The Eagles’ Depth Chart At Wide Receiver

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

We got a request from a reader yesterday to run through the Eagles’ wide receiver depth chart with the guys currently on the roster.

And since we are a blog of the people, we will oblige.

The Eagles currently have nine wide receivers on their roster (that does not include pass-catchers like TE Zach Ertz and RB Darren Sproles).

Below is a player-by-player look at how each guy figures into the team’s 2014 plans. Keep in mind that this outlook will likely change post-draft. Read more »

Making Sense Of the Eagles’ Inactives

kendricks_940_100113The following Eagles are inactive for today’s game against the Washington Redskins: QB Michael Vick, WR Damaris Johnson, CB Bradley Fletcher, safety Earl Wolff, LB Jake Knott, OT Dennis Kelly and LB Mychal Kendricks.

The good news for the Eagles is that Jason Peters is active and expected to start. He was listed as questionable with a pair of injuries (quadriceps, pectoral). If Peters has issues, Allen Barbre will step in. The Eagles also have Matt Tobin active, along with backup guard/center Julian Vandervelde. They usually go with only two backups on gameday, but because of Peters’ injury, they are going with three today. Read more »

Zone Read: Eagles-Raiders, the Day After

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Oakland RaidersWhen addressing the media after his team just dropped 49 points against the Oakland Raiders, Chip Kelly wanted to make one thing clear: The offensive explosion was not the result of some magical play-calling elixir he had concocted in the wee hours of the morning at the NovaCare Complex.

Rather, it was something a lot more simple.

“We called a lot of plays that we’ve called the last two weeks,” Kelly said. “We just executed ‘em. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

The masses are searching for answers on the day after the Eagles earned their fourth victory of the season.

How can an offense that scored three points in two weeks all-of-a-sudden look unstoppable?

How can a quarterback who was a complete disaster two weeks ago come back and play the best game of his life? Read more »

Injury Report: Jackson, Peters Probable

desean_400_102713Here is the Eagles’ injury report for this weekend’s game against the Raiders:

Out: QB Michael Vick (hamstring).

Doubtful: LB Jake Knott (hamstring).

Questionable: Safety Patrick Chung (shoulder), WR Damaris Johnson (ankle), LB Casey Matthews (hip).

Probable: OLB Connor Barwin (back), LS Jon Dorenbos (groin), QB Nick Foles (concussion), WR DeSean Jackson (ankle), P Donnie Jones (left foot), T Jason Peters (shoulder, finger), RB Chris Polk (shoulder), DE Cedric Thornton (knee).

No real surprises here. The one thing to keep an eye on is the return game. If Johnson (questionable) can’t go, Brandon Boykin will likely return kickoffs. Punts are a little bit more of a mystery though. Jackson could be an option, but Chip Kelly has been hesitant to put him back there. And he might be even more hesitant, considering Jackson has an ankle injury.
Read more »

Jackson Still Limited With Ankle Injury

DeSean Jackson practice tired helmet offDeSean Jackson is dealing with an ankle injury and was a limited participant at practice for the second straight day.

“Yeah, he hurt his ankle,” said Chip Kelly prior to Thursday’s session. “We’ll see what he can do and what the effects are, but he just rolled it or tweaked it or whatever, but he’s going today.”

Michael Vick (hamstring),  Donnie Jones (left foot) and Casey Matthews (hip) were also limited. Vick will not play this week.

Damaris Johnson missed Wednesday’s practice with an ankle injury but was listed as a full participant today. Jake Knott (hamstring) was the only player unable to practice Thursday.

Patrick Chung (shoulder), Jon Dorenbos (groin), Nick Foles (concussion),  Jason Peters (shoulder, finger),  Chris Polk (shoulder) and Cedric Thornton (knee) were all full-go. Read more »

Week 2: Eagles Snap Count Analysis

Here’s a look at Eagles snap counts Sunday against the Chargers.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
LeSean McCoy5085%
Bryce Brown915%

LeSean McCoy played 85 percent of the snaps, but the total was just 50 since the Eagles ran far fewer plays than in Week 1. He had 16 total touches for 167 yards.

