Tag Archives: Billy Davis

Chip Kelly, Jim Haslett, and the Calming of Nerves Before Kickoff

I am currently writing this post while watching Chip Kelly’s old team tied with a school featuring “Washington” in its name. Go figure.

Anyway, I will cut to the chase here: I am nervous for today — Way more nervous than I anticipated being when I made my predictions before the season.

The Redskins absolutely demolished Jacksonville last Sunday while the Eagles had some problems with the same Jaguars team back in Week 1. They are currently fourth in the league in points allowed, and Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan figure to try to take advantage of a makeshift Eagles offensive line.

DeSean Jackson is back in town, and while I do not know how many snaps he will be able to play with that shoulder injury, he will be motivated to make the ones that he does play count.

Mike Shanahan is out. Jay Gruden is in. I never believed the younger Gruden to be particularly brilliant, but he is probably a better coach right now than Shanahan was throughout last season.

Most importantly, Kirk Cousins will start at quarterback for the injured Robert Griffin. That frightens me, and I would much prefer to face Griffin if given the choice. Griffin to me is like some extremely volatile stock. You have no idea what you are going to get with all of the variables, but given recent history (the Eagles were 2-0 against Griffin last season), you feel like you would have a somewhat solid plan.

Cousins seems like more of a known commodity in ways as much as that might run contrary to his limited game experience. What I mean is that while Cousins may not be capable of winning a game by himself like RG3 occasionally is, he also will not single-handedly lose one.

Billy Davis called two nice games against Griffin last season, but the Eagles have never faced Cousins before. All of this scares me.

One thing that does not scare me though is that even with the Skins’ coaching regime overhaul, Jim Haslett remains the defensive coordinator. Chip Kelly absolutely owned Haslett last season as the Eagles combined for 57 points and 845 yards in two victories against the Skins.

Haslett found a way to get a few stops late in games, but the Eagles had already poured it on enough where stalling a few times did not really matter.

Haslett is not bad at his job. He took a then moribund Saints franchise to the playoffs during his first year as head coach back in 2000, but Haslett was bad at his job against Kelly’s up-tempo offense last season.

In the Week 1 opener on Monday Night Football, it looked as if Kelly was playing chess while Haslett was struggling to grasp the simplest rules of checkers. The first half of the second game when these two teams met at Lincoln Financial Field was more of the same, and hopefully later today will be as well.

The Redskins — to their credit — made a lot of coaching and personnel changes, and I am pretty nervous for this one, but when I want to calm my nerves, I think back to last year and how Haslett still runs the Skins defense.

Some things hopefully have not changed. Do it, Chip.

Fist Pump GIF

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Checking Back on the Eagles Numbers I Wanted to See

I am afraid to check these numbers, but let’s do it. Here are the stats we wanted to see:

  1. Less than 45 rushing yards for Trent Richardson
  2. No more than one turnover for Nick Foles
  3. Jeremy Maclin with 90+ receiving yards
  4. At least 14 first half points
  5. Andrew Luck sacked three or more times

How did we do?

  1. No — Richardson somehow ran for 79 yards. The Eagles did force a key fumble on one of his carries, and I thought Bennie Logan and Fletcher Cox played nice games, but the run defense looked shaky overall and will need to be better with Alfred Morris coming to town.
  2. Yes — Only one interception for Nick Foles and no fumbles. I wrote more about the Eagles quarterback and earning respect here.
  3. No — Half of that total, 45 yards to be exact, but Maclin did catch the game-tying touchdown from Foles with three minutes to go. Up and down performance but came through late.
  4. No — Only six first half points for the Eagles. Last year against the Redskins, they had two excellent first halves, outscoring the Skins 43-7. Hopefully they find their groove in the opening 30 minutes on Sunday.
  5. No — Neither Luck nor Foles was sacked all game, but it seemed like some of Billy Davis’ blitz packages got home and at least made the Colts signal-caller uncomfortable.

