The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Lions
1. Donnie Jones’ NFL career nearly ended right after it started. He bounced around from the practice squad to the active roster with the Seahawks back in 2004, but punted poorly. He bought an apartment in Seattle, figuring he’d be there for awhile, but soon found out that life as a pro would be a little more complicated. In the Seahawks’ 10th game that season, Jones got eight opportunities to do his job and came up small.
“Averaged 32 yards, a 28-yard net, I got booed out of the stadium and people were telling me, ‘You need to be behind a desk, get a day job,” Jones recalled. “So I got on the phone, started calling.
“Just trying to find anything. I got my degree in finance. Trying to find something in that industry. But calling around just talking to some of these people and what they were doing. There was one guy I talked to in New York, and he was telling me he was living in basically a box making nothing. But I’m looking at all options because like I said, I haven’t done anything.”
Jones got a call from his college coach at LSU, Nick Saban, who was with the Miami Dolphins. Veteran Matt Turk tore his groin, and Jones took over. He stuck in Miami for two seasons, spent five years with the Rams, one with the Texans and is now in Philadelphia where Jones has earned back-to-back Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
“There’s a lot of good guys who never make it because there’s 32 positions,” Jones said. “So timing has a lot to do with it.”
2. Cary Williams has dueling on-field personalities. Against some receivers, like Hakeem Nicks, he’ll help up the opponent and demonstrate an on-field respect. Against other receivers, like Dez Bryant, he’ll do whatever he can to get into their heads, even if that means exchanging blows after the whistle.
So what’s the deal?
“I don’t know, man. Sometimes I try not to get too amped up or too emotional in the game,” Williams said. “Sometimes I just want to keep my composure and stay within myself and not hurt the team. So sometimes you may see me go out there and try to be physical and get in guys’ heads. Sometimes you may see me back off. But I’m just making sure I’m getting in the rhythm of the game and trying to do the best job I possibly can.”
Don’t look for Williams to do anything this week but try to compete and survive against Calvin Johnson.
“From a scale of 1 to 10, I think he’s a 10,” Williams said. “I think he’s the best wide receiver in this game. He’s proven it week in and week out, year in and year out. He’s a big, physical guy. A guy that’s 6-6 and 230 pounds running a 4.3 40. That’s impressive.”
3. Both Billy Davis and Kelly revealed this week that they prefer to not be a blitzing team on defense.
“The math alone, when you send more than four, you are weakening your coverage,” Davis said. “When you drop more than you usually drop and you only rush three, well, now all of a sudden you’re weakening your rush. So it’s always… you’re always moving the numbers around, and absolutely, yeah, I’d love a three‑man rush to be honest with you, the three‑man rush to get there, that’s the perfect world.
“But the four‑man, and that’s what a lot of the four‑down teams do… they get the four best rushers and defensive linemen they can get and they only rush four. So absolutely, the answer is yes, so you would rather not have to add the extra rushers. You would rather add the coverage plus get your pressure.”
Kelly pointed out that rushing fewer guys can help create turnovers on the back end.
“When you can cause a pass‑rush with four guys and get to the quarterback a little bit, now we have guys who have eyes back to the quarterback and kind of locate it,” he said.
The problem this year has been that the pass-rush is a work-in-progress. It’s come on strong as of late, but Davis has still felt the need to blitz to get pressure. And that figures to continue down the stretch.
4. Speaking of the pass-rush, Trent Cole is playing his best football of the year. He has five sacks, five hurries and 31 tackles in the last four games. Cole has been criticized in the past for slowing down the stretch, but he is buying into the sports science factor this time around.
“I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my career right now,” Cole said. “I feel like I’m probably still in the first game of the season. I really do. You’re usually feeling sore. But right now, even though it’s a Thursday, I don’t even feel one ounce of soreness or nothing. Your body feels good and this is the way you want to feel going into a game.”
Cole is still being asked to perform a variety of duties. According to Pro Football Focus, he dropped back in coverage a season-high 13 times last week. His production down the stretch is a key storyline for this defense.
5. Earlier this week, we wrote about the Eagles’ run-game wrinkles. One other thing they did last week was run with the QB under center. Through the first 11 games, only 13 of LeSean McCoy’s 213 carries (6.1 percent) came with the QB under center. Against Arizona, four out of 19 (21.1 percent) were under center.
“There’s multiple reasons for doing it, but when you’re under center, you’re not reading,” said guard Evan Mathis. “You take the reads out of it. Changing it up, defenses don’t know exactly what you’re doing if you’re showing different looks at all times.”