Bryce Brown played nine snaps and had three carries for 13 yards. Chris Polk played special-teams only. He has not played an offensive snap  yet.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Riley Cooper5695%
Brent Celek5492%
DeSean Jackson5492%
Jason Avant4881%
Zach Ertz1220%
James Casey58%
Damaris Johnson47%
Jeff Maehl35%

Riley Cooper played the most snaps among this group for the second week in a row. He had two catches for 25 yards and a touchdown.

DeSean Jackson played all but five snaps, finishing with nine catches for 193 yards on 15 targets. As we mentioned, to say he could have easily had 300 yards receiving is no stretch.

The Eagles were in ’11′ personnel with one RB, one TE and three WRs quite a bit for the second straight week. Jason Avant played 81 percent of the snaps and had four catches for 39 yards. It doesn’t appear that Damaris Johnson will have much of a role in this offense when everyone else is healthy. He played just four snaps. And Jeff Maehl got on the field for three snaps.

At tight end, Brent Celek played all but five snaps and was shut out (one target). Rookie Zach Ertz played 12 snaps, but made the most of them, catching two balls for 58 yards. James Casey only played five snaps and dropped a potential touchdown pass early from Michael Vick.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Fletcher Cox6477%
Cedric Thornton5769%
Isaac Sopoaga2834%
Bennie Logan2733%
Clifton Geathers1417%
Damion Square1214%

Not too much to note here. Fletcher Cox played the most snaps (64), followed by Cedric Thornton (57). Isaac Sopoaga played 34 percent of the snaps. And the second team was Bennie Logan (33 percent), Clifton Geathers (17 percent) and Damion Square (14 percent). For the second straight week, Vinny Curry was inactive.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
DeMeco Ryans83100%
Mychal Kendricks83100%
Connor Barwin7995%
Trent Cole6781%
Brandon Graham1619%
Casey Matthews45%

DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks played every single snap. Still have to re-watch, but Kendricks seemed to struggle throughout.

Connor Barwin was the only defensive player to notch a sack, and Trent Cole seemed to be active.

Casey Matthews backed up Barwin at left outside linebacker and played four snaps. And Brandon Graham played 16 snaps behind Cole at right outside linebacker.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Cary Williams83100%
Patrick Chung8299%
Brandon Boykin8096%
Nate Allen6376%
Earl Wolff4959%
Brandon Hughes2227%

The secondary was a mess. Cary Williams played every snap and was called for three pass interference penalties. Brandon Boykin played all but three snaps. He started off on the outside, but moved inside at times.

Brandon Hughes played 22 snaps on the outside, but suffered a hamstring injury.

Patrick Chung played all but one snap – both at safety and at nickel.

Nate Allen (76 percent) and Earl Wolff (59 percent) both saw significant action, but neither played well.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Player Survey: Which Eagle Will Have a Big Year?

Damaris JohnsonLast week, we walked around the Eagles’ locker room and approached players with the following request:

Give me one teammate who’s impressed you this summer and is primed for a big year.

Several players didn’t want to get specific, but others provided responses. Below is what they said.

Jason Kelce: “I think Cedric Thornton has really come on well the past couple years. He continues to improve. He’s a very strong player. I would expect him to have a pretty good year for our defensive line. He’s always been a good player, but he’s starting to hone in a lot of other areas of his game. That experience level’s there now where he played a lot last year for us. So I would expect him to have a very good, solid year.”

“Offensively… I think Damaris [Johnson] has had a really good preseason and really good camp so far. And he’s just such a dynamic player in this offense. He could excel.”

***

Michael Vick: Zach Ertz. The reason I say that is he’s fighting something right now. And once he gets that corrected, it’s going to be a beautiful thing.”

What’s he fighting?

“The ball.”

***

Brandon Graham: “I’d say Damaris Johnson. On special teams, that boy is nice. Somebody that comes to work every day. That’s somebody I see having a real big year, especially on special teams.”