Not as good of a showing as Week 1 here, but the Eagles won, so all good. We have a short week upon us, so stay tuned for another edition Saturday night.

Five Numbers I Would Like to See on the Stat Sheet when Eagles-Colts Concludes

If you have read anything else or follow me on Twitter, then you already know this, but I want this one bad tonight.

The Colts are my Super Bowl pick, and I really like Andrew Luck, but I want to see Nick Foles beat him head-to-head. Just like last week, I will roll out some numbers that I believe could key an Eagles road victory in Indianapolis tonight.

Against the Jaguars, we only hit on two out of five numbers but were very close on two others. Around midnight tonight, we will go back and evaluate whether or not the goals were reached, so without further ado, let’s introduce them.

Here are five Eagles numbers that I hope to see in the box score after the final whistle tonight.

  1. Less than 45 rushing yards for Trent Richardson — Richardson was fantastic at Alabama and had sky high potential coming out of college but has mostly been a bust so far. One way to solve Andrew Luck is to make the Colts offense one-dimensional. The Eagles run defense did a nice job against Toby Gerhart last week, limiting him to 42 yards on 18 carries, but I have seen them make average running backs look above average in the past. They are very capable of keeping Richardson in check, and doing so would grease the wheels for a win.
  2. No more than one turnover for Nick Foles — Between two fumbles and a red zone interception in the first half last week, Foles was responsible for three turnovers. I do not think the Eagles have to crush the turnover battle to win tonight, but losing it by two like they did against Jacksonville would be less than ideal. You got this, Nicky.
  3. Jeremy Maclin with 90+ receiving yards — Maclin had a great opener with four receptions for 97 yards, including a 68-yard go-ahead touchdown. Even the most cynical of Eagles fans had to be happy for him. Now, it is just a matter of turning in those performances consistently. There should be room to throw against the Colts defense, and two nice games in a row would be an awesome start to the season.
  4. At least 14 first half points — The Eagles do not have to come out firing completely on all cylinders, but they will not be able to survive another first half shutout tonight. If they win the coin toss, Chip Kelly normally likes to defer so they begin the third quarter with the ball after being afforded halftime adjustments. Fourteen points after the first 30 minutes should have them at the very least within striking distance.
  5. Andrew Luck sacked three or more times — The Colts offensive line is not known to be a particularly strong unit, and Luck was sacked by the Broncos three times in the opener. The Eagles got Chad Henne for three sacks in the opener last week, and a good amount of Billy Davis’ blitz packages seemed to be getting home. If Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Mychal Kendricks, or someone else can put Luck on his back a few times, the Eagles chances of leaving Lucas Oil Stadium 0-2 will greatly increase.

I wanted to put something in here about LeSean McCoy, but you just expect him to have good games at this point in his career, so it almost seems like a waste to highlight that. McCoy still managed to average 74 yards even with the offense sputtering last week, and I do not think it is out of the question for him to go over the century mark tonight even with no Evan Mathis along the offensive line.

There you have it. This is what I will be looking for in about 14 hours: 45, one, 90, 14, three, and hopefully a nice 2-0 record along with sole possession of first place in the NFC East.

Five Numbers I Would Like to See on the Stat Sheet When Eagles-Jaguars Concludes

As far as Eagles openers go, today is kinda weird for a multitude of reasons.

First off, it is against an AFC opponent. Second, it is at home — the first time the Eagles have begun a season at Lincoln Financial Field since 2010, and last but certainly not least, pretty much everyone — myself included — expects them to win and to win comfortably.

That is a bit unusual for Week 1 games in the NFL. The birds are the trendy pick in survival pools around the country today and have the biggest spread on any game, entering as 10.5 point favorites over the Jaguars.

