Eagles Wake-Up Call: Stephen Tulloch Discusses The Keys To Beating His Former Team
As the Eagles prepare to face the Lions this week, Stephen Tulloch said he hasn’t spoken about the 45 to 14 “butt-whooping” Detroit put on Philadelphia last season.
Rather, the former Lions linebacker is trying to help his new team make sure an embarrassing performance like that doesn’t happen again. After playing in Detroit for the last five years, Tulloch has been able to give the Birds some insider insight on Philadelphia’s Week 5 opponent.
“I just know certain players and certain personnel that will create problems,” said Tulloch. “Obviously, I’ve been there a long time. You give [your teammates] a little insight, but at the end of the day you’ve got to line up and play ball. Guys are going to study tape.”
While it certainly can’t hurt to have the extra information, it’s not like the Eagles will need to solely rely on Tulloch’s intel to beat Detroit. The Lions aren’t off to a good start this season. If not for a late comeback against an uninspiring Colts team in Week 1, Detroit could easily be 0-4 right now. The Lions’ latest loss came against a Brian Hoyer-led Bears team in Chicago.
Despite their struggles, the Lions still have some offensive firepower. Detroit ranks ninth overall in yards per game and 13th in points. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter helped guide the Lions to a 6-3 record in their last nine games after being promoted in-season last year. Tulloch offered his own assessment of Detroit’s offense.
“[Matthew] Stafford is a good quarterback,” said Tulloch. “He can make all the big throws. He’s very smart. He has his good outlets with Theo Riddick in the slot, flanked out. Obviously, 25 is a good player. I let the guys [here] know Theo Riddick is a very good player.”
“[Eric] Ebron. And obviously, you have [Marvin] Jones on the outside. So they have some good pieces there. We got to get ready for everything: screen game, pass game, run game. They’re going to give it to us.”
One gigantic difference between the offense the Eagles faced last year compared to the one they’ll face this Sunday is the obvious missing piece: Calvin Johnson. The wide receiver known as Megatron torched the Birds on Thanksgiving for 93 yards and three touchdowns on eight receptions. Johnson was targeted 14 total times in that game. Now that he’s retired, the Lions are forced to share the ball more often.
“[They] definitely have to spread it out,” said Tulloch. “Eric Ebron was drafted in the first round for a reason. He was drafted to be an X-factor. Take vertical route up the seam and be able to be mismatches with linebackers.”
“They have good pieces obviously. Anquan Boldin is a 14-year vet coming in the slot. [He] creates some drag routes across the middle. They’ve got a lot of bits and pieces here. Obviously they’re trying to get things together now, going down a couple of games. Like I said, I know Coach [Jim] Caldwell will get those guys right and ready to play us.”
On a personal level, Tulloch is really looking to returning to Detroit this week. He called the city his “second home” and repeatedly mentioned how appreciative he feels toward the Lions organization. Tulloch said he still texts with his former teammates on a weekly basis.
Tulloch won’t be the only former key member of the Lions returning to Detroit on Sunday. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will be once again squaring off against the team that gave him his first and only head coaching opportunity in the NFL. The last time Schwartz was when he was Buffalo’s defensive coordinator in 2014. The Bills beat the Lions and Schwartz was carried off the field by his players. Tulloch offered his thoughts on what this game means to the coach he’s been so closely tied with throughout his career.
“I don’t know,” he said. “You tell me. I went there, obviously Detroit hadn’t been in the playoffs in 10 years and he was able to get us to the playoffs at the time. He was let go, unfortunately, but whenever you can get a chance to get back there and play against your former team, yeah, you get amped up. He hasn’t spoke about it nor will he speak about it. That’s just who he is. I’m sure he’s geared up and ready to play as we all are.”
Schwartz has obviously done a great job with Philadelphia’s defense so far. Through three games, his unit has only allowed 20 points. Tulloch hasn’t been the kind of big contributor he used to be for Schwartz in Detroit and Tennessee, but the veteran has contributed as a role-player. His playing time increased from one snap in Week 1 to 12 snaps in Week 2 and 11 snaps in Week 3. The veteran linebacker will likely play a similar role against his former team on Sunday.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Revisit our Open Thread from the Monday Night Football game between the Giants and the Vikings.
Nigel Bradham was reportedly arrested in Miami for a gun charge over the weekend.
Zach Ertz is expected to play Sunday against the Lions, along with Leodis McKelvin.
The Cowboys are eyeing a Week 8 return for Tony Romo, which would be against the Eagles.
Even though the Eagles didn’t play on Sunday, how did Week 4 affect the team?
Brandon Lee Gowton, John Barchard, and James Seltzer discussed some Eagles bye week topics over the weekend on SportsRadio 94WIP.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Lane Johnson‘s PED appeal is today. Les Bowen of the Daily News has more on the appeal, which could be announced in about another week.
It isn’t clear on what grounds Johnson is basing his appeal. He has said he tested positive for banned peptides in June, after using an amino acid supplement he said did not list all its ingredients on the label. The NFL takes the position that players are responsible for what they ingest, regardless of what labels say.
Johnson, who served a four-game suspension in 2014 for what he has said was Adderall, has not spoken with reporters the past few weeks, since his suspension was confirmed. Right guard Brandon Brooks said Monday that Johnson isn’t, “down in the dumps or anything” as he faces the possibility of a long absence.
Johnson has been the Eagles’ most dominant o-lineman this season. The unit played very well in the Birds’ shocking 34-3 waxing of Pittsburgh Sept. 25.
“It’s unfortunate, is what it is. He’s a really good player,” Brooks said. “When he’s not out there, he’ll definitely be missed.”
After being named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September, Fletcher Cox is looking to build on that very good start, pens Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com.
Through three games, Cox has been more disruptive and, yes, humble than ever.
“Aw man, just living in the moment,” Cox said when asked about winning Defensive Player of the Month. “That’s how I approach everything. Just live in the moment and just get ready for next month.”
Cox, who was the Eagles’ first-round pick in 2012 has played well during his five years in the league, but the recognition didn’t quite follow.
He finally made his first Pro Bowl in 2015 after a 9½-sack year and this offseason signed a six-year contract that included $63 million guaranteed.
With this latest award, the recognition keeps coming.
“I never said I was disrespected, but sometimes some people don’t get the recognition they deserve,” the soft-spoken Cox said. “Obviously, I think Brandon (Graham) has been playing really, really good. Nobody’s really talking about him. I think everybody is playing on a really elite level.”
The Eagles have off today. The team returns to practice tomorrow.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.