***

Fletcher Cox: “I mean, I’ll just go to a lot of players. Lane Johnson has been good. He’s progressed since Day One.”

Has he surprised you?

“I’m not surprised. He got drafted in the first round for a reason. He’s progressed since Day One and going against him, some of the things that he used to do, he don’t do anymore, you can tell.”

Bennie Logan, he’s a guy that’s gonna have a pretty good season as long as he stays focused and just stays on task with everything that we’re doing.”

***

Todd Herremans: “I think Mychal Kendricks is gonna have a big season. I think that he’s had a really good camp. Last year, I think that picking up a new defense, even though this defense is new to him, I think he just feels more comfortable as an NFL player. He’s able to just play football, rather than think a whole lot. So I think he’s gonna have a really big season.”

***

Jason Avant: “I think DeSean [Jackson] will be ready for a big season this year just because the attitude, the approach he’s taken this year. I’d be surprised if he didn’t, barring any injuries or anything like that. I’m pretty sure he’ll be good.”

“I think Brandon Boykin will play a lot better. I think he’s getting better at it, learning how to play the nickel position, so I’m looking forward to that.”

***

Kurt Coleman: “I think Trent Cole and Brandon Graham. I think they’ve had one of the hardest transitions out of anybody, gonna go from defensive end to outside linebacker. The greatest thing that they do bring, when they are able to rush, they are phenomenal at pass-rushes, and it gives them more angles from the depth that they come from at the outside linebacker position. It’s so new for them to be in pass coverage. And I think that they’ve done a great job transitioning and really understanding the fits as far as when they’re dropping. But when they come on rush, it’s deadly. And I’ve seen it show up a lot of times on film. They’re ready to get some sacks and create some havoc, so I’m excited for them to really just show up and to really have a great year.”

***

Mychal Kendricks: “With the way our offense is, I think our core guys, LeSean [McCoy], DeSean [Jackson], [Brent] Celek, our new guys. I feel like the potential is endless with this offense that we’ve got and I’m excited to see what they can do and what’s gonna happen.”

***

Bryce Brown: “I think Cedric Thornton has really impressed me, a guy who kind of emerged late, but he’s really, really improved his game from last year to this year, and he’s looked impressive. He’s running with the ones. He’s doing a great job. It’s just fun to watch him play. I really like the way he’s doing things.”

***

Lane Johnson: “Really, all of our guys up front. With [Jason] Kelce back, he’s really good at communicating what to do. …He’s not indecisive and he says what he means. When you communicate well, it makes the job easier for tackles and guards.”

Evan Mathis had a great season last year. He pushes me a lot. I trained with him there in Arizona. Just training with him in the weight room and on the field, we compete a lot.”

***

Zach Ertz:Jason Avant. He’s been a pro’s pro to me, especially, showing me a lot of the ropes, and he’s been doing really well in practice and in the games so far. So that’d be my guy.”

“His skill set, he can do a lot of things from that slot position, he’s very versatile, he can play inside or outside. So I expect a big year from him.”

***

Chris Polk: “It’s hard to give one name… but I would say LeSean [McCoy], Mike Vick, Mychal Kendricks, Connor [Barwin], [Patrick] Chung, Cary [Williams]. There’s a lot of great athletes.”

What have you noticed about McCoy?

“He’s just hungry. He’s hungrier this year. The year that we put out as a team wasn’t too good and that’s not the note you want to end up on. He’s just working really hard. He’s trying to get back to that level.”

***

Vinny Curry:[Jason] Kelce. Just to see him bounce back from getting hurt. He’s dominating so far, coming in with a new system. He still does his thing, controls the offensive line, controls everything and you just feel like he never missed a beat.”

***

Jake Knott: “Probably DeMeco Ryans. The way he handles himself all the time, the way he goes about his daily business and all that, it’s been impressive to me. So I think that’s gonna lead to great things happening for him.”

***

Earl Wolff:Patrick Chung’s gonna be good for us. I like his aggressiveness. I just like the way he plays the game.”

***

Tim McManus contributed to this report.

