The Eagles take on Todd Bowles and the Jets this afternoon in a high-stakes Week 3 showdown. We’ll pop in with some updates and thoughts from time to time. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments section below.
“Wherever football is being played” seems to be the appropriate answer. Read more »
Here’s a roundup of national media predictions for Sunday’s Eagles-Cardinals game.
Some links to pass along as we inch closer to Eagles-Cardinals:
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Here’s a roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles this week.
If you’re a coach, you’re going to get fired. If you’re lucky you’ll get another gig in another city, and you’ll move your family there and hope the stay is long enough to grow some roots. But it probably won’t be.
Given the transient nature of the profession, it is understandable that a coach would insulate himself and zero in only on the Sunday in front of him until he is told that there will be no more Sundays with his current team.
“I have no idea. I have no idea. I hope it’s good,” said special teams coach Bobby April, when asked what the future holds for him in Philadelphia. “I like living in the neighborhood over here on 20th Street. It’s a good place, plus the city’s a great place and the organization’s great. But I don’t know. I have no idea. I couldn’t tell you.”
Of course, most who follow the situation could tell April that his chances of staying on the Eagles coaching staff beyond this season are remote. Same for Marty Mornhinweg and Todd Bowles and their leader Andy Reid. All of these men have to recognize the reality of the situation, but they seem programmed in such a way where the valve that allows that type of thinking is turned off.
“I haven’t gone there. Sometimes, the end is the beginning of something new. However, I don’t think any of us have gone there,” said Mornhinweg. “We are trying to get – my responsibility is these players and making sure that we’re getting better every day. That is our whole focus here. This is what we do for a living and one of the only things I have ever done except for working at the gas station there in South San Jose in high school. This is what we do. It’s not very hard, I think, to keep our focus on this next ballgame and the game plan, making sure that we get better every day. This is an important time for many of our players, some veterans and some young guys. Very, very important for them this week. I take that part very, very seriously there.”
While the rest of us have moved straight past the Giants and onto the bigger issues at hand, players and coaches find real value in every game they play, regardless of whether it has playoff implications or not. A chance to teach, a chance to play, a chance to put quality work on tape. A chance to absorb some knowledge to help you in your next stop.
“I’ve learned a ton of football from Reid. I’ve learned a ton about treating people, about management,” said Bowles. “I’ve learned a ton from my players. I’ve learned different personalities. I’ve learned different schemes. I’ve learned different parts of the game, as far as people and how to use them and different pieces.”
Nobody has faced more questions about the inevitable end than Reid, who has fought hard to keep those thoughts out.
“It looks to me like he is thinking about nothing else other than this next ballgame. I’m saying he’s a rock. He pretty much motors through anything,” said Mornhinweg.
Reid will have to motor through a good deal more in the coming weeks. Like many of his assistants, he in all likelihood will be forced to relocate and start over. But in a coach’s mind that’s never far from your reality, so why not focus your energy on the task at hand while you’re still here?
“You always walk the plank as a coach,” said April. “No one’s infallible.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Sheil takes a deeper look at Mike McCoy.
In the latest Twitter Mailbag, we throw some cold water on the idea that Michael Vick is dying to play for Chip Kelly.
Kapadia breaks out the All-22 tape to dissect Nick Foles‘ final performance of the 2012 season.
The Eagles were shut out in the Pro Bowl voting. Many believe that Evan Mathis deserved to make the team.
DeMeco Ryans explains why the label that he can’t play in a 3-4 is false advertising.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Don Banks of SI.com has a “Black Monday Primer” and gives some names that the Eagles could target:
If Kelly doesn’t materialize in green, some within the league expect Lurie to take a page out of his past and try to identify the next Andy Reid: A young position coach or coordinator with obvious upside potential. Denver’s McCoy, Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter or Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell might make the radar screen in Philly. And don’t overlook one of the league’s better special teams coaches, like San Francisco’s Brad Seely, Dallas’ Joe DeCamillis, San Diego’s Rich Bisaccia or Atlanta’s Keith Armstrong. Remember, the Eagles had John Harbaugh on their staff for years, and the former Philly special teams coach has led the Ravens to five playoff berths in his first five years on the job.
