The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Vikings

NFL: Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles punted four times and turned it over once on their first five possessions last week against the Lions.

After each series, when the offensive players ran off the field and towards the sideline, assistant coaches were waiting for them with questions.

They wanted to know what the conditions were like, why certain things weren’t working and what the Lions were doing defensively.

“You don’t even need to wait until halftime,” said guard Todd Herremans. “We get enough breaks during the game where you come off the field. We had a lot of stuff that was based off of the speed of their ends rushing upfield and penetration of their tackles and stuff. We thought we would be able to take advantage of that, use our speed to our advantage. But obviously during the conditions, they just kind of slowed everybody down and it just became more of a power/downhill game.”

The players let the coaches know that they were slipping, that the Lions’ front four wasn’t getting upfield, that it was difficult to change direction and get to runs which required a certain degree of lateral movement.

And so Chip Kelly and his staff decided to implement some changes. Read more »

The Case Of the Shrinking Leads

kelly_940_100713The Eagles offense has been shut out in the fourth quarter in each of  its last five games. Not since October 20, when Alex Henery kicked a 31-yard field goal three seconds into the period, has this unit generated points in the fourth.

The good news is that the Eagles are 4-1 over that five-game stretch. In back-to-back wins against Oakland and Green Bay, they were able to maintain a comfortable lead as they salted the game away. If you remember, they closed out the Packers with a 16-play drive that ate up 9:32 of game clock.

Things got a little too interesting late against Washington and Arizona over the last two weeks. The Eagles entered the fourth quarter up 24-0 on Washington and won 24-16. A 24-7 second-half lead against the Cards shrunk to 24-21.

There are worse problems than trying to figure out how to hold onto big leads — at least it means you’re getting big leads to begin with — but it is an area that needs to be cleaned up before it comes back to bite them. Read more »

Another Honor For Nick Foles

Nick FolesIt’s been a pretty good month for Nick Foles. 

It started with a seven-touchdown performance in Oakland, and finishes with him atop the depth chart as the Eagles prep for a final five-game push. A little icing on the cake came his way Wednesday when he was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month.

The second-year signal-caller was a perfect 3-0 in November with wins over the Raiders, Packers and Redskins. Foles completed 51 of his 72 passes in November (71 percent) with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. He is the fourth quarterback in franchise history to receive the honor, joining Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick. Read more »

Shurmur: ‘Not Saying There Is A Conspiracy’

 Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur takes question from mediaPat Shurmur fielded question after question about the Eagles’ replay process Tuesday, specifically as it applies to the missed challenge opportunity in Green Bay. Something just doesn’t add up.

Shurmur explained that there are quite a few coaches in the booth that have their eyes on the monitor. If there is a play that warrants a challenge, a coach will relay the info to Shurmur, who will pass it on to Chip Kelly. On the Jarrett Boykin catch, no one in the booth saw an angle that convinced them to speak up. Read more »

Digging Deeper Into the Replay Issue

Chip KellySafe to say,  Chip Kelly and his staff  have been a little shaky in the instant replay department so far this year. They are 1-for-4 on challenges. Sunday the issue was the decision not to challenge, particularly on one play — a 36-yard reception by the Packers’ Jarrett Boykin in the second quarter.

Television replays showed that the receiver’s hand was out of bounds before his second foot came down in the field of play. The call on the field would almost certainly have been overturned. Ultimately it didn’t cost the Eagles —  Brandon Boykin came up with an interception later in the drive–  but it could have. It’s an area of in-game management that needs to be cleaned up.

Kelly provided an interesting explanation when asked about the decision to not challenge in that spot. Read more »

All-22: How Foles And the Offense Rebounded

all22_400In the days leading up to Sunday’s game against the Raiders, Chip Kelly was asked what his message would be to Nick Foles to get him to rebound from the clunker against the Cowboys.

“Sometimes, as I told Nick, grip it and rip it, let’s go,” Kelly said. “He’s thrown a lot of really good passes since I’ve been around him, and he’s been really good with the football.