In ways, it speaks to how far the Eagles have progressed considering they were in essentially the same position as Jacksonville back in December 2012. The Eagles were 4-12, and the Jaguars were 2-14. Both teams would pick in the top four of the draft and had to hire new coaches. The Eagles went with the super innovative Chip Kelly while the Jags gave the job to Gus Bradley, who might have been minutes away from being the Eagles coach had Kelly opted to stay at Oregon.

Kelly turned things around immediately as the Eagles went 10-6 and won the NFC East while Bradley went 4-12 in his first year running the show.

What does this all mean? It means that later today will hopefully allow us to grade the Eagles on style points as opposed to just scoring more points. A Week 1 victory is a Week 1 victory, but how the Eagles hopefully do it might provide a little more insight about them as the season gets going.

With that said, here are five Eagles numbers that I hope to see in a box score come 4:15 p.m. today.

  1. Less than 21 points scored by the Jaguars — In its first four games last season, the Eagles defense gave up 27, 33, 26, and 52 before settling into a nice groove. Facing Chad Henne and a young Jacksonville offense gives Billy Davis’ unit a nice opportunity to start fast and feel good about itself as Andrew Luck looms in Week 2.
  2. Nick Foles sacked no more than two times — Everyone is going to be focusing on Foles’ interceptions — or hopefully lack thereof — following his insane 27:2 ratio last season, but one part of his game that he can improve upon is taking less sacks that cost the Eagles field position. Foles was sacked more than two times in six starts last season, and the Jaguars have some solid pass rushers in Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, who were part of the Super Bowl champion Seahawks last season. Hopefully Allen Barbre proves to be an adequate replacement for Lane Johnson and strides are made today.
  3. At least 50 receiving yards for Zach Ertz — I have ‘the kid from Stanford who they got playing for em’ down for 60 receptions, 800 yards, and eight touchdowns. For my dude to achieve that yardage number, he would theoretically need to turn in 50 yards each game. He exceeded this mark three times last season and should see more snaps now after looking like an absolute stud in the preseason. Do the damn thing, Zach.
  4. A minimum of one tackle for loss by Fletcher Cox (and hopefully more) — Cox is a player I will be keeping my eye on early on. The third year pro is playing in a two-gap scheme when he really belongs as a 4-3 defensive tackle, but he can be so good. Cox really flashes at times but will then turn invisible for a few weeks. Toby Gerhart and his 231-pound frame is not the easiest guy to bring down behind the line of scrimmage, but I would be hella pumped if Cox could show some consistency and do it at least once today.
  5. No less than 1.5 combined sacks for Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham — I really want to set this at 2.5, but I’m holding back because I am unsure how many snaps each player will see. These two are quite possibly the best pass-rushers on the team but neither one starts because similar to Cox, they are leftovers from the Andy Reid regime and not exactly scheme fits in Davis’ hybrid 3-4. Still they looked hungry in the preseason. Zane Beadles is a nice player, but the Jaguars’ offensive line is not particularly strong. Curry and Graham might be the Eagles best shot at making Henne uncomfortable. Feed them, Billy Davis. Let them have extra dessert.

There you have it. That is what I will be looking for in about 15 hours: 21, two, 50, one, 1.5, and hopefully a nice W to begin a really fun season.

Gentlemen, We Can Rebuild Mark Sanchez. We Have the Technology

Work with me for a second here as we progress through this fake conversation.

The date is Monday, March 24, and Chip Kelly is sitting in his NovaCare Complex office watching tape from the 2013 season.

Footage from the fourth quarter of the first Cowboys game just finished playing featuring rookie Matt Barkley throwing three interceptions after having to relieve a concussed Nick Foles.

Kelly: Secretary, bring me a smoothie and set me up on a Skype call with Howie, Pat, and Bill. 

Secretary: Sure coach, but if you don’t mind me asking, who is Bill, Billy Davis? We have a lot of Bill’s who work for us. 

Kelly: No, not him. Bill Musgrave, our new quarterbacks coach. 

Secretary: Wait, wasn’t the old quarterbacks coach also named Bill? Billy Lazor or something?