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Eagles-Jaguars Game Review: The Offense

If you missed the defense, click here.

Below is the position-by-position game review of the offense.

QUARTERBACKS

* It was an uneven performance for Michael Vick. He went 15-for-23 for 184 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also ran seven times for 53 yards. Vick did a nice job escaping pressure and finding Jason Avant down the sideline for 20 yards on the first play. He threw an absolute laser to Riley Cooper for the 9-yard TD. But he did leave plays on the field, like when he overthrew Brent Celek on the wheel route. And as Derek Sarley pointed out, he was too hesitant when he had receivers open. Vick can make up for breakdowns in protection, and he can hurt teams with his legs. But the number one factor that will determine his success in this offense is decision-making. We’ll find out where he’s at with that aspect when the Eagles take on the Redskins at FedEx Field two weeks from tonight.

* Hard to argue with the numbers for Nick Foles: 10-for-11 for 112 yards. Foles misfired on his first pass, a screen to Damaris Johnson, and then connected on his next 10. Most of them were underneath throws; only one traveled more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, per Pro Football Focus. But he averaged 10.2 yards per attempt as guys picked up yards after the catch. Foles moved the team and looked comfortable running the offense against Jacksonville’s backups.

RUNNING BACKS

* LeSean McCoy only played 18 snaps and carried five times for 9 yards. But he had a nice 15-yard run in the first, breaking Jason Babin’s tackle behind the line of scrimmage. He’ll rest now until Week 1.

* Bryce Brown continues to dazzle and frustrate at the same time. Eleven carries for 92 yards and a touchdown, including impressive gains of 7, 11 and 23. But he had the big fumble trying to get into the end zone in the second half.

This will come down to coaching. It’s up to Chip KellyDuce Staley and company to find a way to get Brown to secure the ball better. The talent is there. He’s got a unique blend of size and speed. But opposing defenses will be looking to punch the ball out every time he’s in the game. I still think Brown will get it down at some point. But it’s something to watch every time he’s on the field. As a blocker, Brown did a poor job with his blitz pickup on 3rd-and-8 in the first. Needs to get better in that area.

* The numbers for Chris Polk – six carries for 23 yards – weren’t great, but thought he ran well. He dragged defenders with him on a 4-yard pickup in the third and then gained 12 around the right end. Polk ran over a defensive back at the goal line on his touchdown. Normally reliable in blitz pickup, he whiffed on a play where Vick escaped and picked up 10 yards with his legs.

WIDE RECEIVERS

* DeSean Jackson continues to look comfortable in this offense. He finished with three catches for 48 yards on four targets. Jackson has six catches on nine targets this preseason and is averaging 20.5 yards per catch without a drop. A career year for No. 10 is in play.

* Avant was his usual self, keeping his feet in bounds for a 20-yard completion. He had the amazing one-handed grab on the ball that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. Overall, three catches for 36 yards on four targets. He also showed up as a blocker, doing a nice job on Polk’s runs of 12 and 11 yards, respectively.

* Cooper came down with the touchdown and made nice blocks on a screen to Avant and an 11-yard pickup by Brown. He also did a good job on Brown’s 23-yard run. Cooper figures to play a lot of snaps even if he’s not a big factor in the passing game.

* Johnson fumbled the one return but bounced back with a 61-yarder. As a receiver, he had two catches for 24 yards on three targets. On one play, he went up in traffic between defenders and snagged a 10-yarder from Foles.

* Russell Shepard got more involved, catching two balls for 38 yards. He showed good YAC ability, taking a screen 29 yards. Shepard’s firmly on the roster bubble.

TIGHT ENDS

* Brent Celek had four catches for 54 yards on seven targets, but he could have had an even bigger game. Vick overthrew him on the wheel route and also on another player early on. Celek made a nice grab for 26 yards on third down, ran hard for yards after the catch and blocked well on a bubble screen to Avant in the second.

* Zach Ertz lined up in the slot, found a soft spot in the zone and made a 13-yard grab in the first. He couldn’t hang on for what would have been a tough catch off play-action in the first as a defender delivered a forearm to his head. Up and down as a blocker. Poor job on McCoy’s 4-yard loss in the second. But excellent job on the screen to Shepard.

