Making Sense Of the Eagles’ Inactives

The following Eagles are inactive for today’s game against the Bucs: Kurt Coleman, LeSean McCoy, Michael Vick, Mike Patterson, Greg Salas, Chris Polk and Matt Kopa.

Coleman suffered a chest injury last week against Dallas. Colt Anderson will get the start in his place alongside Nate Allen.

McCoy continues to recover from a concussion he sustained Nov. 18 against the Redskins, and Vick is still recovering from a concussion sustained the week before (Nov. 11). Patterson was hospitalized during the week for pneumonia and will not play. Polk has been sidelined with a toe injury.

Salas was signed a few weeks ago, but has yet to dress on gameday. Kopa was signed earlier this week.

Bryce Brown will once again carry the load for McCoy. The rookie has averaged 8.1 yards per carry on 43 attempts the past two weeks.

The Eagles’ defensive tackle rotation will be reduced to four: Fletcher Cox, Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri and Cedric Thornton.

Rookie wide receiver Marvin McNutt will be active for the first time. And linebacker Ryan Rau, who was just promoted from the practice squad yesterday, will dress also.

The Eagles’ backup offensive linemen are Danny Watkins, Matt Tennant and Demetress Bell.

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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.

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McCoy Could Sit For the Rest Of the Year

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy.LeSean McCoy will not return to practice today as he continues to recover from a concussion sustained in the final two minutes of the Eagles’ Nov. 18 loss to the Redskins.

Andy Reid said today that McCoy has not passed his concussion test and is still feeling symptoms. Asked if he’ll definitely return when he clears all the tests, Reid said, “There’s a chance. I’ll kind of cross that bridge as we get closer to him being healthy, and we’ll see how all that works.”

An argument could be made that there’s no reason to bring McCoy back this season. He’s 24 and will be an integral part of this team’s future going forward, regardless of who the coach is. Then again, if the Eagles exercise extreme caution and McCoy checks out, chances are he’ll want to play. And there is also the issue of putting out your best product for paying customers.

“We’ll see,” Reid said. “I’m just going to see how it goes with the doctors and go from there. We’ll take it day-by-day here and see how he’s doing.”

Meanwhile, Michael Vick will not return to practice either. He still needs to pass his ImPACT test. And even when he does return, it’ll be as the backup to Nick Foles.

The only other injured player is safety Kurt Coleman, who suffered a sternal contusion against Dallas Sunday night. Colt Anderson will get first-team reps in his place.

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Special Teams Fails the Eagles (Again)

With the game tied at 17 in the fourth quarter and the Eagles facing a fourth down from their own 29, Mat McBriar jogged on to the field and set up to punt.

The Eagles had 13 minutes and 52 seconds to decide what the conversation would be in this city Monday morning. Would people be talking about a 4-5 team that was just one game back of the Giants in the loss column? Or a 3-6 team that had lost five in a row and would be searching for a new coach in the coming weeks?

Bobby April’s special-teams unit provided the answer.

McBriar’s punt went 49 yards to the Dallas 22, where Dwayne Harris fielded it. He made a move to his left and was gone, down the far sideline for a 78-yard touchdown. No missed tackles. That would have required someone to be close enough to get a hand on him.

Cowboys 24, Eagles 17.

“I’ve just got to get the guys prepared,” said special-teams coach Bobby April, looking deflated in the locker room after the game. “I feel bad that I let the team down. I let the head coach down. It’s my responsibility to make those plays. Didn’t do it. They beat us, they whooped us. They whooped us in a couple one-on-one deals, and obviously [Cowboys special-teams coach] Joe DeCamillis whooped me.”

Colt Anderson, the Eagles’ best special-teams player, gave credit to Dallas as well.

“They had a nice wall set up,” Anderson said. “We didn’t have anybody out there, and the returner made a couple guys miss. He set it up nicely. It was out the gate. They had a good scheme. Give credit to them.”

Since the beginning of the 2011 season, the Eagles have lost seven games decided by one possession. While Michael Vick, Marty Mornhinweg, Juan Castillo and others have taken plenty of blame, special teams probably hasn’t received its fair share. April’s group has rarely affected the game in a positive way – either in the return game or with the coverage units. This was not a one-week thing. Entering the game, Eagles special-teams were ranked 25th by Football Outsiders.

“We just can’t give up plays like that, and we’ve got to get some plays like that ourselves,” Anderson said.

Aside from coverage, there seemed to be some disagreement about whether McBriar’s punt went where it was supposed to go.

“Yeah, I hit a pretty good ball,” McBriar said. “It was sort of towards where we were trying to get it to. They’re trying to make a play just as we are. Sometimes, it works out that way.”

April didn’t seem to agree completely.

“It was probably a little too deep,” April said. “I’d have to look at the hang/distance ratio. It was a returnable ball. You’d like those things to be high and short, in general. Then the punter can take them out of it. But I’m not blaming Mat. He hit the ball. That could have given us good field position.”