Kelly: Yes, he’s in Miami now. You know I hate wasting time, and right now you’re being inefficient with these questions. Get them on the phone, please.

(Shurmur’s ring tone is the Michigan State fight song. Musgrave, in the process of completing his move from Minnesota to Philadelphia, takes a few rings to answer)

Kelly: Afternoon, guys. I’ll cut to the chase real quick. We need to address our quarterback situation. Nick may be the starter for the next 1000 years, but he has suffered some type of injury just about every year going back to his college days at Arizona. I like Matt, but watching some tape from last year, I’m not sure he’s ready to be our backup. Let’s hear some suggestions.

Shurmur: Why don’t we make it easy and just re-sign Mike, Chip? He liked it here and already knows the system.

Kelly: Pat, you gotta keep up here, dawgy. Mike signed with the Jets last Friday. That’s why I’m calling. Bill, you’ll be their position coach. What have you got? (Silence) Bill, talk!

Musgrave: Sorry, Chip, little hard to hear over the Minnesota wind outside the airport here, can’t wait to get to Philly. I used to coach Joe Webb…

Roseman: Bill, no! I realize you’re new here, but we don’t mention that name around these parts after what Webb did on a Tuesday night in December 2010.

Kelly: Howie, let’s make Bill feel welcome and let him finish. In December 2010, I was preparing for Nick Fairley and Auburn’s defense. I wasn’t here for any of that. Go ahead, Bill.

Musgrave: Sorry, Howie, I should have thought of that,, but yeah Joe Webb, very athletic, he would be my choice.

Kelly: Meh. Let’s…

Roseman: Uh Chip, not to interrupt, but I just got a text. Webb signed with the Panthers 30 seconds ago.

Kelly: No loss. Pat, now that you’re all caught up, what do you think?

Shurmur: Well Chip, I used to coach Colt McCoy in Cleveland, threw 14 touchdown passes for me in 2011. What about him?

Kelly: I don’t hate it, but he’s had some bad shoulder injuries. Let me jump in here guys. You know who I like? Mark Sanchez.

(Silence for 10 seconds)

Kelly: I said I like Mark Sanchez, guys. Wind blowing up again, Bill?

Musgrave: Nah Chip, I heard you that time. I’m just kinda shocked. I’d be happy to try to coach him up, but he had 27 turnovers in his final year with the Jets. Are you sure?

Shurmur: Yeah, Chip, I’m kinda with Bill here. I know you were still at Oregon, but in Mark’s final four games with the Jets in 2012, he threw eight interceptions to only one touchdown pass and completed 50.4 percent of his passes. Plus, you mentioned shoulder troubles with Colt. Mark had surgery for a torn labrum in the fall. I just…

Kelly: Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology — and good wide receivers. Get the deal done, Howie. We’ll talk about DeSean later.

(Phone clicks as Kelly immediately returns to watching film)

I have not yet really broached the topic that is the revitalization of Mark Sanchez throughout this preseason. I avoided it in part because I didn’t believe what I was seeing. I also thought there were more pressing issues to address, but to ignore writing about Sanchez any longer would be irresponsible given what we are witnessing.

Considering Kelly announced that Sanchez will not play against his former employer when the Eagles host the Jets Thursday night, now seems like a good time to go more in-depth on him. Sanchez’s preseason is over — a three game stretch that saw him go 25-31 for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and only one interception while leading six touchdown drives.

Most impressive perhaps is that in the third game, Sanchez successfully moved the ball against the Steelers’ starters on defense, who were still playing deep into the third quarter.

The sixth year signal-caller was poised and comfortable in Kelly’s up-temp offense, looking like the quarterback who defeated Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady in playoff games during his first two years in the league and nothing like the deer-in-headlights quarterback who lost his way during his final two years with the Jets.