“The big thing for him is let’s just get him back in the flow. Let’s get in a rhythm. That’s the biggest thing. Can you get in a rhythm, can you get your feet set, can you throw the ball?”

Answers to those questions came against the Raiders: yes, yes and yes.

After losses to the Cowboys and Giants and a grand total of three points by the offense, Kelly emphasized that there would be no grand scheme changes. The concepts would stay the same, but the execution had to get better.

And it did. To the tune of 49 points in three quarters. So what worked? And why was there such a difference from the previous two weeks? Here’s what we saw from the tape. Read more »

All-22: How the Offense Operates With Foles

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All last week, Chip Kelly and his staff made one thing clear: The offense would not undergo a complete makeover with Nick Foles at quarterback instead of Michael Vick.

His argument didn’t seem all that convincing. After all, the two quarterbacks have different skill sets. Why not mold the offense to whichever guy was going to be on the field?

On Sunday, against the Bucs, we got a better idea of what Kelly meant. And for the most part, he was speaking the truth.

“We’d have played the game exactly the same way,” said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “We would have had all the same plays in the gameplan, and we would have called it exactly the same way with Mike.”

Several players backed up Shurmur’s words. The Eagles piled up 425 yards and scored 31 points in their victory over the Bucs. Foles completed 71 percent of his passes and averaged 9.5 yards per attempt, accounting for four touchdowns.

Without a quarterback who poses a true running threat and facing a defense that liked to employ a lot of zone, the Eagles still found ways to play option football and had success with packaged plays all day long at Raymond James Stadium. Read more »

Shurmur: Foles For Now, Future TBD

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Nick Foles is the man out front as preparation for Dallas begins.

Michael Vick was on the field at the start of practice Tuesday but is still nursing a hamstring injury. Pat Shurmur suggested that Foles will be taking the first-team reps to start the week. What he said next was interesting.

“I can probably answer some of the [questions] that are going to come along here. Coach Kelly will address those issues about who the quarterback is when both of them are healthy. At this point we’ll go with Nick, and when Mike’s healthy we’ll have that discussion.”

That is different then saying, “when Mike’s healthy he’s our guy.” There is a discussion to be had, apparently. Read more »

What Kelly Tells Vick Through the Headset

Chip KellyChip Kelly has 25 seconds to talk through the headset to Michael Vick in between snaps.

From the time the play clock starts until there are 15 seconds remaining, the one-way line of communication is open. So the question posed to Kelly today was: What do you say to Vick other than the play-call?

“In the headset, it’s really just calling the play,” Kelly said. “The defense isn’t set up yet so I’m not gonna predict what I think they’re gonna have. I’m calling the play and we’re getting lined up so it’s not, ‘Hey Mike… watch out for Cover-1, Cover-2, Cover-man, they may blitz, they may not.’ I can’t warn him about everything. I think if you get into that, they’re not deployed, they haven’t lined up yet. And we’re trying to get our play in and let Mike get set. He has a pre-snap routine that him and Coach [Billy] Lazor work on all the time that Mike goes through, locating the safeties and where we’re going with it. There’s not a whole heck of a lot of communication except for what the play is.”

Many of the Eagles’ plays have options built in. They don’t want to be at a numbers disadvantage running into certain looks. They want to exploit mismatches on the perimeter. And they want to play fast.

So Kelly makes the call, Vick looks at the defense, the ball is snapped, and the QB has to make a decision. There’s really not time for anything else, Kelly said.

“I think Mike’s done a really nice job,” he added, when specifically asked about decision-making. “He’s protected the football for us, gotten the ball out on time. We’ve had the ability I think because we can protect to take some more shots down the field. And he’s done a really good job of distributing the ball. We’re at a pretty high completion percentage right now. I’m sure he’d want a couple throws back. There’s a few times when we could have been a little bit more accurate, but I think overall in two games, I’m happy where Mike is.”

