Eagles-Giants Preview Q&A With James Kratch

Zach Ertz. (USA Today Sports)

Zach Ertz. (USA Today Sports)

In this week’s installment of Opposition Research, we talked to Giants beat reporter James Kratch. We discussed why Zach Ertz will be so important on Sunday, if the Giants’ free agency splurge has paid off and who will win, among several other topics. Read more »

NFC East Roundup: The Rise And Fall Of RGIII

Robert Griffin USA Today

Robert Griffin USA Today

Let’s take a spin around the NFC East to see what’s going on with the rest of the division:

Jason Reid of ESPN did a longform piece on Robert Griffin III detailing some of the dysfunction that accompanied his time in Washington.

Feb. 5, 2013 — Griffin called for a meeting. He declined to tell Mike Shanahan what he wanted to discuss, saying only it was important. Griffin, Mike and Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur gathered in the offensive meeting room at the team headquarters in Ashburn, Virginia. With the coaches seated, Griffin walked to a blackboard and wrote:

  1. Change things.
  2. Change our protections.
  3. Unacceptable.
  4. Bottom line.

Read more »

Wake-Up Call: How Sunday Affects the Eagles

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports.

Like many of you, I spent most of my Sunday watching NFL games. Although the Eagles don’t kick off their season until tonight, the other three NFC East teams were in action.

Let’s take a look at how the rest of the division fared in their opening games. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: DeSean Versus DRC (And Company)

DeSean JacksonDeSean Jackson knows that if the Eagles are to hang with the Broncos on Sunday, their offense is going to have to be in high gear.

“As an offense we just feel like we have to go out there and basically go battle for battle with them, and be able to score as many points as they can and hopefully more,” he said.

The Eagles’ offense cooled off against Kansas City after two strong performances versus Washington and San Diego to open the season. It was no coincidence that Jackson’s game cooled right along with it. He had three catches for 62 yards and was kept out of the end zone Thursday. In the previous two games, he racked up 24 catches, 297 yards and a pair of scores.

“A lot of times guys are focusing on myself. Doing some good things in this offense obviously caused that,” he said. “It’s not a matter where I get frustrated. I understand at times when I run a certain route there might be two guys on me instead of one. I think that will help out the other receivers to be able get open and make big plays to help us win games, so guys aren’t always zoning in on me.”

One defender that could be keying on Jackson regardless is Domininique Rodgers-Cromartie. The former Eagle has been covering the opposition’s top receiver with Champ Bailey (sprained foot) sidelined. Bailey could make his season debut Sunday, but Jackson believes he will be locked up with DRC.

“I’m sure he will probably be on me,” said Jackson. “He is a good friend of mine. The past two years we have been going at it a lot. I know him just as well as he probably knows me, so it will be a great opportunity for both of us to go out there and just compete against each other at a high level. I played against him before he came here, when he was with Arizona. It will be a good challenge for both of us. He’s a good player, I’m a good player so we’ll go out there and fight, battle. We’re friends but once that game starts, I just need to do what I need to do to win the game.”

Chip Kelly was complimentary of Rodgers-Cromartie when asked about the corner on Tuesday, but noted that the Broncos’ safeties do a good job in support. Jackson enters Week 4 as the league’s second-ranked receiver, so it’s a good bet those safeties will not leave DRC out on an island with his former teammate very often.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles’ defense begins its preparations for Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ attack.

Jason Peters is dealing with a finger injury that he believes will be around for the entire year.

Kelly responds to Manning’s comments about the Eagles getting so much extra time to prepare.

The Eagles worked out a linebacker and a receiver recently.

Sheil looks at the offensive line miscues with help from the All-22 tape.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

ESPN has the Eagles at No. 23 in its most recent power rankings.

Whatever bump the Eagles got from their nationally televised debut at Washington is gone. After two home losses, both games in which they were favored, the Eagles have slid almost back to where they were in the preseason rankings.

It doesn’t help the Eagles that the win at Washington has been diminished by that team’s ensuing two games. Winless Washington (No. 27) and the New York Giants (No. 29) have the NFC East anchored as the worst division in the NFL so far this season.

Chris Burke of SI.com already has a mock draft up for 2014. He has the Eagles picking 10th, and selecting QB Johnny Manziel.

Mariota is the rather obvious match here — he played for Chip Kelly at Oregon and is thriving in the offense Kelly left behind. The MMQB’s Greg Bedard reminded us, though, that Kelly recruited Manziel partially because Johnny Football played in a high school offense similar to Kelly’s attack. This one would be a lot of fun if it happened.

COMING UP

We’ll talk to the coordinators in the morning. Practice starts at 10:50.

Three Eagles Numbers That Matter

Here are three Eagles-related numbers that matter:

74 – Oregon’s red-zone efficiency (touchdowns scored) from 2010 to 2012. That was second-best in the nation, behind only Wisconsin (78 percent), according to CoachingSearch.com.