Consider me as surprised as anyone. I never had any major reason to dislike Sanchez but watching how bad things had gotten for him had almost become a must-see circus from afar. Nothing would top the butt fumble, but you started tuning in just to see what crazy turnover he would commit next.

Needless to say, I was not excited when the Eagles signed him. I had been decently high on Matt Barkley going back to when the birds drafted him. In Kelly’s system, a quarterback needs to be a good, quick decision-maker above all, and Sanchez, with 95 turnovers over four seasons, was far from that.

As I alluded to earlier in the fake conversation, I thought a guy like Colt McCoy — who has a lesser resume but also fewer turnovers — would have been a solid pick if they didn’t give the job to Barkley.

Even as training camp started, I held out hope that Barkley would be able to beat Sanchez out. I really don’t think Barkley played poorly either, but it became crystal clear during the opening game against the Bears, that I was not going to get my wish.

I was wrong, and unlike pond scum hack Mike Freeman, I will try to admit when I am wrong about something.

Sanchez right now looks like a great signing for 2.25 million dollars and one of the best backup quarterback options in the NFL.

Eagles Mark Sanchez
Cowboys Brandon Weeden
Giants Ryan Nassib
Redskins Kirk Cousins
Packers Matt Flynn
Bears Jimmy Clausen
Lions Dan Orlovsky
Vikings Teddy Bridgewater
Panthers Derek Anderson
Saints Luke McCown
Bucs Mike Glennon
Falcons T.J. Yates
Seahawks Tarvaris Jackson
49ers Blaine Gabbert
Cardinals Drew Stanton
Rams Shaun Hill
Patriots Jimmy Garoppolo
Dolphins Matt Moore
Jets Michael Vick
Bills Thaddeus Lewis
Bengals Jason Campbell
Steelers Bruce Gradkowski
Ravens Tyrod Taylor
Browns Johnny Manziel
Colts Matt Hasselbeck
Titans Charlie Whitehurst
Jaguars Blake Bortles
Texans Case Keenum
Broncos Brock Osweiler
Chiefs Chase Daniel
Chargers Kellen Clemens
Raiders Derek Carr

What we have in that chart is a list of all the projected backup quarterbacks in the league. The 32 of them combine for 12 playoff wins. Matt Hasselbeck owns five, Michael Vick has two, T.J. Yates is responsible for one, and Sanchez has four.

If you are high on rookies like Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jimmy Garoppolo, you could say that they are better options than Sanchez, but once the first three become starters, it is tough to make a solid case that Chad Henne, Brian Hoyer, and Matt Cassel are better.

No one on that list can say they have out-dueled two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks en route to road playoff victories.

After being left hung out to dry with no competent weapons and a defensive oriented staff in New York, Sanchez again looks like a capable quarterback with guys like Jordan Matthews, my dude Zach Ertz, James Casey, and Arrelious Benn to sling the ball to.

The bad Sanchez flashed at one point against the Patriots with an ill-advised throw into double coverage intended for Casey that resulted in an interception, but mistakes have been few and far between.

All of a sudden, Sanchez is an asset again after being an afterthought as recently as five months ago. The best part is that other teams know it too. The Rams just lost starter Sam Bradford to a torn ACL and in the past have been on record as wanting Sanchez.

This is what I am referring to when I constantly say on Twitter that the Eagles’ bottom half of the roster is the best it has been in quite some time. Talent at a few starting positions probably needs to improve before they can really challenge the Seahawks in the NFC, but depth is a valuable thing, and they have reserve players who could start for other teams.

It sounds like Sanchez doesn’t want the Rams though as much as they might want him, and the Eagles have no reason to move him unless the Rams absolutely blow them away. Sanchez, of course, wants to be a starter again, but why be in such a hurry to leave the coaching staff that is helping to save your career?

Sanchez Tweet

Some folks will want to see Sanchez show competency in a regular season game before they believe this is for real, however, I think some quarterback needy teams would be willing to take a chance even if they never get to see that.

