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 »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Next Step For the Defense?

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With the 2013 season in the books, Connor Barwin could finally admit it: He had some doubts about this defense after the Eagles got off to a slow start and gave up 52 points to the Broncos in Week 4.

“Maybe a little bit, but I wouldn’t share it with you or anybody,” he said at his locker earlier this week. “Yeah, there were a couple weeks that looked a little… but obviously you really did believe in Billy [Davis]. Billy came in and said the right things, and I was like, ‘Alright man, I trust this guy.’ And he was exactly right. We kept our head down and kept working and gradually got better and better.”

After the Broncos game, the Eagles’ defense went on a nice little run, limiting opponents to 21 points or fewer in 11 of 13 games. There were stumbles along the way, and the defense didn’t exactly finish strong – getting picked apart in Week 15 against the Vikings and struggling in the second half against New Orleans. But overall, most would agree this unit exceeded expectations. Read more »

Zone Read: Eagles-Saints, the Day After

Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) prepares to throw the ball as Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole (58) and Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox (91) chase in the first quarter during the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo |  Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) prepares to throw the ball as Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole (58) and Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox (91) chase in the first quarter during the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo | Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Going into Saturday night’s matchup with the Saints, the Eagles’ defensive gameplan focused on daring Sean Payton to take the football out of Drew Brees’ hands.

New Orleans has been a pass-first offense and was playing without its leading rusher in Pierre Thomas. Unlike most weeks, Davis figured he could pay less attention to the run game and instead scheme to limit big plays in the passing game. Payton responded by handing the ball off over and over again to the tune of 36 carries and 185 yards.

“That’s on me,” Davis said. “I made the calls for the passing game to make sure we keep the big plays off us. It was a lot more split safety and a lot more pass-oriented calls, so some of the runs leaked out. I could have called more of a run-based defensive game, shut that down, but we were trying to keep the points down and the big plays off us. So that run game comes down to me, not the players.” 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 »

Game Review: Eagles Defense Vs. Vikings

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings

Here’s a position-by-position look at the Eagles’ defensive performance after having watched the All-22 from Sunday’s game.

DEFENSIVE LINE

* Going in, the Eagles should have expected to dominate the Vikings’ ground game, given that Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart were out. And that’s what happened. Matt Asiata needed 30 carries to get to 51 yards (1.7 YPC). The pass-rush could have been better, but Matt Cassel did a good job of getting the ball out quick, and most of the problems through the air were the fault of the secondary. Read more »

Game Review: Eagles Defense Vs. Lions

NFL: Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles

Here is a position-by-position review of the Eagles’ defense after having reviewed the All-22 tape.

DEFENSIVE LINE

* This group led the charge. Joique Bell needed 23 carries to gain 69 yards (3.0 YPC). And the Lions failed to gain more than 8 yards on any single run. Cedric Thornton was outstanding, leading all defensive linemen with six tackles (per team stats) and a forced fumble, which the Eagles turned into a takeaway. Thornton helped blow up a Bell run that gained 3 in the second and was disruptive throughout. Read more »

McCoy Delivers A Record-Setting Performance

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LeSean McCoy
had just ripped off a nine-yard run on what proved to be his final carry of the night, and did a little Incredible Hulk flex as he sat in the snow. As he got up and exited the field, chants of  “Shady!” began to break out. They got so loud that some members of the offense began waving at the crowd, asking them to quiet down so they could execute the next play. The fans knew they had just witnessed something special.

It was a performance that left his teammates in awe.

“The cutting and everything, the jumping, that’s…I just was kind of watching it and going, ‘That’s the best running back in the league right there. It’s a good thing we’ve got him on our side,’ ” said Jason Kelce. “It was impressive to say the least because if I was to try one of those, I probably would have did the splits right around the 50-yard line.”
Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Pass-Rusher Rankings

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia EaglesAsked why the Eagles’ pass-rush has seen a boost in recent weeks, defensive coordinator Billy Davis pointed to continuity.

“I think the guys just keep getting better and better as the weeks go on,” he said. “The guys, they are fresh, they are rolling them in, so everybody gets the different one‑on‑ones. I think the stunts are being executed at a higher level right now because the guys have been with each other and doing it at full speed for awhile. We have been healthy, so the same guys are lining up next to the same guys and that helps continuity.”

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Eagles have pressured opposing QBs on 15 dropbacks per game since Week 6, the second-highest total in the NFL.

Pressuring Carson Palmer was critical in last week’s 24-21 victory over the Cardinals. The Eagles came up with five sacks, four QB hits and created disruption throughout that led to turnovers and other negative plays. Those things will factor in heavily once again this week against Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions.

Below is our weekly look at how the team’s pass-rushers are performing. Read more »

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