Obviously, there will be adjustments to be made in the NFL, but that’s a promising number for the Eagles. Last year, the Birds ranked 28th in the league in red-zone efficiency, and they haven’t been in the top-10 since the Super Bowl year in 2004. Take a look:

 
Percentage TDs
Rank
201244%28th
201151.52%14th
201052.46%16th
200949.06%21st
200847.89%25th
200745.10%25th
200654%12th
200553.66%12th

I’m intrigued by how Kelly will use his personnel in the red zone. For example, we know by now that DeSean Jackson is not a productive red-zone receiver. And it’s not just about size. His skill set does not include making tough, physical catches in traffic. With Jackson, it’s about stretching the field, and that’s negated when the defense can use the back of the end zone as an extra defender.

Jackson has four catches in the red zone in the past two seasons combined. There’s not really a reason for him to be on the field down there, unless he’s being used as a decoy. Perhaps Kelly will use someone like Arrelious Benn to replace him. Or maybe the Eagles will go to 2-TE or 3-TE sets now that they have Brent Celek, James Casey and Zach Ertz in the fold.

If the team practices red zone during one of the practice sessions we’re allowed to attend, I’ll keep an eye on this.

And thanks to friend of the blog Sam Lynch for the CoachingSearch.com link.

8.5 – The percentage of plays in which the Eagles’ defense missed a tackle in 2012, according to Football Outsiders. That was the highest mark in the league. In 2011, the Eagles’ number was 8.1 percent, which was second-to-last.

The numbers are broken down by individual players too. For example, rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks missed 15.1 percent of his tackle attempts, the worst mark among linebackers.

And the numbers in the secondary back up what you saw with your eyes on a weekly basis. Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, Nnamdi Asomugha and Nate Allen were among the 10 worst tackling defensive backs in the NFL (no other team had more than one DB listed).

Rodgers-Cromartie missed 20.7 percent of his tackles, third-worst. Allen missed 16.4 percent, fifth-worst. And Asomugha missed 13.8 percent, 10th-worst.

The good news? Free-agent signee Cary Williams was among the best tacklers. He missed just 2.7 percent of his attempts, tied for third-best.

We spend plenty of time talking about scheme, but the basic fundamentals of blocking and tackling simply have to get better with this team.

26.5 – The number of seconds in between plays for the Eagles last year. Chase Stuart of Football Perspective did the leg-work, using time of possession and total number of plays to come up with a metric for tempo. And surprisingly, the Eagles ran the fourth-fastest offense in the league in 2012, behind only the Patriots (24.9 seconds), Saints (26.1) and Ravens (26.4).

Part of the Eagles’ tempo relates to the fact that they were often trailing in the second half. But there were weeks when the no-huddle was a part of the game-plan. Sometimes, it was a very slow-moving no-huddle, while other times the Eagles pushed tempo.

Chip Kelly has been quick to point out that the Eagles might not always go at a fast pace, but they want to have that option in their back pocket.

“I think the game is about making quick decisions,” Kelly said. “It’s a game of 60 to 70 to 80 four‑second plays. So once the ball is snapped, it happens at that tempo. We’re just trying to force them to – everything we do has to kind of be ‑ reflect what the mission is, and the mission is to be prepared to play a four‑second play.  You need to have that kind of (snapping fingers) to get that done, so I think that’s why we’re practicing like that.”

Stuart’s chart also shows that using an up-tempo offense is not a new phenomenon. He goes back to 1991 and shows that four of the five fastest offenses of the last 21 years were teams that played in the 1990s. Three were the Buffalo Bills (1991, 1992, 1993), and the other was the 1995 Patriots.

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Roundup: Eagles Reportedly Interested In DL Martin

A bunch of notes to get to on this Saturday…

Let’s start with free agency. While the Eagles have already made their major moves, they’ll continue to keep their eyes open for value plays. One area where they could use some bodies is on the defensive line. The Eagles added nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, but don’t have a lot of versatile pieces (outside of Fletcher Cox).

Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reports that they’ve shown interest in Chargers defensive lineman Vaughn Martin. Originally a fourth-round pick in 2009, Martin (6-4, 297) fits what the Eagles are looking for. He has size, versatility and is only 26-years-old.

Martin would be a defensive end option in a 3-4 and would play defensive tackle in 4-3 fronts. In 2012, Martin had 19 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. He played 58 percent of the Chargers’ defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus.

NASSIB AHEAD OF SMITH?

Greg Cosell of NFL Films recently said on NFL Network that he has Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib ranked ahead of West Virginia’s Geno Smith. Per Rotoworld:

Cosell cited Geno Smith’s “slow eyes” in terms of anticipation and “ball location” on intermediate to deep throws as reasons for concern. “My No. 1 quarterback based on the film study I’ve done is Ryan Nassib,” Cosell said. “I liked him overall more than Geno Smith. I think he’s a much more precise intermediate thrower. I think the ball comes out with a little better velocity at the intermediate level. And I think he’s a little more accurate. And I like his footwork a little bit better.”

Meanwhile, Andy Reid and Chiefs GM John Dorsey traveled to Texas A&M to work out offensive tackle Luke Joeckel earlier this week, according to Adam Caplan.