In a perfect world, they won’t. I believe Nick Foles is way better than Sanchez. Therefore, I won’t go as far as saying ‘Foles could get hurt and the offense won’t miss a beat,’ but I do now believe that Sanchez could step in for a week or two, move the offense, and win a game if the Eagles needed him. I didn’t think that a month ago.

It appears I was wrong, and as weird as it is for me to see him in a different shade of green, I couldn’t be happier about being wrong here.

The ideal outcome is that Sanchez will carry a clipboard throughout the season and then take what he learned here and sign somewhere in the offseason where he can really compete to be a starter again.

If Chip Kelly stays in the NFL long enough, his influence will touch many people and places. His Year 1 offense already set several Eagles records. Other organizations are already trying to catch up to him when it comes to the sports science department and play-calling. His coaching tree has already started to grow with Bill Lazor going from Eagles quarterbacks coach to Dolphins offensive coordinator, hired to try to take what he learned from Kelly and apply it elsewhere.

The last paragraph and Kelly’s resume will only grow as the years go by. Hopefully there is a Super Bowl on it soon that will sit at the top, but rebuilding Mark Sanchez?

That wouldn’t be too far behind.

Henery, We (May) Have a Problem

The Eagles played the Patriots in Foxboro for their second preseason game last night and more or less looked like the Eagles while doing it.

Nick Foles was accurate, Brent Celek made a tough catch, Zach Ertz was a stud, LeSean McCoy was explosive, Darren Sproles was fast, Billy Davis’ defense bent and forced a huge turnover before it broke on the next drive, and Alex Henery missed a kick that he needs to make.

While i have watched a few minutes of a replay this morning and will probably check out the full thing later, there will not be a live blog style post this time. A combination of yellow flags, vanilla schemes, and green backups made three plus hours difficult to evaluate play-by-play.

I enjoyed the hell out of that last week, but I’m not sure how well it served readers, so I want to hone in on the final 10 words of the second paragraph.

Alex Henery missed a kick that he needs to make. 

Friday morning, I published a post stating five things I wanted to see last night before the birds came home. Second on the list was for Henery getting to attempt a field goal, as the Eagles were never in position to do so against Chicago.

The shaky fourth-year kicker ended last season on a sour note with a missed 48-yard field goal on the second play of the second quarter in the playoff loss to New Orleans. The Eagles would go on to lose the game by two points.

The stadium was different, the weather was warmer, and the stakes were lower, but Henery lined up for a 47-yard kick in the second quarter, and the result was not pretty.

A Vine is available here if there is trouble with the video embedding. I realize that’s not the highest quality Vine, but if you follow the ball, you see that it comes down about five yards wide right.

This would be his only attempt on the night, so after two preseason games Henery is 0-for-1.

This concerns me.

I tend to view preseason games and how they might apply going forward with a ‘history has a way of repeating itself’ thought process. It is the exact reason I wasn’t concerned with Foles’ two interceptions versus the Bears. One below average quarter of relatively meaningless football doesn’t overrule a historic season, but the problem here with Henery is that we have seen this movie before.

The old adage is that placekickers, like quarterbacks, get all of the criticism when they mess up and all of the glory when they come up clutch, except examples of the latter here are in short supply.

In three years in the league, Henery has only three field goals that gave the Eagles a lead they previously did not have in the fourth quarter of a game, one of them being a chip shot from 26 yards against the Giants in 2012.

This can be chalked up to a lack of opportunity, but Henery’s 2013 season doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence that he could nail a kick at the end of a game that turns a loss into a win.

The biggest kick I can think of that he has hit is a 47-yarder in the first quarter of the division clinching game at Dallas last season. It gave the Eagles a 3-0 lead, one they would never completely relinquish in a 24-22 win to take the NFC East.

This is a screenshot from Pro Football Reference of Henery’s three year NFL career

Henery Pro

The overall numbers still look good, but after going 15-for-16 in 2011 and 2012 combined from kicks between 40-49 yards out, Henery was only 7-for-10 their last season.