Alex Marvez of FoxSports lists 12 potential head coaching candidates, one of which is Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer:
The man knows defense. Cincinnati ranks second in the NFL in sacks with 47 and has 92 over the past two seasons. That total is only eight less than what the Bengals produced in their previous four seasons combined. Zimmer has achieved defensive success largely through the development of draft picks — led by Geno Atkins, whose 12.5 sacks lead all NFL defensive tackles by a wide margin.
Barring something unforeseen, Reid’s last practice as head coach of the Eagles.
Through the first 13 games, the Eagles’ defensive line had accounted for 20 sacks, or about 1.5 per contest.
Against the Bengals, Tommy Brasher’s group sacked Andy Dalton six times and kept him uncomfortable all game long (13-for-27 for 127 yards). So what was different about the performance of the defensive line this time around? Here’s a look at all six sacks, using the All-22 shots.
Play 1: Brandon Graham can thank Dalton for his first sack. You’ll see what I mean below. In the first image, you can see Graham’s lined up wide against right tackle Andre Smith.
You’ll also see Hawkins is wide-open, beating Brandon Boykin. Dalton pumped, but decided not to let the ball go. Here’s another angle.
Play 2: On third down in the second quarter, Graham got sack No. 2. Take a look at the pre-snap look.
After the ball is snapped, Ryans starts rushing to towards the B-Gap between the right guard and right tackle.
The Bengals once again had a chance for a big play to Hawkins. He ran a stop-and-go and got Nate Allen to bite.
Play 3: Trent Cole played one of his best games of the season. On his sack in the second quarter, he got some help from the Bengals left guard.
Cole and Cullen Jenkins run a stunt on the right side.
Play 4: On Jenkins’ sack, he looped all the way outside Cole from his left defensive tackle spot.
Play 5: Remember earlier, we showed Ryans threatening to blitz? Same thing here. On this play, he lines up in the A-Gap between the center and right guard.
1. As we’ve discussed on multiple occasions, this team has some major decisions to make in the secondary this offseason. Nnamdi Asomugha, who would be owed $4M if released, was asked if he thinks some of the players (presumably on defense) have shown in the past two weeks that they deserve to be back.
“Here’s the thing that I know. Everybody wants to be back,” Asomugha said. “We don’t know how it’s going to shake out, but I can tell you everybody believes in this team and knows the direction that we’re going. We think it’s up. So I know everybody wants to be back.”
I understand what Asomugha was saying. He’s pointing out that the defense has improved the past two weeks. And I know the players in the locker room have to try to stay confident. But to say the direction is pointing up after the ninth loss in 10 games just seems a little off to me.
2. The other starting corner, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, is a free agent after the season. He shadowed A.J. Green all game and won his share of battles. Green finished with six catches for 57 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. After the game, Rodgers-Cromartie was asked about playing for a contract.
“I ain’t playing for money. That’s going to come. I’m not worried about that. My main thing is I’m just trying to go out and finish strong,” he said.
“I know what I have in me. I know what kind of player I am. If nobody can see it, then that’s just them.”
Evaluating Rodgers-Cromartie is going to be one of the most difficult things this front office has to do. He’s got talent, he plays well in stretches and by all accounts is a good teammate. He holds himself accountable and is only 26. There’s no question that Rodgers-Cromartie has a (multiple) Pro Bowl ceiling.
But there’s a reason why he could be on his third different team before he turns 27. He’s incredibly inconsistent, often shies away from contact and is a terrible tackler. That’s why whoever’s coaching this team in 2013 has to be the one who decides whether or not Rodgers-Cromartie is worth keeping around.
3. And then there’s the guy coaching Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie: Todd Bowles. If there’s one person who has a lot to gain from the final two games, it’s him. Remember, this is someone who was considered to be on a path towards being an NFL head coach before the season. In six weeks with Bowles as defensive coordinator and Jim Washburn as defensive line coach, the Eagles allowed opponents to complete 76.3 percent of their passes. In the past two weeks, without Washburn, that number is 44.3 percent.
With a strong finish, it’ll be pretty easy to sell the Washburn was the problem narrative. Of course, there’s no telling where he’ll be coaching next. Bowles’ name has been mentioned in connection with the Temple head coaching job.
