Three Eagles Leftovers

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From Connor Barwin’s role to Chip Kelly’s love for DeMeco Ryans to Cary Williams’ future, here are three Eagles leftovers.

1. The Eagles’ two outside linebacker positions were not created equal in 2013. Trent Cole made the transition from defensive end, usually lining up on the right side. Barwin’s spot was labeled the “jack” by Billy Davis, as in jack of all trades. That meant Barwin usually lined up on the left side and dropped back into coverage far more often than Cole.

According to Pro Football Focus, Barwin dropped 42.3 percent of the time on passing downs and rushed the QB 57.7 percent of the time.

“I can do it so it fits my skill set and I’m fine with it,” Barwin said last week. “Whatever way Billy [Davis] wants to use me. And I’m sure, who knows how it’ll evolve next year? I could see myself being in a similar role or I could see it being different. It just matters how this defensive evolves, what happens. But I don’t mind at all. I think it makes our defense better. I think Billy did a great job of utilizing the talent that we had.” Read more »

Wake-Up Call: The ‘Batting Average’ Approach

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There was no good reason for the Eagles to swing for the fences in free agency last season.

They were coming off a 4-12 campaign and were in the midst of an organizational reboot. The focus was on foundation building and no one knew exactly how long that build would take; it made little sense to splurge for big-ticket players at that time. Instead, they went shopping for “mid-level” free agents and ended up with the likes of Connor Barwin, James Casey, Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Patrick Chung, Donnie Jones, Jason Phillips, Isaac Sopoaga and Kenny Phillips. Some good, some bad, some in-between. Decent return rate.

“That group as a whole I think contributed a lot to our football team. We certainly weren’t perfect on our free-agent signings but I thought it matched what was out there in free agency last year and served us well,” said Howie Roseman.

The team is in a much different place than it was a year ago. The turnaround happened quickly, and Chip Kelly claimed an NFC East title in his first year. The Eagles are further along and presumably in position to contend. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will alter their plan when free agency opens on March 11. Last year’s approach was more about a shift in philosophy than it was a reaction to circumstance. Read more »

10 Observations: An Eagles Slant To the Playoffs

NFL: Divisional Round-New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks

The Eagles did not play this weekend, but like many of you, I spent 12-plus hours in front of the TV watching the divisional-round games. Keeping that in mind, here are 10 observations with an Eagles slant.

1. The four winning quarterbacks – Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick and Peyton Manning – completed, on average, 15.5 passes in their victories. And no quarterback threw for more than 230 yards. Wilson went 9-for-18 for 103 yards, completing just two passes in the second half. Brady went 13-for-25 for 198 yards; the 13 completions were his fewest ever in a playoff win he started/finished.

The talking heads like to remind us constantly that “it’s a passing league.” And in many ways, there’s truth to that statement. All four teams still alive finished in the top eight in passing during the regular season, according to Football Outsiders. But it’s also true that teams that can find different ways to win give themselves the best chance to advance in the postseason. Read more »

Why They Believe In Chip

NFL: NFC Wildcard Playoff-New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles

When asked why he was so confident that his program could work in the NFL, Chip Kelly offered a somewhat surprising response.

“I wasn’t confident,” he said. “I had a system and a plan that we were going to go in, but I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be until it was all finished. But I think we played sound fundamental football, and I think that’s what we preach on a daily basis to our players. I think it’s still a game of 11-on-11, and I think a lot of things we do schematically match up 11-on-11. It’s a fundamental game, and I think that’s what our coaches teach. I thought we brought in a bunch of really good teachers that could implement the plan that we had in place, and we felt this would be the best plan for us this year going forward.”

Going into next season, new faces will be added, but many of the core players from the 2013 squad will remain the same.

Keeping that in mind, I posed one simple question to the players earlier this week as they cleaned out their lockers:

What did Kelly do in Year One that makes you believe he can lead this franchise to greater heights going forward? Read more »

Wake-Up Call: Curious Ending For Wolff

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Earl Wolff
sold out to break up a pass in the second quarter against the Bears and came up limping. He had missed the last four games with a hyper-extended right knee, and found himself back on the trainers table just moments into his return.