* James Casey was quiet again with one catch for 3 yards. He set up as a lead blocker, but whiffed on McCoy’s 15-yard run. Good block on the Shepard bubble screen in the fourth.

OFFENSIVE LINE

* Jason Peters looked great in pass protection. For the entire game, with one exception, he did not let his defender get close enough to even breathe on Vick. Even on the one play where he allowed a pressure, Vick held on to the ball for awhile before throwing it away. He was OK in the run game, but not his usual dominant self. Peters was slow to get to the linebacker on a second-quarter run that lost 4 yards. He couldn’t quite get to the linebacker on a Polk 4-yard run. Overall, though, encouraging performance from No. 71.

* Evan Mathis’ performance was shakier than usual. He had trouble with Tyson Alualu on third down during the first series and was later called for holding on 3rd-and-8, negating an 18-yard completion to Celek. Mathis got beat by Jeremy Mincey in the first and then again by Sen’Derrick Marks, who put a big hit on Vick. As we showed earlier in the week, he and Jason Kelce had an issue with a stunt and gave up a sack. Mathis was better in the run game. He threw a defender to the ground on Brown’s 5-yard run in the second. Nothing to panic about, but he did not play particularly well.

* The same goes for Jason Kelce. On the first play play, he had trouble with defensive tackle Roy Miller. On another play, Jason Babin looped inside from the left edge, and Kelce was slow to pick him up. He also had two errant snaps. One was high and ruined the timing of a zone read/bubble packaged play the Eagles had on. Vick had to throw the ball away. The other was low and fumbled by Vick. Kelce was mostly good in the run game, getting to the linebacker on McCoy’s 15-yard run and again on Brown’s 23-yard run. Still think he’ll have a good year, but not a clean performance.

* Todd Herremans has been shaky in two of three preseason games. On the second play, he had trouble with Miller and Vick ended up getting sacked. Herremans did a poor job picking up a blitzing linebacker on 3rd-and-8 in the first. Marks beat him badly on the Vick interception. Herremans, too, was better in the run game. Nice blocks on McCoy’s 15-yard run, Brown’s 7-yard run and Brown’s 23-yarder. We pointed out earlier that he and Johnson had a miscue that resulted in a 5-yard loss for McCoy. Worth keeping an eye on him early in the season, and also worth noting that Herremans was dealing with knee inflammation.

* Lane Johnson had some issues early on with Babin, getting beat on a spin move and then around the edge in the first quarter. But I thought he settled down and eventually played fine. In fact, Babin tried the same spin move in the second, and Johnson stoned him as Vick found Celek for 26 yards. Will get better as the season goes on, but Johnson should be pretty good from the start.

* A couple notes on the backups. Julian Vandervelde continues to take second-team reps at center. If he and Allen Barbre make the team, Danny Watkins could be on the outside looking in. Also, Michael Bamiro has a good chance of sticking.

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No-22: The Eagles’ New-School Triple Option

Earlier this week, we looked at how the Eagles packaged the zone read with the bubble screen on several occasions against the Panthers.

The basic premise was simple: If the quarterback saw favorable numbers in the box, he went with the zone read. If he thought he had an advantage on the perimeter, he threw the screen. It was an either/or proposition.

But Chip Kelly and the Eagles ran a different play that actually combines the two. In other words, it’s a zone read and a bubble screen. Or essentially, a new-school triple option.

Take a look at this play from the Eagles’ first drive last week. It looks like a normal zone read. The Eagles leave the right defensive end unblocked. If he stays at home, Nick Foles hands the ball off. If the DE crashes inside, Foles takes off and runs.

avant1a_0821

But as you can see, there’s a little more to it. On the back side, the Eagles have a bubble screen set up to Jason Avant. Foles has two decisions to make on this play. First, he has to choose whether to hand the ball off or keep it. On this particular play, the DE crashes, so Foles keeps it.