“It was good. It’s my alma mater.,” Bowles said of his conversation with the Owls. “We had a good talk. We had a good conversation. … We’ll see how it goes.”
4. I still need to re-watch the game, but Andy Reid and Nick Foles seemed to offer different explanations for the third-quarter interception.
“He’s got a real strong arm,” Reid said. “You can put his arm up against anybody in this league. You just have to make sure that he’s taking time to look people off, and you have to make sure you don’t spend too much time doing that. You have to make sure you get your feet around and that you have enough momentum to get your body and legs into the throw.”
Reid’s explanation makes sense. He also indicated the issue was one of mechanics. Foles had an issue of staring down receivers in his first couple of starts. We pointed out last week how he did a better job of looking safeties off against Tampa.
But Foles seemed to just think he threw a bad ball.
“I just made a horrible throw,” he said. “The ball came out bad and it had a little bit of wobble to it. You really have to cut it and I didn’t do that. I just have to spin it and it started fluttering towards the end. I underthrew Jeremy and the guy came back and made a play. So it’s a bad throw. It’s one that I can’t have. But it happened, and I just have to, next time it happens, just really throw it out there.”
According to STATS, Inc., Foles is just 3-for-16 on balls that have traveled more than 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. That’s certainly one area for improvement.
5. As for some of the other mistakes, Reid said Marvin McNutt was where he was supposed to be on the punt block. Ryan Rau was supposed to be in, but Clay Harbor made a heads-up play and filled in for him. That had nothing to do with the block though. McNutt just got manhandled.
Cedric Thornton took responsibility for the fumbled kickoff return. It’s funny. I remember at training camp watching some of the offensive linemen and defensive linemen fielding kicks and wondering: Why are they wasting their time with this? Now, I understand.
“Definitely should have been a fair catch,” Thornton said. “That was my fault. I was running, looking to make a big play and should have fair caught it. That was my fault. Next time I will be more focused and I will call a fair catch.”
But at some point, you just can’t argue with the numbers.
Through six games with Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator and Jim Washburn as defensive line coach, the Eagles were allowing quarterbacks to complete 76.3 percent of their passes – a historically bad number.
But in the last two games, since Andy Reid fired Washburn and added Tommy Brasher, the Eagles’ defense appears to be much-improved, limiting Josh Freeman and Andy Dalton to just 44.3 percent completions. Against the Bengals, they did not allow a single completion of more than 19 yards.
To point the finger squarely at Washburn would be unfair. And to simply blame the Wide-9 would not be accurate. Eagles defensive ends still line up way out there on occasion. But there’s no arguing that the change up front to a read-and-react system has taken stress off of the back end and helped the defense as a whole.
“You probably have to talk to Todd. I think he’s been able to do a few more things. He’s been calling some creative things in the back end that we kind of hadn’t had before,” said cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. “The D-Line is playing a little differently, so the safeties aren’t as focused on the run as much as they’ve been in the past, so they’re able to stay back a little bit more. It helps us to get our hands on footballs, which we’ve done the last two weeks, and the D-Line’s playing great too.”
Eagles defensive linemen accounted for 20 sacks through the first 13 games. In one game against the Bengals, they had six. Brandon Graham had 2.5; Fletcher Cox had 1.5; Trent Cole and Cullen Jenkins added one apiece.
“I think it’s helped a lot, doing the reading and react stuff,” Cole said. “I think it’s helped a lot. It’s tough. When you’re losing games, you’ve got to have everybody. It takes a team to win a game. You can’t go out there and try to win with the turnovers, the mistakes, you just can’t win with them.”
The box score will show that the Eagles allowed 34 points, suggesting a disastrous defensive performance. But that was not the case. All five of the Bengals’ scoring drives started in Eagles’ territory: at the 44, the 11, the 40, the 13 and on the 33. The Bengals’ other touchdown came on defense – the result of a fumble between Nick Foles and Bryce Brown.
The improvement on defense is nice, but with the Eagles at 4-10, it’s obviously too little, too late. The truth is many of the players currently on the field aren’t going to be here next year. And the same can almost certainly be said for the coaches. With two games left, the defense will continue to try and build towards something.
“We saw progress in certain areas,” Bowles said. “But not enough to win the ballgame, so we’ve got to keep working.”