Vick has gone 61 attempts without an interception. He’s fumbled twice, one on the backwards pass to LeSean McCoy against Washington and another where the ball came out of his hands as he tried to tuck it against the Chargers.

Vick leads the league with 13 pass plays of 20+ yards and is third in passer rating (119.0) behind Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers.

SHURMUR MAKES THE CALL

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is Kelly’s replay guy in the booth, the head coach said today.

In case you’re wondering about Shurmur’s track record there, he was 5-for-11 on challenges in two seasons as head coach of the Browns. Extremely small sample sizes, but Shurmur was 2-for-6 (33 percent) last year, 28th in the league. In 2011, he was 3-for-5 (60 percent), 12th-best.

So far through two weeks, Kelly is the only coach in the league who is 0-for-2 on challenges.

PLANNING FOR THE CHIEFS

The Eagles are starting their season with three games in 11 days. Kelly explained how they’re preparing.

“Everything was broken down and we immediately after the Chargers game, we came back to work that night,” Kelly said. “Our entire staff here was pretty late on Sunday night getting the game-plan together.”

Kelly added that they didn’t want to do too much on the game-plan prior to Sunday night because he felt it might lead to some confusion for the Chargers games.

INJURIES

Brandon Hughes (hamstring) will not practice today.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Vick On Hits: ‘I Think I Can Make It Through’

0V3J8536The Redskins were credited with seven quarterback hits on Michael Vick Monday night, but that doesn’t begin to tell the story.

Through his film study, Ron Jaworski tracks the amount of hits the quarterback takes in a given game. According to Jaws’ count, Vick was knocked to the ground 15 times in the opener and was involved in some sort of contact play an additional eight times. That’s 23 of 77 snaps (30 percent)  where the 33-year-old was mixing it up.

“No one can sustain those kind of hits at the quarterback position and stay healthy,” said Jaworski. “It’s too many.”

Chip Kelly, like the coach before him, has stressed that Vick avoid unnecessary punishment. Kelly said that they are happy with how the veteran is handling that in some respects, while other areas need some work. One thing the staff could definitely do without is seeing Vick assume the role of lead blocker on some of the running plays, as he did Monday night.

“I talked to him during the game, after the game, on Tuesday,” said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “The one thing I admire about Mike — something we’ve all seen — he’s extremely tough, he’s very competitive and when the game is going on, he reacts to things like you want a football player to react.”

A football player, yes. But a quarterback?

“Now, we don’t want him lead blocking on sweeps. And so we told him, ‘Don’t do that,’ so we assume he won’t.”

Jason Peters was jokingly asked how Vick graded out as a blocker. He laughed and gave him a zero.

“I told Mike, ‘Don’t do that again. Let me do it,'” said Peters. “We don’t need him out there blocking. If it’s a key block and it triggers a touchdown, hooray, but we don’t need him out there blocking. We need him out there for all 16 games.”

Vick wasn’t ready to quit the blocking game completely when he addressed reporters on Wednesday, however.

“I try not to do it but just the way we run the read option sometimes the ball gets cut back and I’m standing there, and I’m not going to let my teammate get hit by a guy,” said Vick. “Maybe I’ll just get in the way next time and just try to wall him off.

“I’m a football player at the end of the day. I’m not just a quarterback, I’m a football player and I do whatever it takes to win.”

The problem there, though, is that you need your quarterback in the lineup consistently to have a chance of winning anything significant. As Jaws points out, other positional players can hurt their hand or injure their shoulder and still might be able to go out and perform their job at a high level. Not as easy for a quarterback given the job description.

Vick recognizes the importance of being there for this team for the long haul, even if his actions don’t always reflect it.

“I understand that if I put my body in jeopardy, at risk, then I’m putting this football team at risk and I feel like I’m being selfish to my teammates,” said Vick. “It’s just something that  I have to gauge and we’re not going to try and change it at this point. I think I can make it through.”

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