Now, this is a screenshot of Henery’s Nebraska career courtesy of ESPN.

Henery College

Only one miss between 40-49 over the course of four seasons. For Henery to become the kicker the Eagles thought he was when they spent a fourth round draft pick on him back in 2011, he needs to get back to being nearly automatic from that range. Being shaky from 50+ can be forgiven if one is just about automatic from closer than that, but Henery was far from it last season.

In total, he left 18 points off the board in 2013, and the Eagles were still the fourth highest scoring offense in the league. That may not seem like a lot, but the misses directly contributed to a loss against the Chargers in Week 2, didn’t help a few days later against the Chiefs, and of course the playoff loss to the Saints.

The Eagles are a good enough offense that Henery can miss a few field goals and the numbers will still look shiny, but they are not yet a good enough team for misses not to cost them if that makes sense.

The basic formula to them winning games in my mind is to score at least 24 points (normally doable — 13 times last season) and for the defense to hold teams to 21 or fewer points (doable but slightly less so — 10 times last season), but sometimes — like for example against Drew Brees and Sean Payton — you need all the points you can get to win the game and can’t leave any off the board.

Before that miss against the Saints, Henery had been perfect for six consecutive games. There is plenty of evidence to suggest he can be a reliable kicker, but something has seemed slightly off since Week 2 of last season.

I find it a bit surprising that the Eagles decided to bring in rookie Carey Spear as fake competition rather than inviting some veteran to push Henery in camp.

This is what Chip Kelly had to say about Henery’s miss last night, courtesy of the excellent Birds 24/7 and Tim McManus.

“Yeah, I’m confident in Alex,” he replied. “But again, we’ve got to convert in games, too. I’ve been real excited with him in practice and I think he’s worked on some things with Coach[Dave] Fipp in terms of placing the ball on kickoffs better and hitting things as we’ve gone through training camp, but we also have to do it in the game.”

That doesn’t translate to a ‘your job is on the line’ warning, but it also doesn’t read as a ringing endorsement for a guy Kelly inherited, rather than brought here on his own. I fully expect Henery to begin — and hopefully finish — the season as the Eagles kicker, but Howie Roseman may want to study the waiver wire and have a contingency plan ready there.

In some brighter news, it does appear progress has been made on kickoffs:

Kickoff Number End zone Touchback Starting Field Position Average Starting Field Position
1 Yes (-4) No 17 17
2 Yes Yes 20 18.5
3 Yes (-1) No 22 19.7
4 Yes (-6) No 24 20.8
5 Yes Yes 20 20.6
6 Yes Yes 20 20.5
7 No (+5) No 26 21.3
8 Yes Yes 20 21.1
9 Yes (-2) No 29 22
10 Yes Yes 20 21.8
11 Yes (-4) No 21 21.7

* Numbers in the end zone column indicate where the kick was fielded

In a perfect world, the field goal accuracy will improve similar to what the kickoffs have done so far, and when I tweet this post out in a few minutes, someone will retweet it five months from now to troll me when Henery is having a great season.

For an Eagles team capable of making a deep run but having little margin for error to do it, that would be awesome.

Right now though, we can only go off what we know from the past and what we currently see. It didn’t count last night, but Henery had a chance to push some concerns aside.

Instead, he pushed it wide right, and in doing so, brought back a painful memory from less than eight months ago when it counted for a whole lot.

Five Things I Hope to See Tonight Before the Eagles Leave Foxboro

The real thing is less than 25 days away, but the Eagles second dress rehearsal for the big show goes down at Gillette Stadium tonight as the birds face the Patriots in a preseason tilt.

Unless Chip Kelly gets even more innovative than normal and decides to hold practice on the moon for a few days, this will be the last time the Eagles are on the road until they face the Colts on Monday Night Football in Week 2.