“When I tweaked it against Chicago, Cary [Williams] came over when I was sitting with [the doctor], and was like, ‘Earl, man, we need you out there. C’Mon, man. We want you out there, man.’ I was like, ‘Bro, I want to be out there. I guarantee I want to be out there and play.’ But I couldn’t.”

There were rumblings late in the season that Wolff had been given the green light for a return by the medical staff  but decided to hold  himself out. We asked Wolff if there was any truth to that. Read more »

‘Mental Busts’ Sink Eagles

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Eventually, the Eagles players may find solace in the fact that they overachieved in their first year under Chip Kelly. They might look at the foundation that was built and realize their time and effort was well-invested. But on Saturday night, following a gut-wrenching home playoff loss to the Saints, they were in no mood to feed into that narrative.

Instead, they were struggling with the reality that they had let a very winnable game slip out of their hands.

“We lost to a team that wasn’t necessarily better than us,” said Cary Williams. “They weren’t better than us, but they were better tonight. They got the job done. It was more mental than physical out there, and we had a lot of mental busts.” Read more »

Anderson: ‘It’s All On Me’

The last thing the Eagles wanted to do was make it easy for Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense.

But after Nick Foles found Zach Ertz for a 3-yard touchdown that put the Eagles up 24-23 with 4:54 left, a special-teams mishap gave New Orleans the ball at the Eagles’ 48 yard line.

Darren Sproles took Alex Henery’s return down the right sideline for 39 yards. Cary Williams finally brought Sproles down, but was whistled for a horse-collar tackle.

So, what happened?

“I tried to do a little something different at the end, and I got caught inside,” said Eagles special-teams ace Colt Anderson. “I should have been outside. I got greedy. I was trying to make the play and ended up getting myself out of position. Read more »

Game Review: Eagles Defense Vs. Dallas

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Here’s a position-by-position review of the Eagles’ defensive performance against Dallas after having watched the coaches tape.

DEFENSIVE LINE

* This group limited DeMarco Murray to 51 yards on 17 carries (3.0 YPC). Cedric Thornton probably had the best game of any of the linemen. He combined with Bennie Logan to stop Murray after a 3-yard run in the first half. In the third, Thornton and Brandon Boykin dropped Murry for a 4-yard loss, putting Dallas in a tough third-down spot. Thornton finished with two tackles.

* Fletcher Cox was quiet – one tackle, no sacks, no hurries. Logan had three tackles. He pressured Kyle Orton and helped force him into a bad throw in the second.

* All three starting defensive linemen jumped early once, drawing flags. Read more »

Zone Read: Eagles-Cowboys, the Day After

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Normally we use this space for a thorough recap of the previous day’s game, and there will be some of that.

But it’s a playoff week for the first time in three years in Philadelphia, so let’s lead off with 10 things you should know about the next opponent: the Saints.

1. New Orleans took care of business Sunday, crushing the Bucs 42-17 to improve to 11-5 on the season – that’s 8-0 at home and 3-5 on the road. The Saints won four of their last five and were 2-3 overall against teams that are in the postseason. Going into Week 17, Football Outsiders had New Orleans as the No. 7 team overall – fifth on offense, 11th on defense and 24th on special teams. Read more »

The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Cowboys

Trent Cole had one sack in the Eagles’ first 10 games. He has seven in the last five, including three against the Bears.

Here is a complete breakdown of Sunday night’s Eagles-Cowboys matchup.

THE BIG PICTURE

It’s pretty simple: Winner hosts a first-round playoff game next weekend, while the loser goes home.

The Cowboys have been up and down with two losses in their last three games, but they pulled out a 24-23 victory over the Redskins in Week 16.

The Eagles have won six of seven and are averaging 39.3 points per game in their last three. Read more »

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