers in the box score. But on Monday night, Barwin totaled 3.5 sacks and led a defensive charge that completely shut down Cam Newton and the Panthers. Read more »

Sanchez, Offense Just Fine In Blowout

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles

Asked about the pace at which the offense has operated thus far under Mark Sanchez, Evan Mathis noted this week that Sanchez “takes the tempo seriously. He’s a fast thinker. He’s the kind of guy that will move the referee out of the way and get the ball snapped.”

Assuming the officials cooperate. There was actually one sequence in the first half against the Panthers when the refs couldn’t catch up to the Eagles’ pace, blowing the whistle before declaring: “The officials were not in position to officiate.”

The offense under Sanchez wasn’t flawless, but it was fast and hit Carolina with enough pointed strikes to draw serious blood.

In his first start as an Eagle, Sanchez ended 20-of-37 for 332 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions (102.5 quarterback rating) as the Eagles steamrolled Carolina, 45-21. Read more »

All-22: The Offense With Sanchez At the Helm

celek1b_all22_110614

During the days leading up to the Eagles-Texans game, Brent Celek spent part of his film-watching sessions focusing in on J.J. Watt.

For some tight ends, that might seem unusual. For Celek, it was not.

“When you watch him on film, he lined up at every single position,” Celek said. “So I knew there was gonna be times where I was gonna line up against him, and then it happened.”

Since Chip Kelly took over, the 29-year-old tight end has entered a new stage in his career. The days of catching 70+ balls (like Celek did back in 2009) are over. Instead, he spends more than 50 percent of his snaps as a run blocker. And on Sunday, that meant occasionally getting matched up against Watt. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Ertz And the Red Zone

Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA Today

Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA Today

Part of the solution to the Eagles’ red zone woes might be right under their noses.

Zach Ertz has taken a step forward in his second season. He is on pace for 54 catches for 809 yards and five touchdowns despite playing only 56 percent of the snaps. His seven catches of 20-plus yards is tied for second amongst tight ends (behind only Rob Gronkowski) and he ranks first in yards per reception (14.8). With speed, size and precise route-running, he has proven to be a difficult matchup for linebackers and safeties alike.

Those attributes can come in particularly handy in the red zone. When space is at a premium, a quarterback can certainly be aided by a big target that’s regularly able to win his one-on-one matchups. Ertz, though, has been featured very little in this capacity through seven games. Read more »

Inside Voices: Training Versus Practice

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

There is a saying that floats around the NovaCare Complex, one that many of the players can recite on the spot:

You don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training. 

“When the game is on the line, it’s the fourth quarter in a rivalry game in prime time, you’re not all of a sudden going to rise to the occasion,” Malcolm Jenkins explained, “you are going to sink to what you’ve trained and prepared for. Obviously we’ve done a good job of training in those situations because we’ve showed up pretty well.”

The term “training” has replaced “practice” in this team’s lexicon. It’s subtle, but significant. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: A Hurdle For Ertz

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Zach Ertz has been putting in plenty of overtime the past two weeks in the name of getting his blocking game right.

Leading up to the Rams game, he stayed after practice every day to work on his technique with Jason Peters following a rough outing against San Francisco. This week, Ertz and his position coaches lingered on the NovaCare fields long after the training sessions had come to a close.

“I want to block. I want to be a good blocker,” said the second-year tight end. “I want to show the coaches that they can trust me to put me in there and get it done.”

Entering last Sunday, Ertz had played 64 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps and held a slight edge (185 to 179) over Brent Celek in downs played. Against St. Louis, it was a different story. Ertz received just 29 snaps compared to Celek’s 58. James Casey, who was averaging eight plays per game prior to Sunday, saw his number jump to 25. The reason for the change seems pretty straightforward: Read more »

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