Entering Sunday, opposing offenses had started drives at their own 30.48-yard-line against the Eagles. Only three teams in the NFL were worse. Part of that has to do with turnovers by the offense. And part of it has to do with coverage units that have been shaky all year.

Aside from the punt return, the Eagles had a missed extra point, and Andy Reid was forced to use a timeout when it appeared that the field-goal unit was a player short (King Dunlap).

There have been mistakes and negative plays all year, but Sunday’s return was the biggest. And now, the conversation shifts to what this team, and this coaching staff, will look like in 2013.

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Nate Allen Sidelined At Practice; Sproles To Miss Game

Safety Nate Allen was sidelined for Friday’s practice with a hamstring injury.

Wearing just a jersey and baseball cap, Allen looked on as the rest of the team worked under the bubble at the NovaCare Complex Friday afternoon.

This is a concerning development for the Eagles, who lack quality safety depth. Allen exited in the fourth quarter against Detroit with a hamstring injury a couple weeks back and it cost the defense. Colt Anderson, a quality special teams player but unproven at safety, replaced Allen and the unit suffered for it.  This time around, they  are expected to call on David Sims if Allen can’t go.

“Nothing’s finalized yet,” said Allen. “We’re going to take it day-by-day and see how it feels.”

Allen tweaked his left hamstring in practice on Thursday. It was a right hamstring injury that forced him out of the Detroit game.

“It is [frustrating],” said Allen. “But Monday is not out of the picture yet.”

This is not an ideal opponent to be down a man in the secondary. The Saints’ passing offense, led by Drew Brees, is ranked first in the NFL (316 yards per game).

Danny Watkins (ankle) and Mardy Gilyard (hamstring) also sat out. Cullen Jenkins (knee) was a full participant after missing Thursday.

The Saints will be without one of their key offensive weapons, meanwhile, as Darren Sproles will miss the game with a broken hand according to multiple reports. New Orleans, which ranks last in the league in rushing, still has Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram. Chris Ivory is an option as well.

Sproles has 117 rushing yards, 323 receiving yards and four combined touchdowns on the season. He is also the team’s punt and kick returner.

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Twitter Mailbag: On Peters, Asante And Safety Depth

Every Thursday we select a few of your Twitter questions and provide the long-form answers they deserve. For a chance to have your question published on Birds 24/7, send it to @Tim_McManus.

 From @JoshCahan: What do you put the chance of Peters being back sometime in late Nov/early Dec?

Just as a quick refresher: The Eagles have until November 6 to put Peters on the practice-eligible list. They have three weeks from placing Peters on the list to activate him to the 53-man roster. That means November 27 is the last day they can activate him. There is a good chance they will use every bit of that time to allow the big lineman to recover from a pair of ruptured Achilles.

Even if they opt to put him on the 53-man, it doesn’t mean they have to play him right away. It sounds like Peters’ rehab is going well — he’s running and also doing some agility drills — and Terrell Suggs‘ rapid recovery from a similar injury is fueling optimism regarding a potential Peters’ return.

My gut says we’ll be a couple weeks into December before Andy Reid decides to give Peters the green light, if he gives it to him at all.

From @static71: Do you think the Eagles will put in some plays to isolate Asante in space and make him tackle?

Samuel does have six missed tackles on the year, according to Pro Football Focus. Running right at him and forcing him to make stops is never a bad way to go.

I also think you might be able to get Samuel on a double move or two in this game. You know he will be hyped and is dying to make the Eagles look bad for their decision to get rid of him. He is a gambler by nature, and may be even more willing to risk getting burnt in the name of an interception. Seems the Eagles would be wise to take advantage of his aggressiveness.

From@mstry001:  Bowles coaching from box or field during game?!

Undecided, according to Bowles. Said they will make a decision Friday.

From @Lemur421: A healthy Colt Anderson wasn’t good enough to be backup safety last year but coming of ACL surgery this year he is?

Couldn’t agree with you more. Safety depth was one of the major concerns exiting training camp. That kind of went on the back-burner for a while because Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman started out relatively strong and were healthy. Losing Allen to a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter against the Lions was a crusher. Anderson is a very good special teams player but, as you pointed out, he is not  a viable option at safety — especially coming off a major injury.

You can’t be deep everywhere, granted, but this was a vulnerability heading into the season and everyone knew it. Howie Roseman and Reid have to own that.

Cox Ejection, Allen Injury Come Back To Sting Eagles

The Eagles were without two of their key defenders down the stretch and it cost them.

Fletcher Cox was ejected with about 11 minutes remaining in regulation after throwing a punch. The play came following a Jason Hanson extra point that brought the Lions within three. Some extra-curricular activity followed and the next thing you knew, Cox was getting kicked out.

“I came off the ball and ended up at the bottom of the pile,” said Cox. “I felt someone hitting on me and I started puching my way out. I threw a punch. I must admit I did throw a punch and he threw me out of the game.

“It’s hard because knowing that that happened, and me being ejected from the game, I was talking to Coach [Jim] Washburn before I came in the locker room and he told me that it was going to be hard with just three defensive tackles. I had a bad feeling and it just hurts.”

