Tag Archives: Brent Celek

The (Tons of) Good, The (Bit of) Bad, and The (Holy Crap that was Downright) Scary

I cannot think of a more appropriate title for the 31-21 beatdown that the Eagles just administered to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I will inevitably leave one or two things off this list that you believe belongs (feel free to let me know in the comments), and I unfortunately do not have video or pictures to document the plays, but I wanted to get some quick hitters out there.

Let’s hit it and go through each category:

The Good: 

  • Nick Foles’ quick slant to Jeremy Maclin for a first down on the initial touchdown drive.
  • Foles’ completion to Riley Cooper on a slant late in the first quarter for a first down.
  • LeSean McCoy looking explosive on an outside zone read.
  • Maclin catching six balls(one less than the Steelers team combined) for 43 yards in the first half (Much more on him later)
  • Brent Celek making epic catches while losing his helmet — Still chugging along after seven years
  • My dude Zach Ertz being my dude with two nice catches for 24 yards.
  • The double screen to McCoy on the first touchdown that completely baffled two of the game’s best defensive minds in Mike Tomlin and Dick LeBeau.
  • Darren Sproles looking like he still has a ton left in the tank, averaging 5.33 yards per carry.
  • Malcolm Jenkins finishing plays with a few nice pass breakups — Part of the reason they signed him for his coverage skills.
  • Nolan Carroll erasing the memories of Roc Carmichael and Curtis Marsh with an interception.
  • Vinny Curry hungry.
  • Brandon Graham hungrier.
  • Marcus Smith more comfortable throughout the third quarter.
  • Alex Henery hitting a 36-yard field goal late in the second quarter. (I wish this was all I had to write about him)
  • Henery putting kickoffs in the end zone. Cody Parkey also putting kickoffs in the end zone.
  • Mark Sanchez threading the needle to Trey Burton, looking like one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league.
  • Ed Hoculi (His presence more than how the game was actually called)
  • This picture SmoothiesChip: “Yo dawgy, nice drive, we getting smoothies after the game, what flavor you want?” Nick: “Doesn’t matter to me, coach, just trying to be the best smoothie eater I can be every day. Appreciate you asking for my input though.”

The Bad

  • Foles’ interception right to Troy Polamalu on a screen pass gone wrong when Sproles fell.
  • A few running plays blown up, specifically McCoy losing five yards on the fourth play of the game.
  • A few drops by Cooper on what appeared to be catchable passes from Foles. Haul those in, Coop Dawgy.
  • On the other side of that, Foles was juuust a hair off on a few balls, specifically a wheel route to Sproles that would have gone for a touchdown.
  • Antonio Brown lighting up the Eagles backups.
  • Curtis Marsh
  • Yellow flags, yellow flags, and more yellow flags.
  • Brian Baldinger calling Allen Barbre “Barber” again.
  • Henery inexplicably missing a 31-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. I said he would win the job, so I need to stick to my guns there, but the leash just got way shorter. We officially have a problem. I am researching free agent kickers as I write.

The Scary: 

  • LeSean McCoy had an x-ray on his thumb after scoring a sweet touchdown. Thankfully doesn’t appear to be an issue.
  • For a moment, it looked like Jeremy Maclin’s season ended before it started as he planed his foot and crumpled to the ground in the second quarter. Thankfully, as the broadcast went to commercial and Eagles Nation held their collective breath, Maclin walked off the field under his own power and returned the next series to make a few more receptions. I can’t pretend to go inside a player’s head, but I imagine if I were Maclin, I would be rather scared every time I made a hard cut. Unfortunately, I think we are in store for a few more scares like that this season. Let’s hope they are just that — Brief scares and nothing more.

Pretty eventful for a preseason game. Do not be misled by the final score. The Steelers put together some nice drives in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles at one point held a 31-7 lead as their backups on offense marched down the field against the Steelers defense.  (Specific stats here if you desire them)

Overall, the offense got us pumped up, the defense eased a few concerns, the supposed starting kicker jeopardized his job in the fourth quarter, and the number one wide receiver nearly gave us a heart attack.

We’ll have more to talk about later, but this seems like enough to digest and think over for now.

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An Eagles History Lesson: The Great Collapse of 2012 That Ended the Andy Reid Era Began Against the Steelers

Fifty years from now when someone not yet born does the current equivalent of typing “2012 Philadelphia Eagles” into Google, one will likely reach the immediate conclusion, “Wow, that team was really awful.”

They would be correct, except there is a bit of a catch. The Eagles finished the season 4-12, their worst record since 1998 when they were 3-13 in Ray Rhodes’ final year running the show before Andy Reid was hired.

The 2012 team scored the fourth lowest number of points in the league and surrendered the third highest. They were terrible, but there was a time early on when they weren’t.

The Eagles play the Steelers tonight in a preseason game, and while it doesn’t count, it is the first time the two teams have met since October 7, 2012. I find that if you watch sports long enough, you begin to internalize what other teams mean to you and automatically link that to said team.

For example, regardless of what they do in the coming years, the New York Mets will always be synonymous with their September 2007 choke job for me.

The Steelers, to me, are the team that helped begin an eight-game losing streak that would end the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia.

The 2012 Eagles were poorly coached, poorly constructed, and not particularly likable, but by way of some talent and a spunky Michael Vick playing quarterback early on, they somehow won their first two games, each by one point. The only other time the birds had started a season 2-0 under Reid was back in 2004 when they went to the Super Bowl.

An ugly loss in Week 3 followed, but Week 4 was more of the same. Two weeks after beating the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, the Eagles knocked off the defending champion Giants by two points with another fourth quarter comeback.

They easily could have been 0-4 but instead were 3-1 and sitting in first place in the NFC East.