Decision two comes after he takes off. Foles can go ahead and run. But he can also sling it to Avant if the slot corner comes up to tackle him.

“Each play is something different,” said QB Dennis Dixon, who is very familiar with the options available in Kelly’s offense. “We’re reading somebody totally different each play. I can’t tell you the specifics of it, but we’re reading somebody in particular, yeah.”

avant1b_0821

The slot corner comes up, and the outside corner is 10 yards away from Avant. So Foles passes the ball to the perimeter, creating an advantage for the offense.

The more common triple option allows the QB to hand the ball off, run it himself or pitch it to a second back. The first two options in this version are similar. But instead of a normal pitch, it’s a bubble screen to the perimeter for the third option.

There’s only one defender outside the numbers, and Riley Cooper’s blocking him.

avant1c_0821

How hard is it for a defense to defend against so many options on one play?

“Hopefully it’s hard. It’s even harder on Riley trying to hold that block that long,” Avant said with a laugh. “The MVP of that play is Riley Cooper. Otherwise my head is rolled off somewhere. That’s what we’re trying to do, put as much pressure on the defense as we can.”

The truth is, if Cooper had been able to sustain a better block on the cornerback, and if the ball had gone to say DeSean Jackson instead of Avant, the Eagles would have had a chance to score on this play. Instead, it was a 6-yard gain.

Another factor to consider is where the QB is when he releases the ball. Is it meant to be a forward pass or a lateral?

“It can be both,” Foles said, not willing to offer up any more details.

Isn’t it a dangerous play if it’s a lateral? An off-target pass or a drop could result in a costly turnover.

“It’s something you’ve got to really work on in practice,” he added.

Dixon insinuated that the pass-option should only be taken if the outside cornerback’s playing far off the line of scrimmage.

“The quarterback has to be smart when he gets to that point,” Dixon said.

“It depends on how the defense is playing us. The quarterback has a lot of options. At the end of the day, we have to be able to have ball security. We just want to put it in our playmakers’ hands.”

Translation: If there’s any doubt, just keep the ball and run.

That’s what happened later in the quarter on the exact same play.

foles1a_0821

Again, the right defensive end is left unblocked. He crashes inside, so Foles keeps it. He’s got Damaris Johnson setting up for the bubble screen with Cooper as the blocker.

foles1b_0821

But this time, the slot corner sticks with the receiver. Foles makes the right call and keeps the ball, picking up 6 yards with his legs.

“If the quarterback chooses not to run the ball if somebody takes him, just to be an option for the quarterback,” Johnson said of his role on the play. “That’s it.”

And of course, the third option is to just hand the ball off. On Michael Vick’s first drive, the Eagles had three inside runs in a row, and each play had the three options built in.

The first one:

vick1a_0821

The unblocked DE gravitates towards Vick. He hands the ball off to McCoy. And the Eagles also have the screen set up.

Play No. 2:

vick1b_0821

Look familiar? Unblocked DE upfield towards Vick. He hands the ball off to McCoy. And they’ve got the screen set up on the perimeter.

And play No. 3:

vick1c_0821

This time, Chris Polk comes in for McCoy. The unblocked DE isn’t upfield, but he froze for a second until he was sure Vick handed it off. And once again, the screen is set up to the bottom of the screen (TV angle cut off the blocker on the outside).

The Eagles had five run plays on Vick’s first possession. All five had the screen element built in.

This concept exemplifies some of the key aspects of Kelly’s offense. Because the Eagles were essentially using the same play over and over again, they could move at a fast pace. Option one is to run the ball if it’s there. But if it’s not, there are options. And the field is spread, forcing the defense to account for every square inch, sideline to sideline.

The play also shows the advantage of having a mobile quarterback. Defenders are forced to make decisions that could potentially lead to disastrous results.

As Evan Mathis put it: “There’s just a lot of opportunities for the quarterback to show their athleticism in this kind of offense. There’s a lot of choices for the quarterback. There’s some plays we run that are options, and if you have a quarterback with the speed that Michael Vick has, then some of those plays can end up being pretty dangerous.”

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