All-22: What the Eagles Would Get In McCourty

Devin McCourty. Matt Kartozian / USA TODAY

Devin McCourty. Matt Kartozian / USA TODAY

On the fourth play from scrimmage in the divisional round matchup between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, Joe Flacco dropped back and found Torrey Smith downfield for a 22-yard completion.

Smith ran an over route, starting on Flacco’s right side before gradually crossing the middle of the field. Devin McCourty was set up at free safety on the play. He saw the ball was going to Smith, accelerated forward and delivered a big hit, but the wide receiver held on. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Secondary Shuffle

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Photo courtesy of USA Today

There was a change in approach and personnel Sunday, but the results were in many ways the same.

The struggling Bradley Fletcher was inactive for the regular-season finale in New York (Chip Kelly said he suffered a hip injury in practice during the week), moving Nolan Carroll into a starting role and rookie Jaylen Watkins into the rotation. Because of the new pieces, Billy Davis opted to have Cary Williams shadow Odell Beckham Jr. instead of keeping the starting corners on their respective sides as is custom. And to try and minimize the amount of big plays, Davis went with more split-safety looks.

The Giants, though, still racked up 429 passing yards and the Eagles yielded five plays of 20-plus yards through the air, adding to their league-leading total. Read more »

All-22: Defensive Decisions Burn Eagles

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The way Billy Davis tells it, the Eagles fully understood going into last week’s game that the Bradley Fletcher-DeSean Jackson matchup was one that favored the opponent.

“The whole game plan was either to pressure and have the post-safety stay over the top of DeSean, unless somebody else was in a more stressful situation, or split the safeties and double,” Davis said. “So we moved in and out of that the whole game.”

Chip Kelly and company were adamant in the offseason that Jackson didn’t affect how defenses played the Eagles. But apparently, as an opponent, he was someone they felt they had to focus on with their game plan.

The speedy receiver got loose for four catches for 126 yards. He had two grabs of 50+ yards and also drew a pass interference penalty that set up a Washington touchdown.

Fletcher had been left on an island against the Packers earlier this season, and Jordy Nelson went off on him. In Week 15 against the Cowboys, it was the same story; only the name changed. It was Dez Bryant this time.

Yet in an absolute must-win spot, there it was again: Fletcher on an island against an opponent he couldn’t handle. It wasn’t every play, but it happened enough to where the mismatch was glaring. It got to the point where Davis finally made a switch, pulling Fletcher for Nolan Carroll II in the fourth quarter.

Too little, too late. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: On Turnovers And Discipline

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Chip Kelly knew very well that his team was living on the edge.

You can go back to his postgame press conference following the 27-0 shutout of the Giants back on October 12. The win lifted the Eagles to 5-1 but they entered the bye with a minus-5 turnover ratio. Kelly acknowledged then that the formula was not sustainable.

“We’ve got to do a better job because you can’t do it at that rate and end up on the right side of the ledger,” he said.

Despite that acknowledgement the turnovers continued, but so did the winning for a time thanks in large part to big point production out of their special teams and defense. Of all the teams that were in the basement when it came to give/take, Kelly’s was the only one ranked as a contender. They were the outlier. Until they weren’t.
Read more »

Zone Read: Eagles-Washington, the Day After

Photo Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

LANDOVER, Md. – Chip Kelly had been in this room before, but the circumstances were different the last time.

It was September of 2013. Kelly’s squad had just put the NFL on notice that his up-tempo attack could be effective at the professional level as the Eagles defeated Washington on Monday Night football in his debut as Andy Reid’s successor.

Kelly answered questions from a roomful of reporters about the Birds’ pace, Michael Vick’s performance and other topics. Before exiting the room to make the trip back to Philadelphia, Kelly stopped to say hello to some media members who had made the trip from Oregon.

Where his first season began was essentially the same place that his second season ended. Kelly’s squad was clinging to its playoffs aspirations Saturday afternoon at FedEx Field. The hope was that the Eagles would take care of business against an inferior opponent and perhaps get a little help in the final two weeks to sneak into the postseason.

Instead, the Eagles suffered a meltdown. Issues that have been prevalent all year long resurfaced, and the result was a 27-24 loss. Read more »

Lost Season For Boykin?

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

The calls for more Brandon Boykin have quieted down as the year has gone along, partly because people have come to realize those efforts are fruitless, and partly because Boykin hasn’t been flashing with the same brightness compared to last season.

That six-interception campaign seems a world away now, doesn’t it? The talk this offseason was all about how to get the young corner’s snaps up from 50 percent. Instead, his playing time has gone south (he’s played 42 percent of the defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus) and it feels like Boykin has been pushed further to the fringe by Billy Davis and Chip Kelly despite the coaches’ claims that he is viewed as a starter. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Three Leftovers From Chip

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Here are three leftovers from Chip Kelly’s session with reporters on Monday.

1. Kelly has been peppered with a lot of questions about the Eagles’ lack of a downfield passing attack.

“I think people are playing us a lot deeper than they did last year,” he said Monday. “That’s very evident. I don’t think anybody really lets us get behind them anymore. People are playing coverage from the top down, as opposed to last year; we saw a lot more press-man last year.

“We are not going to force things in terms of trying to throw the ball deep over the top if they are not going to allow you to run over the top.”

Earlier in the season, the downfield throws were available. What’s happened since then? Read more »

Zone Read: Eagles-Cowboys, the Day After

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Billy Davis usually sets up shop at the exact same spot in the middle of the Eagles locker room after home games.

He always speaks in the same calm, measured tone. You can never tell by his face whether his defense just played well or played poorly, whether the Eagles won or lost.

Players seem to appreciate that about him. And so does Chip Kelly. Davis believes in the process, and having coached in the NFL for more than 20 years, he’s been on the wrong side of plenty of bad losses, contests where the game plan left room for second-guessing and where the coaches didn’t put the players in positions to succeed.

Sunday’s 38-27 loss to the Cowboys was one of those games. Read more »

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