Unlike Chicago last week though, this wasn’t a short trip. The Eagles have been holding joint practices with the Patriots most of the week. This decision has seemed to bother a decent amount of people. Countless radio callers seem annoyed by the idea that Jeffrey Lurie is friends with Robert Kraft and that Kelly and Belichick are close, a few even referring to the latter relationship as ‘hero worship.’

It is not just limited to fans either. Two weeks ago, Cary Williams called the Patriots “cheaters” ‘cheaters, pumpkin eaters’ (H/T @BleedingGreen, H/T @BrandonGowton)

My take before we get to the meat of this post: Joint practices are becoming more common throughout the league, and I cannot think of a better partner than the Patriots. A few reasons for this:

  • Location — Obviously you’re not traveling across the country in the preseason. These teams typically play an exhibition game for this exact reason, and this rules out someone like Denver as an option for the Eagles.
  • Regular season schedule — These teams will not see each other until the 2015 regular season unless they meet in the Super Bowl. No need to worry about giving anything away.
  • The Patriots are still really freakin good — If the Eagles are going to practice with some other team, wouldn’t you prefer the Pats to a squad like the Jets or Bills? Facing Geno Smith or E.J. Manuel won’t make a young defense better. Facing Tom Brady for three days will.

Back to the actual game tonight though. Last week, yours truly made the mistake of watching the preseason opener at a local establishment. I ended up missing the first 20 minutes doing laps in my car looking for a parking spot and didn’t see a ton more from there, unable to focus. I found a replay of it the following afternoon and created a live blog, but tonight, I’ll be posted up from the comfort of my own home.

Here are five things that I hope to see before the Eagles come home from Brady and Belichick’s kingdom:

  1. A Nick Foles led touchdown drive — I’m not worried about the quarterback’s lackluster performance last week, and frankly, I think anyone who who is concerned is seriously wasting their time. I have zero doubt Foles is going to have a great season. That said, I’d like to see him walk away from this one with some points under his belt, especially because he will likely play well into the second quarter.
  2. Alex Henery to attempt a field goal — Even with the priority on the above point, a drive stalling in Patriots territory wouldn’t be the worst thing because it allows Henery to get some work in. At this point, I have no idea why Carey Spear is still here. Henery — for better or for worse — is going to be the kicker.
  3. A stop by the first team defense — Last year when these two teams met in the first preseason game at the Linc, Tom Brady carved an overmatched Eagles defense up for a pair of touchdown passes. Word out of Foxboro by just about every reporter in attendance is that Billy Davis’ unit is doing a much better job holding its own this summer. Even though it won’t mean anything tangible right away, a three and out, forced punt, or turnover would have them feeling really good about themselves.
  4. More good(e) plays from Najee Goode — The potential lack of depth at inside linebacker behind starters DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks really frightens me. Goode eased some of that fear last week with a few nice tackles in space. Keep it up, kid. (Also, thanks for following me on the Twitter machine)
  5. Hungry Vinny Curry and moar Beau Allen — Not exactly a scheme fit in Davis’ 3-4 base defense that relies on a two-gap scheme, Curry is going to have to scratch and claw for every snap he gets in the regular season. Vinny Curry is hungry, and tonight, we feed him and try to give the Eagles defensive coordinator more incentive to get him on the field to rush the passer. Another sack from Curry and a tackle for loss from the mammoth Allen who was very active in his first career game last week would be solid.

Everyone knows not to read too far into a preseason game, and staying healthy is obviously more important than anything on this list, but if the Eagles can pull off these five things — or some variation of them — I will go to bed happy tomorrow night.

Editor’s Note: Normally, I would use this space beneath a post to advertise some of my old content related to the subject, but I would be cheating all readers out of a great experience here if I didn’t link to these two excellent longform pieces from Grantland and ESPN on Kelly and the Eagles. Read them when you have a chance. If time permits, I’ll be re-reading every day leading up to the opener.