Kansas City is doing its homework on all of the top tackles. Reid and company have workouts scheduled with Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson as well, according to the Detroit Free Press.

EXPECTATIONS FOR DRC

Broncos head coach John Fox was very candid about his expectations for former Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

“It’s our job to get the most of it out of him, just like anybody that had him before,” Fox said, per Jeff Legwold of The Denver Post. “We’ll see how that goes, how hard he’s willing to work and adapt to what we’re teaching him.

“You turn on a 60-play tape and 30 of the plays he does you can’t coach. And 30 of those plays you’re maybe not so happy with. And that’s probably why he’s on his third team. But at the end of the day he’s got the skill set. We really like him. We were very up front with him. He understands.”

The Broncos signed Rodgers-Cromartie to a one-year deal.
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What They’re Saying About the Eagles

Here’s a roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles this week.

ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano thinks the Eagles should make a play for Darrelle Revis:

With eight picks in the upcoming draft and about $33 million in salary cap room right now ($44 million if they cut Asomugha), the Eagles have the wherewithal to make any move they want. Assuming the Jets are as motivated as they seem to be to trade Revis, the Eagles might be able to get him with a package led by their high third-round pick. That’s a better pick than the Jets are likely to get as compensation if Revis leaves via free agency next year, and if the Jets wait for that to happen, Revis could end up signing with the Patriots and terrorizing the Jets twice a season for the rest of his career.

Elliot Harrison of NFL.com thinks 49ers safety Dashon Goldson would be a nice addition for the Eagles:

The Eagles’ secondary has been a real problem. The draft is a great tool, but Philly could potentially use three new players in the secondary; in order for it to get better, some work must be done in free agency. Nnamdi Asomugha could be cut. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent. The safety position is no great shakes, either. Philadelphia’s back four made every quarterback — save for maybe Brandon Weeden — look like the love child of Aaron Rodgers and Dan Fouts, allowing 33 touchdown passes while picking off just eight. That’s unbelievable futility. Philadelphia has more than $30 million in cap space. Perhaps making a push to sign safety Dashon Goldson might be the first, most appropriate move (although signing Ed Reed would be cool, too).

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com has Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 29th on his list of free agents:

It’s not a great sign that two teams have seemingly given up on DRC in his young career. But how much cash would he have commanded if on the market after his second pro season?

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com has Rodgers-Cromartie 19th:

He wasn’t great last season, but he has a ton of athletic ability. It’s almost as if people are waiting for it to show.

Clark Judge of CBSSports.com offers up his free-agency plan for the Birds:

The Eagles haven’t had a quality safety since Brian Dawkins left four years ago, and while this draft is loaded at the position I might start there when looking for veteran help. There is quality up and down the line, with someone young like a Chris Clemons of Miami or William Moore of Atlanta available. Of course, so is San Francisco’s Dashon Goldson, but reports have him seeking $8 million a year. Plus, he turns 29 in May. They could look for cornerback help here, too, with guys like Shaun Smith, Cary Williams or Greg Toler expected to hit the market.

Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports has the Eagles taking Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson with the fourth pick:

Johnson’s stock has been rising since a dominant Senior Bowl, and his combine tests proved what he already knew — he’s a very mobile lineman with freakish athletic tendencies. New head coach Chip Kelly may adapt some of his Oregon offensive principles for the NFL, but don’t expect him to stray from the idea of a multiple zone-blocking system that provides optimal flexibility. Perhaps more than any other lineman in this class, Johnson has the pure athleticism to bring it in Kelly’s schemes.

Chris Burke of SI.com includes Rodgers-Cromartie on his list of free agents who hurt their value in 2012:

Let’s just say that things never really worked out for DRC in Philadelphia. He was looked upon as one of the game’s premier young cornerbacks when the Eagles acquired him in that Kevin Kolb trade. Two years later, he’s probably in the second-tier of available corners.

Khaled Elsayed of Pro Football Focus calls Nnamdi Asomugha one of the most over-valued players in the NFL:

Safe to say the Eagles didn’t really get what they were expecting out of Asomugha. Looking a step slower, Asomugha gave up completions on 66.7 percent of balls into his coverage, with five of those being touchdowns. His 15.9 yards per reception allowed was the seventh-highest in the league as he struggled to keep up with the NFL’s top receivers.

Dave Dameshek of NFL.com includes Michael Vick on his list of quarterbacks who can’t win the Super Bowl:

Not even Vick can delude himself into believing he’s anything more than a placeholder in new coach Chip Kelly’s system.

Obstacle: Inaccuracy; slowing foot speed; never-ending string of injuries.

Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com looks at the QB outlook for all 32 teams:

Vick agreed to a restructured contract to play under new head coach Chip Kelly, whose wide-open offensive system may be a better fit for him than Reid’s West Coast-style scheme. Foles isn’t as athletic as Vick, but the Eagles feel strongly enough about his potential that overtures about a potential trade to Kansas City where Reid is now head coach were rebuffed.

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