Cox took to Twitter later in the evening to further express his regrets.

 

Cox said Andy Reid pulled him to the side in-game and told the him, “That can’t happen in a game like that.”

The rookie defensive tackle has been a bright spot up until this point and generally sees more snaps than any other Eagles’ defensive tackle.

“He’s a rookie. He’s got a little dog in him. That’s what it’s about. That’s just how we are on the D-Line,” said Trent Cole.

Earlier on that drive, Allen exited with an injured hamstring following a 20-yard pick-up by Calvin Johnson. Allen indicated that he actually hurt himself earlier in the drive and probably should have taken himself out. He was replaced by Colt Anderson, the special team ace that doesn’t see many snaps on defense. Anderson was whistled for a pass interference on the Lions’ game-tying drive, though Detroit likely would have wound up with the  field goal regardless.

The Lions had six points when Allen left. They finished with 26.

“I’ve got to be ready to play,” said Anderson. “Any time in the game your number can be called, and I just got to be ready to play.”

Jeremy Maclin Returns To Practice

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy MaclinJeremy Maclin returned to the practice field Thursday and was listed as a limited participant after sitting Wednesday out.

The receiver was knocked out of the Ravens game with a hip pointer. He originally sustained the hip injury against the Browns in Week 1. Maclin said he was in a good deal of pain following Sunday’s game but has been making progress.

With Maclin returning, King Dunlap was the only member of the Eagles sidelined for Thursday’s practice. Dunlap is dealing with a hamstring strain and it’s considered a stretch to think he will be ready play against the Cardinals. Demetress Bell will likely get the start at left tackle in his place.

Colt Anderson (knee) did not practice Wednesday but was back as a full participant. DeSean Jackson (hamstring) was full-go as well after being limited the day before.

Making Sense of the Eagles’ Inactives

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean JacksonThe following Eagles will be inactive for today’s 1 p.m. home opener against the Ravens: Trent Edwards, Riley Cooper, Dion Lewis, Curtis Marsh, Dennis Kelly, Nate Menkin, Vinny Curry.

The first thing to note is both DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are active. Jackson was dealing with a hamstring injury at practice this week and was questionable. Maclin suffered a hip pointer in last week’s game and was also listed as questionable.

The Eagles have five wide receivers active. In addition to Jackson and Maclin, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson and Mardy Gilyard will all dress.

The team is keeping just two quarterbacks active: Michael Vick and Nick Foles. At running back, Dion Lewis is inactive for the second week, even though he was not listed on the injury report. Lewis had previously been recovering form a hamstring issue. In addition to LeSean McCoy, rookies Bryce Brown and Chris Polk will both dress. Brown was McCoy’s backup in Week 1.

Interesting note on the offensive line. Demetress Bell, who looked lost in the preseason and was inactive in Week 1, is the team’s backup swing tackle. In the opener, the Eagles gave that responsibility to rookie Dennis Kelly. As usual, the Eagles have two backup offensive linemen. In addition to Bell, Dallas Reynolds is active.

No surprises on the defensive line. Rookie Vinny Curry is inactive for the second straight week.

The Eagles only have four cornerbacks dressing as Curtis Marsh is inactive after suffering a hamstring injury last week against the Browns. Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will start, and Brandon Boykin will play nickel. Brandon Hughes could see action in dime, and he’ll fill in should any of the other three go down.

Some changes at safety too. Colt Anderson is active for the first time since tearing his ACL in Week 13 of the 2011 season against the Seahawks. And David Sims, whom the Eagles acquired from the Browns before Week 1, will also dress. One of them would have to go in should Nate Allen or Kurt Coleman go down.

For the Ravens, outside linebacker Paul Kruger (back) was a bit of a surprise scratch. He had 5.5 sacks and 15.5 hurries last year, according to Football Outsiders.

Eagles-Ravens Injury Updates

As we mentioned earlier, Jeremy Maclin did not practice today.

Meanwhile, safety Kurt Coleman (facial lacerations), wide receiver Riley Cooper (fractured collarbone) and cornerback Curtis Marsh (hamstring) were limited. Andy Reid has already ruled Cooper out for Sunday’s game against the Ravens. Coleman was in the locker room before practice and sounded like he fully expected to play.

Marsh injured his hamstring against the Browns, and his status is unknown. If he can’t go, the Eagles will only have four healthy cornerbacks: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brandon Boykin and Brandon Hughes. Hughes would play in dime and presumably step in should any of the other three go down. That was the case in Week 1 when Rodgers-Cromartie was having a shoulder issue and missed some snaps.

Jason Avant (wrist) and Colt Anderson (knee) were full participants.

As for the Ravens, center Matt Birk (thigh), outside linebacker Paul Kruger (back), defensive end Pernell McPhee (knee) and offensive tackle Jah Reid (leg) did not practice. Safety Ed Reed (hamstring) was limited.

With the exception of Jah Reid, they are all starters. Ed Reed is expected to play. And Kruger told Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun that he’ll play as well.

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