A win at Heinz Field the following Sunday would have made the birds 4-1 for only the third time in the Reid era, yet no one was particularly excited. They figured it was too good to be true and were about to be proven correct.

The Steelers carried a 10-0 lead into halftime as a fumble by Vick on the Pittsburgh 1-yard line prevented the Eagles from getting on the board. They came alive though with an early touchdown in the third quarter and took a 14-13 lead with less than seven minutes remaining as Vick found Brent Celek for a touchdown from two yards out.

It looked like the Eagles might pull off another Houdini act, but this time, their defense couldn’t hold one more time.  The Steelers converted a key third and long deep in their own territory and another third down on the Eagles side of the field. They controlled the ball for six and a half minutes, setting up a chip shot field goal for Shaun Suisham as time expired.

Right down the middle.

16-14 Steelers.

Back home the following week, the Eagles blew a 10-point lead with five minutes remaining and lost in overtime to the 1-3 Detroit Lions.

Honestly, they deserved to be 0-6 but were one or two plays from somehow being 5-1. The reality was that they were 3-3, which wasn’t good enough for a desperate Reid who Andy Reid’d nearly as hard as he Andy Reid’d 21 months early when he gave Juan Castillo the job. This time, he threw his defensive coordinator overboard in a last-ditch effort to stop the bleeding.

The decision only made the cut deeper though. For the first time in 14 years, Reid lost a regular season game following a bye week. The Eagles would proceed to lose eight consecutive contests before beating Tampa Bay 23-21 on a last-second touchdown.

Four wins by a combined total of six points. The bottom had fallen out. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie had no choice but to fire Reid, a guy many previously believed would be his ‘coach for life.’

As a result of driving back to State College after covering Penn State road games, I missed more games during the 2012 season than I have in most other seasons combined (I did watch this one). Conventional wisdom suggests that is a good thing given how south the season went, but not seeing them every Sunday still made me sad.

That team easily could have gone 0-16, but could the dumpster fire have been prevented had they just beat Pittsburgh?

I do not normally spend a ton of time thinking about the 2012 season, but when it comes to mind, I get hung up on it because in my opinion, it is an interesting case study in organizational behavior.

More inside information would be needed to really explore it, but it is not every day you see an absolute control freak in Reid lose complete control of a situation.

If the Eagles had came up with a stop against Pittsburgh on that final drive, would the meltdown against Detroit seven days later have still happened? Furthermore, could the entire losing streak have been avoided?

The great and also infuriating thing about sports is that we will never know and can only infer.

Conventional wisdom says no — an ugly stretch was coming either way. The Eagles were a bad team getting a few lucky breaks early on, and then things caught up with them. The collapse probably would have happened anyway. Still, in a 16-game season, 4-1 is a lot different from 3-2 and dare I say it, 5-1 leaves way more margin for error than 3-3.

To completely fail to acknowledge other factors would be ignorant. A series of poor personnel decisions in the years leading up to the 2012 season put the keys in the ignition on the road to Reid’s firing, but the loss to Pittsburgh and embarrassing defeat to Detroit revved the engine.

What if?

What if the Eagles had escaped the steel city with a victory? Would Chip Kelly be on the sidelines tonight when the squads play an exhibition game 22 and a half months later. Would Reid still be here instead of Kansas City?

I do not know the answer to that, but I do know that what may seem like a harmless game a half century from now was a damn important one in Eagles history.

“The Kid from Stanford Who They Got Playing for ‘Em” is Going to Be Really, Really Good

No, I’m not talking about fifth round pick Ed Reynolds.

This blog post is inspired by a question that my dad would repeatedly ask last Eagles season every time Zach Ertz made a big catch.

“Is that the kid from Stanford who they got playing for ’em?” 

I am unsure if he ever learned the rookie tight end’s actual name.

No worries, “the kid from Stanford” went on to have a very solid first season in midnight green, finishing his rookie campaign with 39 catches for 491 yards and five touchdowns (including a playoff game with three receptions for 22 yards and the go-ahead score with under five minutes remaining).

(5:18 mark of the video to see the pretty touchdown)

Extrapolate the final eight games of the regular season over a full year, and the total would come out to 44 receptions for 536 yards and eight touchdowns.

Now in his second NFL season, Ertz is going to be even better. Through two preseason games, he has posted six catches totaling 86 yards and a nice touchdown last Friday night against the Patriots, using his size to get open and haul in the red zone catch from Nick Foles. (Vine available here if it does not embed properly)

Early on last year, Chip Kelly and the Eagles coaching staff was hesitant to put Ertz on the field a ton because he needed to improve as a blocker and had struggled with some drops in the preseason.

Kelly, rightfully so, still loves Brent Celek, who is going into his eighth season with the birds, but it is going to be impossible for him to keep Ertz off the field this year. Look for the offense to feature some more two-tight end sets and do whatever it takes to get Ertz on the field.

I realize what I am telling you here isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it’s exciting to have a young weapon who is on his way toward becoming a stud.

This chart from Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com paints an even more complete picture. Sorted by yards, it compares the rookie seasons of some of the game’s current elite tight ends, and the only player to post better numbers than Ertz is Rob Gronkowski with the Patriots in 2010.

Tight End Chart

In his final season at Stanford in 2012, Ertz posted a line of 69-898-6, and I foresee him doing something very similar to that this year, just add in a few more touchdowns.

The only tight end in the league who is a lock to put up better numbers than Ertz is the Saints’ Jimmy Graham. Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron will be hard to beat, but I would not at all be shocked if it happened, which brings me to this.

Zach Ertz Tweet

Do that, dawgies.

I am fully expecting to hear “Is that the kid from Stanford who they got playing for em?” a ton over the next five and a half months.

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.